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Route 66 News

The sad decline of the Sun ‘n Sand Motel

Sun 'n Sand Motel sign

Less than three years after it served overnight customers, the historic Sun ‘n Sand Motel in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, has declined into an eyesore and a magnet for homeless people, according to a detailed report this week in the print edition of the Guadalupe County Communicator.

Longtime Route 66 travelers likely will recognize the huge, Zia-influenced neon sign for the motel that was restored about 15 years ago with the help of a grant. The motel itself was built during the 1950s and remodeled about 1998, but closed in 2012 or 2013.

I’m a subscriber to the newspaper, and I haven’t yet received this week’s edition. However, publisher M.E. Sprengelmeyer was kind enough to send a copy of the story. An excerpt about the motel’s woeful state:

These days, more than half of the 40 rooms appear to be unsecured, with many doors bashed off their hinges, drapes flapping through broken window panes, and what’s left of a once-proud motor lodge now serving as a sort of unofficial homeless shelter in the shadow of that landmark Sun ‘n Sand sign.

Amid the broken glass, litter and weeds, the old motel is becoming a bigger and bigger headache for police. And the situation is heartbreaking to those who remember the landmark motel in happier times, as one of the most prominent local lodging establishments in an era before the sterile, stucco national chains arrived.

“It’s painful to see a part of your life kind of just disintegrate,” said former motel owner Carmen Trujillo, whose family lived in a corner of the Sun ‘n Sand in the late 1970s while their house across town was being built. “That was part of our life for a while, and it was even part of our kids’ life.”

Here’s a vintage postcard of the Sun ‘n Sand Motel:

Sun'n Sand Motel postcard

And here’s the top half of the front page of the Communicator this week:

Sun 'n Sand Guadalupe front page

According to the Communicator, the motel faced increasingly tough challenges from newer motels closer to Interstate 40. The motel eventually was turned over to a bank.

The motel already needed extensive renovations, previous operator Moe Patel said. But then a historic storm July 3, 2013, that left up to two feet of hail in the city damaged the motel. The newspaper says the building now would need hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs simply to bring it up to code. The motel continues to decline, and city officials increasingly are considering contacting the owner to clean it up, secure it and abate its nuisances.

(Image of the Sun ‘n Sand Motel neon sign by el-toro via Flickr; Vintage image of the Sun ‘n Sand Motel via 66Postcards.com; image of the front page of the Guadalupe County Communicator via the Newseum)

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5 thoughts on “The sad decline of the Sun ‘n Sand Motel

  1. Rob

    Please save this piece of American History! We send millions to foreign countries, let’s do something for us!

    1. Randy Cox

      It’s sad to see the icons of Route 66 slowly disappear. They are our history and our movement to the west. I’m glad I was alive to experience all the sights and sounds and people along R66. I’ll have to look for this sign next time I get out there. ( if it’s still there) it’ll be just like the White Bros signs and Blue Swallow. Love my R66.

  2. Harold Sexton

    It’s definitely sad to see this happen to such a grand icon of our community and Route 66. As a councilman and steward of our city’s finances, I for one, am at a loss of what can be done to help restore this business. There have been many motels, restaurants and gas stations that have disappeared since the coming of the interstate which seemed to devastate our business district. To those that have survived, I give a great deal of credit.
    I will say that every effort is being made by our administration to bring the life back to Santa Rosa that we once enjoyed. Back in the day, we were so lucky that we happened to land on the Mother Road of America. Today, we are in competition with so many other communities that are fighting for survival just as we are. Thankfully, we have resources that most other communities don’t have. The abundance of water in the area, I feel, is our best opportunity for creating this. We are hoping to turn Santa Rosa into the most exciting recreation area in the state. I do feel we are on the right track with our new Wibit structure at the Park Lake. It seems to really be a popular attraction.
    There is no doubt that there is a transition required to accommodate the new age of travelers, and thankfully we have people in place to address the coming requirements of those travelers. We rely a great deal on pass through business, but are hoping to become more of a destination for travelers.

    Harold Sexton
    City Councilor
    Santa Rosa, NM

  3. Jen

    🙁 Such a shame. We really liked Santa Rosa; I believe the hotel was actually still operating when we were in Santa Rosa, though alas, it was our “turn back east” point on that trip.

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