Please note that this text-only version, provided for ease of printing and reading, includes more than 40 pages and may take up to 10 minutes to print. Printing this page will print the introduction, five essays, the list of sites, and all of the descriptions for the sites featured in the itinerary. If you would like to print a specific section, click on one of the links below, and mark the section you would like to print.
Route 66 Overview
Before 1926: The origins of Route 66
Route 66: 1926 to 1945
Postwar Years: 1945-1960
Demise and Resurgence of Interest in Route 66
List of Sites and Descriptions
Maps (print sepearately)
Learn More (print separately)
Credits (print separately)
The National Park Service’s Heritage Education Services and the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, in partnership with the American Express and World Monuments Fund Sustainable Tourism Initiative and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers proudly invite you to experience Route 66. Route 66 embodies a complex, rich history that goes well beyond any chronicle of the road itself. As an artery of transportation, an agent of social transformation, and a remnant of America’s past, it stretches 2,400 miles across two-thirds of the continent. This Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary highlights historic places listed in the National Register of Historic Places that bring the history of Route 66 to life. Today, more than 85% of the original alignments of Route 66 are drivable, and many special places along the way are included in the National Register. The itinerary features a number of sections of the road and other historic places to visit, and more will be added to the itinerary in the future. To understand Route 66 and capture its spirit, there is no substitute for driving the highway stopping to experience what is along the way.
The Route 66 travel itinerary offers several ways to discover and experience Route 66 and the historic places that shaped and illustrate the history and development of this fabled road:
• Descriptions of each featured historic place on the List of Sites highlight its significance, photographs and other illustrations, and information on how to visit.
• Essays provide highlights about the history of Route 66 that offer context for understanding historic places featured in the itinerary. Visitors can read a Route 66 Overview and more in-depth essays that explore the development of the highway and the historic places along the route.
• Maps to help visitors plan what to see and do and get directions to historic places to visit.
• A Learn More section provides links to relevant websites such as tourism websites with information on cultural events and activities, other things to see and do, and dining and lodging possibilities. This section also includes a bibliography.
View the itinerary online or print it as a guide if you plan to visit in person. The Route 66 itinerary, the 49th in this ongoing series, is part of the Department of the Interior, National Park Service’s strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage visits to historic places throughout the nation. The itineraries are created by a partnership of the National Park Service; the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers; and Federal, State, and local governments and private organizations in communities, regions, and heritage areas throughout the United States. The itineraries help people everywhere learn about and plan trips to visit the amazing diversity of this country’s historic places that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service and its partners hope you enjoy this itinerary and others in the series. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on “comments or questions” at the bottom of each page.
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Route 66 Overview
U.S. Highway 66 — popularly known as Route 66 — holds a special place in American consciousness. Its name commonly evokes images of simpler times, mom-and-pop businesses, and the icons of a mobile nation on the road. Travelers on Highway 66 today can easily experience this past, as many of the motels, gas stations, cafés, parks, trading posts, bridges, and roadbeds remain along the thoroughfare. These historic resources are reminders of our past and evidence of the origins of our current automobile-influenced society.
Route 66 embodies a complex, rich history that goes well beyond any chronicle of the road itself. An artery of transportation, an agent of social transformation, and a remnant of America’s past, it stretches 2,400 miles across two-thirds of the continent. The highway winds from the shores of Lake Michigan across the agricultural fields of Illinois, to the rolling hills of the Missouri Ozarks, through the mining towns of Kansas, across Oklahoma where the woodlands of the East meet the open plains of the West, to the open ranch lands of Texas, the enchanted mesa lands of New Mexico and Arizona, to the Mojave Desert, and finally to the “land of milk and honey” – the metropolis of Los Angeles and the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Flanked by historic buildings and diverse cultural resources, Route 66 slices across the continent, revealing the process of historical change that transformed the lives of people, their communities, and the nation. This fabled highway’s multiple alignments connect not only the East and the West, but also the past and the present.
Route 66 had its official beginnings in 1926 when the Bureau of Public Roads launched the nation’s first Federal highway system. Like other highways in the system, the path of Route 66 was a cobbling together of existing local, State, and national roads. The highway quickly became a popular route because of the active promotion of the U.S 66 Highway Association, which advertised it as “the shortest, best and most scenic route from Chicago through St. Louis to Los Angeles.
Merchants in small and large towns along the highway looked to Route 66 as an opportunity for attracting new revenue to their often rural and isolated communities. As the highway became busier, the roadbed received improvements, and the infrastructure of support businesses — especially those offering fuel, lodging, and food that lined its right of way — expanded. Even with tough times, the Depression that worked its baleful consequences on the nation produced an ironic effect along Route 66. The vast migration of destitute people fleeing their former homes actually increased traffic along the highway, providing commercial opportunities to a multitude of low capital, mom-and-pop businesses.
World War II caused a marked decline in civilian and tourist traffic, but it stimulated new business along U.S. 66, when it acted as a military transport corridor moving troops and supplies from one military reservation to another. Motels saw an increase in occupancy, as families of servicemen stationed at military bases stayed for long stretches. But more significantly, Route 66 facilitated perhaps the single greatest wartime mobilization, as thousands of jobseekers headed to California, Oregon, and Washington to work in defense plants.
When the war ended, traffic increased as rationing and travel restrictions were lifted. Automobile ownership grew dramatically over the next 10 years, with 52.1 million cars registered in 1955 (compared to the 25.8 million at the end of the war). With more cars and leisure time, families headed west on Route 66 to the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, and the beaches of Southern California.
With the heavier traffic, businesses along the highway boomed, and the image of Route 66 as a Dustbowl migration route changed to one of freedom and kicks. The bleak image of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath faded as the upbeat lyrics of Bobby Troupe’s “Route 66” hit the airwaves. The adventures of two young men seeking their kicks in the 1960s television series, Route 66, further immortalized Route 66 as a highway of thrills.
Just as the enormous traffic in the decade after World War II sent Route 66 into a boom time, the popularity and crowding of the highway signaled its demise. In 1956, President Eisenhower, who had witnessed the military advantages of the German Autobahn during World War II, supported the passage of a law to construct a new system of high-speed, limited-access, four-lane divided highways — today’s interstates.
Five new interstates (I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15, and I-10) incrementally replaced U.S. 66 over the next three decades. Interstate construction coincided with the powerful forces of economic consolidation as evidenced by the growth of branded gasoline stations, motels, and restaurant chains. The 1984 bypassing of the last section of U.S. 66 by I-40 led to the official decommissioning of the highway in 1985, impacting countless businesses and communities along the road.
After Route 66’s decommissioning, members of public and private organizations and State and Federal agencies who understood the highway’s historical and social significance started campaigns to preserve and commemorate the road. New associations organized to promote travel and preservation of Route 66, working with State agencies to mark it with signs. Parts of Route 66 received new designations as State and/or National Scenic Byways. Businesses along the road again started to sell to tourists, who sought out the storied highway.
In 1990, the United States Congress passed Public Law 102-400, the Route 66 Study Act of 1990, recognizing that Route 66 had “become a symbol of the American people's heritage of travel and their legacy of seeking a better life."
As a result of the law, the National Park Service conducted the Route 66 Special Resource Study to evaluate the significance of Route 66 and to identify options for its preservation, interpretation, and use. This study led to the enactment of Public Law 106-45 to preserve the cultural resources of the Route 66 corridor and to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide assistance.
The law authorized the creation of the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. This program provides financial and technical assistance to individuals; nonprofits; local, State, tribal and Federal agencies; and others to facilitate preservation of the most significant and representative historic resources along the route.
In 2008, the significance of Route 66 and the importance of preserving it were again recognized when the World Monuments Fund listed Route 66 on the Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. The Watch calls international attention to threatened cultural sites around the world, and seeks to build capacities and constituencies for the long-term, sustainable protection of those sites. As a result of this listing, World Monuments Fund has partnered with American Express through its Sustainable Tourism Initiative to provide funding to support Route 66 projects, including an Economic Impact Study of Historic Preservation and Tourism, and this Route 66 National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary.
There is a spirit, a feeling that resides along this highway. The spirit of Route 66 lives in the people and their stories, the views and buildings, and travelers' perceptions of the highway. Today’s travelers can still experience a remarkable journey traveling through time on Route 66.
Adapted from Route 66 Special Resource Study and Route 66 Corridor National Historic Context Study.
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Before 1926: The Origins of Route 66
United States Highway 66 followed in the wake of the nation's first trans-Mississippi migration. In 1853, Congress commissioned Captain Amiel Weeks Whipple of the Army Topographical Corps to conduct a survey for a proposed transcontinental railroad. Congress ultimately opted against the railroad and instead subsidized a network of wagon roads to improve military and civilian communications throughout the western frontier. In 1857, Congress commissioned Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale to chart a wagon road following the 35th parallel from Fort Defiance close to the New Mexico/Arizona border to the Colorado River. Beale's Road established a vital military transportation and communication link between Fort Smith near the Arkansas River and the westernmost reaches of the Southwest. In underwriting the $200,000 expense to establish what Lt. Beale felt certain would become "the great emigrant road to California," the Federal Government provided the impetus for the creation of the transcontinental railroad and the establishment of Route 66.
