Prominent New Mexico Route 66 historian dies

New Mexico historian David Kammer, who documented landmarks and buildings on Route 66 for decades, died Thursday after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Kammer’s death was reported at the end of a profile in the Albuquerque Journal, written before he died. He recently received the New Mexico Preservation Division’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts.

I instantly recognized Kammer’s name because his research invariably turned up in historical documents about Route 66, especially on National Register of Historic Places nominations.

The Journal reported about his enthusiasm for Route 66:

Kammer, 71, put 18 recorded versions of the iconic song “Get Your Kicks on Route 66″onto a cassette tape and played it over and over again for inspiration when he was working on any project related to the route. […]

“… He laid the ground work for the recognition and preservation of resources associated with the ‘New Deal in New Mexico,’ ‘Route 66 through NM,’ ‘State-owned Buildings,’ ‘Historic Highway Bridges,’ the ‘Twentieth Century Suburban Growth of Albuquerque,’ ‘Buildings Designed by John Gaw Meem,’ and ‘Movie Theaters in New Mexico,’” he wrote. “Communities, organizations and government agencies across the state turned to Kammer’s accessible, often-inspiring writings to better understand their history, and as a launch pad for their own preservation efforts.” […]

After graduation, he once again found himself traveling through New Mexico on his way to his Navy assignment. He spent a night in the Aztec Auto Court, a motel in Albuquerque along Route 66. He would eventually return to New Mexico in the late ’70s to enter the American Studies PhD program at the University of New Mexico […]

The announcement of Kammer’s lifetime achievement award contained this:

“Dr. Kammer’s work profoundly influenced the course of historic preservation in New Mexico for several decades and continues to influence the types of building, landscapes, and structures that we preserve today,” said Pappas. “He was the first to document twentieth-century suburban growth in Albuquerque in 2001, which made subsequent nominations recognizing the historic significance of mid-twentieth century architecture, neighborhoods, and culture possible.”

Kammer also laid the groundwork for recognizing resources associated with the New Deal, Route 66, the buildings of John Gaw Meem, highway bridges, and historic movie theaters in more than 30 nominations in the State and National Registers. Kammer is a longtime resident of Albuquerque’s Monte Vista College View Historic District in Nob Hill. His work has been recognized by other notable organizations, including the Society of Architectural Historians.

According to his obituary, Kammer is survived by his wife, Jeanne Whitehouse; three daughters and four grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Alzheimer’s Association, New Mexico Chapter, 9500 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111.

(Image of David Kammer in 2009 via Nob Hill Neighborhood Association)

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