I got word this weekend that O’Reilly Auto Parts — which Route 66 enthusiasts will remember as the company that destroyed the historic Lewis Motel in Vinita, Oklahoma, in 2006 — is about to launch another attack on the Mother Road.
O’Reilly’s latest assault on Route 66 history comes with a side dish of disregard for Black history, as the company is poised to purchase and, presumably, demolish the historic Cactus Motel here in Tucumcari, New Mexico, so it can replace it with another of its nondescript stores.
The Cactus Motel is significant not just as part of Tucumcari’s rich Route 66 history, but also as one of the rare properties listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book, Victor Green’s famous guide to help Black families travel safely across the United States during the era of segregation. Tucumcari has long been known for its plethora of motels along Route 66, but during the Jim Crow era, only three of them accepted Black guests — and of the three, the Cactus is one of the only two still standing. (La Plaza Court is the other.)
If you care about historic preservation, here are a few ways you can help encourage O’Reilly to put the brakes on this destructive project before it’s too late:
1. Call O’Reilly’s store-construction department at (417) 862-2674, ext. 1277, or its customer-service department at (800) 755-6759 and politely explain that you will be deeply disappointed if the company tears down the Cactus Motel.
2. Write a short, polite letter to O’Reilly’s corporate headquarters. The address is:
O’Reilly Auto Parts
223 S. Patterson Ave.
Springfield, MO 65802-2298
3. Email a copy of your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In your letter, consider including some or all of the following talking points:
- The Cactus Motel is an irreplaceable part of Route 66 history.
- The Cactus Motel was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book.
- The Cactus Motel is an attractive structure with several architectural flourishes of the sort that have helped other long-shuttered motels find new life as boutique hotels, event centers, and business incubators.
- Many of O’Reilly’s customers are classic-car enthusiasts who love Route 66 and would be unhappy to learn the company had destroyed another historic property on their favorite road.
- Several other commercial properties are for sale on Tucumcari Boulevard that appear equally or better suited to O’Reilly’s purposes, so destroying the Cactus Motel seems unnecessary.
4. Click here to send a copy of your letter to Tucumcari’s local paper, the Quay County Sun.
5. Share your feelings — and this action alert — on social media. If you’re on Twitter, please tweet to @oreillyauto, asking them to #savethecactusmotel on #Route66 and letting them know you won’t be doing any more business with them if they tear down another historic motel.
Please take a few minutes to help save a piece of American history.