Beale's Road was the frontier antecedent of Route 66. Interest in the route resurfaced under the National Old Trails Road Movement, when motorists began to discuss the need for an ocean-to-ocean thoroughfare in the first decades of the 20th century. Promoters hoped to capitalize on the national appeal of the Panama-Pacific Expositions scheduled to open in San Diego and San Francisco in 1915, as justification for Federal subsidies of a continuously paved transcontinental highway. As conceived in 1912, the National Old Trails Road was to originate on the east coast with branches to Baltimore and Washington, DC, and terminate on the west coast in San Diego. During its lifetime, the road's promotional arm, the National Old Trails Road Association, promoted improvement of the proposed ocean-to-ocean corridor as it retraced the nation's historic trails. The association also championed good roads in America by advocating direct Federal involvement in road construction in lieu of Federal aid to State agencies. This concept became a part of Federal highway policy in 1916 that continues today.
The first leg of the ocean-to-ocean highway that the National Old Trails Association proposed in 1912 originated in Washington, DC and traced the Cumberland Road, a well-established historic avenue, to St. Louis. From Missouri, the highway followed the Santa Fe Trail to Albuquerque and Santa Fe before taking a more southerly course through Arizona to Flagstaff, gateway to the Grand Canyon. Flagstaff's pioneer lumberman, Matthew J. Riordan, detailed the final leg of the route that most closely approximates the 1927 orientation of U.S. Highway 66. Christened the "Grand Canyon Route," the road was eventually constructed from Williams to Ashfork and Seligman in Yavapai County to Topock, Arizona on the Colorado River, where automobiles could be loaded on railway flatcars and transported across an expansion bridge that the Santa Fe Railroad built to Needles, California. From this desert community, the road proceeded 164 miles across the Mojave to Barstow and the desert communities of Bakersfield and San Bernardino terminating in San Diego.
The official origin of Route 66 was the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921. A road assessment of a decade earlier estimated the total mileage of rural roads in America at approximately 2.5 million miles, 10.5% of them surfaced. Of those 257,291 miles, only 32,180 had pavement of bituminous material, brick, or concrete. The intent of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921, successor to the earlier highway appropriations legislation of 1916, was to create a coherent highway network by requiring that Federal aid be concentrated on projects that would expedite completion of an adequate and connected system of interstate highways. A minimum of 60% of Federal funds were be spent on what was designated the primary or interstate network.
The automobile and construction of the vast network of highways that gave motorists a route to travel were both marvels of the 20th century. Established to facilitate travel across the 3,000-mile stretch of mountains and prairies between New York and San Francisco, the Lincoln Highway predated Route 66 by more than a decade. From 1912 until the end of the First World War, cross-country travel along the Lincoln Highway was largely limited to the wealthy few who could afford an automobile and dared to challenge the uneven, ill-defined course of the road. Route 66 opened the way for the masses to travel.
Route 66 was the result of America's infatuation with rapid mobility, mass transportation, and technological change. Historian Richard Davies wrote, “the automobile constituted a personalized urban mass transit system, allowing the owner to travel whenever or wherever he desired." Moreover, it provided a personal means of escape from the congestion of metropolitan America. One significant effect of the increased use of the automobile, according to Davies, was to reduce cross-country travel from an adventure of the affluent and stouthearted to a relatively inexpensive and common occurrence.
The 1920s were the first boom years for the automobile. In 1910, two years before the authorization of the Lincoln Highway, the United States had 180,000 registered automobiles, a ratio of about one car for every 5,000 citizens. The subsequent decade saw the addition of more than 17 million cars, trucks, and buses to America's motor fleet. This figure increased 6.5 times to 112 million in the 1970s. Not surprisingly, Americans demanded improved highways to serve the growing number of vehicles on America's roadways. The Federal Government's early response to these demands first breathed life into Route 66.
Although entrepreneurs Cyrus Avery of Tulsa, Oklahoma and John Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri deserve most of the credit for promoting the idea of an interregional link between Chicago and Los Angeles, their lobbying efforts were not successful until their dreams merged with the national program of highway and road development. While legislation for public highways first appeared in 1916 with revisions in 1921, it was not until Congress enacted a more comprehensive version of the law in 1925 that the government executed its plan for national highway construction. Officially, the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route received the numerical designation of Route 66 in the summer of 1926. That designation acknowledged the route as one of the nation's principal east-west arteries. Mostly, U.S. 66 was just an assignment of a number to an already existing network of State-managed roads, most of which were in poor condition.
From the outset, public road planners intended U.S. 66 to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities along its course for the most practical of reasons: most small towns had no prior access to a major national thoroughfare. Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907, but before 1926, Cyrus Avery's hometown of Tulsa, and most of what was once called "Indian Territory," had few improved roads. In those days, driving the 103 miles of uneven dirt roads from Tulsa to Oklahoma City took six hours. Both admitted to the Union in 1912, scarcely 14 years before the construction of Route 66, New Mexico and Arizona suffered from the same lack of good roads.
Road use in these remote desert States was sporadic. In 1925, New Mexico's Office of the State Engineer reported that only an average of 207 cars used the road daily between Albuquerque and Gallup. Arizona reported a slightly higher daily count of 338 cars, but road conditions were not desirable. As described in the summer of 1925, the section between Ashfork and Seligman, Arizona was "Unimproved except in the way of removing boulders from the road that might menace a low-clearance car . . . it is a twenty-mile (per hour) road." Extension of U.S. Highway 66 into these desolate western territories would help facilitate their transition to statehood by offering greater access to prospective residents and travelers.
Adapted from Route 66 Special Resource Study and Route 66 Corridor National Historic Context Study.
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Route 66: 1926 - 1945
Formative Years: 1926-1932
Route 66 had its official beginnings in 1926 when the Bureau of Public Roads launched the nation’s first Federal highway system. Like other highways in the system, the path of Route 66 was a cobbling together of existing local, State, and national road networks. Extending 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, the new highway wound through eight States and was not completely paved until 12 years after its designation. Many of the merchants in the small and large towns through which the highway passed looked to the road as an economic opportunity to bring much needed outside revenues into their often rural and isolated communities. Actively promoted in its early years, the highway quickly became a popular transcontinental route, because it offered a route with better weather than alternative east-west roadways. As the highway became busier with the nation’s traffic, the roadbed received marked improvements, and the infrastructure of support businesses, especially fuel, lodging, and food, lining its right-of-way expanded dramatically.
Spawned by the demands of a rapidly changing America, Route 66 did not follow a traditionally linear course in contrast to the Lincoln, the Dixie, and other highways of its day. Its diagonal route linked hundreds of predominantly rural communities in Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas to Chicago, thus enabling farmers to transport grain and produce for redistribution. This diagonal configuration was particularly significant to the trucking industry, which by 1930 rivaled the railroad for preeminence in the American shipping industry. In addition to its abbreviated route between Chicago and the Pacific coast, Route 66 traversed essentially flat prairie lands and enjoyed a more temperate climate than that of northern highways, further enhancing its appeal to truckers. The Illinois Motor Vehicles Division reported that between Chicago and St. Louis trucks increased from approximately 1,500 per day in 1931 to 7,500 trucks a day a decade later. Twenty-five percent of these were large tractor-truck, semi-trailer outfits.
Highway designers intended to make Route 66 "modern" in every sense of the term. State engineers worked to reduce the number of curves, widen lanes, and ensure all-weather capability. Until 1933, the responsibility for improving existing highways fell almost exclusively to individual States. The more assertive and financially prepared States met the challenge. Initial improvements cost State agencies an estimated $22,000 per mile. In 1929, Illinois boasted approximately 7,500 miles of paved roads, its entire portion of U.S. Highway 66. A Texaco Gasoline road report published that same year noted the route as entirely concrete in Kansas, 66% paved in Missouri, and 25% improved in Oklahoma. In contrast, the 1,200-mile western stretch had not seen a cement mixer, with the exception of California's metropolitan areas. Until the height of the Great Depression, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and the desert communities of southeast California had a collective total of only 64.1 miles of surfaced highway along Route 66.
The Great Depression and World War II: 1933--1945
Washington's increased level of commitment began with the Great Depression and the national appeal for emergency Federal relief measures. In his famous social commentary, The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck proclaimed U.S. Highway 66 the "Mother Road." Steinbeck's classic 1939 novel and the 1940 film re-creation of the epic odyssey immortalized Route 66 in the American consciousness. An estimated 210,000 people migrated to California to escape the despair of the Dust Bowl. In the minds of those who endured that particularly painful experience and in the view of generations of children to whom they recounted their story, Route 66 symbolized the "road to opportunity."
Re-examining the Great Depression years, contemporary writers found that thousands of disillusioned immigrants returned home within months after reaching the Golden State. Of the more than 200,000 refugees who journeyed west to California beginning in the early 1930s, less than 16,000 people from the Dust Bowl proper ended up in California. Despite popular perceptions promoted in Steinbeck's novel, James Gregory argues convincingly that barely 8% of the "Dust Bowlers" who set out for California remained there. California's total demographic growth between 1930 and 1940 reflected scarcely more than a 22% increase, compared to a 53% growth rate in the following decade.
The importance of Route 66 to emigrating "Dust Bowlers" during the Depression years received wide publicity. Less is known about the importance of the highway to those who opted to eke out a living in economically devastated Kansas, Oklahoma, West Texas, and New Mexico. During this time, U.S. Highway 66 and other major roads in America had integral links to President Roosevelt's revolutionary New Deal programs for work relief and economic recovery. Road improvements and maintenance work were central features of the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Project Administration (WPA) programs. From 1933 to 1938, thousands of unemployed male youths from virtually every State were put to work as laborers on road gangs. Because of this monolithic effort, the entire highway from Chicago to Los Angeles had pavement by 1938. In Gregory’s final analysis, Route 66 affected more Americans on Federal work relief than people who used it during the famous exodus to California.
