Texans Leroy Atkinson and his wife Wilmerine came to Gallup during the Great Depression for work. Wilmerine was related to Tobe Turpen, a long-time Indian trader based in Gallup. Leroy Atkinson found employment at the Three Hogans Trading Post near Allentown west of Lupton. Leroy's two younger brothers, Jake and Herman, eventually came west and worked for Leroy at the Three Hogans. Leroy struck out on his own and built his Box Canyon Trading Post right on the Arizona/New Mexico state line in 1943. (A photochrome postcard locates this business at "Lupton" but it was barely in the state of New Mexico about 18 miles west of Gallup.) The trading post was on land leased from and owned by Harry "Indian" Miller who had earlier developed Two Guns in Arizona but moved farther east on Highway 66 after the trial in which he was acquitted of murder. Business boomed at the Box Canyon Trading Post after the war and a cafe and auto courts were added. Chevron gasoline was the brand sold and the post also did good business in Navajo jewelry and handcrafted items. Unfortunately highway engineers decided that the best response to the increasing post-War traffic on Route 66 was to widen and slightly re-align the roadway to a point where it would intrude into the existing commercial buildings on the property. So in 1953 the Box Canyon Trading Post was razed. Leroy and Wilmerine left Route 66 and opened up a trading post in Tucson, Arizona.
But soon after Leroy opened the Box Canyon Trading Post he helped fledge his next brother Jake in the traveler service business by working with him to operate the fairly modest State Line Trading Post which was a mile west of his Box Canyon business and right on the Arizona/New Mexico state line. This land also was leased from "Indian" Miller. Armand Ortega, who went on to own multiple commercial properties along Route 66 as well as the Hotel El Rancho in Gallup, recalled once that the State Line Trading Post was the first place that he ever worked. Jake eventually moved on to own the Rattlesnake Trading Post near Bluewater, New Mexico. Youngest brother Herman opened the Lost Canyon Trading Post near Grants, New Mexico (see below). Herman eventually added a menagerie of reptiles to his trading post and renamed it Atkinson's Cobra Gardens.
Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 mentions on page 92 the presence of an "arch" that crossed Route 66 as the traveler entered Arizona from the east but I have never seen a postcard of this arch.
Gallup was a railroad settlement founded in 1881 and named for paymaster David Gallup of the Santa Fe Railroad. Gallup has grown to be the city where Americans of European descent met and conducted business with the Native Americans in the area (mostly Navajos but also Hopis and Zunis and others) and in time blended their cultures. Although the Navajo Nation is headquartered north of Highway 66 in Shiprock, New Mexico, Gallup is and has been the center for commerce for the Navajo Nation for over a century. Even in its frontier days Gallup was a quiet town with relatively little conflict among the white settlers and Native Americans. An army contingent stationed at nearby Fort Wingate did engage in conflicts in the Arizona and New Mexico territories however. Business has been about the railroad, first, of course, and later in the twentieth century trading in Indian crafts like rugs, jewelry, and pottery. The influence of the railroad has greatly waned but the discovery of coal has brought about many jobs in mining and the burning of coal for electrical power generation.
A trivia question for Route 66 Real Photo Postcard fans: What business (not a town street scene) along Route 66 has been featured in the most different RPPCs over the years? I am not absolutely sure myself since I will never claim to have seen all Route 66 RPPC images but based upon what I have seen my bet is that the winning entry is in Gallup, New Mexico. My two candidates for the business for which there are the most different RPPCs are the Hotel El Rancho and the Casa Linda Court. I personally have an even dozen different RPPCs from the Hotel El Rancho and I have seen others but I no longer collect additional images of the nearly-same views and I do not know how many there are. Five of my Hotel El Rancho RPPCs are exterior views and seven are interior views. I personally have ten different RPPCs from the Casa Linda Court and, like the El Rancho, I have seen others but I have not acquired anything else in years. (By the way, my candidate for the third-most frequent recipient of different RPPCs is the Beacon Tavern in Barstow, California.) What do you think?
