Route 66 in the News

Mother Road Reasons to Love Albuquerque

2009-01-15 20:13:25

Americans have been enjoying road trips since the first automobile rolled off the assembly line.

Paved roads, unpaved roads, it really didn’t matter. But the real boon to cross country travel was certainly Route 66. It linked Chicago and Los Angeles, and towns along the way, earning the nickname the Main Street of America.

Route 66 - Fourth Street

Albuquerque was one of the cities whose main street became part of road history. In 1937, Central Avenue was Route 66, but prior to that, when Route 66 first wend its way across New Mexico in the mid-1920s, America’s Main Street was Fourth Street.

Route 66's original path through New Mexico was circuitous at best. It actually headed north near Santa Rosa to travel up to Santa Fe, and then, back south to into Albuquerque on Fourth Street. The road even wove its way back and forth across the Rio Grande.

Little is left of the original Route 66 history on Fourth Street, although businesses still like to remind travelers that they are treading historic ground by incorporating 66 in their name. And the city itself celebrates the early Route 66 with signs placed along Fourth Street.

Route 66 - Central Avenue

After 1937, Route 66 was realigned to go more directly east-west through New Mexico, and it was Central Avenue that became part of that history. The switch from north-south Fourth Street to east-west Central Avenue left a curious heritage – the corner of historic Route 66 and Route 66 – where the two Route 66s meet.

Far more of that recent history remains. Downtown, and Nob Hill are both vibrant with memories of their road heritage. Plus, additional buildings in various states of repair, and disrepair line the road going further and further east.

Route 66 Landmarks

Nob Hill and Downtown are awash with buildings dating back to the 1930s and 40s, some with serious road history, some just part of the Route 66 era.

The gems of downtown include the Sunshine Building (built in 1923-24), the First National Bank Building (1922), the Rosenwald Building (1910), the KiMo Theater (1927), Maisel's (circa 1940) and more.

In Nob Hill, the Aztec Motel combines road history and folk art along with its vintage neon sign. The Hiway House was built in the late 1950s. Of course, Nob Hill Shopping Center was constructed as an early mall with parking for cars. And no Route 66 ride down memory lane would be complete without Kelly’s Brew Pub which started life out in 1939 as a Ford dealership and has maintained much of that feel both inside and out.

The De Anza Motel, and El Vado Motel are two much-loved remnants of road history. The De Anza is on the state Register of Cultural Properties and National Register of Historic Places. The El Vado is considered a city landmark but its future is murky.

Route 66 heritage is not just a historical curiosity. We have too often bulldozed our history in the name of progress, and left ourselves with little of the past. Then, we wonder why our cities all look alike and where our heritage sites have gone. Happily, in Albuquerque there is much still remaining.

~Neala Schwartzberg, Albuquerque Travel Examiner


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