Oct 122014
 

aztec-motel








MONROVIA - Closed for more than two years, the historic Aztec Hotel is in the middle of a renovation project touted as a return to prominence for the distinctive Mayan-style building in Monrovia, although visible progress has turned out to be as fleeting as the ghosts that supposedly haunt the hotel.

Once a 1920s celebrity hangout and still a Route 66 attraction, the hotel could reopen by early 2015 if work goes according to plan. An application for a new round of upgrades was submitted to Monrovia officials in late September, and work could soon begin with minor alterations to the rooms and construction of a redesigned parking lot.

However, very little has gone according to plan for the Aztec Hotel recently. A former manager who started the renovations by overhauling the hotel restaurant is now entangled in a lawsuit against the hotel’s Chinese owner, alleging discrimination and wrongful termination.

Also, a series of negotiations to lease the hotel’s empty retail spaces fell through, leaving a long-established barbershop as the sole tenant. In January, one new business moved in — a Route 66 memorabilia and gift shop — but it was gone in less than six months.

“There’s interest in the community, and I have to think people are kind of disappointed,” said Jim Wigton, president of the Monrovia Historic Preservation Group. “If the owner was serious about making this a viable concern, a lot more would have been done.”

Despite its troubles, the current hotel manager says plenty has gone on behind the scenes as preparation, and he is optimistic about what the Aztec could become — a boutique destination for Route 66 travelers, ghost hunters and anyone interested in the hotel’s inherent nostalgia and kitsch.

“The goal is to bring it back to the 20s and 30s design, but with modern amenities,” said Peter Kertenian, whose background includes managing Marriott hotels.

Kertenian acknowledged the pace of renovation has been slow, but noted that a building such as the Aztec, a National Historic Landmark that has a similar status at the city level, requires extra time for various approvals.

The newest renovation plans are on track to be considered by Monrovia’s Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Commission this month or November, according to Planning Manager Craig Jimenez.

Kertenian also ran into a few surprises when planning the work, he said. The electrical transformers that serve the building are far too old to handle the installation of air conditioning in the rooms, so Southern California Edison needs to replace them.

Also, the parking lot is unlighted and its spaces non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so redesigning it became necessary before the Aztec Hotel’s restaurant could open, he said.

“They wasted all this time on a restaurant, when nobody sat down and said you cannot open a restaurant when the parking lot is not done,” Kertenian said.

Formerly known as the Brass Elephant, a bar whose rowdy clientele often aggravated neighbors, the restaurant was supposed to transform into the more community-friendly Mayan Bar and Grill under former manager Art DeSautels, who had been hired in December 2012.

“It wasn’t until I went there, seeing that it was closed, when I got into the lobby and saw the history of the building, I was immediately intrigued by the opportunity,” DeSautels said.

While the restaurant work got underway in early 2013, DeSautels invited public engagement through a social media campaign, offering tours and taste testings of the Latin American-inspired menu that he expected to establish. Many of his postings are still available on the hotel’s Facebook page.

“They’ve had so many bad experiences,” DeSautels said, referring to a messy foreclosure that allowed the current owner, Qinhan Chen, to purchase the property through a company called Jia Ming Hotel USA. “There were so many things I needed to do bridge the gap between the owner, the city and the community.”

His work initially had Chen’s approval, DeSautels said, but it didn’t last. Making decisions primarily from his home in China and visiting occasionally, Chen at first appeared more interested in a Las Vegas-style hotel and wanted to make the Aztec’s rooms bigger by knocking down some walls, DeSautels said.

By the time he was fired in May 2013, DeSautels had filed a discrimination complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging Chen had hired a Chinese assistant manager to usurp his duties and slandered him with allegations of stolen funds.

In his lawsuit filed in May, nearly a year after his dismissal, DeSautels makes further claims that Chen was skirting the U.S. Patriot Act and other laws by hiring Chinese nationals to transfer money to the U.S. through their bank accounts.

Chen counter-sued, alleging DeSautels performed work without approval and stole $1,500 through petty cash funds.

