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 Jeremy Jojola on September 7, 2010 at 12:30pm
Fantastic post JM. Great update.
Comment by Edith Grove on September 7, 2010 at 1:24pm
Great to hear about the update on this property. I have traveled to a lot of Route 66 towns and it always surprises me that Albuquerque doesn't play up the Rt. 66 angle more. Just about every other stop along the road has some sort of museum or other 66 related feature. We have two 66s here. I think that's worth a museum or visitor's center. I still see quite a few tourists rambling on the Mother Road. It would be nice to welcome them here.
Comment by Hunter on September 7, 2010 at 1:34pm
Johnny, great article but, like you, I'm keeping my money in my pocket.

1. Didn't we learning anything from the great Balloon Museum fiasco. Siting museums at isolated points across the City doesn't engender attendance. With all the recent talk of arenas/hotels/etc it seems any City money invested in tourist attractions would be better spent downtown, if at all.
2. Neon signs need to be displayed in their natural environment, not hung antiseptically on a museum wall. That is why I have always been in favor of establishing an outdoor neon museum along Central, downtown, with the signs mounted on the building exteriors.
3. In the past 16 years or so it seems like there have been half a dozen or so attempts to capitalize on Albuquerque's Rt66 history. None of them seems to have lasted longer than a few months. The interest in Rt66 seems to be more external than domestic.

If a private developer wants to return the site to an operational motel, I say go for it.
Comment by Johnny_Mango on September 7, 2010 at 1:49pm
Just one point though, Hunter. Rte. 66 is FAMOUS worldwide...everywhere except perhaps here in ABQ. I once saw a photographer taking pictures at night of the 66 Diner. It turned out he was Swedish, doing a story on Rte. 66 for a Scandinavian magazine. Don't underestimate the drawing power of Rte.66.

Here in New Mexico, and especially here in the Duke City, it is not a big deal. It should be. It is one of the two most locally neglected aspects of New Mexico history I can think of...the other being the Apache Wars. But then, even the Civil War gets little notice here (and Albuquerque was right in the middle of it).

I think another DeAnza issue is the reemergence of east Central as a vibrant business community. Wow. Maybe a new De Anza might be a big part of that. Here's hoping.
Comment by Barelas Babe on September 7, 2010 at 1:55pm
Thanks for keeping us in the loop JM. Great post as usual. Have you been fortunate enough to see the murals with your own eyes?

I'd also add El Camino Real to that list of locally neglected history.
Comment by Vicki Goebel on September 7, 2010 at 2:22pm
My family arrived in ABQ in 1953. I remember all the old motels on Central (we stayed at the Tropicana just east of Wyoming upon arrival) and over the years I have bemoaned the extinction of all the Route66 lodgings and other retro landmarks. Remember all the wonderful outdoor movie drive-ins like the Terrace on Central, with its fabulous neon lights? All that great stuff is just gone. Just gone. :(
Comment by Edith Grove on September 7, 2010 at 2:23pm
I have seen swarms of tourists in buses in Seligman, AZ. In our travels within just the last year, we have seen and talked to Rt. 66 tourists from France, Germany, Korea and a host of other countries. We ran into plenty that are from the US as well, taking the drive for fun and to see the sites and sights along the way.

Whatever happens, I would love to see the De Anza becoming a major anchor for that side of Nob Hill.
Comment by Hunter on September 7, 2010 at 6:16pm
I'm thinking that the idea of a Rt 66 museum would be consistent with the mission of the WHEELS Museum and the large shops building could be well suited for an indoor display of working neon. Or is the Railyards now yesterday's news and destined to be a City owned movie lot.
Comment by cathyray on September 7, 2010 at 7:54pm
thanks for the update Mango. I hope the building turns into something cool & fitting.
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.


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