The last time most people saw the old Tucumcari Motel sign near downtown Tucumcari, New Mexico, the long-closed business was destroyed by a suspected arson fire about three years ago.
Because it stood about 20 feet from the building, the fire left the neon sign for the motel unscathed. Locals hauled away the sign a few days after that, and nothing more was heard about it.
Prosecutors charged, convicted and imprisoned a former Tucumcari police officer after two fires in town about that time. The officer was implicated in the Tucumcari Motel blaze, but the sentencing agreement didn’t address that matter.
On Thursday, the New Mexico Route 66 Museum in Tucumcari showed off the restored sign that will be displayed there.
Eight Ball Engineering in Clovis, New Mexico, restored the sign’s paint. Wellborn Sign Company in Amarillo, Texas, restored the neon.
Here’s another image of the restored sign with the neon off, so you can see the paint restoration more clearly.
The motel never was on Route 66, but roadies often photographed it and its worn-down neon sign after stumbling onto it. The motel was a two-story structure at Adams and Smith streets, and it contained a few separate cabin structures in the back.
This structure dated to at least 1913, making it probably the oldest surviving hotel in Tucumcari at the time of the fire. Known early in its existence as The Antler House, it later was called Palace Hotel, then Oklahoma Rooms in the late 1940s and finally Tucumcari Motel in the mid-1950s.
The motel sat on old U.S. 54 and was thought to have been on an original alignment of the old Ozark Trail.
The local housing authority owned and used the Tucumcari Motel for years until a previous fire rendered it uninhabitable. It had sat abandoned since.
(Images of Tucumcari Motel sign by Quay County / Tucumcari Chamber of Commerce via Facebook)