As the Depression worked its baleful effects on the nation, it also produced an ironic consequence along Route 66; the vast migration of destitute people fleeing from the privation of their former homes actually produced an increased volume of business along the highway, thus providing commercial opportunities for a multitude of low-capital, mom-and-pop businesses. The buildings constructed for these businesses reflected the independence of the operations, a general absence of standardization, and a decentralized economic structure. At the same time, it became clear that life along Highway 66 presented opportunities not available to the nearby towns and businesses that lost traffic to the important highway and who suffered accordingly. At a very early point it was evident that a major nearby highway could both bring business and take it away.
Completion of the all-weather capability of Route 66 on the eve of World War II was particularly significant to the nation's war effort. The experience of a young Army captain, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who found his command bogged down in spring mud near Fort Riley, Kansas while on a coast-to-coast maneuver, left an indelible impression. The War Department needed improved highways for rapid mobilization during wartime and for national defense during peacetime. At the outset of American involvement in World War II, the War Department singled out the West as ideal for military training bases, in part because of its geographic isolation and especially because it offered consistently dry weather for air and field maneuvers. The department invested over $230 million in new military bases in Arizona alone. Several military installations, including Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Fort Wingate Ordnance Depot in New Mexico, Navajo Ordnance Depot in Arizona, and Edwards Air Force Base in California, were established on or near Route 66.
America's mobilization for war after Pearl Harbor underscored the necessity for a systematic network of roads and highways. The War Department's expropriation of the nation's railways left a transportation vacuum in the West that only the trucking industry could fill. Automobile manufacturers suffered critical shortages of steel, glass, and rubber during the war years, and plants in Detroit converted to the production of tanks, aircraft engines, ordnance, and troop transports. According to one government source, the production of new cars dropped from 3.7 million in 1941 to 610 in 1943, because of rationing.
At the same time, production of trucks capable of hauling loads in excess of 30,000 pounds increased to keep pace with wartime demands. Studies by the Public Roads Administration between 1941 and 1943 showed that trucks rather than trains transported and delivered at least 50% of all defense-related material destined for America's war production plants. Because Route 66 was the shortest corridor between the west coast and the industrial heartland beyond Chicago, mile-long convoys commonly moved troops and supplies from one military reservation to another along the highway.
Route 66 helped to facilitate the single greatest wartime mobilization of labor in the history of the nation. Between 1941 and 1945, the government invested approximately $70 billion in capital projects throughout California, many in the Los Angeles-San Diego area. This enormous capital outlay underwrote entirely new industries that created thousands of civilian jobs. By 1942, with the exhaustion of available local labor in most areas on the Pacific Coast, war contractors began a frantic search for skilled and unskilled workers from across the United States. Under the provisions of the West Coast Manpower Plan initiated in September 1943, contractors prepared to offer jobs to 500,000 men and women to meet the production demands of global war.
In February 1942, Public Roads Administration Commissioner Thomas MacDonald announced that existing rail and bus transit facilities could accommodate only a small fraction of the 10 million workers required to operate the defense plants. The rest would have to move in private automobiles. They moved in unprecedented numbers. The net result of this mass migration was the loss of more than 1 million people from the metropolitan northeast between 1940 and 1943. Three Pacific Coast States--California, Oregon, and Washington--increased 38.9% in population (measured against a national average of 8.7%). Route 66 played a critical role in this vast movement of Americans to meet the demands of war.
Adapted from Route 66 Special Resource Study and Route 66 Corridor National Historic Context Study.
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Postwar Years of Route 66: 1945 - 1960
The social dislocation and uprooting of millions of Americans that began during the Great Depression and continued through World War II did not abate with the surrender of Germany and Japan. After the war, Americans were more mobile than ever before. Thousands of soldiers, sailors, and airmen who received military training in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas abandoned the harsh winters of Chicago, New York City, and Boston for the "barbecue culture" of the Southwest and the West. For many, Route 66 facilitated their relocation.
One such emigrant was Robert William Troup, Jr. of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Bobby Troup, former pianist with the Tommy Dorsey band and ex-Marine captain, penned a lyrical map of the now famous cross-country road. The words of his song, "get your kicks on Route 66," became the catch phrase for countless motorists, who moved back and forth between Chicago and the Pacific coast. One scholar likened the popular recording released in 1946 by Nat King Cole one week after Troup's arrival in Los Angeles to "a cartographic ballad." Bobby Troup's musical rendition provided a convenient mental road map for those who followed him west.
During the postwar decades, the population shift from "Snowbelt" to "Sunbelt" reached its zenith. Census figures for these years revealed population growth along Route 66 ranging from 40% in New Mexico to 74% in Arizona. Because of the great influx of people during the war years, California claimed over half of the total population of the West between 1950 and 1980.
The demographic disruption that began in the 1930s continued to stimulate roadside commerce. Storeowners, motel managers, and gas station attendants recognized early on that even the poorest travelers required food, automobile maintenance, and adequate lodging. Just as New Deal work relief programs provided employment with the construction and the maintenance of Route 66, the appearance of countless tourist courts, garages, and diners promised sustained economic growth after the road's completion. While military use of the highway during wartime ensured the early success of roadside businesses, the demands of the new tourism industry in the postwar decades gave rise to modern facilities that guaranteed long-term prosperity.
The roadside architecture along U.S. Highway 66 illustrates the evolution of these facilities. Most Americans who drove the route did not stay in hotels; they preferred accommodations more convenient for automobile travelers. Motels evolved from earlier features of the American roadside such as the auto camp and the tourist home. The auto camp developed as townspeople along Route 66 roped off spaces in which travelers could camp for the night. Camp supervisors, some employed by the various States, provided water, fuel wood, privies or flush toilets, showers, and laundry facilities free of charge. Camp Joy near Lebanon, Missouri and Red Arrow Campground in Thoreau, New Mexico are examples of auto camps that have survived to the present day. The successor to the auto camp was the tourist home, which provided many of the same amenities but with the added feature of indoor lodging in the event of inclement weather.
The natural outgrowth of the auto camp and tourist home was the cabin camp, sometimes called cottages, which offered minimal comfort at affordable prices. Many of these cottages are still in operation. Eventually, auto camps and cabin camps gave way to motor courts or motels with all of the rooms under a single roof. Motor courts offered additional amenities such as adjoining restaurants, souvenir shops, and swimming pools. An estimated 30,000 motor courts or motels were in operation along the nation's many highways in 1948. Some of the more famous still associated with Route 66 are the El Vado and the Zia Motor Lodge in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the Coral Court in St. Louis, Missouri. The Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri and Wigwam Village Motel #6 in Holbrook, Arizona still offer travelers the experience of what it was like to stop for the night on the Mother Road.
In the early years of Route 66, service station prototypes developed regionally through experimentation, then spread across the country. Gas stations had distinct buildings clearly associated with a particular petroleum company. Most started as simple house-like buildings with one or two service pumps in front and grew to larger, more elaborate stations complete with service bays and tire outlets. Soulsby's Shell Station in Mount Olive, Illinois and the Tower Fina Station in Shamrock, Texas are outstanding examples of the evolution of gas stations along Route 66.
Route 66 and many of the points of interest along the way were familiar landmarks by the time a new generation of postwar motorists hit the road in the 1960s. Many drew upon memories from excursions with their parents in the 1940s and 50s. World War II transformed the American public from a predominantly agricultural-industrial laboring class to an urban-technological society with increasing leisure and recreational time. American tourists' fondness for automobile travel and their enjoyment of sightseeing made them ideal targets for the service industries that cropped up along Route 66. A growing fascination with American Indian cultures led to increasing commercialization as public highways penetrated once inaccessible reservations. Interest in American Indians and the scenic, geologic, and historic wonders protected by the National Park System lured countless sightseers. To the average motorist during the post war period, a trip down Route 66 was an adventure through mainstream America accentuated by mom-and-pop motels, all-night diners, Indian curio shops, and far-too-infrequent restroom facilities.
Adapted from Route 66 Special Resource Study and Route 66 Corridor National Historic Context Study.
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Demise and Resurgence of interest in Route 66
Excessive truck use during World War II and the comeback of the automobile industry immediately following the war brought great pressure to bear on America's highways. Automobile production jumped from just over 65,000 cars in 1945 to 3.9 million in 1948. Meanwhile, the deterioration of the national highway system was appalling. Virtually all roads, including Route 66, were functionally obsolete because of narrow pavements and antiquated structural features that reduced carrying capacity.
Emergency road building measures developed during wartime left bridges and culverts woefully inadequate for postwar needs. In the 1940s, most bridges in Illinois and Missouri used wood as a substitute for steel. Steel reinforcements were virtually nonexistent in concrete pavement, and sporadic maintenance left U.S. 66 and other highways riddled with potholes and gaping fissures.
