Route 66 News

El Vado redux

Now that the dust has settled on the City of Albuquerque’s seizure of El Vado Motel to protect it from destruction by a developer, here are a few thoughts:

— Send a thank-you note to Mayor Martin Chavez. He is a relatively popular leader of that city, so his stance on any issue carries weight. He came out very early in his support for El Vado Motel when it was endangered. And it was Chavez who spearheaded the decision to seize the historic Route 66 landmark this week after lengthy negotiations with the owner broke down. E-mail your note of appreciation to the mayor at mayor(at)

Send a thank-you to Ed Boles. The historic preservation planner was one of the city’s foot soldiers during the Battle of El Vado. He was most appreciative of roadies’ efforts, and we should be appreciative of him for his behind-the-scenes work. It was his Planning Department’s report early in the battle — suggesting that townhouses in place of El Vado would be inappropriate for the neighborhood — that gave the city an early upper hand. Boles’ e-mail is eboles(at)

— Give yourselves a pat on the back. William Dodge, then-chairman of the city’s Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission, commented that he was “struck by the nature of support” for El Vado when the panel initially designated the motel a city landmark. “… The amount of response from across the world was quite amazing and quite unusual for properties that come before this Commission, and you have to raise your eyebrows and sit upright for a second or two,” he said. Roadies and preservationists, through their testimony, e-mails and letters, kept pressure on the city. El Vado became a victory for Route 66 preservation.

— Don’t knock eminent domain — at least all the time, anyway. El Vado is listed as a condemnation proceeding. But there’s a nickel’s worth of difference between it and eminent domain. Clamor ensued when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 refused to curb the usage of eminent domain. However, El Vado makes it apparent that eminent domain can and should be used to protect important historic properties. I’m as leery of eminent domain for private purposes as the next fellow. But to lose this as a possible tool for historic preservation would be unwise.

A preservation fight can be helped by a bumbling land owner. Richard L. Gonzales made just about every mistake possible during the first 24 months of his efforts to raze El Vado Motel. He was caught contradicting himself. During city hearings, he seemed unprepared. He became disruptive at a city hearing. By the time he wised up and hired an attorney to represent him, Gonzales had dug himself too deep of a hole. Gonzales nearly got his way twice, but his poor judgment clearly hurt his efforts. And now, because he didn’t bother to maintain the property, Gonzales stands to lose quite a bit of his initial investment during condemnation proceedings.

So what now? It seems unlikely that El Vado will reopen as a motel; the lodging market is too competitive. But Chavez’s idea for a drive-through Route 66 neon museum seems like a sound one. And for all of its history, Albuquerque doesn’t have any sort of local Route 66 museum. El Vado would provide the vehicle to start one.

(Photo of El Vado Motel, courtesy of The Lope.) 


4 thoughts on “El Vado redux

  1. Shellee Graham

    This is outstanding news – the wonderful El Vado Motel saved. Ever since I first learned about the place in Michael Wallis’ book, it was a big deal to stay there and photograph that amazing neon sign.

    My hats off to Mayor Chavez. I have met Ed Boles and he is a wonderful asset to the city of ALBQ. (In St. Louis, his name is Esley Hamilton.) These people put their whole lives into preservation and because of them we have these wonderful vintage structures to look at and learn from.

    FANTASTIC! I’m sending out thank you notes.

