Before 1937, Route 66 originally had a different path in New Mexico, running through Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Isleta and Los Lunas. Within Albuquerque there are are some notable sites along this earlier alignment, including the El Camino Motor Hotel and the Red Ball Cafe, but most of the Route 66 sites in town are on the east to west post 1937 route. Here are some of the sites you can see cruising down Central:
- La Puerta Lodge: modeled after the palace of the governors, it was opened in 1949. Like many of the other old motor lodges (such as Luna, Pinon, and Tewa), it now serves as long-term rentals.
- Tewa Lodge: according to the NPS, “when wartime rationing and travel restrictions ended in 1945, Americans took to the road in unprecedented numbers, and Route 66 entered its golden age. Tourism was a growing industry in Albuquerque, development continued to push east and west along Central Avenue past the fringe of Albuquerque. Constructed on the cusp of this transition, the Tewa Motor Lodge opened in 1946 to welcome motorists.”
- Zia Motor Lodge: after burning down in 2003, only the sign for the Zia Motor Lodge remains. Nearby was the Aztec Motel, built in 1932 and demolished in 2011, as well as the Desert Sands (seen in No Country for Old Men), which was demolished in 2016. Further down Central is the De Ana Motor Lodge, opened in 1939 it was demolished and converted into apartments recently.
- Hiway House: this hotel chain was founded in 1956, the location in Albuquerque is the last one in operation!
- Triangle Police Station: located in a prefabricated Valentine dining car, which became popular after WWII. They were designed to sit 8 to 10 people. Apparently some Valentine diners are still in operation in Kansas, this one in Albuquerque was in operation from 1942 to 1992 before being converted into a police station.
- Charley’s Pig Stand: currently a restaurant called Asahi Express (although I’ll always think of it as Pita Pit), this building dates to the 1930s.
- Site of the old Franciscan Hotel: now a parking lot, the Franciscan Hotel used to sit on the corner of 6th and Central. It was opened in 1923, apparently both John Wayne and Clara Bow stayed there. It closed in 1970 and was demolished in ‘72, just two years after the devastating choice to demolish the Alvarado Hotel.
- El Don Motel: opened in 1946! Nearby is the sign for a demolished motel called the 21 Motel. There are other motels and interesting signs, notably the Westward Ho, which is all the way at Central & 75th