The need for a modern system of national highways was painfully obvious. In 1941, Thomas MacDonald, director of the Public Roads Administration, told of the urgency for improved highways across the country in his report, "Highway for the National Defense." MacDonald estimated that 78,000 miles of roads and highways vital to the war effort needed improvements. The director estimated the cost for maintenance and repair to be $458 million. In anticipation of postwar traffic needs, MacDonald proposed a transcontinental expressway not to exceed 40,000 miles, designed to connect all of the major metropolitan centers in the United States. The Interregional Highway Committee, President Roosevelt's advisory group on national defense highways, adopted the so-called MacDonald Plan with the recommendation that $500 million be allocated over three years to implement the interstate highway system. National defense priorities during the war, however, tabled MacDonald's proposal until the surrender of Germany and Japan.
The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1944 incorporated both civilian and military highway needs into a single piece of legislation, the legal embodiment of the MacDonald Plan. The act incorporated the idea of a 40,000-mile national system of interstate highways, but Congress failed to appropriate funds for its construction. Not until the 1950s, and the War Department's prediction that the Korean Conflict was merely a prelude to a more widespread involvement in Asia, did the dream of an interstate system of expressways linking all regions of the United States become a reality.
Ironically, the public lobby for rapid mobility and improved highways that gained Route 66 its enormous popularity in earlier decades also signaled its demise beginning in the mid-1950s. Mass support for an interstate system of divided highways markedly increased during President Dwight D. Eisenhower's second term in the White House. General Eisenhower returned from Germany very impressed by the strategic value of Hitler's Autobahn. "During World War II," he recalled later, "I saw the superlative system of German national highways crossing that country and offering the possibility, often lacking in the United States, to drive with speed and safety at the same time." Heightened global tension hastened by the Cold War affirmed Eisenhower's resolve to improve the defense capabilities of the nation's highways.
Congress responded to the president's commitment by passing the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which provided a comprehensive financial umbrella to underwrite the cost of the national interstate and defense highway system. In accord with the legislation, Interstate 40 west from Oklahoma City through the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, northern Arizona, and finally ending in Barstow, California would replace the major segment of U.S. 66. By 1960, each of the States along the original U.S. 66 spent between $14 and $20 million to construct their portions of the interstate, designed to accommodate 1975 traffic projections. By 1970, two equally modern four-lane highways, Interstate 55 between Chicago and St. Louis and Interstate 44, which absorbed the old diagonal section from St. Louis to Oklahoma City, replaced the remaining segments of the original Route 66. On June 26, 1979, the American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) accepted the recommendation to eliminate the designation of Route 66. The committee noted that "U.S. 66 markings no longer served as a through-state guide to tourists, but in fact generated confusion because the route coincided with interstate designations over much of its length." Many of the States along this part of Route 66 pledged to preserve some symbol of the historic highway with signs reading "Old U.S. 66."
In many respects, the physical remains of Route 66 mirror the evolution of highway development in the United States from a rudimentary hodge-podge of State and county roads to a federally subsidized complex of uniform, well-designed interstate expressways. Various Route 66 alignments, many still detectable, illustrate the evolution of road engineering from coexistence with the surrounding landscape to domination of it. One outstanding example of the highway in its early form is the 3.5 mile section near Miami, Oklahoma, constructed between 1919 and 1924. Many of the original segments of Route 66 have been either abandoned or modified for secondary use. Modern improvements such as widened shoulders, adequate swales, gentler curves, resurfaced pavement, and brightly painted safety stripes have not been able to keep the highway from becoming obsolete.
The last outdated, poorly maintained vestiges of U.S. Highway 66 succumbed to the interstate system in October 1984 when Interstate 40 at Williams, Arizona, replaced the final section of the original road. In 1985, the highway was officially decommissioned. Soon after, members of the public, private organizations, and local, State, and Federal agencies who understood the historic and social significance of the road began campaigns to preserve and commemorate the highway. As part of these efforts, many historic resources associated with Route 66 have been nominated and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Numerous associations developed to promote travel and preservation of the road. State agencies worked to mark the road with signs so that the traveling public could remain aware of the route’s location. Some States designated Route 66 as a State and/or National Scenic Byway. Businesses along the road began catering to tourists who continued to seek out the alignments of the route.
In 1990, the United States Congress passed Public Law 101-400, the Route 66 Study Act of 1990, recognizing that Route 66 had “become a symbol of the American people's heritage of travel and their legacy of seeking a better life." In accord with the legislation, the National Park Service conducted the Route 66 Special Resource Study to evaluate the significance of Route 66 in American history and to identify options for its preservation, interpretation, and use. This study led to the enactment of Public Law 106-45 and the creation of the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. This program provides financial and technical assistance to individuals; nonprofits; local, State, tribal and Federal agencies; and others to help preserve the most significant and representative historic resources along the route for people to learn from and enjoy.
Adapted from Route 66 Special Resource Study and Route 66 Corridor National Historic Context Study.
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List of Sites The sites are listed in the geographical order driving from east to west along Route 66, starting in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles.
(Click on the name of any site in the list to go directly to a specific text-only version found below)
• Grant Park, Chicago
• Lou Mitchell's Restaurant, Chicago
• Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket, Hinsdale
• Ambler's Texaco Gas Station, Dwight
• Standard Oil Gas Station, Odell
• Illinois State Police Office, Pontiac
• Sprague's Super Service, Normal
• Downey Building, Atlanta
• Ariston Café, Litchfield
• Belvidere Café, Motel, and Gas Station, Litchfield
• Soulsby Service Station, Mount Olive
• Chain of Rocks Bridge, Madison
• Illinois Road Segments
• Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge, Eureka
• Big Chief Restaurant, Wildwood
• Red Cedar Inn, Pacific
• Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba
• Pulaski County Courthouse, Waynesville
• Gillioz Theatre, Springfield
• Rock Fountain Court, Springfield
• 66 Drive-In, Carthage
• Kansas Route 66 Historic District-East Galena, Galena
• Williams' Store, Riverton
• Brush Creek Bridge, Cherokee County
• Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas, Baxter Springs
• Coleman Theater, Miami
• Miami Marathon Oil Company Service Station, Miami
• Chelsea Motel, Chelsea
• Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park, Foyil
• Vickery Phillips 66 Station, Tulsa
• 11th Street Arkansas River Bridge, Tulsa
• Bridge #18 at Rock Creek, Sapulpa
• Rock Café, Stroud
• Seaba Station, Warwick
• Chandler Armory, Chandler
• Threatt Filling Station, Luther
• Arcadia Round Barn, Arcadia
• Milk Bottle Grocery, Oklahoma City
• Lake Overholser Bridge, Oklahoma City
• Avant's Cities and Jacksons Conoco Service Stations, El Reno
• Fort Reno, El Reno
• Provine Service Station, Hydro
• McLain Rogers Park, Clinton
• Y Service Station and Café, Clinton
• Beckham County Courthouse, Sayre
• West Winds Motel, Erick
• Oklahoma Road Segments
• Route 66 Bridge over the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad, Shamrock
• Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café, Shamrock
• McLean Commercial Historic District, McLean
• Route 66 , SH 207 to Interstate 40, Conway
• Ranchotel, Amarillo
• U.S. Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District, Amarillo
• Vega Motel, Vega
• Glenrio Historic District, Glenrio
• Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari
• Richardson Store, Montoya
• Park Lake Historic District, Santa Rosa
• Pueblo of Santo Domingo (Kewa Pueblo), Santo Domingo
• Luna Lodge, Albuquerque
• Tewa Motor Lodge, Albuquerque
• De Anza Motor Lodge, Albuquerque
• Nob Hill Shopping Center, Albuquerque
• Jones Motor Company, Albuquerque
• Barelas-South Fourth Street Historic District, Albuquerque
• KiMo Theater, Albuquerque
• Maisel's Indian Trading Post, Albuquerque
• New Mexico Madonna of the Trail, Albuquerque
• El Vado Auto Court Motel, Albuquerque
• Rio Puerco Bridge, Rio Puerco
• Pueblo of Laguna, Laguna
• Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post, Bluewater
• Roy T. Herman's Garage and Service Station, Thoreau
• Fort Wingate Historic District, Fort Wingate
• El Rancho Hotel, Gallup
• New Mexico Road Segments
• Querino Canyon Bridge, Houck
• Painted Desert Inn, Navajo
• Wigwam Village Motel #6, Holbrook
• La Posada Historic District, Winslow
• Walnut Canyon Bridge, Winona
• Railroad Addition Historic District and Boundary Increase, Flagstaff
• Seligman Historic District, Seligman
• Peach Springs Trading Post, Peach Springs
• Schoolhouse at Truxton Canyon Trading School, Valentine
• Kingman Commercial Historic District, Kingman
• Durlin Hotel, Oatman
• Old Trails Bridge, Topock
• Arizona Road Segments
• El Garces, Needles
• Harvey House Railroad Depot, Barstow
• Aztec Hotel, Monrovia
• Foothill Boulevard Milestone, Pasadena
• Howard Motor Company Building, Pasadena
• Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena
• Bekins Storage Co., Pasadena
• Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena
• Broadway Theater and Commercial District, Los Angeles
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Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois
Route 66 tends to evoke images of open, western landscapes like
Monument Valley, but the road is also urban. Nowhere is it more so than
in downtown Chicago, where the quintessential American corridor begins,
or ends, depending on your perspective, at Grant Park. At the
intersection of Jackson and Michigan Avenues is the “End Historic Route
66” sign. Many vintage icons from the Route 66 era have been lost, but
not Grant Park, the historic road’s official eastern terminus.
in close proximity to Lake Michigan, Grant Park is one of the oldest
parks in the city and had its beginnings in the 1830s, but the 1893
World Exposition was a catalyst for its historic significance. Chicago
spent $27 million hosting the landmark event. Running from May to
October of 1893, the fair covered 633 acres and attracted numbers equal
to nearly half of the United States population. The fair introduced
several firsts, including Cracker Jacks, Aunt Jemima syrup, diet soda,
and Pabst beer. It also introduced the idea of making Grant Park a
major civic and cultural landmark.
