A Brief History of the Blue Swallow Motel from the National Park Service Website
The story of the Blue Swallow Motel began when Carpenter W.A. Huggins purchased lots on March 29th, 1939 and began construction. The Blue Swallow Court, as it was originally called, was open and operating with ten rooms in 1941. Mr. and Mrs. Huggins operated both the motor court and a cafe on the site. Ted Jones, a prominent eastern New Mexico rancher, was the first long-term owner/operator. Facing Route 66, the Blue Swallow offers access to motorists from both the highway and a side street. The motel has an L-shaped plan and consists of 12 units (two more were added in 1950-51) with a centrally-located office and manager’s residence. Garage units, some with original wood overhead doors, are located between the sleeping units. With its pink stucco walls decorated with shell designs and a stepped parapet, the façade reflects a modest use of the Southwest Vernacular style of architecture.
When Mr. Jones and his wife died in the 1950s, Lillian Redman and her husband bought the Blue Swallow and successfully operated it, modernizing by installing a new, larger neon sign, and using the more up-to-date term, “Motel”. From the start, the Redmans put their customers first. When guests didn’t have enough money for a room, the Redmans accepted personal belongings in trade or provided the room for free. Ms. Redman and the Blue Swallow became icons of Route 66 folklore. She described the special and close connection she had with the Route 66 motorists who came in each night this way. “I end up traveling the highway in my heart with whoever stops here for the night.”
At the end of the 1960s, Interstate 40, a faster, limited-access highway, took the place of the old Route 66. The development of this new highway drastically changed the traffic circulation of Route 66 affecting many of the businesses along the way, including the Blue Swallow Motel. Ms. Redman said of the effect of Interstate 40, which bypassed Tucumcari, “When Route 66 was closed to the majority of traffic and the other highway came in, I felt just like I had lost an old friend. But some of us stuck it out and are still here on Route 66.”
After owning the Blue Swallow for almost 40 years, Ms. Redman sold the motel in the late 1990s. Extensive restoration work was performed by owners Dale and Hilda Bakke, modernizing electrical systems and repairing neon, installing 1939 Bell rotary-dial phones in each room, while retaining all of the historic character and charm of the Blue Swallow. Today, Kevin & Nancy Mueller are proud to continue to restore and maintain the Blue Swallow, preserving the building and tradition of hospitality for future generations to enjoy.
The Motel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. There is a plethora of information available about the Blue Swallow online as well as in various publications and books. Please see the Additional Reading page for more information.
Lillian Redman’s Blue Swallow Benediction
In ancient times, there was a prayer for “The Stranger Within our Gates.” Because this motel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a money-making organization, we hope that God will grant you peace and rest while you are under our roof.
May this room and motel be your “second” home. May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be as comfortable and happy as if you were in your own house.
May the business that brought you this way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy. When you leave, may your journey be safe.
We are all travelers. From “birth till death,” we travel between the eternities. May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those you know and love best.
Sincerely yours, Lillian Redman (owner of the Blue Swallow Motel from 1958-1998)
The Symbolism of the Blue Swallow
The swallow, as well as bluebirds and sparrows, has always had a symbolic meaning for sailors because (before modern navigation technology) these birds were usually the first sign that land was near. For a sailor, a swallow tattoo reflected his hope of coming home safely.
Another fact is that swallows return home every year, no matter where they are. Every year, Mission San Juan Capistrano in California plays host to this wonder of nature. A flock of the tiny birds numbering in the tens or even hundreds of thousands descends upon the mission in a grand display of the workings of migration.
The swallow is a bird that chooses a mate for life. Therefore, a swallow is also a symbol for love and family loyalty.
Other symbolic meanings of the swallow include the return home after a struggle, surviving a hardship, and a victory gained.