The Hotel El Rancho is probably the most famous landmark business in Gallup and there is much interest in this old hotel since it is still open for business on Highway 66. The Hotel El Rancho was built by Raymond Griffith, once a silent film actor and later quite an entrepreneur: he owned a chain of movie theatres in Texas. He branched out into the hotel business with the 1937 opening of the Hotel El Rancho. The hotel was the premier place to stay in Gallup for many decades. During both the silent film era and early "talkies" the Western was a very popular film genre for Americans who during this time overwhelmingly resided in the more urbanized and developed East. With movie making heading to Los Angeles, desirable "on-location" filming of the Western was often done within a few hours drive of Gallup. Movie actors and production crews frequently found themselves filming in northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico and the Hotel El Rancho in Gallup was the place to stay. The list of Hollywood stars who stayed at the hotel is long and many autographed pictures still adorn the halls. The Hollywood scene at the Hotel El Rancho continued until the mid-1960s at which time the public seemed to lose interest in the Western movie genre. But Hollywood did not fill all of the 175 or so hotel rooms: when passenger train travel was still popular the Hotel El Rancho provided regular ground transportation to meet the passengers who disembarked at the Santa Fe station at the El Navajo Fred Harvey Hotel. And, of course, during all this time and longer, the Hotel El Rancho provided accommodations to Route 66 automobile travelers. But the Interstate dealt quite a blow to the El Rancho and the doors closed in 1987 and the furnishings were auctioned off. A series of owners tried to rejuvenate the El Rancho with variable results. Eventually the hotel was bought by Mr. Armand Ortega who made an effort to re-acquire as much of the original furnishings as he could, and tried to live up to its legacy of "the charm of yesterday and the convenience of tomorrow." The Hotel El Rancho is on the National Register of Historic Places.
There is an interesting linkage between three old Mullarky RPPCs and three later Curteich color linen postcards of the Hotel El Rancho.
The Casa Linda Court, which was just east of downtown Gallup, has been torn down. From the RPPCs that I have seen I'd say that it was a particularly beautiful court motel designed in the southwestern pueblo style. Interior gardens, paths, and pergolas decorated the grounds. It must have been a fine place to stay in its day! Unfortunately I have not been able to compile any kind of history of it although I do know that it dated back to at least 1939 when it appeared in a AAA Directory of Motor Courts and Cottages. It operated in its later years as the Casa Linda Motel but finally closed in 1976. Both the Hotel El Rancho and the Casa Linda were listed in Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66.
To the Route 66 traveler, Gallup was the largest city between Flagstaff and Albuquerque. Highway 66 has always run along the south edge of the Santa Fe Railroad tracks on the east side of downtown but the early alignment on the west side of downtown used both Coal Avenue and the railroad frontage road to divide the highway traffic by direction. But later the railroad frontage road (once named Railroad Avenue, then named 66 Avenue, and now named "Highway 66") was widened to four lanes and became the sole two-way conveyance of Route 66 all the way through town. Many motor courts developed along Highway 66 on both sides of downtown Gallup. Nearly all of the early motor courts were built on the south side of 66 but a few of the old courts squeezed themselves in on the north side between the highway and the railroad tracks.
The almost-forgotten settlement of Coolidge, New Mexico, was a railroad camp named for a director of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, T. J. Coolidge. When Coolidge later became a division point for the Santa Fe Railroad and gained an early Harvey House, the population boomed. For a brief time Coolidge was the largest town between Albuquerque and Winslow, Arizona! When the Santa Fe shifted its division point 35 miles west to Gallup, Coolidge collapsed. It was re-named Dewey in 1898 and then Guam in 1900. The named returned to Coolidge in 1926 but this time it was to honor then U.S. President Calvin Coolidge. The Navajo Lodge was built along the north side of the highway by Canadians Merle and Daisy Muncy in 1936 as a full-service Route 66 travel stop. It had a gasoline station, general store, some cabins, and a café. A few years later Noble and Hazel Rogers built an Indian trading post next to the Lodge. Around World War II Alexander and Melvina Lavasek acquired the properties and held them into the 1960s, probably through to the time that the two-lane Highway 66 was bypassed. Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 lists the enterprise as the "Navajo Trading Company". The label along the bottom of the RPPC shown here calls it the "Navajo Lodge" but the main building in this RPPC has the name "Navajo Trading Company" on the big signboard at the center-right. The Navajo Lodge had a long run as a family-run bed-and-breakfast inn but I think it is closed now.
Here is a close-up RPPC view of the Great Divide gasoline station and trading post, which was on the south side of Highway 66.
The Continental Trading Post sold Gulf gasoline and had a covered wagon out front to attract motorists.
Another RPPC view of the Continental Trading Post which included a curio shop, Indian crafts, a store and the post office.
