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Route 66 News

Tucumcari Motel sign emerges from the ashes

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 imprisonedformer 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)

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5 thoughts on “Tucumcari Motel sign emerges from the ashes

  1. Eric Hayman

    “The officer was implicated in the Tucumcari Motel blaze, but the sentencing agreement didn’t address that matter.” Could someone explain to this non-American just what is a”sentencing agreement”? How was the motel fire excluded from it?

    I can only express delight that the sign has reappeared and has been refurbished. Its three year period of ‘being looked after’ by some kind person or people is short compared to the several decades during which I had possession of a cast iron nameplate for a railway signal box. The most likely unique feature of the nameplate is that the station for which it was made never had a signal box. I found the plate broken in two on an engine shed window sill, covered in years of dirt. The line was closed in the 1960s, but part of it is now run as a heritage railway, alas not the station which never had a signal box. Some years ago I put it on long term loan to the heritage railway, and it now hangs on a wall of the line’s museum.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      The agreement essentially is a confession by the convicted person of what he did so it eventually can go to restitution or other court matters regarding lost property.

      He either didn’t torch the motel, the prosecutor forgot about it, or an unlikely possibility the several newspapers that covered it missed that angle.

  2. randy

    Im glad I got to visit and talk with Lillian Redman when she was alive. She was a character even when she was on oxygen. Its just another tragic loss for everyone who loves R66. Glad I took pix of Lillian and her motel at the time

  3. Eric Hayman

    Thanks, Ron. Here in the UK when a criminal is known to have committed a number of similar crimes but is not charged with each one individually but may have admitted to them in order not to be charged with them at a later date, he or she will be given a sentence “taking them into consideration” supposedly clear the book. In such cases, those wronged by the defendant often feel that they have been badly treated, having “missed their day in court” and seeing the person not charged with the crime that affected them personally.

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