Route 66 in the News
Restoring a Piece of the Past
AMARILLO, Tex. - Guests enjoying the hospitality of the Triangle Motel these days aren't the paying kind.
Cross the threshold of one of the rooms at the Route 66 motor court and pigeons flap noisily from the rafters.
Insulation hangs from the ceiling. Interior walls shuck their plaster like a snake sheds its skin.
Yet the scene doesn't match Alan McNeil's description of what he sees when gazing at the East Amarillo Boulevard motel he hopes to save from the bulldozer.
"I see progress right now," McNeil said. "It is actually finally starting to come together a little."
Black roofing tar splatters McNeil's once-white coveralls and cakes beneath his fingernails.
The oozy tar corresponds with the slow pace of McNeil's quest to restore the 1940s Streamline Moderne-style motor court at 7954 E. Amarillo Blvd.
Four years after being conditionally spared from condemnation by the city of Amarillo, the building could be on its way to being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Texas Historical Preservation Office staff currently are studying a sheaf of documentation, submitted in February, that nominates the property to the register, said Kaisa Barthuli, director of the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.
If the Triangle Motel nomination receives a favorable nod when it goes before the Texas Historical Commission, it will be forwarded for consideration on the national level, Barthuli said.
The Triangle Motel opened for business in late 1947 or early 1948, she said.
Two buildings flank a central courtyard, echoing the popular tourist courts of the day.
Most of the units contain a living room and bedroom, and spaces between the buildings were later roofed to create carports, McNeil said.
A cafe and gas station also were part of the original property, which is situated on a triangular tract created by the angular intersection of East Amarillo Boulevard and Triangle Drive, west of Loop 335/Lakeside Drive.
"It was particularly significant because it served travelers on both U.S. (Highway) 60 and Route 66," Barthuli said. The motel's buildings had been used for storage for three decades when McNeil bought it in 2006, a week before the Amarillo City Commission planned to condemn it as a hazard and eyesore to the surrounding neighborhood.
The motel received a reprieve after representatives of the Texas Historical Commission and the NPS said it was eligible for the National Register and for limited restoration funds, according to newspaper accounts.
Roof repairs passed a city inspection earlier this month, city construction Plans Examiner Don Bartlett said. But the city's condemnation case will remain open until the structures are repaired to meet building code and able to be inhabited once again, he said.
The walls of the buildings are structurally sound, said Amarillo architect Gregg Bliss, who conducted an architectural assessment of the buildings required by NPS.
Roof damage needed to be fixed early in the process so the interior spaces wouldn't sustain further damage from the elements, Bartlett said. McNeil said the roof rehabilitation should help him secure payment of a $26,000 NPS Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program matching grant announced in 2007, he said.
McNeil has to show he has matched the $26,000 either through cash investment or in-kind donations of materials and labor, Barthuli said. "The north wing roof is being replaced, and the hope is, next, to do the south wing roof," she said.
"But that will not fall under this grant at this point in time."
Friends, volunteers and business associates have helped McNeil clear out 70 tons of debris, vegetation and dirt that McNeil said was layered high enough to obscure the curbs of the courtyard lawn.
"You can't beat this spot right here," he said from his perch on a courtyard picnic table missing some slats.
"Well -- when I finish taking care of the picnic table." McNeil said he passed the overgrown property for years while traveling to and from his nearby home.
But the decision to attempt to preserve it came "totally by accident," he said. "I really don't know if it was good luck or bad luck that I found the place. I haven't decided yet."
~Karen Smith Welch, Amarillo.com
More about the Triangle Motel:
- 7954 E. Amarillo Blvd.
- Developed by Silas M. Clayton, a boilermaker and former mayor of Borger who saw potential in the location adjacent to both Route 66 and U.S. Highway 60 and near both Amarillo's English Field Airport and the former Amarillo Air Force Base.
- Construction occurred mostly in 1946. The motel opened in late 1947 or early 1948.
- The motor court's architecture reflects the curvy Streamline Moderne-style popular at the time.
- Guests checking in were given a key and a glass pitcher in which to carry ice chipped from blocks delivered daily to a metal icebox inside the office.
- When television reached Amarillo in 1954, guests had the option of renting a TV set for a fee of $1 per night.
- Business declined after the opening of Interstate 40 in 1968. Clayton sold the complex in 1977.
Source: Kaisa Barthuli, director of the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.