"Continental Divides" are geographically significant locations wherever they may be. In the USA, the Continental Divide is understood to be that typically-mountainous geological wiggly line that travels generally north-south where rainwater that falls on one side is theoretically destined for the Atlantic Ocean (assuming it does not evaporate or is absorbed into the ground) and rainwater that falls on the other side is theoretically destined for the Pacific Ocean. Of course, countless highways in the western United States encounter the Continental Divide somewhere. Route 66 does as well in western New Mexico about 25 miles east of Gallup.
Jack Rittenhouse, in his 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66, refers to the Continental Divide at 7263 feet as the "highest point on US 66". An early alignment of US Highway 66 in Arizona near Bellemont actually crested at over 7300 feet but my guess is that early route had been bypassed by 1946 when Mr. Rittenhouse wrote his book. Highway 66 over Glorieta Pass near Santa Fe, New Mexico, reached over 7500 feet but that loop was bypassed in 1937 by a new road directly east of Albuquerque through Tijeras Canyon. So Mr. Rittenhouse was probably accurate in his description for 1946. (Bellemont, Arizona, still claims the distinction today of being the highest town on Route 66 though.)
All of the RPPCs and the one linen postcard of the Continental Divide that I have seen list the elevation of the continental divide as 7263 feet. More modern photochrome postcards place the elevation as 7270 feet. Now signs say 7275 feet. Well, everyone is pretty close. I doubt that the road has been re-aligned in the past few decades: if it had been I would think that the continental divide pass elevation would have gone down, not up, as modern earthmoving equipment would likely have scraped the highway cut through the ridge line a little deeper. So my guess is that more accurate scientific instruments are the reason for the slight adjustments in elevation. In any case the text on the signboard that greets travelers at the Continental Divide has been essentially the same for decades. After the title and the statement of the elevation, it goes on to say:
"Rainfall divides at this point. To the west it drains into the Pacific Ocean - To the east into the Atlantic."
During the entire era of two-lane US Highway 66 there has been commerce at the Continental Divide. Still, it is a bit curious since there are no major cross roads that meet US 66 there. Also, reaching the summit of Route 66 during any of the post-War years is not particularly strenuous: the highway approaches in both directions are steady but not particularly steep. The attraction must be that it was simply the "Continental Divide" and I guess travelers may have felt this location would be worth a rest stop since reaching the divide could be a milepost of some significance.
Jack Rittenhouse, in his 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66, cites three enterprises open at the continental divide: the Top O' The World Hotel and Café; the Great Divide Trading Company, and the Continental Trading Post and Grocery. All three enterprises are shown here among the RPPCs.
The first continental divide business, a gas station and store, was opened by local landowner Alma Gaines and her husband about the time that the highway number "66" came. Over the years Alma sold additional parcels of her land that bordered the highway to others and that provided the makings of the community that evolved over the next decades. Texan D. B. Westbrook arrived and built a bar and a café. Following the formula used elsewhere on 66, he added some animals to attract motorists and their families. Bert Greer opened the Great Divide Trading Post and Nicholas and Frances Klamarias opened the Top O' The World Coffee Shop. Lee Neal arrived and built the Top O' The World Hotel thereby providing the first overnight accommodations at the divide. But Lee Neal may have been more known for his friendship with experienced card sharks and shady ex-carnival operators. Mr. Neal had a house in the rear that he made available for gambling among the locals and the front rooms of his hotel were used to snare tourists into cheating card games. Cheating card games also moved to D. B. Westbrook's café too. Prostitution was another illegal enterprise that operated at the Top O' The World. Locals in western New Mexico knew of the reputation of the businesses there but tourists did not. The sordid and apparently well-deserved reputation at the Continental Divide lasted well into the 1960s. The business operators seemed to focus less on the travelers of the day that supported the Top O' The World businesses during the early decades of operation. With the completion of Interstate 40 most of the businesses at the continental divide failed and the old structures are gone now.
The Red Arrow Cottage Camp at Thoreau was a fairly substantial complex seen here in a 1932 RPPC.
The town of Thoreau was originally called Mitchell, named for the brothers who at the turn of the century built a railroad into the Zuni Mountains to harvest trees. Their enterprise went bust after a short time and the settlement was re-named Thoreau. The Red Arrow Trading Post and Cottage Camp sprang up to cater to early Route 66 travelers, as seen here in a 1932 RPPC. Jack Rittenhouse, in his 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66, lists two businesses in Thoreau: the Thoreau Trading Post and the Beautiful Mountain Trading Post. It is likely that the Red Arrow enterprise had been renamed to one of these two names but I am not certain. Roy Herman's Chevron service station was a more prominent business in the later years of Route 66. The steel service station building was built in Gallup in 1931 and then moved to Thoreau where it still stands today.
