Long Vacant De Anza Motor Lodge Under New Management

NOB HILL--The City has reassumed control of the De Anza. The private developers who had been trying to get something started for the last five years or so have ceased to be involved with the property.
It was about five years ago that the City of Albuquerque bought the historic De Anza Motor Lodge on Central Ave. Everybody cheered. "We saved this one!" we thought...and we eagerly looked forward to the day when the old motel came back to life in one form or another.

Five Years of Nada
But nothing happened. The city government entered into a contract with Gerald Landgraf and Matthew Terry of DeAnza L.L.C. to develop the property. But things got complicated. No agreement between all the parties could be reached. To illustrate how complicated it was, Zuni Pueblo and the National Park Service were involved, and even the murals in the basement had their own lawyers, two of them.

At any rate, DeAnza L.L.C. is no longer in the picture. The contract has been terminated. I know that Landgraf has had a full plate of projects on east Central already. He redid the Nob Hill Motel, re-habbed another building which now houses the Rte. 66 Malt Shop, and brought in the media arts charter school to another of his properties. All told I think he owns about five square blocks of real estate east of Carlisle along Central Avenue. Most of his properties are of the high-maintenance variety--old motels badly in need of a new life.

The Treasure Hunt
The city is putting out a new Request For Proposals, just like it did five years ago. They are also applying for grant money from the federal Department of Transportation. This is a matching grant with the Feds picking up 75% of the costs of re-habbing the property. The city would have to kick in 25%. Why the DOT? I think it has to do with its importance to old Route 66, and maybe turning it into a museum.

I was told that this is money that would not be around forever, and at this point the responsibility fell to the city. It was something of a "use it or lose it" situation. So far the grant has not been approved.

The Historical Angle and the Murals
In 1939 C.G. Wallace, a Zuni trader, and S.D. Hambaugh, a tourist court operator from Tucson opened the De Anza on Route 66 in Albuquerque. It started out with puebloesque features such as protruding vigas and ended up much later with sandstone columns supporting a shaded entrance to the office.

Wallace eventually bought out Hambaugh. Wallace had come to New Mexico in 1919 and immersed himself in Zuni culture for much of his life. He became an important person in the Zuni jewelry business both on and off the reservation. His dedication to promoting Zuni culture is reflected in those most remarkable art pieces covering the basement conference room walls of the Motor Lodge: the 20 foot long murals depicting Zuni Pueblo's winter Shalako procession by Zuni artist Tony Edaakie.

An excellent history of the motel and operator Wallace's involvement with the Zunis is available on the National Park Service website. By the way, the NPS is part of DeAnza's future because the motor lodge is on the historical registry. A discussion of the development issues and related topics can be had on this DCF Friends of De Anza Motor Hotel discussion from two years ago. It also shows the extent to which rumors abound concerning the development of the property. Speaking of that...

The Rumored Future
Here is what I'm hearing on the street:
• A possible Route 66 Museum including a neon sign collection
• A possible restoration to actual motel status by another developer
• A possible combination Route 66 Visitors' Center and various shops

But rumors surrounding this property have been so plentiful over the years, I wouldn't bet on any of them. Whatever the future brings, here's hoping the path to a New Life for the De Anza is clear and doable. The citizens of Albuquerque have truly been patient for a long, long time.

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Comment by Margaret Randall on September 8, 2010 at 6:32am
This is a great post, like all of yours. Great history.
I have my own history with De Anza. My family and I stayed at the motel for a few days back in 1947 when we first came to Albuquerque. Then it was one of the nicest motels on East Central. The city didn't extend much farther east. After three or four days it got too expensive for us and we moved to a cheaper place with a kitchenette out on North Fourth. We lived there for a month until my parents found a house.
I have a poem about De Anza in my new book, MY TOWN, just out from Wings Press in San Antonio. MY TOWN is all about growing up here in Albuquerque in the 1940s and '50s, against the backdrop of cold war politics, the Bomb, McCarthyism, the particular racism and sexism of the era, and the magical beauty of the desert. Back then I couldn't know that De Anza was the name of a 16th century war criminal, one of the brutal conquistadores who came up through Mexico into this territory. Our penchant for naming buildings after such brutal invaders has always amazed me.
I hope someone does something wonderful with the old De Anza. It is a place that holds many memories for me.
Comment by Sarah on September 8, 2010 at 11:51am
I live very close to the De Anza and it breaks my heart that my kids think of it as the creepy place where the feral cats live.
Personally I would love to see a great coffee/bagel joint go in right there!
Comment by Phil_0 on September 8, 2010 at 1:23pm
@Margaret, good post. However, your history is a bit off...Juan Bautista de Anza was an 18th century (1778-1788) governor of the territory of New Mexico, not a conquistador. By this period, the Spanish and the Pueblos had more-or-less outgrown the violence and religious persecution of the 17th century and cooperated closely to protect the Rio Grande Valley from raiders from the Plains and Four Corners.

New Mexico had plenty of venal or brutal governors during the Spanish period, but De Anza was the best of the bunch, by a big margin. He established lasting peace with the raiding Comanches and Navajos and founded several new villages throughout New Mexico, and led an expedition to California that was responsible for choosing the future sites of San Francisco and San Jose. On the whole, De Anza was notable for his willingness to negotiate with these and other nomadic raiding groups, rather than simply raiding them in retaliation.
Comment by chantal on September 9, 2010 at 9:09am
Thanks so much for this update, JM. I've been wondering about the status of this motel!
Comment by Dee Cohen on September 13, 2010 at 6:44am
Thanks for this great article. I've wondered about that motel.
I'm fairly new to ABQ and those old motels were part of the draw.
Driving down Central Ave is like going back into vintage time.
I think it would attract tourists if one or two were restored to their original form.
Comment by TDP on November 5, 2010 at 7:20pm
Neighbors!


At the risk of appearing diminished after Maury "the knife" Davis, I really do want to buy the De Anza and restore it (but the details are still private). I would enjoy meeting with any of the neighborhood groups and discussing their expectations for the location. I'm looking forward to a great relationship with the City and De Anza neighbors, and restoring the De Anza to be the lovely gem it was in the past.

Please encourage your neighborhood associations to submit their comments on the draft Request for Proposals soon so the Commission can issue the RFP and we can get this ball rolling!

AND I NEED PHOTOS!

If you have family photos at the De Anza I need you! I would like photos with permission to use them in a marketing campaign. All photos are appreciated.


I look forward to hearing from you.

Tamara Portnoy

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