February 09, 2016

Photo Essay: Royal Hawaiian Motel, Abandoned and For Sale (Circa 2011, Updated)

[Last Updated 1/6/20 8:18 PM PT—added Pike's info]

Baker, CA is a pitstop town. It always has been. It was created in the 1930s as a stopover point for crews heading to and from the construction site of the Hoover Dam, and now it serves mostly tourists on their way to and from Vegas or Death Valley.

Usually, if you're getting out of your car in Baker, it's just for some Alien Fresh Jerky, souvlaki at the Mad Greek Cafe, or to snap a photo of the World's Tallest Thermometer (which may or may not be working). It's hard to imagine anyone ever staying the night in Baker.

But people have.

And some of them stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

I swung by back in 2011 on my birthday road trip to Vegas, back when I was trying to cram everything into every weekend.

The abandonment of the place was delicious enough...

...but I was also drawn in by the Polynesian setting, as passé as it may be.

It's hard to find info on the motel, which was still standing—and vacant—as of this time last year.

Previously operated as Pike's El Rancho Motel and Cafe, by the late 1980s it was owned by a local couple...

...and much of the 2003 movie The Big Empty takes place at the Royal Hawaiian and Baker, CA.

Having originally opened in 1957, it was still open for business in 2006, judging by the terrifying Yelp reviews.

Either the desert has not been kind to this old place....

...or it was already in really bad shape when it closed in 2009, no longer able to compete with Vegas casinos.

It looks frozen in time circa the 1960s.

The forecourt is quite grandiose...though it has a bit of the feeling of company town accommodations, like Death Valley Junction.

This is the type of place I probably would book a room from, if it were still open.

I mean, this place has everything...

...palm trees...

...a pool out in the back...

...its own water supply...

...reclining chaises... well as other patio seating...

...and vintage signage.

It's nice and quiet for your Baker staycation...

...but the shuttle can also take you around to see the local attractions... soon as the mechanic finishes his repairs.

A vintage postcard for Pike's (circa 1930s or '40s) advertises that it's also fire-proof and air-conditioned, with glass-door shower stalls.

And it's for sale!  [Update 1/6/20—the listing has expired.]

I don't know why I didn't post these photos until four and a half years later, but now that I have, I've got a hankering to go drive back to Vegas...

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Abandoned Royal Motel, Mattydale, NY
The Road to Nowhere
Photo Essay: Borrego Springs Ranch (Closed)

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