Justin's Trading Post and the Zuni Mountain Trading Post for a time competed aggressively with one another for traveler business in Prewitt.
Prewitt was hardly ever a real town. Robert Prewitt established a trading post on this site in 1918 and he became the first postmaster. Jack Rittenhouse, in his 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66, mentions just the original "Prewitt's Trading Post". Justin and Odessa LaFont had bought the Prewitt Trading Post which they renamed Justin's Trading Post some time later. The year after the publication of Rittenhouse's guidebook, T.B. Greer, the brother of Bert Greer who owned the Great Divide Trading Post at the Continental Divide, built the Zuni Mountain Trading Post. It had gas pumps, a café, and a small motel. Mr. Greer quickly sold the enterprise to Dave and Betty Ortega. Dave was part of the prominent Ortega family of traveler and Indian trading business entrepreneurs. Before the Zuni Mountain Trading Post was built, Justin's was the sole traveler enterprise in this area and the upstart trading post was perceived to be a serious competitive threat. For several years the two enterprises competed on all levels: gasoline prices; café food; Indian goods; etc. The aggressive competition between the two trading posts continued into the 1950s when uranium was discovered and mining in the area took off. The café at the Zuni Mountain Trading Post was closed and most of the pure tourist business was left to Justin's as the new focus of the Zuni Mountain Trading Post came to be the servicing and providing for the miners and Indian trading. Justin's, which during its later years was called a "Western Shop", closed when Interstate 40 was completed but the Zuni Mountain Trading Post evolved to become a major player in the wholesale/retail trade for Indian crafts and jewelry and the Ortega's business dealings led them throughout the Southwest. Dave died in 1980 and Betty has since leased the property to others who have changed its name a number of times.
Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post near Bluewater was the beginning of a regional chain of roadside businesses in New Mexico and Arizona.
Bluewater, named for a long, thin lake in a narrow canyon south of old Route 66, was originally settled by Mormons. The settlement became the location of Claude Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post, which was the earliest enterprise in what would become a large regional chain of traveler stops that survive today off multiple Interstate highways.
Claude Bowlin arrived in Gallup, New Mexico, in 1912 and gained experience in the practice of trading with the Indians, a role to which he was exposed while growing up around Fort Sumner, New Mexico, about 30 miles southeast of Santa Rosa, where his father ran a general store. He held a variety of jobs in the Gallup area but his professional career was interrupted by World War I. Later with family, he operated a drug store in Grants but with his expertise and experience, he expanded what he sold to include Indian rugs. He continued to operate trading post/travel stops in partnership with others in Farmington and Gallup until he struck out on his own in 1936 to build what he would call the Old Crater Trading Post just west of Bluewater. (Jack Rittenhouse, in his 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66, on page 87 simply refers to "Bowlin's" and does not even mention the settlement of Bluewater.) The name Old Crater came from a nearby extinct surface volcano. Much of the large buildings and grounds at the Old Crater were set up for Navajo craftsman to weave their rugs and create their jewelry on the premises. Other portions of the buildings held the supplies that the Navajo themselves needed. Once Highway 66 out in front was paved, though, Mr. Bowlin added gasoline pumps and stocked more tourist-oriented souvenir items made by the Navajos. With increased automobile travel in the post-War time period, the Old Crater Trading Post was quite successful in both dealing with the local Indians and selling to the motorists. Claude Bowlin sent family members out onto other highways in New Mexico to establish "Bowlin" stores initially using a similar formula as the Old Crater Trading Post although as time went on the emphasis became catering to motorists rather than selling genuine Indian crafts. The Bowlin stores were incorporated in 1953 and many still are in operation today in both New Mexico and Arizona. However, they are modern truck and road stops and have none of the charm of yesterday. The grand daddy of them all, the Old Crater Trading Post, closed in 1973 when Interstate 40 was completed around the town of Bluewater.
Like many other towns along the western portion of US 66, Grants began as a railroad settlement but, unlike other towns that were named for direct employees of the railroad, this settlement was originally called Grants Camp, named for Canadians Angus, Lewis and John Grants, three brothers who obtained a contract to build a large section of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad all the way across Arizona in 1881. They hired hands and their base camp expanded with a railroad depot, section house, and coal storage and coal loading chute. The name of the settlement changed to Grants Station and was later shortened to just Grants.
