Help the Horn Oil Co.

The Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday kinda sorta came out against the preservation of the circa-1947 Horn Oil Co., which is slated to be bulldozed for multi-use infill but the decision is being appealed. (For more on the background of the Horn Oil Co. fight, read last week’s Journal story here.)

First, the editorial — which is quite muddled — compares the Horn to El Vado Motel, which was saved from demolition by the city with the help of the mayor and Route 66 preservationists. But the newspaper’s editorial questions whether the Horn deserves to be saved.

Here’s where the editorial runs off the tracks:

A glimpse of the golden era of Route 66 is neat, but a glimpse of the outside is as much as most tourists want. The small rooms, lack of amenities and a location left behind by interstate traffic doom the landmarks to a lower-rent clientele. One residential neighbor describes the Sleaze Land ambience (sic) after dark: “You hear fights out there and you hear— well, I guess the way I can say it is — ‘ladies of the night’ back there, like a lot of them.”

West Central isn’t a theme park. City officials have to figure out how to unchain the economic potential of enough of a property from absolutist dictates to support preservation of the rest. Drive-by tourism in the daytime can’t keep these landmarks respectable at night.

First, I don’t trust the media reports about crime and prostitution at the Horn, especially when previous stories got it so wrong. There’s a big difference between the reported 250 police calls a year at the property and the confirmed number of 25. And quoting an unnamed “residential neighbor” doesn’t add credibility, either.

Second, any editorial that uses statements from El Vado owner Richard Gonzales is highly suspect. With the lies or falsehoods or loaded language Gonzales used during the El Vado fight, Gonzales has zero credibility.

Third, the editorial makes the rash assumptions that 1) Route 66ers wouldn’t be interested at staying at a refurbished Horn Oil Co. because of the small rooms and lack of amenities; and 2) a preserved Horn Oil Co. has no other viable use. The first part of the argument is demonstrably wrong, with the Blue Swallow Motel as a prime example.

The second part of the argument is also rebutted by Albuquerque’s own De Anza Motor Lodge, which soon will be remodeled. The Horn also is close to downtown, which is undergoing a major revitalization. There’s no reason to believe a well-conceived re-use of Horn Oil Co. can’t be part of that.

And razing a property that’s on the National Register of Historic Places is just plain immoral.
The biggest problem I see, after inspecting the property last week, is that Horn Oil Co. is set back from Central Avenue and that it doesn’t have a sign pointing it out. One nicely done neon sign could fix the problem easily.

If you’re interesting in preserving Horn Oil Co., here’s what to do. Write a letter to the Albuquerque Journal, stating you want the Horn Oil Co. preserved. The form to write and submit a letter is here.

It doesn’t need to be long; just state that you would like to see the property saved. Our goal is to have 500 letters submitted to the Journal — this rebutting the notion that there is little interest in saving the property.

11 thoughts on “Help the Horn Oil Co.

  1. Has it occurred to this editor that the building is not the problem here? One responsible owner could take care of the crime. A few years ago, the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, CA, was about as overrun with hookers and drug dealers as any motel in the history of Route 66. Its chances of survival looked grim, and respectability looked unattainable.

    Today, thanks to dedicated owners who appreciate the building’s unique architecture and take pride in their role as stewards of history, the wigwams are a real showpiece: Newly remodeled, clean, well-kept, comfortable, and well worth a stop. The turnaround was immediate: Manoj Patel and his family took over, raised the room rates, quit offering weekly rentals, imposed some rules governing what conduct would and would not be tolerated in their business, and set about making the necessary cosmetic improvements to attract a better clientele. The whole process occurred in a matter of weeks, not years.

    If there are problems with the occupants of the Horn, you don’t need a new building. You need new occupants.

    Would this editor advocate taking a perfectly good 1957 Chevy to a salvage yard and crushing it because its owner is a lousy driver? Why, then, should we destroy a perfectly good building because its owner is a lousy landlord? Such a move defies logic.

