Friday, June 4, 2010

Neon on Route 66

"During the heyday of Route 66, when the legendary road stretched across eight states and served as the artery from Chicago to Los Angeles, fantastic neon signs peppered the route and announced everything from a roadside motel to a filling station to a diner. When the route was outpaced by the more efficient Interstate highways, beginning in the 1970s, many signs — and businesses — burned out."

So began an article entitled "Restoring Route 66" by Anya Rao in Signs of the Times magazine. We learned of this article and the restoration of some of the neon signs along Route 66 after we had taken these photos of some of Gallup's (NM) neon gems.

The article continued: "Dedicated citizens and organizations worked to preserve Route 66 history, and, in 1999, Congress earmarked up to $1 million annually in preservation funds for the route for the next 10 years."

The sign outside the El Rancho was interesting in that it alternated between the lodging available--"Hotel" and "Motel"--as shown in the photos (above and left). The reddish-colored tubing carried the color around the hotel's perimeter, casting an inviting tone to the exterior.

Continuing, "In 2000, former New Mexico State Historic Preserva-tion Officer Elmo Baca proposed restoring some of New Mexico's vintage neon. The newly formed Route 66 Corridor Preservation Office, which was created to disperse the federal funds, agreed.

Subse-quently, the nonprofit New Mexico Route 66 Association and its president, Johnnie V. Meier, were authorized to manage the restora-tion of neon signs along the state's section of the famous byway.

Originally given funding to restore five signs, Meier stretched the funds to restore nine signs via 'creative financial management'."

None of the signs shown here were among the nine that have been restored. All but this last one seemed to be in good condition. In some of the older photos of this sign (below), we had seen the blue outline of a spruce tree around this sign.

Lastly: "Once restorations were completed in July 2003--after 18 months of effort--feedback came pouring in. Local residents and visitors commented on the restored signs, local newspapers lauded the project in editorials, national media outlets picked up the story, and a PBS documentary will chronicle the restoration. The New Mexico Route 66 Association also received a follow-up grant to restore architectural/ ornamental neon on several buildings along the route, a project that is now underway."

Hopefully, the Blue Spruce Lodge sign will be on the list for future restorations.

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