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Help the Horn Oil Co. June 30, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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The Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday kinda sorta came out against the preservation of the circa-1947 Horn Oil Co., which is slated to be bulldozed for multi-use infill but the decision is being appealed. (For more on the background of the Horn Oil Co. fight, read last week’s Journal story here.)

First, the editorial — which is quite muddled — compares the Horn to El Vado Motel, which was saved from demolition by the city with the help of the mayor and Route 66 preservationists. But the newspaper’s editorial questions whether the Horn deserves to be saved.

Here’s where the editorial runs off the tracks:

A glimpse of the golden era of Route 66 is neat, but a glimpse of the outside is as much as most tourists want. The small rooms, lack of amenities and a location left behind by interstate traffic doom the landmarks to a lower-rent clientele. One residential neighbor describes the Sleaze Land ambience (sic) after dark: “You hear fights out there and you hear— well, I guess the way I can say it is — ‘ladies of the night’ back there, like a lot of them.”

West Central isn’t a theme park. City officials have to figure out how to unchain the economic potential of enough of a property from absolutist dictates to support preservation of the rest. Drive-by tourism in the daytime can’t keep these landmarks respectable at night.

First, I don’t trust the media reports about crime and prostitution at the Horn, especially when previous stories got it so wrong. There’s a big difference between the reported 250 police calls a year at the property and the confirmed number of 25. And quoting an unnamed “residential neighbor” doesn’t add credibility, either.

Second, any editorial that uses statements from El Vado owner Richard Gonzales is highly suspect. With the lies or falsehoods or loaded language Gonzales used during the El Vado fight, Gonzales has zero credibility.

Third, the editorial makes the rash assumptions that 1) Route 66ers wouldn’t be interested at staying at a refurbished Horn Oil Co. because of the small rooms and lack of amenities; and 2) a preserved Horn Oil Co. has no other viable use. The first part of the argument is demonstrably wrong, with the Blue Swallow Motel as a prime example.

The second part of the argument is also rebutted by Albuquerque’s own De Anza Motor Lodge, which soon will be remodeled. The Horn also is close to downtown, which is undergoing a major revitalization. There’s no reason to believe a well-conceived re-use of Horn Oil Co. can’t be part of that.

And razing a property that’s on the National Register of Historic Places is just plain immoral.
The biggest problem I see, after inspecting the property last week, is that Horn Oil Co. is set back from Central Avenue and that it doesn’t have a sign pointing it out. One nicely done neon sign could fix the problem easily.

If you’re interesting in preserving Horn Oil Co., here’s what to do. Write a letter to the Albuquerque Journal, stating you want the Horn Oil Co. preserved. The form to write and submit a letter is here.

It doesn’t need to be long; just state that you would like to see the property saved. Our goal is to have 500 letters submitted to the Journal — this rebutting the notion that there is little interest in saving the property.

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