In all, Grant Park
lived up to its promise as Chicago’s cultural and civic center. Grand
promenades, groomed lawns, and numerous bridges and fountains, along
with modern installations of art and three major historic cultural
institutions for the public--the Art Institute, the Shedd Aquarium, and
the Field Museum of Natural History--all distinguish the park. Statues
of Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, and various
other equestrian sculptures provide visual focus for various areas.
Built in 1927, the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain is a
monumental focal point. The park hosts public appearances of famous
people, special events, and festivals and serves as a neighborhood park
used for baseball games, ice skating, tennis, walking, jogging, and
Pairing Grant Park with Route 66, the
major east-west automobile artery, was a natural choice. Before the
advent of Route 66, the popular Pontiac Trail already connected Chicago
to St. Louis. In 1918, Illinois began paving the road. By the time
Route 66 came along, the entire Pontiac Trail had pavement. By 1927,
when Louis Armstrong and the accompanying King Oliver’s Creole Jazz
Band, ushered in the Jazz Age in Chicago, Route 66 signs were visible
all along the Illinois route. Chicago sported numerous services to
accommodate travelers, including its parkland gem, Grant Park. The
National Park Service acknowledged Grant Park’s significance in its
1993 National Register of Historic Places listing.
Grant Park’s street address is 337 East Randolph St. in Chicago, IL. The park
is bounded on the north by Randolph Dr. and the Chicago River, on the
east by Lake Michigan, on the south by McFetridge Dr., and on the west
by Michigan Ave. The park is open Monday-Friday 9:00am to 10:00pm and
Saturday and Sunday 9:00am to 5:00pm, and is wheelchair accessible.
Call 312-742-7648 for information or visit the Chicago Park District
Grant Park website.
For information on visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, see the Art Institute website.
For information on visiting the Shedd Aquarium, see the aquarium website.
For information on visiting the Field Museum, see the museum website.
The Grant Park National Register nomination form can be found here.
Lou Mitchell's Restaurant, Chicago, Illinois
One of the first stops on the Mother Road, Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant in
downtown Chicago offers a scrumptious send off to travelers headed out
on historic Route 66. A visit to this crowded, urban establishment is
not your average main street experience. It serves to remind us that
the hundreds of small towns strung along the great arc of the Mother
Road were connected to the two metropolitan giants of Los Angeles and
Built in 1949, Lou Mitchell’s is located at 565 West Jackson Boulevard, a few
blocks west of Lake Michigan and the eastern terminus of Route 66. To
enjoy the full impact of this restaurant’s façade tucked snugly between
two taller buildings, view it at a distance from across the street.
Visitors immediately focus on the original aluminum and glass
storefront. Rising up from the upper front façade and extending the
entire length of the building is the eye catching, original 1949 neon
sign that proudly states “Lou Mitchell’s Serving the World’s Best
Coffee.” Another original sign, this one extolling the restaurant’s
handmade bakery goods, is still hanging on the front façade. Aside from
timely upgrades of the kitchen and bathrooms, the interior of Lou
Mitchell’s has not been significantly altered since 1949. The dining
room retains its original black and white terrazzo flooring, and most
of the dining and counteareas are unchanged.
have their original wood tables, coat racks, and seats, although the
seats sport new upholstery. The multi-sided counters with individual
stools are original but have newer laminated surfaces and upholstery.
Much of the wood and Formica wall paneling dates to 1949. All in all,
the stylistic choices made in 1949 point not backward but to the
future, to the 1950s. The restaurant’s intense presentation of neon,
shining glass, and sleek aluminum truly place this historic eatery in
Route 66’s classic Golden Age.
The mix of local
Chicagoans and travelers usually found at Lou Mitchell’s underscores
one of the most important historical dynamics of the Route 66
experience. In the middle of the 20th century, the Mother Road brought
people together from all corners of the country as locals and outsiders
rubbed shoulders in countless diners, gas stations, and motor courts.
Of course, at Lou Mitchell’s the visitor will probably be literally
rubbing shoulders as this popular spot is often crowded, sometimes with
lines stretching out the door. To ease the wait, the staff passes out
its famous freshly baked donut holes to all, and complimentary Milk
Duds to all female guests and children, according to an old tradition.
Once inside, diners have the opportunity to sample some excellent
breakfast and lunch fare.
Despite its metropolitan
setting, Lou Mitchell’s shares a characteristic in common with hundreds
of small town commercial establishments that have plied their trade
along the Mother Road: it is family-owned and run. Founder William
Mitchell, whose original restaurant was across the street on the north
side of Jackson Boulevard, named his 1923 startup after his son Lou,
who worked with other family members helping to run the restaurant. Lou
eventually took over operations and ran the restaurant well into his
seventies. In 1992, he sold the restaurant to his niece, Katherine
Thanas. It remains in the Thanas family today. Lou Mitchell’s was
listed in the National Register of Historic Places in May 2006.
Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant is located in Chicago’s Loop district, at 565
W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Il. The restaurant is open Monday-Saturday
5:30am to 3:00pm, Sunday 7:00am to 3:00pm for breakfast and lunch. For
further information, please call 312-939-3111 or visit Lou Mitchell's Restaurant & Bakery website. The restaurant's National Register nomination form can be found here.
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Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket, Hinsdale, Illinois
“Get Your Chicks on Route 66” is the current slogan of this historic
roadside restaurant that--no surprise--specializes in the tasty bird.
Located just 15 miles from downtown Chicago along historic Route 66 in
Hinsdale, Illinois, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket tempts the hungry
traveler with its special recipe of fried chicken served up in a
historic Route 66 atmosphere. This establishment also stands out as an
impressive example of survival along the Mother Road.
The Chicken Basket began in the 1930s as a mere lunch counter attached to a
service station in then rural Hinsdale. This mix and match of functions
was typical for Route 66 establishments, which often operated on very
thin profit margins that allowed them to be creative in attracting
customers. Legend has it that in the late 1930s two local farm women
offered a deal to the original owner, Irv Kolarik, who was looking to
expand his food menu. They would reveal their excellent fried chicken
recipe to Mr. Kolarik and his customers if he would promise to buy the
necessary chickens from them. To sweeten the deal, the women offered to
teach him how to actually fry the chicken. Soon, the service station
was history and the Chicken Basket was born.
The restaurant’s current site is adjacent to the location of the old 1930s
lunch counter/service. It was established at a very special time for
Route 66. Built in 1946, the new Chicken Basket opened its doors just
as Jack D. Rittenhouse was putting the finishing touches on his now
famous travelogue, A Guide Book to Highway 66, a publication that
heralded the great postwar boom in business and travel all along Route
Architect Eugene F. Stoyke, who designed several
residences and commercial buildings in the vicinity, is also
responsible for this one-story brick building constructed in the
no-nonsense, utilitarian commercial style of the immediate postwar
period. Over all, the restaurant retains much of its original 1946
appearance. The exterior walls are common bond brick, and on the east
façade is a continuous window bay holding nine original, single light
glass and wood canted windows. A canvas awning typical of the period
covers the entire window bay. The restaurant has a flat, steel roof
that did double duty in the 1950s. To attract customers, Mr. Kolarik
flooded the roof in winter and hired youths to ice skate on top of the
building! The large dining room has painted brick walls, carpeted
floors, and its original drywall ceiling. A cocktail lounge, added in
1956 as business continued to boom, retains its original bar and
diagonal and vertical wood paneling. In front of the building stands
the original neon and metal sign.
Like so many successful businesses along Route 66, the Chicken Basket faced a serious challenge
when the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 mandated the Federal
Interstate Highway System. Although the restaurant had flourished since
1949, the coming of the four lane, limited access to I-55 in Hinsdale
and in 1962 quickly siphoned off traffic and customers from Route 66.
Business plummeted, and in that very same year a local bank foreclosed
on the property. The Chicken Basket managed to escape the fate of so
many other establishments along the Mother Road in the age of the
interstate. In 1963, Delbert (Dell) Rhea, a savvy Chicago businessman,
purchased the restaurant and turned things around through aggressive
advertising aimed at Chicago’s expanding suburban population as well as
travelers. Today, the restaurant flourishes under the direction of his
son, Patrick Rhea. Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is a must visit landmark
along historic Illinois Route 66. The restaurant was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in May 2006.
Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is located on 645 Joliet Rd., Willowbrook
(Hinsdale), IL at the intersection of Rt. 83 and I-55. The restaurant
is closed Mondays and open Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, 11:00am to 9:00pm,
Friday and Saturday 11:00am to 10:00pm. The Blue Rooster Lounge is open
every day except Monday and features live music and events. For more
information, call 630-325-0780 or visit the Chicken Basket website. The Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket National Register nomination form can be found here.
