It once went by the name of Rock Island, this unincorporated community that stands on the border of the two countries of New Mexico and Texas, and today it bears the name of Glenrio.
This name derives from two words from different places, the first one being the Scots name glen and the second word is Rio, which translated from Spanish means River, despite that the town is located nowhere near a river.
The community which was originally a railroad town was founded in 1903 and was renamed Glenrio by the Rock Island and Pacific Railroad in 1908. In 1917, its first motorists began to arrive on route on the Ozark Trail. The structures that once originally stood in Glenrio were made of adobe.
Eventually, the Ozark trail was transformed into the U.S Route 66 on November 11, 1926. By the time the 1930s came, U.S. Route 66 in Texas was a two-lane paved road that had several filling stations, a motel, and a restaurant.
Given the location of this town, right in between New Mexico and Texas, some very interesting business practices were inevitable. For example, at one point, New Mexico had much higher prices and taxes for gasoline and so a filling station was built dispensing all the fuel in Texas. As a result, a motel and diner were built in New Mexico to attract the visitors when the Texas filling station had run out of fuel.
The railroad station was built in Texas while the local post office was constructed in New Mexico. Additionally, Texas was officially a dry county and so consequently, all of the bars where alcohol was served had to be moved to New Mexico.
Another interesting fact about this abandoned community is that Glenrio was the spot where the first/last motel in Texas could be found, it all depended on which way one was driving. There weren’t many who decided to call Glenrio their home, but that was no problem for the local restaurants and the motel, who were kept in business by the many tourists coming along the busy Route 66 road.
When the Interstate 40, just north of Glenrio, bypassed the community in September 1973, all the businesses gradually received less and less custom.
The old movie The Grapes of Wrath, filmed in 1940, chose Glenrio as its filming location. Even the 2006’s animated film Cars portrays the abandoned Glenrio café.
On June 25, 2008, the State of New Mexico was delighted to open the Glenrio Welcome Center on Interstate 40 at the Texas state line. It was built to accommodate one million visitors per year.