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Albuquerque asks for proposals for De Anza Motel August 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Motels, Preservation.
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The City of Albuquerque recently requested proposals to redevelop the historic De Anza Motor Lodge after two plans fell flat in recent years. However, one prominent business group is recommending a partial teardown of the motel.

A group of Albuquerque business owners put together a list of recommendations of what it would like to see on the site, reported Albuquerque Business First. The newspaper quoted O’Niell’s Irish Pub owner Robert Munro, president of Nob Hill Main Street.

“We’ve spent time studying the site and looking at the figures for what would be the best and highest use,” Munro told Business First. “What happens at this site is a bellwether for the future of East Nob Hill.”

Main Street’s recommendations are for a mixed-use development that includes restaurants, 48 hotel rooms, 41 apartments and a Route 66 museum.

Munro said the city’s RFP aligns well with his group’s recommendations. “We’re sensitive to its historic significance as was the city. We both felt like retaining the Central [Avenue] frontage was important and both felt it was important to save the murals,” Munro said. The RFP provides a potential $400,000 financial incentive for keeping historic murals accessible.

The Albuquerque Journal also elaborated on the $9.9 million proposal:

[T]he property’s three buildings fronting on Central and a basement with murals by a Zuni artist would be preserved and renovated.

While the city’s RFP doesn’t get into details on what happens to the rest of the property, the hypothetical plan calls for tearing the rest down and replacing it with a 45-room hotel and 41 apartments, both in three-story buildings. The hotel and apartment would share a clubhouse, fitness center and swimming pool.

The hotel and apartments would be built atop “subterranean” or partially underground parking structures.

And, according to KOAT in Albuquerque, the city is offering $400,000 in incentives to anyone who redevelops the property.

The motel is on the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register of Cultural Properties, so demolishing even a part of it would carry significant hurdles. However, at least one report says even a full redevelopment of De Anza would carry only a “marginal” profit margin. So a partial demolition may be a best-case scenario for the property. De Anza has seen two developers in recent years walk away from renovating the historic property.

The deadline for proposal submissions is January.

De Anza is at 4301 Central Ave. S.D. Hambaugh, a tourist court operator from Tucson, Arizona; and C.G. Wallace, a trader for the Zuni Indian tribe, built De Anza Motor Lodge in 1939. It closed during the 1990s. De Anza received some recent notoriety when it was included in a scene in the acclaimed “Breaking Bad” television drama.

(Image of De Anza sign by Boortz47 via Flickr)

A profile of the Wigwam Motel’s Kumar Patel August 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, People, Preservation.
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Wigwam Motel

The Asian American Hotel Owners Association recently posted a feature about Kumar Patel, the operator of the historic Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, California.

Most stories focus on the motel, which was built along Route 66 in 1949 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. But this one focuses more about Patel himself.

A few tidbits from the story:

— Patel, the son of Indian immigrants, was in accounting before taking over the motel.

— The “rundown” motel – “The man who owned it before was renting rooms for $15 a night” – was bought for $1 million in 2003 and another $500,000 has been spent renovating it.

— Patel’s family also owns franchised motels, in addition to the Wigwam.

— Like many other Route 66 business owners, Patel’s connection with its people and history are what stands out:

“The biggest powerhouse tool I have is the connection I have made with the people along Route 66,” he said. “They are basically like a family now. I pack my car with all sorts of Wigwam [promotional] material, and I leave them at all these places along Route 66 at which the tourists are stopping.”

When he’s at the Wigwam, Patel will host fundraisers and concerts. He loves spending time with his guests, too, taking them out for breakfast, showing them historical sites or hosting a barbecue for them.

“Anything local to bring people in and show them the Wigwam is there, that it is a great place and that it is family oriented,” he said. “I don’t have millions of dollars to market, so I have to use all my energy and power to go out and get different ideas.” [...]

Patel wants more travelers to explore Route 66, even if they don’t always pick the Wigwam as their destination of choice.

“It’s OK that the money is not going to me. The money is going on Route 66. Route 66 is benefiting the hotel industry no matter what,” he said. “If I’m pushing Route 66 and [travelers] come out and they fly by me, I can’t feel bad about it because I love the road so much, and I just want to see people traveling it.”

