The neon sign for the defunct Mountain Lodge motel east of Albuquerque faces a possible wrecking ball after the property landed a new owner who wants it removed quickly.
Residents in the area are trying to find an alternate nearby site for the sign but face hurdles over the cost and a short time window.
Roland Penttila, a Route 66 enthusiast in Albuquerque, wrote Monday on Facebook:
Today some RT 66 Enthusiasts visited the site of the former Mountain Lodge in the Tijeras Canyon just east of Albuquerque. A new owner has purchased the property, is clearing it for a new home and wants the sign GONE! The sign expert with us estimated a cost of $20,000 to take the two sides and the burro riding guy down, put it on a truck and haul it a short distance in order to store it. Then, it could be decided what best to do with it. Local residents would like to see it stay close by as a Route 66 icon. But, do they have the money for all the costs of removal and restoring nearby? That is always the question.
Penttila confirmed that officers with the New Mexico Route 66 Association were there to inspect the site and brainstorm.
The obvious possible savior of the sign would be Garcia Automotive Group of Albuquerque. Penttila said the Garcias are aware of the situation, but “local residents prefer that it stay close. We’ll have to see if they can raise the funds.”
If the locals fail in their quest, one has to wonder whether Garcia Automotive Group will become gun-shy in acquiring more neon signs along Route 66, thus possibly dooming the Mountain Lodge.
The group acquired several old neon signs last year along Route 66 in the New Mexico towns of Tucumcari, Santa Rosa and Grants, sparking an often-contentious discussion online about whether the Garcias were hurting tourism in small towns that need it most.
Fire destroyed the Mountain Lodge motel in 2014. It was in the unincorporated village of Carnuel, which isn’t subject to the city of Albuquerque’s landmarks ordinance that might protect such signs.
Here is a vintage postcard of the motel:
I’ve been unable to find much history about the motel. Based on old postcard images I’ve seen, it dated to the 1940s.
(Image of the Mountain Lodge neon sign by Roland Penttila; postcard image of Mountain Lodge courtesy of 66postcards.com)