DeSautels says all of the money went into the hotel. “Everything I did was to save them money,” he said, also referring to Chen’s bookkeeper. “I had them sign off on all the equipment that was given to them.”

Chen’s Alhambra-based attorney, Peter K. Chu, called DeSautels’ accusations untrue and noted that the claims of illegal money transfers don’t have anything to do with the labor dispute that’s the basis of the lawsuit.

“(Chen) was outraged by the allegations,” Chu said.

The restaurant remodel had been nearly complete when DeSautels left the project, but instead of opening it as the Mayan Bar and Grill, the plan soon changed to leasing it.

The restaurant and the Aztec’s other retail spaces have attracted plenty of interested parties, but several potential business owners said they walked away because Chen kept changing his mind about terms, often seeking more money or repairs.

“We left with a very bitter feeling about it,” said Joe Ramsey, who wanted to start a music store at the Aztec and said he and a partner had a handshake deal in 2013. Instead, after about the fourth round of requests to restructure the deal, “we said, you know, we’re not going to be able to do this.”

Ramsey now co-owns Resistor Records, in Monrovia’s Old Town district on Myrtle Avenue.

Former Old Town business owner Patty Fairman, who had been interested in moving her Patty’s Antiques shop to the Aztec, said she backed out when the lease rate and repair requests kept changing.

Kertenian said leasing deals could come together once the hotel reopens, and said construction is ready to progress quickly once all the approvals are completed, barring the likelihood of setbacks because of the hotel’s age.

He also defended Chen’s plans for the Aztec, saying the owner wants to ensure the remodeling work is a fit with hotel’s historic status.

“His vision is right on, he’s not trying to make this place look like the Taj Mahal or anything,” Kertenian said. “Almost all the plans, the design, everything is set, it’s a matter of executing it.”

By: James Figueroa – Pasadena Star News

May 062013
 




We JUST drove past this sign a few days ago before they took it down – glad to see folks who are so involved with the preservation of this historic sign!

YUKON — Along Route 66 in Yukon stands Yukon’s Best Flour with a tall electric sign sitting on top of the mill. The lights have been dim for the past year but will soon get a makeover.

Crews removed the electronic sign Monday morning to replace the sign’s 2,200 bulbs with longer-lasting and energy-efficient LED bulbs and to rebuild the letters.

The group Friends of Yukon’s Best Inc. organized to raise $150,000. Instead, they pulled in $163,000 to give the light a new look.

A large amount of cash came in February when the Yukon Community Support Foundation announced a matching grant of up to $40,000.

Once complete, the sign will be as close to the original as possible.

Jan 032013
 



Albuquerque, at one time, seemed hell-bent on tearing down the old sections of the route for all new development – but it seems they are seeing what a lot of other folks and towns are seeing – the added value of the attraction that is known world-wide as Route 66!

Klarissa Peña remembers cruising on West Central, and now she’s part of the city’s push to try and restore the glamour and the glitz of old Route 66.

“We all appreciate cruising,” Peña said of the West Central community that includes one of the longest stretches of actively used Route 66, the iconic “Mother Road.”

Peña, president of the Southwest Alliance of Neighbors, Mayor Richard Berry and other dignitaries were at a recent ribbon cutting for a gleaming new fire station on 57th Street and West Central. They briefly described to celebrants upcoming projects intended to improve safety and to spur economic development in the area in the next several years. Mentioned were a new library, a series of road, safety and sidewalk improvements, new senior housing and a new visitor’s center on Nine Mile Hill, along with a long list of other potential economic development projects.

“What we hope to do is entice people to get off the interstate to come into the community and shop and to take in some of the sights, like the breathtaking view of the city viewable from historic Route 66,” Peña said.

The City Council in fall 2010 began planning a new West Route 66 Sector Development Plan. The plan noted that in the past 20 years the area suffered from stagnant commercial development, while single-family housing boomed in surrounding areas.

That left a significant imbalance between jobs and services and housing, and thus West Central became a commuter road instead of a destination for jobs, service, retail or more diverse housing.