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Ambler's Texaco Gas Station, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station, also known as Vernon’s Texaco Station and
Becker’s Marathon Gas Station, is located along historic Route 66 in
the Village of Dwight. The station gets its name from longtime manager
Basil “Tubby” Ambler, who operated the station from 1938 to 1966. The
original 1933 building Jack Shore built consisted of an office with
wood clapboard siding, an arched roof with asphalt shingles, and
residential windows adorned with shutters and flower boxes. Extending
out from the office over three Texaco gas pumps was a sheltering canopy
supported by two tapered columns. Mr. Shore also constructed an ice
house located on the property.
station’s design, with its cottage look, may strike the contemporary
traveler as quaint--or perhaps even odd. Why, after all, shouldn’t a
gas station look like a gas station? But this domestic style, common
along Route 66, had a distinct purpose and stems from a time in the
early 20th century when gas stations were just beginning to seriously
intrude upon the suburban landscape of America. The oil companies
wisely opted to tread lightly on this new, non-commercial territory.
Gas stations were consciously styled to be homey and inviting to
customers, as well as inconspicuous in their new residential, suburban
surroundings. In the early 1940s, following a national trend that saw
gas stations evolve to full service garages, Mr. Ambler added a service
bay of simple concrete block to the north side of the original
building. Although he left the station in 1966, the station continued
servicing motorists until nearly the turn of the 21st century, making
it one of the oldest continually operated service stations along the
>Over the years, the station naturally
underwent a number of changes. Windows were removed and added, fresh
paint applied, and new roofing laid down. The tall, elegant red pumps
of the 1930s gave way to the squat dispensers of the 1960s; and
Marathon Oil eventually superseded the Texaco Fire Chief brand. The
station operated as a gas station for 66 years until 1999 and was an
auto repair shop until 2002, when the owner Phillip Becker generously
donated the station to the Village of Dwight. With the help of a
$10,400 matching grant from the National Park Service’s Route 66
Corridor Preservation Program, the Village of Dwight painstakingly
restored the station to its former glory, taking the main office and
canopy area back to the 1930s and the service bay area back to its
1940s appearance. Today, the station serves as a visitor’s center for
the Village of Dwight. It was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 2001 and received a Cost-Share Grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in 2002.
Ambler's Texaco Gas Station, now the Village of Dwight's visitors
center, is located at the northeast corner of Old Route 66 and Illinois
Route 17 in Dwight, IL, and is open to visitors traveling historic
Illinois Route 66. For more information, call 217-788-1511.
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Standard Oil Gas Station, Odell, Illinois
In 1868, John D. Rockefeller formed the Standard Oil Company in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was the beginning of the Standard Oil
Trust Company that would soon dominate oil refineries and gas stations
around America. In 1890, the Standard Oil Company set up its first
company in Illinois.
In 1932, a contractor, Patrick O’Donnell, purchased a small parcel of land
along Route 66 in Odell, Illinois. There he built a gas station based
on a 1916 Standard Oil of Ohio design, commonly known as a domestic
style gas station. This “house with canopy” style of gas station gave
customers a comfortable feeling they could associate with home. This
association created an atmosphere of trust for commercial and
recreational travelers of the day.
The station originally sold Standard Oil products, but after O'Donnell leased the
property to others, the station began selling Sinclair and the now
famous Phillips 66. In the late 1940s, O’Donnell added a two-bay garage
to the building to accommodate garage and repair services, which were
necessary in order to stay competitive with the nine other stations
that occupied the short stretch of Route 66 through Odell. The gas
station was in constant use during the heyday of travel on Route 66. It
was a welcomed rest stop for weary travelers and a place for the kids
to get out and stretch their legs.
The station sold gasoline until the 1960s and then became an auto body shop until the
late 1970s, when it closed its doors for good. It fell into disrepair
and would have been destroyed had it not been for the town of Odell and
the people who loved their gas station. In 1997, the station was listed
in the National Register of Historic Places. Then, thanks to a
collaborative effort, the Illinois Route 66 Association, the Village of
Odell, Illinois State Historic Preservation Office, the National Park
Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program,
and Hampton Inn Landmarks restored the station to its former glory. A
Standard Oil sign hanging from the roof swings gently in the warm
breeze and an old-fashioned gas pump looks ready to serve the next
customer. Although Odell's Standard Oil Gas Station no longer sells
gasoline, it has become a welcome center for the Village of Odell. The
station won the National Historic Route 66 Federation Cyrus Avery Award
in 2002 for the year’s most outstanding Route 66 preservation project.
The Standard Oil Gas Station is located at 400 S. West St. in Odell,
IL. Owned by the Village of Odell, the station is open daily 11:00am to
3:00pm for tours and as a visitor center. Contact Odell Tourism and
Community Development for information at 815-998-2133. The station's
National Register nomination form can be found here.
Illinois State Police Office, Pontiac, Illinois
Built in 1941, the District 6 Illinois State Police office is an
example of sleek Art Moderne architecture that reflects the streamlined
design of automobiles of the era. The building has curved corners,
smooth surfaces, and structural glass bricks, all elements typical of
Art Moderne design. Facing an abandoned two-lane section of old Route
66, the office is modest. It’s practical. It’s tan. Motorists could
easily drive right past it without realizing its considerable
significance, but slow down two miles south of Pontiac and take a look
at the building.
the decades before airbags, before seat belts and “click it or ticket”
campaigns, brown-suited State troopers with visors patrolled Illinois
highways, especially the heavily travelled corridor of Route 66. The
Illinois State Police were first organized in 1922 after the election
of Governor Len Small, who ran on the slogan “take Illinois out of the
That year, eight troopers began patrolling the
1,100 miles of paved roads in Illinois. They used surplus World War I
uniforms (pieces included a snug cap, long-sleeved shirt, vest,
jodhpurs, and boots to the knee) and motorcycles, and they did not wear
helmets. The State Police headquarters was a desk in the chief’s house
in Kankakee, Illinois. The patrol’s early emphasis was on truck
regulation--overloaded trucks damaged highway pavement--and speeding
was a secondary concern.
By 1923, 20 officers were on
patrol, covering 109,705 miles of road. Doing the math, that comes to
5,485 miles of road per officer per day. Little wonder, then, that the
force grew rapidly. In 1924, 100 officers were on patrol at salaries of
$150 per month. Four years later, Illinois State Police employed a
chief, 12 sergeants, 140 officers, and six mechanics. That was the year
that troopers got their first patrol cars--1927 Chrysler Coupes issued
only to sergeants. With bug-eyed headlights, wheels with spokes, wide
running boards, and an extra tire mounted on the back, the Chryslers
were chunky, squarish cars, much like early Fords. Ads from the era
boasted that the 1927 Chrysler would reach 60 “mean miles per hour.”
the mid 1930s, troopers were using radios, and the Illinois State
Police staff totaled 350. About this time, Illinois began building
police headquarters in various districts across the State. By 1942, the
Pontiac station was in operation, with one wing for administration and
a second wing for garages. The utilitarian, sleek interior was finished
out with terrazzo floors, plaster walls, and built-in cupboards.
along Route 66 continued to increase throughout the 1940s, and the
headquarters was busy round the clock. In 1944, the route was widened
to four lanes through this region of Illinois, and two additional
highway lanes were constructed directly in front of the building. Speed
limits were imposed during the 1950s. By then, officers drove
distinctively marked black and white cars with crackling radios and
flashing blue lights. Their work had a clear focus--reducing the
rapidly rising death toll from highway accidents
construction of Interstate 55, about a half mile to the west of Route
66 during the 1970s, led to a decrease in traffic on Route 66. The
Illinois State Police remained headquartered in the building until 2003
when the police moved to a new facility in Pontiac. The historic
headquarters is vacant today, but remains an important local landmark.
It was listed in the National Register in 2007. Livingston County has
plans to develop the site for public use as a park. At its center will
be the building that housed for nearly seven decades the officers who
maintained a constant and critical presence on this section of Route 66.
The Illinois State Police Office is located at 15551 Old Route 66
between E 1500 N Rd. and E 1400 N Rd. in Pontiac, IL. The building is
not open to the public. The National Register nomination for the
building can be found here.
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Sprague’s Super Service, Normal, Illinois
The first gas stations along Route 66 were simple curbside pumps
outside general stores. By the late 1920s, the Mother Road supported
stand-alone gas stations--usually two pumps beneath a canopy with a
simple office attached. Over time, gas station buildings became more
substantial. Sprague’s Super Service in Normal, Illinois, may well
represent the apex of this trend.
By 1931, when William Sprague built his station, most of the nation’s gas
stations were affiliated with major oil companies such as Pure Oil,
Phillip’s Petroleum, or Texaco. Architects for these companies provided
functional, standardized station designs. Drivers could glance at a
white building with three green stripes, for example, and know at once
that because of the recognizable icon it was a Texaco station.
Like other small entrepreneurs of the time, Sprague took a different
approach. A building contractor, he constructed his large, unique,
brick, Tudor Revival gas station using high-quality materials and
craftsmanship. The result, Sprague’s Super Service, appeared to be part
manor house and part gas station, and sold City Service gas. Steep
gables distinguished the broad, red roofline. Substantial brick peers
supported the canopy. Stucco with decorative swirls and contrasting
half timbering distinguished the second story.
Distinctiveness was important—just like brand-name operators, independent operators had
to create brand loyalty, even if their brand was their individual
operation. They also worked to promote their identity as good neighbors
and local producers, setting themselves in opposition to corporations,
which they defined as large and impersonal. As road construction and
automobile use grew, so did a backlash against its commercialism and
the “ugliness” of commercial architecture. The Tudor Revival style
Sprague chose for his station, with its historical and domestic
overtones, helped to both establish a local, homey identity and promote
a conservative, rural aesthetic. In the depressed 1930s, when gas far
outstripped consumers, independent operators could use this civic
persona to help sell their gasoline.