 

 

El Rey Inn’s commitment to its employees August 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, People, Preservation.
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Nearly 35 years ago, the owner of the historic El Rey Inn on Route 66 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, instituted a profit-sharing plan for employees.

According to CNN Money, owner Terrell White has put $7 million into the plan and paid out $5 million over the years. The hotel has 26 employees, with many of them who’ve worked for White for decades.

Employees are 20% vested in the plan after two years and become fully vested after seven. The plan’s investments are overseen by White and are a mix of real estate holdings, rental properties, savings, bonds and stocks. He said the inn’s gain in profitability — which didn’t waver until the recession of 2008-2009 — meant that some employees were making as much in profit as they were in yearly earnings.

“I think this is a much better alternative than a hearty handshake and a gold watch,” he said.

Business dropped 30% during the recession, and while it continues to improve, White hasn’t been able to resume funding the profit-sharing plan. He hopes to start it up again this year, but he noted the plan has continued to earn 10% to 12% annually.

White said the plan is worth it because it fosters employee loyalty. On top of that, he provides all workers medical and dental benefits, up to three weeks of paid vacation, and regular raises.

El Rey Inn, built as the El Rey Court in 1936 just before Route 66 was realigned, has more than doubled in its capacity since White bought it in 1973. More than half of its overnight guests are repeat customers.

El Rey’s developer also built El Vado Motel in 1937 on Route 66 in Albuquerque. El Vado is closed, but the city is seeking to redevelop the property using its existing buildings.

(Image of one of the rooms at El Rey Inn in Santa Fe by cool.as.a.cucumber via Flickr)

Red Oak II now offering overnight stays July 31, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Motels, People, Railroad.
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Red Oak II, a vivid re-creation of a now-vanished town by folk artist Lowell Davis, recently started offering overnight stays in cabins reclaimed from a former Route 66 motel in Duquesne, Missouri, reported the Joplin Globe in a feature story about Davis and his complex near Carthage, Missouri.

Also, a former mayor who resides at Red Oak II plans to install a small railroad depot at the complex.

And Jim Woestman, the former mayor of Carthage who built a home at what Davis calls “the back” of Red Oak II in which to retire. Davis has a “small project” in progress with Woestman: A train station.

“We have everything else but a train station,” Davis said. “We figured we needed one.”

Woestman also moved in the duplex cabins that once formed the Star Motel and Trailer Court at Newman and Duquesne roads in Duquesne, which he opened to vacationers for the first time earlier this month.

Neither the article nor the Red Oak II website contained more details about the cabins. However, a post July 23 on the Facebook page of Red Fork II said overnight stays were available and to call 417-237-0808 for more information.

We reported in March 2013 about Red Oak II moving the Star Motel cabins, including this photo. The cabins are 1920s-style duplexes that actually were built in the 1970s.

On a side note, the Globe article mentions Red Oak II was inspired by the small town of Red Oak on Route 66 northeast of Carthage. However, I’ve found no records of a town by that name in any reference materials about Route 66.

However, the small settlement of Red Oak may be found on State Highway YY and County Road 2032 in rural La Russell, Missouri. It is essentially a ghost town, but it does have a few remaining houses and a church, which you can see in this Google Street View image:


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The old Red Oak sits about 2.8 miles north of Highway 96, which is old Route 66 in that part of Missouri.

(Hat tip: Ron Hart)

 

A visit to Enchanted Trails RV Park July 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, People, Preservation.
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KC Keefer with his ongoing “Genuine Route 66 Life” video series interviews Vickie Ashcraft at the Enchanted Trails RV Park west of Albuquerque.

The interview also serves as a brief tour of a couple of the vintage travel trailers that Ashcraft rents out to overnight guests. If you’d like to stay in one, go here.

Owner of El Rancho Hotel in Gallup dies July 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Motels, People, Preservation.
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Armand Ortega Sr., 86, savior of the historic El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico, when it faced the wrecking ball during the 1980s, died Wednesday.

An employee at the hotel said Ortega had been in failing health for about a year. His funeral was today at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, with burial at Sunset Cemetery.

