Michelle Harbi finds out how it all began for the global giant.

January marks 60 years since J Willard Marriott and his wife Alice opened their first property. The Twin Bridges Marriott Motor Hotel was launched in January 1957 in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington DC, where the couple had started the Hot Shoppes restaurant chain with a root beer stand three decades earlier.

The 365-room property had a view of the Capitol from its sixth floor. Recalls their son, Bill Marriott (now the company’s executive chairman), in his Marriott on the Move blog in 2013: “Check-in was outside so the clerk could see how many guests were in the cars. Clerks would then take the guests to their room by bicycle.”

Single occupancy room rates started from US$8, with each featuring a “private bath”, a 21-inch TV, a hi-fi radio, soundproofing and air conditioning. In winter, the outdoor pool was turned into an ice rink.

The property stayed in operation until 1988. Following its acquisition of Starwood, the Marriott International portfolio now encompasses 30 hotel brands and more than 5,700 properties, totalling 1.1 million rooms.