Visitors can easily imagine the 1930s, when Chevrolets, Buicks, and Plymouths pulled up
under the canopy, and the station attendant pumped their tanks full of
gasoline at 10 cents a gallon. After buying gas, travelers could step
inside and eat at Sprague’s restaurant or pull into the bay and have
their cars repaired. These enterprises occupied the ground floor of the
building. Upstairs, a spacious apartment, complete with a sun room over
the gas pump canopy, housed Sprague and his family. A second upstairs
apartment housed the station attendant.
Throughout the 1930s, most people passing through Bloomington-Normal from north or
south traveled Pine Street. Traffic was heavy enough to support both
Sprague’s and, just across the street, Snedaker’s Station and Bill’s
Cabins, another 1930s service station jointly administered with a
lodging operation. Pine Street’s heyday was short lived, though. In
1940, the new four-lane Route 66 opened around the east side of
Bloomington, siphoning through-traffic off of East Pine Street. Some
traffic still took the Business Route 66 into Normal, so the station
remained open, but the property changed hands many times as each new
owner sought business opportunities with more appeal for local
The station was vacant for part of World War
II when gasoline and repair parts were scarce. Beginning in 1946,
immediately after the war, the owners still sold gas and food, but they
added other enterprises as well. Over the years, Joe’s Welding and
Boiler Company, Corn Belt Manufacturing, Yellow Cab, and Avis
Rent-a-Car occupied space at Sprague’s. So did a bridal store, cake
gallery, and catering operation. Since the 1960s, these other
enterprises have supplanted the gas station function of the building;
the pumps were removed in 1979.
The present owner purchased the building in 2006 and it was listed in the National
Register of Historic Places in 2008. Plans are underway to rehabilitate
the lower level of the station for use as a visitor center, restaurant,
tea room, and meeting and performance space. Grants from the Town of
Normal, the Illinois Bureau of Tourism, and the National Park Service’s
Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program have helped to support the work.
The owners would also like to use the Federal Historic Rehabilitation
Tax Credit to help defray the costs of rehabilitating registered
historic buildings in the project. The only Tudor Revival canopy gas
station in the State of Illinois, Sprague’s is a testament to sound
construction and local ingenuity.
Sprague’s Super Service is located at 305 East Pine St. in Normal, IL
and is currently used as a private residence. The National Register
nomination form for the building can be found here. More information about the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program can be found here.
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Downey Building, Atlanta, Illinois
Located midway on a straight line between Chicago and St. Louis,
Atlanta was a natural transportation and commercial center for central
Illinois. By 1856, the site was something of a boom town with more than
40 commercial buildings, all built of wood. Therein lay a problem.
During the following few years, several fires razed complete blocks of
the commercial district, convincing local businesspeople, including
Alexander Downey, who lost a building to one of the fires, to rebuild
with brick. Completed in 1867,the Downey Building was one of the first
and most impressive of Atlanta’s brick buildings. Of Italianate design
with distinctive arched windows on both of its two stories, the
building helped give Arch Street its flavor and its name.
Although the Downey Building appears to be a single building, it was built as
two commercial spaces behind a single façade. The southern half of the
building was first occupied by the Exchange Bank of Atlanta, soon
followed by the First National Bank of Atlanta who occupied the space
for many years. After the turn of the century, the father and son law
firm of J.L. and Frank Bevan moved into the space. After Frank Bevan's
death in 1960, the local paper Atlanta Argus published there until a
fire closed the building in 1973. In 1981, after sitting vacant for
many years, the heirs of the Bevan family donated this half of the
building to the Atlanta Public Library and Museum.
The north half of the building attracted a different kind of business
entirely. Used at first as a millenary shop, a hardware store, and a
grocery, the north side of the Downey really came to life in 1934 when
Robert Adams opened the Palms Grill there. On August 4 of that year,
the Argus announced “The Palms Grill, East Side Square--On U.S. Route
66--Atlanta, Now Open for Business. Home Cooking, Quick Service,
Courteous Treatment. Plate lunch 25 cents.”
Named the Palms because owner Robert Adams had once lived in California, the
grill on Arch Street was a classic of its time--counters with stools,
square tables with four chairs, a slot machine, a series of framed
mirrors along one wall, Pepsi Cola chalk boards listing the day’s
specials, and a dance floor in the back complete with piano. A tall
neon sign on the building’s façade spelled out Palms CAFÉ in large
letters. At the bottom of the sign was a light that, when burning,
indicated that passengers were inside the grill ready to board the next
Greyhound bus coming through town.
Throughout the 1930s and
1940s, the Palms advertised its availability for “Club parties.” It
soon became the town’s most prominent place for Atlantans and Route 66
travelers alike to gather and socialize. The Palms advertised dancing
either every night or on certain nights of the week, and during the
1940s, locals played bingo there.
According to local legend, the Palms attracted its share of celebrities. The most
famous was boxer Max Baer, then heavyweight champion of the world. In
1934, he stopped at the Palms after a long all-night drive, ordered a
piece of coconut pie, ate it with relish, tipped each employee a
dollar, and told the cook, “My gosh, woman, that was the best pie I
ever ate.” Then he and his entourage left for St. Louis where Baer had
a theatrical engagement.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s,
the Palms continued to be a popular gathering spot, especially for the
town’s high school students, many of whom held their first jobs there
waiting table or pulling sodas. When the Palms closed in the 1960s, the
space remained empty for several years. John Hawkins acquired this
north side of the building by 1982 and remodeled the first floor for
use as a living area and workshop. In 2002, the Hawkins family donated
the north half of the building to the Atlanta Public Library and Museum.
The Downey Building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places
in 2004. Bill Thomas, who was deeply involved in the project to open
the museum and library, calls the listing a crucial first step because
of the funding opportunities it enabled.
When the library acquired the building, it was in rough shape -- the north side had been
completely gutted; the roof was a shambles, and a nine-inch gap
separated the façade from the side walls. One of the earliest grants
for what ended up being an approximately $500,000 project came from the
National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Project; the
Program ultimately contributed approximately $55,000 to the building
rehabilitation. Other funders included the Illinois Bureau of Tourism,
approximately $100,000; the Illinois Landmarks Preservation Council,
approximately $10,000; the Atlanta High School Alumni Association,
approximately $147,000; the Atlanta Library; and local residents. The
money bought the interior rehabilitation; new roof; and brick-by-brick
removal, cleaning, and reconstruction of the façade that makes the
Downey Building such a significant local showpiece today.
Today the Downey Building, located in an historic area, has been restored and
houses the Palms Grill and Atlanta Museum. After having lunch at the
grill, you can stroll along Arch Street and view the Hawes Grain
Elevator and the octagon-shaped Atlanta Public Library, both listed in
the National Register of Historic Places. Don’t miss Atlanta’s Route 66
Park with its 19-foot statue of a man holding a hotdog. Downtown is
also the site of the Atlanta Betterment Fest, not to be missed each
Building is at 110 and 112 Southwest Arch St. in Atlanta, IL. The Palms
Grill is at 110 Southwest Arch St., and is open Sunday-Thursday 8:00am
to 5:00pm and Friday and Saturday 8:00am to 8:00pm, and is wheelchair
accessible. Call 217-648-2233 for information or visit the Palms Grill Cafe
website. The Atlanta Museum is at 112 Southwest Arch St., and is open
Monday-Saturday 9:00am to 4:30pm. The first floor is wheelchair
accessible and the museum is free. Call the Atlanta Public Library at
217-648-2112 or the Palms Grill for information. The National Register
nomination form for the building can be found here.
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Ariston Café, Litchfield, Illinois
Starting up a business in the depths of the Great Depression during the
1930s might strike most people as foolhardy at best, but this is
exactly what Pete Adam and his partner Tom Cokinos did in 1935, when
they opened the Ariston Café along Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois.
Upon closer examination, however, their venture was far from rash.
the Depression, even though millions of people were out of work, some
pockets of the economy remained afloat. A service sector start-up such
as a café remained a relatively inexpensive venture, and founder Pete
Adam was no novice. As a veteran restaurateur, he knew the viability of
a good restaurant even in hard times. He also seemed keenly aware of
the business possibilities of Route 66 in Illinois. The original
Ariston Café opened in 1924 in nearby Carlinville, a town along the
original Route 66. After 1930, the highway realigned to the east,
bypassing Carlinville and going straight through Litchfield, which
prompted the move of the café to Litchfield. The Illinois segment of
the Mother Road at this time was a major transportation corridor
between Chicago, then the nation’s second largest city, and St. Louis,
at that time America’s seventh largest city. Even during the
Depression, traffic on this well paved road remained steady. In 1936,
the State of Illinois reported that Route 66 was the heaviest traveled
long-distance highway in the State.
