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2008: Cactus Motel Neon Sign Restored

by Johnnie V

In the first quarter of 2008, the New Mexico Route 66 association, with funding provided by the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Office, completed restoration of the historic Cactus Motel sign in Tucumcari on historic Route 66.

The Cactus Motor Lodge was built in 1941 by I.E and Edna Perry. Located along the well-traveled course of U.S. 66, the motel complex offered twenty-five units. The motel had a prime location at the eastern end of Route 66, one mile east of the city limits, where it would be one of the first courts travelers heading west would encounter.

The motel consists of four buildings, which are of hollow core tile construction with an exterior of stucco updated in 1952 with artificial stone. The U-shape is formed by three motel wings on the on the east, west and south. The west wing consists of sixteen motel units and the east wing has two units. The south wing has six units but this wing has been altered in recent years through the removal of two of the garage bays. The fourth building in the complex is the office, which was originally a dance hall.

Edna Perry sold the Cactus Motor Lodge to Norm Wegner who moved to Tucumcari in 1952. Wegner added the Perma-Stone to the exterior of the west and south wings and the dance hall to update the appearance of the buildings. Perma-Stone, a popular imitation stone and concrete exterior siding material of the 1950s, was considered to provide buildings with an updated "modern" look. This exterior siding material was also promoted as being "maintenance free, fireproof and energy efficient." In addition, to adding the Perma-Stone, Wegner also closed the dance hall and converted it into the office and manager's residence

The Wegner's owned and operated the motel until they retired and sold the property to Harry and Jean Schiermeyer in 1972. The Schiermeyers in turn sold the motel to Frank and Elizabeth Kocab in May of 1976. In 1979, Indrajit (Andy) and Sugandhi Patel purchased the property and continue to own it today. In the 1980s the motel struggled financially due to the loss of U.S. 66 traffic and by the 1990s the motel units were closed. The courtyard was converted into an RV Park and a lot behind the motel was also used by the Patels as a park and campground. The motel units are currently vacant. The Cactus Motor Lodge is representative of a once up-scale motel built along Route 66 in the mid-20th century. The motel was built directly facing U.S. 66, and remained in continuous operation from 1941 until the 1990s.

Despite the removal of a pool and landscaped grounds in the 1980s, and the somewhat deteriorated condition of the individual motel units, the Cactus Motor Lodge retains sufficient integrity to communicate its historical significance.

The Cactus Motor Lodge has been added in March 2006 to the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria A and C, meeting the property type eligibility requirements for tourist courts and motels outlined in the Historic and Architectural Resources of Route 66 Through New Mexico. Built in 1941, the motel reflects the rise of the tourist industry and the rapid increase in automobile use in the early twentieth century, particularly along Route 66.

The restoration replaced the neon for "Cactus" and added neon for "RV Park." The replacement of Motel with RV Park is consistant with its current use and falls under the guidelines of adaptive reuse for historic preservation.

See other Restoration pages - The El Rey Theater       2003 Route 66 Neon Restoration