Early jobs were provided by the railroad but the demand for lumber expanded employment in the area. A narrow gauge railroad was built into the dense pine forests of the Zuni Mountains to the west of Grants. (Railroads in the United States, Canada and most of Europe use a center-to-center distance between the parallel steel rails of 4' - 8˝". This is called "standard gauge". A "narrow gauge" railroad is a railroad where the distance between the steel rails is less than this. Three feet and thirty inches were two common narrow gauge spacings in use in the Western USA. Narrow gauge tracks were sometimes used by small, slow-speed mining and lumber railroads that were built inexpensively and needed to travel on narrower right-of-ways and over more irregular track.) The initial lumber operations soon went bust but later in the early twentieth century the dormant lumbering operations were rejuvenated. The newly formed Zuni Mountain Railroad took over the old narrow-gauge track and converted it to standard gauge and extended the track deeper into the mountains. The lumber business thrived for many more decades. For a long time Grants did not have a lumber mill so the logs were shipped on the Santa Fe Railroad to Albuquerque to be milled for construction use.
The Yucca Hotel in Grants, New Mexico, seems to be built in an art-deco southwestern style.
Logging declined in the 1930s along with the easy-to-cut trees. But agriculture, in the form of carrot farming of all things, was increasing. Apparently the volcanic soil, the climate, and annual rainfall profile supplemented with irrigation water was quite suited for the growing of carrots and Grants was soon the "Carrot Capital of the USA". Carrot farms were visible in the low-lands as far as the eye could see for a dozen miles west of Grants. The crop kept packing houses and workers busy for two more decades. Carrots were perishable and mechanical refrigeration railroad cars had not been invented. Reefers were loaded with carrots and iced for a fast trip to the principal markets of the day which meant the east coast. The railroad built an ice-making plant right in Grants to provide all the needed ice for the carrots' trip east. Eventually it was discovered that plastic bags could keep carrots fresh for a much longer time without the need for icing and Grant's closer proximity to the east coast was no longer a significant advantage. Carrot farming collapsed in the 1960s when California carrots took the market away.
The first natural resource that was mined was fluorspar which was used to harden steel. Beginning in about 1940 these mines ran through World War II and into the early 1950s when foreign sources provided the mineral much less expensively. A second wave of mining began after the discovery of uranium about ten miles west of Grants at Haystack Mountain in 1950. Uranium would play a key role in the Grants economy for several decades to come. At one time four local mills processed the uranium ore.
Hotels and motor courts developed on US Highway 66, which was named Santa Fe Avenue through town. Interestingly, my 1939 AAA Directory of Motor Courts and Cottages lists no accommodations under Grants, yet other sources say that the Yucca Hotel was in operation in the 1920s. Jack Rittenhouse, in his 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66, lists two hotels (California Hotel and the Yucca Hotel for which there are RPPCs pictured here) and five auto courts.
Grants never had a Fred Harvey House as Gallup and Albuquerque did. A modern railroad with diesel locomotives requires many fewer employees than during the steam locomotive era. The demand for the uranium around Grants has decreased in the last twenty years or so. Lumbering and farming have been in decline so Grants has returned to tourism. Earlier promotions as the "Carrot Capital" and the "Uranium Capital" have given way to "Lavaland" and "Lava City", nicknames adopted by Grants to convey the town's proximity to the interesting and scenic lava flows of the "El Malpais" (bad lands) to the south and southwest. A portion of these lands are now protected as the El Malpais National Monument. Lava flows would be a new sight for easterners traveling along Route 66 back then and maybe even now.
The settlement of Cubero was named for Pedro Rodriguez Cubero, an early Spanish governor of the northern portion of the Mexican colony who was stationed in Santa Fe. The town of Cubero was on Highway 66 back when the highway was originally designated in 1926 but a short bypass was made about 1937 which left the actual town a couple of miles off of 66. The most famous business on Route 66 is the Villa de Cubero, built by Sidney Gottlieb, which is outside of town and on post-1937 Highway 66. It appears in my 1939 AAA Directory of Motor Courts and Cottages and in Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66. It is still open for business today. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway wrote part of his famous short novel The Old Man and the Sea while holed up here although Hemingway scholars designate Cuba as the place of origin.
Several trading posts and gasoline stations dotted Route 66 in this area near the Acoma ("Sky City") area. The Acoma pueblo is one of the oldest continuously-occupied Indian pueblos in the USA. The pueblo is situated on the top of a steep sandstone mesa and it was said to be extremely defensible when it came to repelling the early Spanish conquistadors. Finally employing the very best in late-16th century state-of-the-art military technology (e.g., a cannon) the Spaniards prevailed over the defenders.