Peña said she’s “absolutely thrilled” that the building of a new community library is slated to start sometime next summer at Central and Unser, providing critical educational services to area schools and residents.

During public hearings as part of developing a sector plan, the city heard recommendations that it encourage new multifamily and senior housing, attract new commercial development and retain its cultural legacy, including the preservation of Route 66, agrarian traditions, expansive views and the eclectic and unique character of the area, which is marked by its collection of roadside neon lit travel motels, gas stations and cafes.

Particularly involved with the plans for the area have been the mayor, City Councilor Isaac Benton and County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, Peña said.

“We want to bring back the character of the Old Route 66 and develop an Uptown center kind of shopping experience for people on West Central and the West Side,” Peña said. “We still have a long way to go, but with the enthusiasm and the tenacity of the people here, I have no doubt we’re going to be successful.”

Sep 152012
 






The tenth (and final gas station of the year) was just completely repainted and cleaned up with the help of volunteers as Tucumcari continues with their plan to make their town a true destination for travelers on Route 66.

The group started at 8am and worked all day until the building was painted and all the trim was completed. A special thanks to the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce for their funding assistance…






























































































Throught the next week – Doug Quarles of Quarles Art Gallery will do what he does best – start with the many murals and artwork on the building to complete the restoration.

This gas station is located right nexct door to Junior Garza’s gas station we painted last year. Click HERE to see that video.

Jun 282012
 





Hot off the tail of the restoration of the 66 Motel sign in Needles, another project (or should I say projects) are taking shape…

Not even a week has gone by since the relighting of the historic 66 Motel sign another restoration project is underway.

Having spent a good amount of time in the last year and a half in Needles, one starts looking for things to not only help the travelers who are driving Route 66, but also to try to find ways to help the local economy as well.

The thing which jumped out to me were two small, non-descript gas stations on the west side of town. I have passed these things many, many times as I was in town working on the sign and always wanted to see if something could be done with them.

Well, fast forward to last week and the town has decided to continue with the ‘wave of restorations’ and start planning on working on these two stations. They were very surprised on not only how well the motel sign turned out, but the reactions from local town folk. It is a wise move in my eyes!

The two gas stations will be painted the standard ‘white paint’ they once where painted back in the 40′s and 50′s and signs and other artwork will be added by local volunteers, an artist, and even yours truly. I wanted to be a part of this one, as I have a ‘fondness’ for Needles now!

The owners will also help with the work as well as provide old photos for reference as we will try to recreate them as close to how they used to look like.

If this sounds familiar, look no further than Tucumcari and the work they have done on their stations. To be honest with you, I have been planting this seed for over a year and I feel it was Rich Talley (Motel Safari fame) who pushed it over the edge and convinced them it was ‘the right thing to do for the town, and the tourists’.

I do not expect the stations to look as ‘good’ as in Tucumcari as I know how they work and their ‘secret weapon’ Doug Quareles, but we are going to do a pretty decent job!

The plan is to have both stations completed by the time the Victorville festival starts so folks can not only see the restored sign, they can see the gas stations finished, maybe have lunch at the historic Wagon Wheel Restaurant, and then head ‘west to the fest!’

May 202012
 



I have said it before and I will say it again – the Illinois Route 66 Association gets it! They are the shining examples of how to keep not only the route alive – but to prosper from it.

ATLANTA — While Atlanta may have a small population, it boasts a pair of giant tourist attractions — Route 66 and a 19-foot-tall statue that looms over it.

More than a dozen volunteers came from Illinois and beyond Saturday to wash and paint Atlanta’s Bunyon’s Statue — a giant man holding a hot dog — to ensure it remains a Route 66 icon for years to come.

Similar statues were once popular and designed to attract people to businesses. Atlanta’s giant originally stood for 38 years on Route 66 in Cicero, drawing customers to Bunyon’s restaurant.

When it closed in 1993, the restaurant’s owners loaned the legendary figure to Atlanta, where it draws tourists to the town of nearly 1,700.

