A Town Left Behind — Tucumcari, NM

A Town Left Behind — Tucumcari, NM

Tucumcari, NM

Tucumcari is more than just a song title or a line in a song.

As in this one: Tucumcari by Goodnight, Texas (sorry for some reason my video embeds are not working at the moment).


Or this one: Willin by Little Feat

There are others but you get the idea.


Tucumcari was once a thriving town along Route 66. As were many small towns along that route from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA. The road was built in 1926 and played an important role in the expansion westward of the United States.

Relax Inn, Tucumcari, NM

But, in the late 1950s, Dwight D. Eisenhower developed the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. This Interstate Highway System consisted of mostly new roads crisscrossing the county from East to West and North to South.

Sadly, many original roads and routes, such as Route 66, were abandoned.

With no significant traffic driving through these once-thriving towns along Route 66, they slowly lost business to the truck stops and restaurants along the Interstate.

Tucumcari and the surrounding area have an interesting history. Old civilizations and dinosaur fossils can be found throughout. You can read more here.

Apache Motel, Tucumcari, NM

Thanks to the history of Route 66 and its almost cult following, there are still a few places that hold memories and nostalgia for many who still travel the route.

It has become a pilgrimage of sorts. 

Tucumcari, NM

Sadly though, if you take a walk ‘downtown’ Tucumcari, you’ll find a lot of abandoned and closed businesses. 

While they might make for interesting photographic subjects, it’s hard to fathom how someone could make a living here any longer.

Tucumcari, NM

As we walked around we saw quite a few closed and for sale signs. Many of the buildings are boarded up. It’s quite a depressing sight to see.

Tucumcari, NM

Of course, I had to get a photo of the photo studio. I did a little research and found that it was founded in 1946. They still have a Facebook page; this story was written in January 2022. What a great history.

Now I wish it had been open when we were there but it was a Sunday.

We found plenty of buildings that appear to be currently used for storage. There is interesting and beautiful architecture that one hopes is still around in future years.

Tucumcari, NM

This was the Princess Theater which opened in 1917. In 1938 it was remodeled in a more modern style. A fire gutted the building in 1943 and it was repaired but again damaged by fire in 1962. 

There has been talk of it being restored but as one might imagine, for what and for who? 

While the Interstate Highway System was a good change in many ways for the country, it left behind and forgot about those who counted on the old Routes for their livelihood.

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