What is: the abandoned (and now torn down) Cactus Motel, Route 66, Tucumcari, New mexico
What was: The town of Tucumcari, New Mexico is located approximately forty miles west of the Texas border and was the first substantial town in New Mexico for westbound travelers on Route 66. The arrival of Route 66 in Tucumcari in the late 1920s both improved transportation and economic opportunity in the community. The increased flow of traffic through the area brought automobile tourists and commerce. By the late 1940s motels, restaurants, shops and gas stations dominated the main part of Route 66 running through Tucumcari. At one point the town advertised that it offered travelers over 2,200 rooms for overnight accommodations.
The most common type of lodging facility in Tucumcari along Route 66 was the tourist court. These complexes of individual cottages or rows of connected individual units came into vogue in the late 1920s. The Cactus Motor Lodge is representative of what was an up-scale motel built along Route 66 in the mid 20th century. The motel was the first motel westbound travelers would find as they entered the town. It was built directly facing U.S. 66, and remained in continuous operation from 1941 until the 1990s.
I.E. and Edna Perry built the Cactus lodge in 1941. The original buildings were constructed in the Pueblo Revival Style and featured tile tub and shower baths, each with individual heating unit Box springs, Sealy mattresses, double insulated walls, carpeted floors, steam heat and Car-by-door garages and free radios. The motel’s western theme played upon the regional culture, which was popular with tourists. The motel’s modern amenities revealed that it was more than a tourist court, but a motor lodge – a term connoting higher class of lodging. Its advertising noted that it Duncan Hines and AAA Recommended
The motel included three wings of units forming a “U” shape and an office, the latter of which was a dance hall when the motel opened. Local myth says that people gambled in the basement of the Dance Hall and that it had a tunnel with an outside exit in case of a police raid. Originally the Cactus Motor Lodge featured small landscaped park and children’s playground in the middle of the court.
The Cactus Motor Lodge became member of the Best Western referral chain. The Best Western referral chain began in the 1940s and was one of the most successful of referral systemsMotel referral chains were an effort by groups of small motel owners to maintain standards and create networks.
In 1952, Norm Wegner purchased the motel. Wegner added an artificial stone exterior to the buildings and converted the dance hall to an office. The addition of Perma-Stone, a synthetic siding, was considered a trendy way to update older buildings. He also added a swimming pool just to the west of the office/manger’s residence. Wegner and his wife lived on site and raised five children in their residence at the motel in the 1960s.
After Route 66 was decommissioned, the motel lost much of its business. It went through several different ownership changes and in the 1990s the motel units were closed. The courtyard was converted into an RV Park for a period of time.
The postcard shown below, had the following text printed the back of the card: “Duncan Hines and AAA Recommended Located at the East Entrance of TUCUMCARI, NEW MEXICO on Hiway 66 Tile tub and shower baths, each with individual heating unit. Double insulated walls. Carpeted floors. Steam heat. Enclosed and locked garages. Free radios, Phone 600 Member Best Western Motels Mrs. I E Perry, Owner“. The Cactus Motor Lodge on Highway 66 in Tucumcari, NM … “A Western Welcome Awaits You”
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