The Heritage of Historic US Route 66 in Albuquerque

On Sunday, April 16, 2023, there was a two-person presentation at the Albuquerque Museum to discuss “The Heritage of Historic US Route 66 in Albuquerque.” The overall program was designed to address plans for the US Route 66 Centennial Commission to honor the “Mother Road” in celebrating the Centennial of Route 66 in 2026. New Mexico’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Jen Paul Schroer is the delegate to the Commission. The program was provided by Roger Zimmerman of the Albuquerque Historical Society and Melissa Lea Beasley-Lee, President of the New Mexico Route 66 Association.

Roger provided Historic insight into the New Mexico activities in the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) process in this quest. ASCE is working towards recognizing Historic Route 66 as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Route 66 presents a challenge to ASCE as engineering organizations from 8 states that housed Route 66 are joining together to recognize a historic highway instead of the traditional engineering projects. Civil engineering contributions to the rerouting of Route 66 in the 1926-1937-time frame will be discussed. A feature is a discussion of three structures associated with the shortening of the original Route 66 by 107 miles: the Central Avenue Bridge, the Rio Puerco Bridge, and the Central Avenue Underpass. Key personnel associated with the early developments of Route 66 in its first 11 years will be identified.

Melissa’s presentation highlighted the Heritage aspects associated with Route 66. The New Mexico Route 66 Association, started in 1989, is dedicated to the education, promotion, and preservation of New Mexico’s Historic Route 66 Scenic Byway and economic revitalization along its 604 mile stretch through the state. The Association publishes Route 66/New Mexico on a quarterly basis that provides Route 66 news, Route 66 stories, information about road tours, listings of roadside business improvements or developments, city and adjoining state Route 66 promotional activities, and recognition of Route 66 roadside displays in New Mexico. Preliminary plans to celebrate the Centennial will be discussed including future legislation to form a New Mexico Route 66 Centennial Commission, focused Centennial tours, and sponsorship of other activities. In anticipation of this event, the Association, in partnership with Fast TV Network, is opening the New Mexico Route 66 Association Museum & Visitor Center in Tucumcari, NM on July 01, 2023, and the features of this facility will be discussed.

Central Avenue Bridge Photo
Albuquerque Central Avenue Bridge on Route 66

Photo of Roger ZimmermanRoger Max Zimmerman was born at Rehoboth Mission east of Gallup, New Mexico. His early years were spent at Mariano Lake Trading Post. He graduated from high school at New Mexico Military Institute and enrolled at the University of Colorado where he received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. He taught Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado from 1959 to 1964 and at New Mexico State University from 1964 to 1979. He was Assistant, Associate, and Acting Dean of Engineering at NMSU from 1967-1975. He was hired by Sandia National Laboratories in 1980 where he worked on projects associated with the storage of nuclear waste, weapons components testing programs, and rocket systems target deployments. He retired in 2000 as a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff. Roger served as President of the Albuquerque Historical Society from 2013-2019. He has written seven books: Kitchen’s Opera House, Gallup, New Mexico (2012) and A History Lover’s Guide to Albuquerque (2019) and his memoirs in 5 volumes (2021), which are available as Memoirs of Roger Max Zimmerman on Amazon.

Photo of MelissaLBeasley-LeeIn her earlier career, Melissa Lea Beasley-Lee studied and later became an instructor at Fashion Design at the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Chicago, IL. Then she also taught at O’More College of Design in Franklin TN, and Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe, NM. She founded the Albuquerque Apparel Center and New Mexico Fashion Week to help foster the state’s talented artists and designers.

Currently she and her husband, Mike Lee, are co-owners of Fast TV Network, where she is Vice President of Production and Programming and hostess of Legends of Route 66, a show highlighting various people, places, and events throughout the entire stretch of the Mother Road.

She has been president of the New Mexico Route 66 Association since 2016. At that time she also signed on as Editor-In-Chief of the association’s New Mexico Route 66 Magazine.

Melissa is the NM Route 66 state representative to the National Park Service, National Trust for Historic Preservation, New Mexico MainStreet Program, and all other national and international relations pertaining to Route 66 throughout the state of New Mexico.

Photo of horse drawn coach
Early roadway unpaved with horse drawn coach on Route 66 corridor.