Route 66 News

Santa Rosa applying for byways grant for Route 66 museum

Santa Rosa, N.M., is applying for a grant from the National Scenic Byways Program so it can renovate the historic Ilfeld-Johnson Warehouse near downtown and eventually house what would be the state’s only Route 66 museum.

On Dec. 15, Santa Rosa tourism director Richard Delgado announced the intent during a mass email to about 30 Route 66 supporters or officials. Delgado requested letters of support for the grant request. The deadline to submit the application is Dec. 29, he said.

Delgado wrote:

Our Ilfeld/Johnson warehouse project is truly “shovel ready” and work on the facility could begin as soon as January 2012, and we have one Interpretive Exhibit for the warehouse already in the works and 2 of the 4 are near completion.

Santa Rosa is in good standing with our Scenic Byways projects and we will be looking to take some steps to get more work done in the Ilfeld Warehouse as a Byway facility which will house in part the New Mexico Route 66 Museum. New Mexico is the only one of the 8 Route 66 States, that does not have an ‘official’ State Route 66 Museum. The visitor and interpretive center and museum can become known worldwide as a must-stop along Route 66.

The Ilfeld-Johnson Warehouse is just northeast of downtown Santa Rosa. The building was constructed in 1901, and contains about 9,000 square feet.

A photo illustration of the proposed Route 66 museum inside the Ilfeld-Johnson Warehouse in Santa Rosa, N.M.

According to a 2008 report produced by a Santa Fe firm for the city, the warehouse would cost $1.2 million to renovate. It’s not impossible for the National Scenic Byways program to award $1 million or more, as this listing of the 2011 grants shows. And Santa Rosa may acquire enough cash in hand to shrink that grant request.

Delgado would not say how much is being requested from the Byways Program.

In addition to housing Route 66 memorabilia, Santa Rosa envisions the warehouse containing railroad artifacts, Western heritage and Spanish Colonial exhibits, a vintage travel trailer, movie and music exhibits, a research library, gift shop, and performance stage.

Johnnie Meier, a longtime Route 66 enthusiast and owner of the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, N.M., would move much of his petroliana collection into the warehouse for the Santa Rosa Route 66 museum. He said he submitted a lease proposal to the city “years ago,” and says the offer stands. In an email, he said:

My message to the city officials in Santa Rosa has always been, “I’m ready when you are.”

My assessment of the historic building is that it would meet the requirements for National Register recognition.  With expansive exhibit space, oak floors, beamed open high ceilings, stone walls and available outdoor exhibit space, it is an ideal location for a future New Mexico Route 66 Museum. The building is in remarkably well preserved condition, well worth the modest renovation costs.

Tucumcari, about 60 miles to the east, also is trying to land a Route 66 museum and Meier’s collection at an abandoned truck stop on the west edge of town.

Lisa Lauriault, executive director of the Tucumcari / Quay County Chamber of Commerce, said in an email, without providing specifics, that ” there are grants … in the works for projects such as a Route 66 museum.”

And Richard Talley, owner of the Motel Safari in Tucumcari and a proponent of a Route 66 museum in town, said Tucumcari could quickly offer an alternative site for the museum if the truck-stop property wasn’t available.

As for me, I don’t have a dog in this hunt. Wherever a Route 66 museum lands in New Mexico is good for Route 66 in general. Given that several Route 66 museums in other states are more than a decade old, I’m a little surprised someone in the Land of Enchantment hasn’t stepped up to create one long before now.

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