By: Kelly Hayes/The Gazette
Image by: Jerilee Bennett
The owners of the Coronado Motel in Pueblo don’t spend on advertising.
Guests who stay at the lodge return, charmed by the historic Pueblo-style building.
Maybe it’s the thick, adobe walls or the wood-beamed ceilings. Maybe it’s the bell tower or the life-sized bear carvings.
You can tell it’s loved by a whimsical touch. Little hints of colorful artwork appear throughout the motel, along with a mural painted on the courtyard’s back wall.
It might even look familiar — the motel made a guest appearance in the 1983 cult-classic “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
But, it holds a more important history — one that Colorado researchers are trying to preserve.
It wasn’t until March 2020, that the midcentury motel was accepted into the National Register of Historic Places, after local historians worked to uncover its story.
The goal: highlight a history that has long gone ignored, part of a larger movement from historians across the country to preserve historic spaces relevant to underrepresented communities.
The Coronado served as a safe place to stay for African American tourists during a time when few establishments did.
The Coronado Lodge, upon its first listing in 1957, became just the second Colorado motel to be mentioned in “The Negro Motorist Green Book: 1957” — an annual guidebook for Black travelers during the time of segregation.
It sat on the pages of African American travel guides for a decade, and remained one of only three Colorado motels to be listed through 1967.
The idea to nominate the Coronado Lodge to the National Register started in a movie theater.
Pueblo historian Corinne Koehler settled into her seat to watch “Green Book” — a 2018 movie about a Black pianist traveling across the South during segregation. That’s how she learned about the historic use of Black travel guides.
“Watching the movie, I’m kind of thinking, ‘Well that’s kind of interesting,’” Koehler said. “I never knew anything about the Green Book before, and I was kind of curious to see if there were any places in Colorado.”
So, she began researching. Using the New York Public Library’s online collections, Koehler sifted through digitized Green Books.
“Sure enough, there were places — quite a few as matter of fact — listed in Pueblo, so that got my interest,” she said.
Reference: The Negro Green Book