Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »

San Jon, New Mexico

Glenrio Ghost Town

The old Route 66 town straddling Texas and New Mexico died along with the Main Street of America. 

Glenrio, a Route 66 town straddling the state borders of Texas and New Mexico, was founded in 1901 by the various railroads that crossed through it. Despite the fact that its name drew from the English word “glen” and the Spanish word “rio,” Glenrio is nowhere near a valley or a river. Wheat and cattle farmers settled on expansive plots, and a little community grew up. 

Being divided between two states made for some unusual customs in Glenrio. The mail would arrive at a train depot on the Texas side, but would have to be transported to the post office on the New Mexico side. The Texas side was part of a dry county so all the bars were on the New Mexico side. Because the gasoline tax was higher in New Mexico, all the service stations were on the Texas side.

When Route 66 paved its way across the Southwest, Glenrio provided a popular stopping point between Amarillo and Tucumcari. Though Glenrio’s actual population never exceeded a few dozen, motels, diners, and cafes could stay afloat thanks to the steady influx of Route 66 tourists. The Grapes of Wrath even shot a scene on Glenrio’s single dusty road.

When the Rock Island Railroad depot closed in 1955 Glenrio was struck hard, but not as hard as when it was replaced by Interstate 40. Unlike the slower-paced, scenic Route 66, this new highway was meant to get you from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Traffic through Glenrio dried up. By the 1980s only two residents remained. Not long after, they were gone too, and Glenrio has been a ghost town ever since.

Today, all that remains of the town are a few derelict structures. The Little Juarez Diner still stands, as does the the State Line Motel. Its sign reads, “First in Texas” or “Last in Texas,” depending on which direction you’re driving. A Streamline Moderne Texaco service station once had cars lined up for hours. Now it sits deteriorating on the side of Route 66, a reminder of Glenrio’s prosperous past. 

Contributed by
c catboom
Edited by