Once Listed In Green Book, Pueblo’s Coronado Motel Gains National Historic Status

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The 1940s Coronado Motel in south Pueblo was included in the Negro Traveler's Green Book and is now in the National Register of Historic Places. The Green Book served as a guide to lodging open to people of color during the segregation era.

The Coronado was the second motel in Colorado to be listed in the Green Book in 1957 and was one of only three motels listed in the 1967 edition, according to Tom and Laurie Simmons who prepared the application for the National Register. They note that the first motel listing was for the Davis Auto Court in Montrose.

The Coronado's current owners, Shay and A.T. Perez, say they didn't know about that part of the motel's history when they bought it in 1992. But Shay said she wasn't surprised because of where it's located.

"Because I knew that this was the main highway and the motel has never had any kind of restrictions of anyone coming and staying," she said. 

The motel is located on what was the primary north-south route from Canada to Mexico before I-25 was built.

The Coronado in Pueblo
Credit Courtesy Front Range Research Associates, Inc.
The Coronado in Pueblo

Another notable feature of the Coronado is its well-preserved mid-century Pueblo Revival-style architecture.

Shay said the thick adobe walls, viga beams and bell tower attracted them to the property. "We have always felt this place was an architectural dream. It is so full of character and uniqueness. It was not a cookie cutter," she said.

A bell still hangs in the bell tower and the Perez family and motel staff make sure to ring it at least once a year-not for any particular occasion, just to hear it.

Shay said there are many things she loves about the Coronado including the dense adobe brick. "I love the way it makes me feel cozy, in summer it's cooler and in the winter it's warmer."

Over the years the Perezes have done a lot of repair and restoration themselves, but they are getting older and say it's getting difficult to do that kind of work. 

"And a lot of it here is so unique that it can't take just anyone coming in and redoing it," Shay said, noting that restoring real adobe is a special skill. The worker has to know how to properly mix mud and straw and let the bricks dry in the sun.

The new national historic designation may make the property eligible for grant funding to help maintain it. It could increase tourist interest too. 

While they've never advertised, the motel draws travelers looking for something different from typical chain hotels. But Shay said they mostly serve working-class folks who want long-term lodging.

And the Coronado has another bit of unusual history-- it was featured in the 1983 film "National Lampoon's Vacation," when the fictional Griswold family spent the night there on their cross-country road trip.