The Westward Ho Motel, built in 1948, includes a saguaro cactus on its neon sign. Brite Lite Neon (Albuquerque) handled the neon glass and electrical work and restored the sign in 2002. To supplement their financial match for the project, the motel owners refinished and repainted the sign themselves.
Route 66 is brightly lit through New Mexico, thanks to the efforts of the Route 66 Neon Restoration Project. Managed by the New Mexico Route 66 Association, partnering with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division and the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Office, more than ten signs have been restored to date.
From the wonderful TeePee Curio Shop in Tucumcari to the wild and crazy neon Rotosphere in Moriarty, the beauty and artistry of classic neon is once again dazzling and delighting Route 66 enthusiasts throughout New Mexico.
After World War II, companies believed advertising with neon signs helped their businesses. Before long streets were lined with a palette of sapphire blue, ruby red, sizzling orange and emerald greens, promising all manner of adventure, home cookin’ and other travel services.
Cowboys whirling lassos, sombreros sitting atop Mexican restaurants, teepees providing shelter for the evening, cactus, longhorn steers, and all types of neon critters adorned the night, calling out to Route 66 travelers to stop and experience something unique.
Those were the good ole’ days. But over the years, one by one, these once glorious signs began to blink into darkness, leaving little more than a peeling façade, where once brilliant colors harkened.
When the project began, applications were accepted for the restoration projects. Though businesses owners were at first skeptical that there could be a government program that was intended to directly help mom and pop businesses, many of them were pleasantly surprised when their applications were approved.
Over the next couple of years, the Route 66 Association got to work, restoring ten vintage neon signs that has resulted in business owners, as well as entire communities, renewing their pride in their Mother Road heritage. Today, Route 66 travelers are thrilled by the evening ride through these New Mexico cities with their flashing, spinning, rotating, and whirling neon.
The signs that have been restored are listed below, along with the dates they were built.
Aztec Motel (1931) Albuquerque.
El Rey Theater (1941), Albuquerque.
Westward Ho Motel (1948), Albuquerque.
Lexington Hotel (1931), Gallup.
Grants Cafe (1938), Grants
El Comedor de Anayas Restaurant (1951), Moriarty.
The Sun & Sand Motel (1965), Santa Rosa
La Cita Restaurant (1961), Tucumcari
The Paradise Motel (1955), Tucumcari
The TeePee Curios (1948), Tucumcari