Ortega Family Enterprises, based in Santa Fe, owns several concessions in national parks, Native American-themed gift shops and restaurants in the Southwest, as well as El Rancho.

But Ortega was especially fond of El Rancho, which was opened in 1937 by R.E. “Griff” Griffith, brother of the famed movie director D.W. Griffith. The Griffiths encouraged filmmakers to shoot movies in the Gallup area, and the hotel benefited by having a bevy of stars — including John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck and Humphrey Bogart – stay at the hotel during productions up to the 1960s.

The hotel started to decline, especially when Interstate 40 bypassed Route 66 in 1980. But Ortega, who always dreamed of owning El Rancho, bought it in 1986 after it went into bankruptcy and was threatened with demolition. According to an Associated Press story in 1989, Ortega bought the property for $500,000 and spent another $500,000 restoring it. It was reopened in May 1988 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places that year.

Clair Gurley, a salesman who was the hotel’s first guest when it opened in 1937, was invited back to the hotel after it was renovated and charged the original $5-a-night price.

An obituary in the Gallup Independent newspaper (subscription only) said Ortega could be found almost daily in the hotel’s restaurant, drinking coffee while chatting with tourists or buying crafts from Native Americans who lived in the region.

According to an obituary supplied by Rollie Mortuary in Gallup:

Ortega got his start in business selling newspapers and leading a team of shoeshine boys at the age of 10. In his youth he worked for his father at Indian Trails Trading Post in Lupton, Arizona. He graduated from Holbrook High School in 1946, where he played basketball and the trumpet. In 1952, he opened his first store in Deming. He worked to promote Indian Jewelry throughout the U.S. and he was the first Indian Arts and Crafts dealer to market and distribute throughout the United States.

Ortega was born in Holbrook. He eventually opened a slew of businesses in New Mexico and Arizona, including the Indian Ruins Trading Post in Sanders, Arizona, and the Hopi House near Flagstaff.

(Images of El Rancho Hotel by el-toro and Larry Lamsa via Flickr)

Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program announces 2014 grants July 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, History, Motels, Signs.
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The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program on Thursday announced five cost-share grants totaling $77,000 for 2014, including one for an endangered bridge in Oklahoma.

Here are the recipients:

Rock Creek Bridge, Sapulpa, Oklahoma ($5,013 National Park Service grant, $5,013 match by recipient)– The bridge carried traffic on Route 66 from 1926 until 1952. The bridge, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been closed to traffic in recent years. Ongoing repairs and interventions by the City of Sapulpa will help it meet recommendations by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation so the bridge can be reopened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Skylark Motel neon tower rehabilitation, St. Clair, Missouri  ($22,300 NPS, $22,300 match) –The motel, which opened in 1952, is marked by a two-story, Art Deco tower that sported multicolored neon lights behind glass blocks. The VFW that now owns the property is working with the Route 66 Association of Missouri’s Neon Heritage Preservation Committee to restore the tower.

L Motel rehabilitation, Flagstaff, Arizona ($9,800 NPS, $46,063 match) – The grant will aid with the new owners’ ongoing rehabilitation of the motel, including heating and air conditioning systems. The L Motel has operated continuously along Route 66 since 1949.

American Indians and Route 66 materials, New Mexico ($24,900 NPS, $29,651 match) – The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association will develop educational and travel materials for the public that will include information about the tribes along Route 66 and their cultural heritage; significant tribal sites along the route; historical impacts of Route 66 on tribes; and the impact of tribal culture on Route 66.

Route 66 oral history project, Springfield, Missouri ($15,000 NPS, $33,880 match) – The Missouri State University Libraries will undertake a project to save for posterity many under-told stories of the Ozarks, including African-American experiences of Route 66. It will collect at least 20 oral-history interviews, which will be digitized and made available online.

The cost-share grant program provides assistance for historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative, and educational projects. Since 2001, 119 projects have awarded a total of $1.7 million, with $2.9 million in cost-share match, totaling $4.6 million in public and private investment for Route 66.

(Image of the Rock Creek Bridge by carterse via Flickr)

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