Tucumcari group raising money to buy a vintage neon motel sign

A group based in Tucumcari, New Mexico, is raising money to buy a neon sign listed on eBay that once graced a closed motel in the city.

The sign once hung on the large, ornamental stone chimney of the Trav-O-Tel Motel along U.S. 54 in Tucumcari, less than a mile north of Route 66.One can see the sign on the chimney in the postcard image above.

The sign also hung on another motel on Route 66 for a number of years.

The sign was listed on eBay for almost $3,000 until a few days ago after locals persuaded the Maryland seller to remove the listing so they could raise money to buy it and bring it back to town.

Clarke Ingram, a frequent contributor to the Tucumcari and Quay County Then and Now Photo Memories Group on Facebook, flagged the listing less than a week ago.

Karen Alarcon, an announcer at a Tucumcari radio station, stated on a Facebook post:

We are trying to get it back home. Any and all donations will go to buying this neon, getting it shipped and restoration. This is a great opportunity to be a part of revitalization to Tucumcari. Anything above the amount raised will be put into the Neon Restoration Grant program. This is a great way for people far and wide to get involved with the continued restoration of Tucumcari! Great things on the horizon! Donations of any amount large or small are appreciated! Please donate on the Tucumcari Talking Tour website at https://www.tucumcaritalkingtour.com/ Feel free to check out the website! Keeping the Lights on in Tucumcari!! Thank you to those of you who have donated!!

Alarcon stated on Facebook Messenger that Tucumcari Talking Tour has until Nov. 1 to raise $500 or more to keep the sign from being re-listed on eBay. An Albuquerque donor already has pledged $1,000 in the effort to bring the sign back to Tucumcari.

According to the seller, the 10-foot-tall sign was moved from the closed motel to the Historic Route 66 Motel, which also eventually closed.

Tucumcari Talking Tour, affiliated with the city’s MainStreet program, recently shepherded an initiative where low-power AM radio transmitters were set up at 16 sites around the city to give information to tourists about historic sites there.

Tucumcari Talking Tour also holds a long-term goal to raise money to restore the city’s classic neon signs, spruce up facades and other beautification projects along Route 66. Its donation page is here.

The motel, which is largely intact, has been converted into the K-9 Design Dog Grooming business and Villa Storage.

Jim Koehler and his wife Mildred once owned the motel and Jim Koehler Motors in Tucumcari, according to her 2011 obituary. Jim died in 1982.

(Image of the sign and postcard of the motel via eBay)

2 thoughts on “Tucumcari group raising money to buy a vintage neon motel sign

  1. The Tucumcari Talking Tour committee is excited about this special project. We have raised a little over $1200 toward the purchase of this sign and have a pledge of an additional $1000. Any donation, large or small, will go toward purchasing the sign, getting it home and having it restored. Anyone interested in making a tax deductible donation can do so at tucumcaritalkingtour.com/donate. Thank you for your support!

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