NOB HILL--Suppose you had your choice of three activities:
• An afternoon at Betty's Day Spa with Darren White
• An evening round of miniature golf with Governor Susana Martinez
• A morning inside a decrepit eyesore of a fenced-off motel which has been vacant for 8 years.
Which would you choose? I know...I know. Well, you're in luck. I got a look inside the De Anza and took pictures.
The occasion was a "walk-through" for developers interested in rehabilitating or resurrecting in some form the venerable De Anza Motor Lodge located at the corner of Washington & Central NE. Many of you know that the city has owned the De Anza since 2003. A timeline of the various attempt to get someone to redo the structure while preserving its historical character were featured in an ABQ Tribune piece by Carrie Seidman over three years ago.
A New RFP, Pronto
Last September. just as the city was about to send out a new Request For Proposals, I wrote a piece which detailed a bit of the motel's history as well as the hopes we all have for its eventual re-emergence as a bustling icon of Route 66. Well, the RFP has been published.
The deadline for proposals is coming up surprisingly fast: April 11th! And the city will make its decision between any and all proposals at a meeting May 20th. That is in a little more than 6 weeks!
We started out in the office. There are still some showcases there which were probably used to show and market the Zuni jewelry and other crafts that were so dear to the De Anza owner C.G. Wallace. In back of the office were storage rooms and restrooms. Above the office was the manager's apartment. I thought it was a pretty nice two bedroom unit. By the way, any of these pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.
The Turquoise Cafe
We walked over to the Turquoise Cafe, which stands at the southwest corner of the property. The most important feature of the cafe is in the floor...or at least it used to be. The floor appears to be thin-set terrazzo partially imbedded with turquoise chips. This is an important and distinctive part of the structure. However there used to be several silver pieces also set into the floor. A silver feather is the most famous of those. I did find where another piece, a silver shalako figure, had been pried out and stolen. Someone said that this had happened within the last year. But I am certain this can be replaced...even if the original is lost forever. There are pictures of what they looked like.
Motel rooms are generally pretty similar: there is usually one big window in the front and maybe a small window in the bathroom. Since these rooms were built over several decades there is a bit of difference between them. And some of them were not originally rooms at all but the carports between rooms that were common in tourist courts of the era. These narrow spaces were later enclosed and made into separate units as the motel expanded.
There was a fire at some point in the back two-story building in an upstairs room. From the char and blackened ceiling, it looked to have started in the middle of the room. The damage was confined to only a couple of units.
The Edaakie Murals
We eventually made our way to the basement. That's where the most significant feature of the De Anza Motor Lodge is located: The Shalako Murals. Painted by Tony Edaakie, they depict the Zuni winter shalako procession. These murals are so important they have their own lawyers, two of them. They have been cleaned and stabilized, but there is a bit of restoration work to be done. They are currently protected by construction plastic.
One of the problems is that they are in a basement room. This room served as the meeting area for the Shriners, of which Wallace was a member. It is located under the large two story building at the rear of the motel. The stairwell leading to the basement meeting room is steep and narrow. Flooding looks possible.
Restoration vs. Rehabilitation
When the De Anza was built in 1939 in was built in a sort of "Pueblo Revival" style: protruding vigas, portals, etc. Over the years, however, additions and remodeling projects changed its look. The current portal with its sandstone columns and the painted redwood window coverings were designed by George Pearl...the same George Pearl whose name in on UNM's new Architecture and Planning building. At any rate, when the De Anza was added to the historical register all these modifications were in place and are now considered historic. However that does not mean they cannot be modified.
A "Restoration" would be trying to take back the De Anza to a certain time period, say 1940. That would mean all later additions would be removed. This would mean not just the portals, which do have their detractors, but also over half the 85 rooms which were added over the course of the next 40 years. That is not the plan.
A "Rehabilitation" would mean that the important historical, aesthetic, and cultural parts of the motor lodge would be retained but the original usage of the property might be changed. In other words, the De Anza would not have to stay a motel. Some of its features could be changed...as long as there was a good reason to do so. Reasons might include some building code compliance issues, ADA requirements, HVAC modernization, and things of that nature.
Meanwhile, Zuni Pueblo recently expressed an interest in being involved with the De Anza project. I am not sure what that might mean in terms of the final nature of the development. Maybe a large presence in a on-site museum or interpretive center; maybe Zuni jewelry; maybe Zuni food. Whatever form it takes, just imagine what having Zuni involvement would mean to the appeal of the Route 66 aspect of the De Anza. In fact, a significant Zuni showing would mean a lot for everybody involved.
And it is about time things got going. It was back in 2002 that Albertson's proposed buying the property, tearing it down, and putting up a drug/liquour store. The City of ABQ actually rescued the De Anza by buying it in 2003. The first RFP for this property was issued that October. There was no interest.
Things are a little different this time. I do not know how many proposals will be submitted, but this was the second walk-through that had to be given. There were a lot of questions about the buildings that the initial walk-through did not answer. This second walk-through gave access to areas not covered in the first one: such as second story units and roof areas. City representatives were also available to answer code questions.
Route 66 De Anza Association
I should tell you that I am a Board member of the Route 66 De Anza Association, but what I write here are my own thoughts and opinions, not those of the Association. I am a very lucky person. The Association has been working for a long, long time and witnessed very little progress in terms of something actually happening. I joined a few month ago and all the activity in the world seems to be busting loose.
The De Anza Oral History Program
One thing that happened was the completion of an oral history documentary that had its initial showing on March 24th. Even at an inconvenient start time (4:30), about 100 people crowded into the Monte Vista School library for the video. It was a beautiful retelling of how the lives of C.G. Wallace and his family intersected in a truly meaningful way with several Zuni residents.
There is talk of showing it again...maybe later this month at O'Neil's which, by the way, is right across the street from the De Anza. Go see it if you get a chance. It almost brought tears to my eyes. The history of the De Anza is ultimately a very personal story of a man from one of the Carolinas and the people of Zuni Pueblo. C.G. Wallace's son, Ken Wallace participated in these interviews, and passed away within a week or two after they were finished. Also featured were interviews with three members of Zuni Pueblo with close ties to Wallace and his family.
In 6 weeks we should know what is going to happen with the De Anza Motor Lodge. On thing is certain: it will be better than the fenced-off boarded-up property that stands there now. Personally I can't wait. And the very first thing I would love to see is that wonderful triangular neon sign lit up. I hope that is in the foreseeable future.