A second Indian pueblo just off Route 66 was the Laguna Pueblo. Today there are two adjacent Indian Reservations just south of old Highway 66: the Acoma Indian Reservation and the Laguna Indian Reservation.
The Rio Puerco Trading Post was where the post-1937 alignment of Route 66 crossed the Rio Puerco about 19 miles west of Albuquerque.
Up until 1937 US Highway 66 came west from eastern New Mexico and looped north through Santa Fe and then south along the Rio Grande to pass north-south through Albuquerque on Fourth Street. The highway departed Albuquerque south to Los Lunas and then it turned west-northwest toward Laguna and points west. This early alignment, by the way, pretty much followed the Santa Fe Railroad. The new 1937 road alignment bypassed not only the large northern loop through Santa Fe but also the much smaller southern loop through Los Lunas. By 1937 then Route 66 arrived at Albuquerque from the east via Tijeras Canyon, continued through the city east-west entirely on Central Avenue, and headed out-of-town to the west via this straighter alignment. A trading post west of Albuquerque on this brand new stretch of road would seem like a good idea. The Rio Puerco ("dirty river") Trading Post was built by George and Morene Hill on the south side of this new highway alignment. This first Rio Puerco Trading Post was burned by fire but it was re-built in 1946 on the north side of the highway just east of the river and operated until it too burned in the 1960s. The RPPC here shows the trading post in its post-War heyday. Jack Rittenhouse, in his 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66, mentions on page 81 only that a gasoline station exists 19 miles west of Albuquerque but does not name this business. A third and final Rio Puerco Trading Post, this one a modern building built by the Bowlin Stores corporation, was eventually built on this site. It has since been closed.
The aunt of J. T. Turner's wife Reese was Morene Hill, co-operator of the Rio Puerco Trading Post (above). During a visit to the Hills, Mr. Turner decided he too could set up shop on the newly-popular Route 66. Mr. Turner acqured an abandoned store that George Hill owned about half the distance closer to Albuquerque. The main building was totally refurbished and a residence was added in the rear and by the mid-1950s the Turners were in business as the Tomahawk Trading Post. The business began humbly enough but later to call attention to the enterprise from the highway, ten huge roadside Indian "arrows" were added, constructed as telephone poles driven into the ground and decorated with plywood "feathers" and bright colored paint. Two large teepees would be built near the gasoline pumps and a professional artist painted the building walls with Southwest Indian themes. A rattlesnake exhibit, a saddled burro for the kids, and most importantly a group of Indian dancers from the nearby Jemez pueblo put on shows periodically during the daytime hours. The Indian shows grew in significance and even drew residents from nearby Albuquerque. The Tomahawk Trading Post continued success seemed assured but J.T. Turner did not control the land beneath the store: it was still leased from Mr. Hill. The Turners left the Tomahawk but used their successful business formula to go on to operate a number of other roadside enterprises along Route 66 from eastern Arizona to central New Mexico.
The largest city in New Mexico today, Albuquerque began early in the 18th century as a small farming settlement along the west bank of the Rio Grande in what is today known as the "Old Town" area. The area was under the control of Spain and the settlement was named for the Duke of Alburquerque (the first "r" was dropped in the North American spelling). After the Mexican War of Independence ended in 1822 the Spanish colonies in North America became part of the new country of Mexico. Settlers of Spanish and Mexican descent and settlers from the United States conflicted with each other in much of the West. Disparate loyalties of the Native Americans were also thrown into the mix. Subsequent regional wars (collectively called the "Mexican-American War") beginning in 1845 and concluding with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 brought much of the West including most of Arizona and New Mexico in as territories and then much later as states of the United States.
When railroads were built they often followed rivers when they could. There was purpose in this. The shore of a river was often a gentle landform and the track could be laid with a mild grade that was negotiable by the steam locomotives of the day. Another reason for following rivers is that they usually provided a ready supply of water (either surface water or underground aquifers) for the steam boilers of the locomotives. And so it was with the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (later absorbed into the Santa Fe Railway system). The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad arrived in 1880 from the territorial capital of Santa Fe from the north along the Rio Grande and left Albuquerque to the south, also along the Rio Grande, toward Los Lunas before swinging away from the river and heading north and northwest. A newer Albuquerque emerged near the railroad tracks which grew to annex the Old Town area and a trail connected the two areas. By the twentieth century this path was named Railroad Avenue but we know it today as Central Avenue. The Fred Harvey Company of the Santa Fe built the beautiful Alvarado Hotel facing the railroad tracks in 1902. The rear of the hotel faced First Street and the north side, which was just a plain gable-like end, faced Central Avenue. With the post-War decline in passenger traffic the Hotel Alvarado was closed and razed in 1970. A smaller modern depot, called the Alvarado Transportation Center, has many of the design elements of the original hotel and has been built on the site to serve AMTRAK train and bus passengers.