  2. Sandrea Gonzales

    I am amazed at the amount of misinformation this story contains. You all seem to be patting yourselves on the back for riding in on your Route 66 high horses to rescue something my brother was trying to rescue all along. Yes, he is my brother but that is not the only reason why I write these thoughts. My mom, dad, myself, some of our neighbors and more of my family sat through those city council and other landmark meetings and others that you don’t even know about. Ron, you state that ………”He was caught contradicting himself. During city hearings, he seemed unprepared”. You were certainly not at the same meetings we were at. Richard was always prepared and kept amazing composure under circumstances where the mayor chose to send out his henchmen. Sometimes there were as many as 4 city lawyers there who did their best to discredit Richard. Almost always, he was given little time to present his information and thoughts. By the way, your hero, Mr. Ed Boles was one of the worst. In fact, he contradicted himself many times. I don’t believe the city was ever interested in negotiating with my brother. The mayor has wanted the El Vado sign and the motel and he finally got them. Where was the City when Sam Kassam, the former owner was trying to sell it? Sam was tired and he knew that the repairs that needed to be done were more than he could handle, financially and physically. Richard offered to buy it for the price Sam wanted and he decided to finally sell the El Vado to my brother. Sam was relieved and was looking forward to doing something different and spending more time with his family. Richard and Sam became friends. Sadly, the friendship didn’t have much time to grow because Sam died. I remember the day my brother went in front of the Landmark Commission to “defend” his rights after he had just heard that Sam died. He couldn’t hold back his emotion. Many of you who will read this have completely missed the boat on this one. I admire and always have, people that fight for their beliefs but I do not respect or admire people who haven’t taken the time to get the facts straight. Anyone of you could have sat down with Richard and talked to him about his plans. He would have gladly had a conversation with you. He is a kind and brilliant man with a big heart. He is a devoted father to his children, a loving son to his parents and a wonderful and supportive brother. Our family is at least 7 generations strong here in New Mexico. We are all passionate and protective of this state and its history. My parents have been politically active in New Mexico most of their adult lives. My mom was County Clerk for two terms, County Purchasing Agent for several years and ran for Secretary of State and was very much respected for her work ethic and honesty. Our mom and dad instilled in us a strong sense of right and wrong and fairness. They worked hard all their lives to give their children a better life. Richard wasn’t trying to become “a Donald Trump” of New Mexico and he certainly wasn’t trying to take advantage of anyone. He isn’t a big developer. He enjoys challenges and new projects and he knows they will probably never make him rich, just provide him a living. The El Vado was just that. He had many different and creative ideas about what to do with the El Vado. Developing Condos with some preservation of the El Vado was only one of those ideas and one that the City, news media and these blogs seemed to keep repeating and sensationalizing . It really didn’t matter what he tried to say or present once the slur campaigns began against him. Our family sat back in absolute disbelief at some of the things that were being said about Richard and the El Vado. I remained quiet because I did not want to hurt my brother’s chances at trying to make his case to those that seemed to have already made up their minds and only listened to what they wanted to hear and believe. I cannot sit back in silence anymore.
    Believe me, you all don’t even know half of the story. My hope is that soon enough you will know more. And Ron, whoever you are, you are absolutely wrong. I am disgusted with your phrasing “Richard L. Gonzales is up to his shenanigans again”. “Shenanigans” is not my brother’s style. You should probably save that description for
    mr. boles and the mayor. Richard’s constitutional rights were incredibly ignored and violated. The city has put up a shiny new fence around the El Vado. It now joins the ranks of other fenced-in motels in Albuquerque left standing to further rot in the name of “preservation”. The mayor has his neon sign, mr. boles’ halo still shines bright and all is well, for a moment, in the fairytale of the “rescuing of the El Vado Motel” from a law-abiding citizen.
    I will go on trying to believe that justice will prevail in spite of this bad 5 year nightmare that my brother and our family have endured. And, unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be over yet.
    I applaud those of you trying to do the right thing and I encourage you to please get your facts straight before you say or quote things that can hurt someone’s reputation and livelihood and family.
    And THANK YOU Jim Scarantino, whoever you are, for your fairness, clear thinking and supportive statements.
    Now Ron ~ whoever you are, if you still want people to send those Thank you notes out to the mayor and mr. boles ~ go ahead, but remember, there is truly more to this story than you will probably ever get to know.
    Peace and Blessings for us all, Sandrea

  3. Sandrea Gonzales

    CORRECTION: Before anyone jumps on it, I meant to put “this bad 3 year nightmare” not 5 year. I suppose it seems that long to me.

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