Citing problems caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the owners of the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico, announced Thursday they would close the Route 66 icon for at least 2 1/2 weeks.
Co-owners Kevin and Nancy Mueller announced in a Facebook post on Thursday they would close the motel starting today, then reassess whether to reopen on April 12.
… We feel it is impossible to insure that any of us will not be exposed to the COVID-19 virus during this time of unusual and extreme risk. Additionally, we are simply unable to provide the experience of sociable hospitality that the Blue Swallow has become famous for under the kind of interactive restrictions that are currently in place. The experiences of sitting out with your neighbors under the warm glow of the neon, or sharing travel stories around a campfire, are ones that we are unable to facilitate at this time. […]
We encourage you to not travel during this time, but if you must be on the road, and decide to stay in Tucumcari, please first try our other historic motels, such as the Safari Motel, Roadrunner Lodge or Historic Route 66 Motel. We do not know what their plans are, but for now, they remain open.
The full post may be read below:
It’s been a rough week another Route 66 icon. La Posada in Winslow, Arizona, closed temporarily a few days ago because of the virus, along with the owners’ properties in New Mexico — Plaza Hotel and La Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas and Legal Tender Saloon in Lamy.
New Mexico has ordered all lodging establishments to cap occupancy at 50% during the pandemic. The state wants to keep rooms available for health-care workers and their families who might be directly affected by the virus.
Worldwide, the coronavirus has infected more than a half-million people and growing, with more than 24,000 deaths. In the U.S., the number of confirmed cases on Thursday passed 85,000 — more than China — and killed more than 1,200. Health experts say the virus is 10 times more lethal than seasonal flu.
The pandemic has resulted in a U.S. travel ban from multiple European countries and Canada. Dozens of states have imposed restrictions to slow the virus’ spread and keep from overwhelming hospitals.
The Blue Swallow, built in 1939 by W.A. Huggins, remains one of the best-preserved motor courts on Route 66 with its original attached garages, stucco walls and its eye-catching neon sign (erected in the 1950s). It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
Part of the Blue Swallow’s allure remains the story of Lillian Redman, a former Harvey Girl who owned the motel for more than 40 years. Her kindness to travelers was the stuff of legend, but her perseverance after the Interstate 40 bypass kept the motel alive when many others closed.
The Blue Swallow’s renaissance began after Dale and Hilda Bakke purchased the motel and began restoring it in the late 1990s.
(Image of the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico, by Tim Anderson via Flickr)