  2. It is incumbent on all of us to preserve our historical landmarks, whether they be on 66, Gettysburg, or Yorktown.

    History and its relics are simply not renewable resources. Once they are gone, they are gone.

    The irony is that most of these fast-fading landmarks is that they can be not only saved, but improved upon and preserved for posterity with relatively little effort. Sadly, however, it takes less effort to bulldoze them.

    Please consider sparing Horn.

    Clay Fees
    Sapulpa, OK

  3. Sir, I am disappointed, to say the least, that you are not taking a stronger position on preserving a part of history. The “future” does not mean every vestage of the past must be destroyed. Just look at what “Cars, the Movie” has done to re-vitalize the countrys connection to Route 66. I sincerely hope that you will reconsider and write a more positive and supportive editorial concerning the Horn Oil Co property.
    Thank you.

  4. Please preserve this beautiful building. I, personally would like it preserved so I can enjoy it again. I traveled down Route 66 years ago when I was young, have told my children about it. This is one of the most beautiful of the buildings left. We need our history, as we are constantly reminded by those who do not cherish theirs. If we start tearing down our living history, we can never really belive in our history that we cannot see. It is all intertwined.

  5. Convincing the citizens of Route 66 communities, and for that matter, the management of these cities that the corridor of this legendary highway is an important part of our heritage has not come easy.

    When we began our preservation work over a decade ago, there were certainly those who applauded our efforts but more whose attitudes ranged from, “who cares, it’s just another road” to “the places along it have become eyesores”.

    But, as we began promoting it around the world as a tourist destination, travelers came by the hundreds to see this famous piece of Americana. Soon more and more of the Route 66 citizens and city managers began to realize that these tourists were bringing in serious money – staying in their historic motels, dining in their vintage restaurants and exploring their communities. So, those with foresight began restoring and preserving these icons. Many in your fair city have realized how valuable the original properties along Central Ave. can be and have invested in their own future, as well as the city’s.

    The fastest growing segment of the tourism industry, “Heritage Tourists” have little interest in the ubiquitous franchise operations and theme parks. They have been there and done that. They want to see and experience history. In this case, the most famous road in the country.

    Yet, there are some along the route who still don’t get it. They see the old motels and restaurants as unsightly hotbeds of low life. So, their answer is to get rid of them – replace them with bright, shiny department stores, fast food operations and drug stores. But, in so doing, they are destroying their irreplaceable heritage and chipping away at the reason numerous people visit their city.

    Your article about West Central displays the author’s lack of understanding of the potential the Horn property offers the city. Razing it would be the worst decision.

  6. Folks, I do hope you’re sending these messages to the Albuquerque Journal in addition to sending them to me. It’s nice to have the comments, but you do need to use the Albuquerque Journal’s letter-to-the-editor online form in the main post above. If you haven’t, simply copy your comments and paste them in the online form for the Journal above.

  7. Dear Sir,
    My husband, some friends and I have been looking forward to traveling Route 66 next year in vintage cars. Please change your mind and focus on preservation of historical places, rather than “tearing down” of nostalgic buildings that many, many people care about.

  8. In this time of “making a buck” at all costs, isn’t it time to set something aside that IS historically important for our future generations? American History is very important to many of us who remember and drove Rt. 66, and was a vital spot for us to see when we came into Albuquerque!! Say no to the single-minded developers!

  9. Please do not demolish the Horne. I have visited the city of Albuquerque for many years now as a route 66 roadie. Have just returned from this fair city after attending the 66 convention held there. The Horne is an historical icon on the road. We must save and preserve it for the generations. It is easy to tear down an icon but you can never replace it….Thanks

  10. The Horn complex deserves to be saved. It would be a shame to just destroy this piece of Route 66 history. I visited this property on my recent visit to Albuquerque for the 80th anniversary of Route 66. Now I have a picture of it. The next time I visit, will it still be there?

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