While the one-of-a-kind Route 66 icon draws smiles and laughter from visitors, he’s a “serious factor” when it comes to economic development. The statue draws thousands from all over the world each year, said Atlanta business owner Bill Thomas, who helped bring the attraction to the city.

“There’s no where else in the world you can have your photo taken with a 19-foot man holding a hot dog,” Thomas said.

Thomas was at the statue talking with a three-man film crew Friday afternoon when two carloads of people stopped to have their photo snapped.

“That happens time and time again,” Thomas said.

And it’s not just people from the Midwest.

Saturday morning, as volunteers refurbished the statue, two visitors from Odernheim, Germany, stopped on their way from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“It’s history and was a dream,” said Klaus Dreesbach of why he decided two years ago to plan the motorcycle trip on Route 66.

Dreesbach and friend Rolf Mau weren’t surprised to see the fiberglass giant.

“We have read in a trip book about them,” said Mau, who described Atlanta as a “nice, typical, western city.”

Restoration effort

The opportunity to help preserve the giant also drew enthusiasts from as far away as Iowa and Michigan.

“I’m impressed by what people want to do to help,” said John Weiss, chair of the preservation committee of the Route 66 Association of Illinois and organizer of the work day. Those who are interested in getting involved can visit www.il66assoc.org for more information.

“It’s my wife’s birthday and it’s what she wanted,” said Joe Foster, who traveled from Urbandale, Iowa, with wife, Kara, and daughter, Ella Hendricks, 8.

“Route 66 is my passion, and he’s grown to like it,” said Kara, who painted one of the statue’s arms and the mustard on the hot dog.

Bill Kelley, who grew up hearing stories of Route 66 from his parents, came from Eastpointe, Mich., to help.

“Disneyworld and Vegas aren’t for everybody,” said Kelley of his passion for Route 66.

Volunteer Jerry Law, of Wood River, agreed. “To me, Route 66 has everything I want.”

Feb 252012
 



I have been putting a few posts up on my Facebook page about a ‘model truck’ I was building. I used to be a avid modeler when I was – like 10!! – so I have built my share of model cars.

This one is a little different.

I wanted to use the model as a ‘sketch pad’ of sorts. I had, in my mind, what I wanted a truck to look like if I were ever to buy one, but I didn’t want to use the real truck as a blank canvas and then mess it up and have a real mess on my hands. Insert model truck here: A 1950 Ford F-1 Pick Up truck.

I had a concept: to built an old pickup truck as if it were, lets say, a service station truck. I went through the lists of all the old service station on the route and decided I wanted to go with a Richfield Yellow / Blue theme, and make it as stock as possible, and make it look like you can park it in an old gas station and it would look like a natural fit.

Easy enough – you would think.
After a bunch of research, I finally found the color pattern I wanted and started to build my model of the truck I would one day want to own.

So, after a month, the model is done. I could have spent 3 months making the model truck perfect, as I usually would if / when I build models, but I really was interested in the paint scheme.

So, the model is as done as I need to to be, now what?








Insert REAL 1949 Ford F-3 3/4 Ton Long Bed Pick Up Truck!

Actually, it is a pretty clean truck with VERY little rust (and I mean very little!) The ‘brown’ on the truck is primer and the metal is all pretty straight and solid.

Since this picture was taken, I have already stripped the truck down to (almost) bare frame with only the cab to be lifted off. It is just sitting there waiting to be removed. That will probably happen next week.



The goal: To get this thing up and running by next year, and drive it in the AZ or NM Route 66 Association’s Fun Run.
That’s the goal – the reality might be a little different.

I will post a pic here and there – as I have a full restoration thread going on a separate Ford Truck blog. I feel that is where it should be documented – I want a variety of Route 66 stuff to occupy this site!!

My wife actually gave me the ‘green light’ to do more of these projects, which means I might be able to keep a Route 66 theme going and possibly loan them to different museums along the route…. would be a nice way to ‘give back’ to the route – sounds like a resolution someone made in January

Jan 162012
 



I used to be a ‘Master Modeler’ back in the 70′s and early 80′s (was part of the Revell Master Modelers Club with my OWN iron-on and paper certificate – you know that means something!! Especially to an 8 year old kid!)

