Downtowner Motor Inn in Albuquerque added to National Register

The Downtowner Motor Inn along the Route 66 corridor in Albuquerque has been designated to the National Register of Historic Places.

The motel at 717 Central Ave. NW (aka Route 66) received the designation effective Nov. 4, according to an email Friday from the National Park Service.

According to the nomination form, the Downtowner was built in 1965. It was designed by architect James L. Burk of Burk and Beaty Architects of Memphis, Tennessee. It is “an exceptional example of a mid-20th-century motel on Route 66 in Albuquerque.”

The motel, when completed, included a mural of Native American symbols on the south (Central Avenue) façade, an element of regionalism not usually seen in the International Style. Since its completion, the motel has been altered with the addition of Post Modern-style applied ornament that obscures the main entrance and south façade, resulting in the loss of the original murals. The balcony railings, fenestration, and interior finishes have also been altered. The property includes the historic pool, fountain, and parking lot. […]
Upon opening, the hotel employed thirty-five staff and an additional fifty workers to manage food and beverages. The motel offered amenities to its guests, including free television, which was a luxury in the mid-1960s, hi-fi music, and oversized beds. Each room included individual heating-and-cooling units. As a draw for families traveling on Route 66, children under thirteen stayed without charge. Located in the heart of downtown, the Albuquerque Downtowner served local residents, who utilized the event room to host group meetings and events including, the Albuquerque Press Club, Downtown Lions Club, Kiwanis, the University of New Mexico, and Chamber of Commerce. The “Downtowner Lounge” offered patrons a full bar and hosted live music.

The form states that updates to the motel about 12 years ago “are significant but do not diminish the motel’s ability to convey its significance in the areas of commerce and architecture.”

The Memphis-based Downtowner Corp. built its franchised motels in downtowns of cities. Other Downtowners were built in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Greenville, South Carolina; Wheeling, West Virginia; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. In all, the chain totaled about 50 properties.

A cool overview of the Downtowner chain during the late 1960s may be found here.

The Downtowner Motor Inn in Albuquerque in 1972 after the arrival of interstates 25 and 40 and was converted into a Quality Inn, Ramada Inn-Downtown, Downtown Inn, Quality Inn-Central, Quality Inn-Downtown, Ramada Inn-Downtown, El Centro Plaza and, most recently, the Hotel Blue in the late 1990s.

ARRIVE Hotels and Restaurants, based in Los Angeles, announced about a year ago operate the hotel after a $22 million renovation and will change the name to ARRIVE Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque Journal reported ARRIVE Albuquerque will restore the hotel’s exterior to its original look from its 1965 opening (see image above as an example).

The company plans to reopen it in 2022.

(A vintage image of the Downtowner Motor Inn via the city of Albuquerque)

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