The original national east-west mainline for the Santa Fe Railroad that came through Albuquerque was hindered by the steep mountain grades in northern New Mexico where the tracks negotiated Raton Pass. So early in the 20th century the Santa Fe built the "Belen cutoff" which left the main east-west mainline in Kansas and cut across Oklahoma and to Amarillo and the Texas panhandle and joined the existing main line just south of Albuquerque near Belen, New Mexico. Belen would become a major junction for the Santa Fe Railroad with lines north to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Denver, and to the Midwest via Raton Pass, the new lower-elevation main line east to Clovis, Amarillo, and on to the Midwest too, and tracks south to El Paso, Texas. A Harvey House was built in Belen.
This is Central Avenue looking west from First Street where the railroad tracks crossed the roadway at grade. This RPPC image was taken in 1932 before it was Highway 66. The large building in the distance was the First National Bank building at Central and Third.
The Lobo Business Section of Central Avenue is near the University of New Mexico campus. The mascot of the university is the lobo (wolf). The marquee on the Lobo Theatre just below the hanging traffic light says that the movie "Prince of Foxes" starring Tyrone Power and Orson Welles is playing. That movie was released in December 1949 so I think this photographic image is from about 1950.
US Highway 66, however, was to come from Santa Fe, New Mexico, south to Albuquerque. The initial 1926 alignment of Highway 66 followed the well-traveled trails that already existed between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and the trails that paralleled the Santa Fe Railroad south and then west of town via Los Lunas. For eleven years US Highway 66 and 85 would share Fourth Street in Albuquerque.
I have a map published by Gallup's Map & Supply Company in 1928 that shows a paved road running east of Albuquerque to the mouth of Tijeras Canyon ("Scissors" in Spanish) and then an "improved road" (which, acording the the map maker, could be gravel, stone, shell, sand or clay) called US Highway 470 continuing all the way east to Moriarty. Then State Highway 6, a dirt road at that time, went from Moriarty to Santa Rosa where it joined US Highway 66 coming from Santa Fe. Although these more direct early roads existed in a primitive form at this time, it was not until 1937 that a paved road was opened directly from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque via Tijeras Canyon. Now Route 66 could enter Albuquerque on Central Avenue and pass through the entire main commercial district of Albuquerque. A new western gateway to Albuquerque aligned with Central climbed out of the Rio Grande Valley up what would later be called "Nine Mile Hill". (The rim of the long slope, where east-bound travelers get their first glimpse of the city, was nine miles from downtown Albuquerque.) The initial route of Highway 66 through Santa Fe, along the Rio Grande, and into Albuquerque via Fourth Street was totally bypassed. Fourth Street became US Highway 85 exclusively but it still had the important role of joining Albuquerque and Santa Fe. (US Highway 85 has since been de-signed in New Mexico as Interstate 25 overlaid it.) Albuquerque has the distinction of being the only city where an earlier alignment of Highway 66 was perpendicularly crossed over by a later alignment.
Central Avenue was the commercial district for Albuquerque even before it was designated US Highway 66 in 1937, dating from its history as Railroad Avenue when it joined the original settlement on the west bank of the Rio Grande with the railroad depot and the new business center of Albuquerque. At that time a number of hotels catering to the business travelers and well-off pleasure travelers existed along or near Central, including the Franciscan (Central and Sixth), the El Fidel (one block north of Central on Fifth), the Hilton (one block north of Central on Second), and, of course, the Hotel Alvarado (Central and First) but there were few motor courts for the traveler at that time. A brochure published by the City of Albuquerque that I have states that in 1935 when Fourth Street was both US Highway 66 and 85 there were 16 "tourist camps" located there and only 3 on Central Avenue. But by 1941, the brochure states, there were 28 camps on Fourth and 37 on Central. And, of course, after the War even more motels blossomed on Central Avenue. All of the tourist courts and motels on Central Avenue were built beyond the developed downtown district where land could be had inexpensively. Nearly all tourist lodging facilities were either west of about West 10th Street or East of the Nob Hill area (east of the University of New Mexico and east of today's Carlisle Blvd.). Even today many of the old motels on Central Avenue still exist but very few on Fourth Street still do.
