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Aztec Auto Court
Albuquerque, New Mexico


Aztec Motel
courtesy of Chester Liebs

The Aztec Auto Court in Albuquerque was the first motel constructed on East Central Avenue, which became historic Route 66. Today it is the oldest continuously used motel in Albuquerque making it one of the most important Route 66 icons.  Constructed in 1933, four years before Central Avenue became Route 66, the Aztec Auto Court is an example of the Southwest Vernacular style with a stepping parapet, a setback second story, and viga-like porch supports. The motel has a rough stucco finish and small flat roofed stucco porches.

The property consists of two building units constructed parallel to each other to form a linear courtyard. Originally, the auto court had three carports adjacent to the motel rooms. During a 1950s remodeling, the garages were walled in to create more sleeping units, which increased the number of units from 13 to 17. The office/residence is located at the front of the property, protecting much of the courtyard from the street. During the remodeling of the 1950s, a metal canopy with wrought iron support posts was installed over the office entry and a new neon sign replaced the original.

The motel changed hands a number of times. When Interstate 40 bypassed Central Avenue, the booming business of the auto court faltered dramatically, and the motel fell into disrepair and disrepute. In 1991, however, a new owner purchased the Aztec. With patience, hard work, and creativity, the new proprietor brought the motel back to working condition as a short- and long-term-stay motel.

Aztec Court Historic Postcard
courtesy of Joe Sonderman

The addition of decorative elements such as velvet paintings, plastic flowers, and other ornaments to the exterior walls has made Aztec Auto Court a bold and eclectic landmark in Albuquerque. One visitor called the “architectural art” of the Aztec, “a cross cultural mélange of broken pottery, old coins, and disparate figurines--all ordered in a manner too artistic to be random, too creative to be mass-produced.”  The Aztec is truly a unique work of art.

The Aztec was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 as one of the best examples of a relatively unaltered pre-World War II tourist court on Route 66 in New Mexico. In 2003, the Aztec received cost-share grant funds from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to restore the neon sign. This project was part of a larger effort supported by the National Park Service, the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Office, and the New Mexico Route 66 Association to restore nine neon signs on New Mexico Route 66. This project sparked a revival of neon across Route 66.

Plan your visit
The Aztec Auto Court is located at 3821 Central Ave. NE in Albuquerque, NM and is still in operation as the Aztec Motel. For information on reservations and room rates, call 505-254-1742. Only long-term rentals are currently available.
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