Renovating a historic Route 66 hotel


El Vado was originally built in 1937 as a 32 unit motor court located on historic Route 66 and operated until 2005, when operations ceased and the buildings on-site fell into a state of disrepair. It’s relatively unaltered appearance, coupled with its spatial arrangement, remaining carports, and use of Spanish Pueblo Revival style maintains a strong sense of the property’s era. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, El Vado is historically significant for its association with automobile tourism along Route 66; its role as an auto court in defining Albuquerque’s growth, appearance, and image; and its picturesque architectural style designed to attract tourism and immerse travelers in the exoticism and mystique of the Southwest.

Working with Design Plus, owner and developer Chad Rennaker, President of Palindrome Communities, envisioned the re-birth of El Vado as a thriving destination where native Burqueños as well as travelers from around the globe can once again meet, relax, and enjoy local cuisine and shopping. Weaving this historic landmark with culturally relevant, contemporary uses such as a boutique motel, food pods, a Tap Room, local shops, and a public plaza, makes El Vado truly unique among its historic peers. 


Courtyard Before Renovation

Hotel Kiva Fireplace Before Renovation

Guestroom Before Renovation

Courtyard After Renovation

Hotel Kiva Fireplace After Renovation

Guestroom After Renovation


To maintain certification as a historic property, the design strategy was focused on a careful balance between preserving the character-defining historic features of the exterior of the buildings and the open motor court space with more contemporary lifestyle, travel, and cultural uses. Creating a sense of place and time became the central concept for the design.

The former motor court area was developed as a combination of public general use and a private motel use plaza with a soaking pool, outdoor public and private event spaces, seating areas, dining areas, and beautifully landscaped pathways. The exterior of the motel buildings and the open motor courts were painstakingly restored; many of the original character-defining historic elements such as adobe walls, undulating parapets, plaster finishes, wood vigas, and wood doors were preserved or re-purposed. Several original steel sash windows, most of them in the original lobby fireplace room, were restored and made operational. All other aluminum windows were removed and replaced with replica steel windows.

Today, after years of work, a variety of approval processes, exceptional preservation efforts and exciting design elements, El Vado is full of life and activity - attracting patrons and guests from not only Albuquerque and New Mexico, but also nationally and around the globe!


Public Courtyard

Suite Living Room

Suite Bedroom

Event Center


Event Center Fireplace