All of the postcards that I have seen of Central Avenue in the downtown area show a multi-lane roadway with parking on both sides of the street, as it is today. That is remarkable to me and indicates great foresight in planning the roadway width prior to sidewalks and commercial buildings being built. How many cities are there on old Route 66 where the original two-lane street through town needed to be paired with a second two-lane street to compose a pair of two-lane one-way streets to accommodate the increases in traffic as the years went on? However after Central was designated Highway 66 in 1937 and traffic sharply increased the roadway was dropped underneath the railroad tracks in a viaduct to eliminate delays due to railroad operations, a situation that also effected other towns along Route 66.
Albuquerque has one of the two Madonna of the Trail monuments that were placed on Route 66. See Upland, California, for more information. Albuquerque's Madonna of the Trail statue is on Fourth Street at Marble, which is about eight blocks north of Central. The statue was placed in 1928 when Fourth Street was US Highway 66. Fourth Street today is still a major north-south surface street. Today the first three blocks on Fourth Street north of Central have been made into a vehicle-free pedestrian mall. The Madonna of the Trail monument was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
This RPPC is from the 1950s. Notice that all of the gasoline pumps have been modernized and all have the gasoline globes on top. This view would be looking toward the northeast across Central.
Albuquerque was known for several iconic and architecturally significant buildings that were located on Route 66. Probably the most unique was the Iceberg Café. Built in 1931 and originally called Mac's Iceberg, the unique building looked like an iceberg floating in the Arctic Ocean. A combination dairy bar and dance hall, the Iceberg flourished at this location just east of the University of New Mexico (3015 East Central). But by the late 1930s development of the property meant that Iceberg Café had to move and the building was uprooted and hauled east 22 blocks down Central Avenue (5219 East Central). But by this time Central Avenue had been designated Highway 66 and tourist traffic had increased so a second "berg" building was added to the original and gasoline pumps were installed outside. In 1953 the Iceberg Café moved for the last time, this time onto US Highway 85 in Bernalillo, north of Albuquerque, where it operated into the 1960s when it was closed and razed. There are at least three different RPPCs of the photogenic Iceberg Café from street level and I am told that there is a Bird's Eye View RPPC of Albuquerque that, if you look carefully, shows the Iceberg Café from the sky. I do not know of any RPPC that shows the Iceberg Café from the era from which it was just a single building.
There were many tourist courts, motels, cafés, and trading posts along US Highway 66 in Albuquerque that have been documented by RPPCs. Albuquerque has a rich history of building styles, blending conventional American architectural styles with Southwestern influences. Stucco is a common finishing material used for nearly all of the motor courts, motels, cafés, and small commercial buildings. Principally a mixture of either lime or Portland cement, sand and water, stucco was applied onto either a wood lath or later a wire substrate that kept the wet concoction from simply falling off the wall until it dried hard.
What is called the Pueblo Revival style of architecture features flat roofs and rounded parapets. Fancier buildings would include protruding wood beams (sometimes called vigas) that simulate roof supports, and round wood posts that may support porch structures. (Many inexpensive motels chose not to add protruding wooden posts or porches simply because of the cost of adding such detail.) This architectural style began in the early twentieth century and is still used today in new construction, although I have seen it referred to as the "Santa Fe" style in some parts of the Southwest.
The Southwest Vernacular style was popular for about thirty years from 1920 to 1950 and is characterized again by stucco walls and flat roofs but the parapets are squared off and frequently irregularly stepped along the expanse of the walls. Spanish elements like rounded windows or wrought iron railings may be present.
The Streamline Moderne style, also known simply as Moderne, was popular from about 1930 to 1950. An outgrowth of the Art Deco movement, it is characterized by rounded corners and windows, cantilevered porches and coverings, and frequently the bold use of glass block and exterior tile.
A few of the early courts (King's Rest on Fourth Street and the El Vado and Country Club on Central Avenue) were listed in my 1939 AAA Directory of Motor Courts and Cottages. A substantial number of other (and most likely newer) motor courts on Central Avenue were listed in Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66. I don't know much about the history of all these motor courts and cafés so below I present an album of sorts of some of the RPPC images that are or were available from internet resources or have been sent to me. The first row has three businesses on Fourth Street. The remaining rows have businesses that were on Central Avenue. The Central Avenue businesses are listed from west to east on Central Avenue.