Workers on Tuesday began tearing down the long-closed Cactus Motor Lodge, aka Cactus RV Park, in Tucumcari, New Mexico, to make way for an auto parts store.
O’Reilly Auto Parts, based in Springfield, Missouri, plans to build a store there later this year. O’Reilly purchased the property in late 2018 but was delayed in developing it because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its difficulty in finding a general contractor.
I.E. and Edna Perry built the property along Route 66 in 1941. The large main office in its center once was a dance hall. The faux stone exterior was added to the cabins in the 1950s.
The Cactus was designated to the National Register of Historic Places about 15 years ago and once was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book because it welcomed African American travelers during the Jim Crow segregation era.
The rooms at the Cactus Motor Lodge were closed in the 1990s and its grounds converted into an RV Park.
The restored neon sign in front was sold to an Albuquerque collector who plans to display it in a microbrewery beer hall. The loss of that sign, and others, spurred the New Mexico Route 66 Association to lobby the city to pass a landmark sign ordinance.
Other items from the motel, including some neon lighting, were taken in by the New Mexico Route 66 Museum in Tucumcari and are on display there.
O’Reilly in 2006 also bought out the Lewis Motel along Route 66 in Vinita, Oklahoma, and razed it for one of its stores. The sign wound up at a desert retreat in southern California.
(Image of the teardown of the Cactus Motor Lodge in Tucumcari by the author; images of vintage postcards of the Cactus Motor Lodge courtesy of 66Postcards.com)