My love for models, Loc Blocs (we were too poor to afford Legos like the RICH kids!) Lincoln Logs, and anything I can draw. sketch or build was usually in my posession…

Fast forward – 2012. I made a little list of ‘Route 66 Resolutions’, and I guess I have to start somewhere….

So, the model truck – what’s it about? I picked up a 1950 Ford F-1 Pick Up truck model… now what to do with it?

As most of us who drive, drove, or are WANTING to drive Route 66 - a few things are on our lists of ‘MUST SEE’! Old buildings, old cars (and trucks) old gas pumps and stations – and maybe an old timer here and there!

So, while I will not let go of TOO much information – the model truck actually does have something to do with Route 66 - and it is the first step of a 7 step plan, where I am on ‘Step 1′ (well, Step 1 and a half cause I started it!).

As I progress, and as I get to the next step – it will get posted.

Now, this is not a post on model making, but I am always curious on how others do theirs. I have not professionally built a model in several (I mean SEVERAL) years – it will be something that will stay with me as long as I can hold a tiny paintbrush!

More to come….

Jun 292011
 



We left Scottsdale at 6 pm (PST) and started to drive – a LONG drive all night until 6am (MST) when we pulled up to the Motel Safari! Rich Talley – owner of the Motel Safari – had to go to California to meet with some business owners – and while he ‘missed’ the heat – I think we did a pretty good job getting this completed!







The project was a Phillips 66 gas station. I spent about 7 of the 8 hours on the ladder… the legs were sore when I finally climbed off of it!







Mural work done by the legendary Doug Quarles! Doug has been a mountain of ideas and work behind bringing Tucumcari back to a ‘must see’ stop while traveling the route!







Bob and Tom (local business owners – project managers / volunteers – GREAT guys) cooling off in the shade for a bit. It was around 104 degrees – not a cloud in the sky – HOT! Bob was the project manager and Tom somehow spent WAY TOO much time on the scolding hot roof painting the overhangs – my hat goes off to him!







Junior is the owner of the gas station – here he is posing with his ‘Phillips 66 truck’ which will be parked on in front of the property to match the decor. He has a collection of old restored cars he will ‘rotate’ a car out every other weekend so there is a fresh ‘photo op’ for travelers.







Juliana and Doug posing in front of the finished ‘mural’. We toured the town looking at some of the murals he had already painted – quite impressive!






We painted for about 8 hours straight with very few stops. Dehydration set in as well as sunburn, doughnut cramps (not always a bad thing!) and a lot of laughter and hard work!

There was MUCH more work done than the pictures show – it is hard to run around and snap photos when everyone has a paint brush in their hand!

A local reporter came out to take pics and get some information for a story for the local newspaper – he will email me the article which I will put up as well.

I have seen video of the gas station a day after we left and when the gas pumps get installed and all the little details are finished – I will post an updated picture.

Even thought we drove for a total of 23 hours to and from to help paint – I would do it again!

Tucumcari is a town rewriting the rules on how these smaller towns on Route 66 should embrace the route and the travelers and visitors.

Tucumcari will always be a destination on all of my future trips….

Jan 182011
 




Nice article from Roadside America – visit their website by clicking HERE.


Just down the road from the Devil’s Rope/Route 66 Museum stands this vintage service station, circa 1929. It was the first Phillips Petroleum filling station opened in Texas, and operated for over 50 years. The station was renovated by a local Route 66 preservation group in 1992, claimed to be the first old gas station restored along the “Mother Road,” and continues to be maintained.

There are several nice touches. The pumps are painted in the bright orange color of Phillips 66, as is an old tank truck parked adjacent. There’s an old raised vehicle platform, also painted orange, for mechanic work.

On the station building itself, the windows and glass on the door are painted fakes. Locals probably got tired of replacing broken glass…

It’s been decades since it pumped a drop of gasoline, but the landmark is a required stop for Route 66 pilgrims.