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Amarillo, Texas


courtesy of Historic 6th on Route 66 Association

Amarillo is the only major city traversed by Texas's 177-mile section of Route 66 through seven long, flat, Panhandle counties.  The city evolved into an oasis along the highway.  From the 1920s to the 1950s, local entrepreneurs opened gas stations, cafes, and tourist courts to serve travelers along Route 66, including the Ranchotel in 1940.  The Ranchotel is among the best preserved of Amarillo’s Route 66 tourist facilities.

When Americans first began long-distance automotive travel, they typically stayed in hotels or camped beside the road.  Partly out of civic pride and partly from a sense of self protection, towns began furnishing free campgrounds with water, cooking, and bathing facilities.  In response to Amarillo’s popularity with travelers, the city constructed the Amarillo City Tourist Camp in June of 1924.  Located on Fifth Avenue, between Travis and Bowie Streets, the publicly supported camp was about nine blocks from the later Ranchotel.

During the mid-1920s, privately owned tourist courts began replacing publicly supported camps as an alternative to downtown hotels. Amarillo had a profusion of courts. Many owners built on the city’s edge where land was cheaper and building and operating costs lower. This enabled proprietors to keep room rates low and intercept travelers before they reached the downtown hotels.

Historic Ranchotel
courtesy of Historic 6th on Route 66 Association

Areas such as Sixth Avenue, between the congested downtown business district and the burgeoning San Jacinto neighborhood, were attractive places for tourist cabins and motels.  As many as six courts in L-shaped, U-shaped, continuous-row, and individual-cabin configurations soon occupied the 10 blocks from Georgia Street on the west to Bowie Street.  The total number of private lodging operations along Route 66 in the city grew from 25 in 1928 to 37 in 1945, and eventually reached 68 in 1953.

A U-shaped Sixth-Avenue building with 16 units linked by alternating garage spaces, the Ranchotel lived up to its name by incorporating the imagery of the region’s vernacular adobe and ranching traditions.  The Ranchotel has stucco-covered walls and squat chimneys complemented by wooden windows flanked by rustic wooden shutters.  Triple panes graced the upper halves of paneled doors.  Gable ends featured simple wooden siding, and shifts in roof level distinguished each segment of the unit, recalling pueblo design.  Exposed rafter ends in the overhanging eaves suggested the traditional construction of the region.  Shed-roofed porches were supported with rustic square posts and framed by wagon-wheel handrails. Inside, the proprietors served up the West to vacationers with rustic bedsteads, tables, and chairs; cowhide lampshades; horseshoe shaped mirrors; and curtain rods that looked like branding irons.

Soon after 1952, Route 66 shifted off of Sixth Avenue to Amarillo Boulevard and tourist courts began to disappear.  The Ranchotel eventually became an apartment building.  Its tenants created additional space by enclosing the garages and the north entry porch of the office, yet the building remains recognizable and in good repair.  It is especially significant as one of the few surviving pre-war examples of the tourist courts that historically lined Route 66 in Amarillo, and the National Park Service listed it in the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
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The Ranchotel is at 2501 West Sixth Ave. in Amarillo, TX and is currently used as private apartments. 
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