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Route 66LEGENDARY ROUTE 66

Al Vado Auto Court, Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Vintage El Vado Court, Albuquerque PostcardSituated on Route 66, at the intersection of Central and New York Streets, in Albuquerque, New Mexico sits the now closed and shuttered El Vado Auto Court. The chain link fence, peeling paint, and weed-choked courtyard, belie the fabulous years of brisk business that occurred here for some 70 years. The 32-unit motor court actually predates Route 66’s Central alignment by more than a year. The motel was built by a man named Daniel Murphy, an Irishman who had worked in New York City before making his way to New Mexico. Murphy was working as a manager of the Franciscan Hotel in downtown Albuquerque when word came that Route 66 was to be realigned through Albuquerque.

 

In anticipation of the realignment of Route 66 through Albuquerque, Daniel Murphy left his post at the Franciscan Hotel to open the El Vado in 1937. He chose the motel’s name Vado, which means 'ford' in Spanish, for its location near the old ford that crossed the Rio Grande where Bridge Street is today. The motel consists of 32 units, some of which are interspersed with covered carports, arranged in two parallel, one-story buildings facing a parking courtyard. When the motel opened, gas pumps were located along Central Avenue in front of the motel office. A flashy neon sign topped by an American Indian wearing a colorful headdress welcomed travelers on Route 66. Murphy constructed the motel in the Spanish Pueblo Revival style. Purposely-designed irregularities give the motel the look of the nearby Pueblos. These include curvilinear and straight parapets, irregular massing, varying buttresses, and exposed wooden roof beams. The interior of the motel office and lobby were ornately decorated in the Pueblo style. When the motel opened in 1937, the local business journal Albuquerque Progress described the units as “swanky tile cabin suites ready for the summer tourist trade.”

The El Vado Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico today.The El Vado retains a high degree of historic integrity, because it has been largely unaltered since its original construction. Route 66 historian David Kammer describes the motel as “one of the best examples of a largely unaltered pre-World War II tourist courts remaining along Route 66 in New Mexico.” Alterations over the years included the removal of the gas pumps in front of the motel office, the addition of a swimming pool, the replacement of original windows with metal double-hung windows, and the painting of Southwest Indian designs on the façade. The El Vado’s relatively unaltered appearance coupled with its spatial arrangement, remaining carports, and use of Spanish Pueblo Revival style convey a strong sense of the property’s era. The El Vado is historically significant for its association with automobile tourism along Route 66; its role as an auto court in defining Albuquerque’s growth, appearance, and image; and its picturesque architectural style designed to attract tourism and immerse travelers in the exoticism and mystique of the Southwest. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

 

Over the years, the motel changed hands a couple of times and in 2005, with business dropping, the property was sold again, this time to a local developer who planned to tear the motel down and build luxury townhouses. However, Route 66 enthusiasts and historic preservationists lobbied to save the old auto court. The city of Albuquerque then stepped in and saved the El Vado. Today, plans are being made to refurbish the site in a mixed-use development that includes a community food court, an amphitheater, a boutique motel and a small events center. Current plans are to being the redevelopment in 2016.

 

The El Vado Auto Court Motel is located at 2500 Central Ave. SW is currently closed to the public and protected by vandalism by a high chain linked fence.

 

 
 

 

Compiled & edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, January, 2015.

 

 

 

Sources:

 

Albuquerque Journal

National Park Service

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El Vado Motel Sign

The El Vado's famous neon sign, while temporarily down during this writing, will return in

 full color once the site is redeveloped.

This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.

 

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