THEIR NEON SIGNS BLAZED a trail for weary Route 66 travelers for decades, promising a clean room in an auto court with modern amenities like air-conditioning and hot and cold running water. While many of these motels have been renovated and restored, more than 100 others, according to the people we interviewed, have been lost to history.

Aztec Motel. Built circa 1932, Albuquerque’s first auto court paved the way for dozens more that joined it on East Central Avenue. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, it became a work of art after a long-term resident decorated the exterior with found objects in the 1990s. The Aztec was razed in 2011 due to its condition.

Blue Spruce Lodge. Opening in Gallup in 1949, the Blue Spruce advertised itself as “A Pleasant Place to Stay in the Indian Capital” for its proximity to the Navajo Nation and other Indigenous homelands. Easy to find with its tree-shaped neon sign, the Blue Spruce Lodge benefited from Bobby Troup’s song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” which mentioned Gallup. This vintage auto court and five others were closed by the city in 2022 for code violations.

Sun ’n Sand Motel. The Zia-shaped neon sign for the Santa Rosa property still stands, but the 1950s-era motel is gone. Its 40 rooms were a beacon for travelers until the demise of Route 66 took its toll and the motel closed in 2012.

The Pony Soldier Motel. The neon sign with a portrait of a pony and his solder promised “High Frontier Hospitality” in Tucumcari. Mark and Debra Whittington were given the business as a wedding present in 1976 by Mark’s parents. The Pony Soldier closed in 2004.

Read more: A vintage Santa Fe motel is now a high-desert refuge for travelers and city dwellers.