El Vado Motel

El Vado

Didn’t have time to commune with nature today. As soon as I got off work, I came home, put the dogs out, and threw together a hurried dinner so I could be in front of Ron’s computer by 6 p.m. to watch the Albuquerque City Council meeting, where the fate of the beautiful and historic El Vado Motel (pictured above) was discussed. Visit Ron’s blog for details. I posted the results of the vote (7 to 1 in favor of city landmark status for El Vado) and am working up details as fast as I can.

In the meantime, here are photos of El Vado from my trip out there in October, a week or so before it closed:

Em and Jerry

Me taking a picture of Jerry Ueckert taking a picture of me during a tour of one of the rooms. (What’s that line from Catcher in the Rye about monkeys watching monkeys?) The owner at the time, the late Sam Kassam, let us in to document the details for posterity.


El Vado was built in the Pueblo Deco architectural style. It’s a stunning building and operated continuously from 1937 until its current owner, developer Richard Gonzales, closed it last November.


The fireplace in the office is just breathtaking. And look at the vigas. And the light. I wish I had the money; I’d buy the place and use that fireplace room as a studio when I wasn’t busy turning over rooms.


The current owner claims the place is a wreck. Do these photos look like images of a wreck to you? Because they certainly don’t look that way to me.

Pueblo Deco

The attached carports are also historically significant. You only find attached carports or garages on motels of a certain vintage — primarily late ’30s and early ’40s — and they’re a dying breed. Classic car owners love this particular amenity, as it helps protect their beautiful babies from the elements.

Thanks to the wisdom of Albuquerque’s city officials and the enthusiasm of Route 66 aficionados from around the world who flooded the city with letters of support for El Vado, it is now under the protection of a city ordinance that makes it illegal to issue a demolition permit for the property until after June 1, when it becomes a city landmark. Landmark status doesn’t guarantee a building protection in perpetuity, but it makes it much harder for someone to come in and tear it down. It certainly carries more legal weight than a listing on the National Register of Historic Places (which El Vado has had for many years, but which is basically just a nice honor that makes it eligible for federal preservation grants but does nothing to protect it from shortsighted developers with bulldozers).



2 thoughts on “El Vado Motel”

  1. This is an excellent blog and it never ceases to amaze me how passionate the Route 66 afficionados are about the Mother Road. When my family ran the El Vado during the 80’s and early 90’s, it was my father’s passion (and that of his predecessor and mentor Patrick O’Neil) for the old motor court that brought global fame to the El Vado. While my schoolmates were playing Little League baseball and earning their merit badges in the Boy Scouts, the El Vado created a unique learning experience for me as a classroom of life. In this classroom there were two very different experiences, one was associated with the constant media blitz , the other with maintaining an aging adobe motor court on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue. The media blitz incluided such experiences as meeting authors like Michael Wallis on his tour of the Mother Road as part of his book promotion, Good Morning America doing a segment on the El Vado and of course all of the national and international press (special sections in the local paper dedicated to the El Vado, magazines as far as Japan had articles about “Ali Hakam-san”). The other experience of the constant repair such as the highly manually-intensive swamp cooled air conditioners, flying golf ball damage from the near-by country club, and the numerous other tasks associated with maintaing the property made this a constantly eventful and challenging time. However, the real lessons were learned by seeing the reactions of families and business travelers that were in awe that such a historic architectural structure had not only been preserved, but had the professionalism, hygiene and efficiency to be expected from Ali Hakam and his predecessor Patrick O’Neil (Patrick’s father in law, Dan Murphy built the El Vado). As a professional, many of the lessons I learned in my childhood I practice everyday and I thank you Route 66 fans for creating the environment for me to able to earn my own merit badge.

    I wish you good luck and am proud to have had the exposure I did.

    Karim Hakam
    Tokyo, Japan

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