Route 66 News

Museum unearths Red Chief Motel diner mural

Red Chief Motel mural excerpt

A museum recently uncovered a nearly forgotten Native American-themed mural from the diner of the Red Chief Motel in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

Officials at the Cooper Regional History Museum in nearby Upland, California, recently took the mural out of storage and put it on display.

The Red Chief’s owners donated the mural in 1979 when the motel was about to be torn down. Officials stashed the mural in the rafters until last month.

According to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:

The pieces were brought down because they were beginning to bow, museum President Dave Stevens said. His wife, Marlene, said they were beautiful and ought to go on display. […]

The longest image is a domestic scene on the prairie that transitions into a riverbank with a fawn and mallards as a canoe paddled by two women drifts into view. A smaller scene depicts a male Indian on a burro overlooking a canyon. Other random panels have nature scenes. […]

Anderson wishes she could have seen the mural in the original cafe as it’s hard to tell how all the pieces fit together or if they were in two separate rooms, as the panels don’t form one continuous scene. Another three or four more panels are still in storage.

One panel is signed “Ralph Edwin Brugger, 3-5-50.” The San Bernardino resident, an Ohio native, was 58 at the time and was later responsible for a bandstand mural in Colton that has since been painted over, Anderson said. He died in 1965.

The museum hopes area residents or Route 66 travelers can give the museum stories about the motel.

More images of the mural are here. Its future remains undetermined.

According to the newspaper, the Red Chief Motel operated from 1936 to 1977 at 8270 Foothill Blvd. (aka Route 66). It sported 16 units and a colorful history — including a double homicide.

Red Chief Motel postcard

(Excerpt from the Red Chief Motel mural via Cooper Regional History Museum; postcard image of the Red Chief Motel courtesy of


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