Henry A. Vasel built the
current Ariston Café at a construction cost of $3,625.36. The café
opened its doors along Route 66 on July 5, 1935. Adam installed two gas
pumps in front in hopes of attracting more customers, a practice
typical of Route 66 restaurants during this period. A full service menu
from 1938 offered diners porterhouse steak at 85 cents, bacon and eggs
or a BLT for a quarter, and a glass of Budweiser for 15 cents. Today,
the café is still going strong, although the gas pumps are gone and the
food prices have risen. Over the decades, there have been some changes
and renovations to the café, but the visitor to the Ariston Café still
makes a step back in time. Despite the addition in the 1970s of a
banquet wing on the north facade and some new front doors and awnings,
the original building--in its stark, utilitarian commercial style of
the period-- still stands proud. Noteworthy is its Alamo-like parapet
with glazed terra cotta coping and its finely crafted exterior
brickwork. Two original metal and neon signs announcing the Ariston
Café and advertising Budweiser beer adorn the front façade. The
interior dining room, which seated up to 100 customers in 1935, still
retains much of its original décor, including a stunning Art Deco wall
cabinet along the north wall, chrome stools, and original light
fixtures in the booths. The original dining section still retains its
1935 acoustical tile ceiling.
The rear exterior of the restaurant tells an interesting story about
the need for adaptation and creative thinking when doing business along
the Mother Road. In 1940, as the Depression lifted and traffic became
congested, the two lane Route 66 that passed in front of the café was
replaced with a four lane bypass running behind the restaurant.
Physically turning the restaurant around was not an option, so Pete
Adam simply put up attractive neon signage on the rear of the building,
beckoning Mother Roaders to drive around to the front. It worked, and
the restaurant has been open for business since 1935.
When founder Pete Adam died, his son Nick took over the operation, and he
remains at the helm today. The Ariston Café thus stands out as a rare
survivor of family-run restaurants that flourished along the Mother
Road during the mid-20th century. The Ariston Café was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in May 2006. It received a Cost-Share Grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in 2007.
The Ariston Café is located at 413 Old Route 66 in Litchfield, IL. The
café is open Monday-Friday 11 am to 10pm; Saturday 4:00pm to 10:00pm;
and Sunday 11:00am to 9:00pm. For more information, contact the café at
217-324-2023 or visit the café website. The café's National Register nomination can be found here.
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Belvidere Café, Motel, and Gas Station, Litchfield, Illinois
As Route 66 emerged as a national east-west artery, thousands of
mom-and-pop businesses sprang up in the dusty lots lining the highway.
The Mom and Pop of the Belvidere Motel and Café were Albina and
Vincenzo Cerolla, European immigrants who bought roadside property in
Litchfield shortly after Route 66 received its designation as a
national highway. In 1929, the Cerollas built a one-room, frame gas
station with a single pump, offering oil, grease and fan belts for
travelers on Route 66. By 1936,the Cerollas had expanded their tiny gas
station into a one-stop, multi-service, roadside complex. Vincenzo and
Albina built a new brick gas station, a café, four motel rooms with
individual automobile garages, and a small house for themselves and
their two children. Now travelers could gas up their cars with help
from Vincenzo (called James by then), sleep the night in the motel, and
get up in the morning to sample Albina’s breakfast biscuits.
the café, the Cerollas splurged on a streamlined Art Deco
interior--black lacquer counters trimmed in chrome, padded chrome
barstools, and handsome Deco cabinets behind the counter. Here the
Cerollas built a thriving trade, assisted in the business by their
daughter Edith and, after she married, her husband Lester “Curly”
During the 1940s and 1950s, the Belvidere Café
was an especially popular stop along the highway. As one resident
recalled, “The Belvidere was the Cheers of its time. You know, where
everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.” Edith
became known for her roast beef, pork, and outstanding fried chicken.
The Belvidere had a small dance floor, a juke box, and the occasional
small combo. But most of all, the Belvidere had Mary Levy. Considered a
treasure at the Belvidere, Mary played the piano and sang. No customer
was a stranger to Mary. Locals and Route 66 travelers alike felt
welcome at the lively Belvidere.
By 1950, Vincenzo and Albina had passed away, leaving the business to Edith and Lester. Their
two children recall that, in the tradition of family-run enterprises,
Edith and Lester “did everything.” Lester primarily ran the gas station
while Edith managed operations of the café, which at one time had a
revolving sign in front promoting Chicken in a Basket. Following his
retirement, Lester Kranich recalled, “Oh, it was busy in those days.
When 66 still went by, you met people–you talked to them. This was the
best place in town to eat and I’m not bragging."
work of the Kranichs proved successful. They built a new home on the
property and expanded the motel, just in time to take advantage of the
increase in Route 66 traffic following World War II. The 1950s and even
the 1960s were good to the Belvidere, but the following decade was not.
The Belvidere was successful because it looked out on America’s
Highway. When use of Route 66 waned, so did the fortunes of the
Belvidere. The Belvidere Café, Motel, and Gas Station closed soon after
the completion of Interstate 55 west of Litchfield in the 1970s.
Today the buildings are used primarily for storage, although some still serve
as motel rooms, but they are well worth a stop as you travel Route 66.
While many motels, cafes, and gas stations have been documented along
the historic highway, the Belvidere is one of the best preserved
complexes of its type. It was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 2007, and is a classic example of a family-run
roadside enterprise that for two generations and three decades served
as a gathering place, a respite, and a memorable stop along the way.
The Belvidere Café, Motel, and Gas Station is located at 817 Old Route
66 in Litchfield, IL. Much of the complex is out of use, but motel
rooms are rented nightly for approximately $29 and are accessible to
wheelchairs. Call 217-324-4411 for more information. The National
Register nomination form for the building can be found here.
Soulsby Service Station, Mount Olive, Illinois
The advent of the national road system in 1926 ushered in a golden age
for mom-and-pop entrepreneurs. For Henry Soulsby of Mount Olive, it
happened just in time. Mr. Soulsby followed his father, an Irish
immigrant, into mining, but in the mid-1920s an injury forced him
aboveground. Understanding that a national highway would soon pass
through Mount Olive, he invested most of his life savings in two lots
at the corner of 1st Street, now called Old Route 66. With the balance
he built a gas station.
Soulsby Station is an excellent example of a house with canopy form. By
the time Mr. Soulsby built his station in 1926, the leading oil
companies had been hiring architects to design stations that would
blend well with neighborhoods to minimize local opposition to the
crudeness often associated with gas stations. Mr. Soulsby designed the
building himself, taking into account these trends and blending well
with the surrounding area.
Although the Great Depression
soon began, the station thrived. America was broke, but it was still
traveling. As Will Rogers would say, “We might be the first nation to
drive to the poorhouse in an automobile.”
When Henry Soulsby retired, his children Russell and Ola Soulsby took over the
station, a partnership that would endure until Ola’s death in 1996.
Each was as adept as the other at pumping gas, checking the oil, and
looking under the hood or chassis to detect and fix problems. Russell
always had an eye for technology. During World War II, he was a
communications technician in the Pacific theater. Shortly after coming
home, he turned his experience into a second, simultaneous
career--radio and television repair. He used an antenna on the roof of
the station to test his work.
Route 66 was a great agent of progress and development, but its very success helped spell
its doom. In the late 1950s, Interstate 55 began supplanting it in
Illinois. In Mount Olive, the Soulsby Station ended up a mile away from
the new thoroughfare. In 1991, the Soulsby Station stopped pumping gas
but continued to check oil, sell soda pop, and greet the ever-growing
legion of Route 66 tourists. Sending everyone off with a wink and a
wave, Russell and Ola closed the doors for good in 1993 and sold the
station in 1997 to a neighbor, Mike Dragovich. When Russell Soulsby
died in 1999, his funeral procession took him under the canopy one last
time. This time it was his friends’ turn to wink and wave.
current owner, Mr. Dragovich, and the Soulsby Preservation Society
began preservation efforts in 2003, removing vinyl siding, restoring
the original doors and windows, and repainting the exterior. In 2004,
the National Park Service provided grant support for restoration
efforts. Today, the station looks essentially the same as it did during
its post-World War II heyday. It was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 2004.
The Soulsby Service Station is located on the southwest corner of First
St. and Old Route 66 at 710 West First St. in Mount Olive, IL. Plans
are underway to open the station as a museum. The station's National
Register nomination form can be found here.
Chain of Rocks Bridge, Madison, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri
Chain of Rocks Bridge is one of the more interesting bridges in
America. It’s hard to forget a 30-degree turn midway across a mile-long
bridge more than 60 feet above the mighty Mississippi. For more than
three decades, the bridge was a significant landmark for travelers
driving Route 66.
The bridge’s colorful name came from a 17-mile shoal, or series of rocky
rapids, called the Chain of Rocks beginning just north of St. Louis.
Multiple rock ledges just under the surface made this stretch of the
Mississippi River extremely dangerous to navigate. In the 1960s, the
Corps of Engineers built a low-water dam covering the Chain of Rocks.
That’s why you can’t see them today. Back in 1929, at the time of the
construction of the bridge, the Chain was a serious concern for boatmen.
massive undertaking in its day, the Chain of Rocks Bridge had a
projected cost of $1,250,000. The bridge was to be a straight, 40-foot
wide roadway with five trusses forming 10 spans. Massive concrete piers
standing 55 feet above the high-water mark were to support the
structure. Plans called for a four-mile fill along the road leading to
the bridge’s north end.
All that proved true except for
one major change--in direction. Riverboat men protested the planned
bridge because it was to run near two water intake towers for the Chain
of Rocks pumping station. Navigating the bridge piers and the towers at
the same time, the river captains argued, would be extremely
treacherous for vessels and barges. Besides, the initial straight line
would have put the bridge over a section of the river where the bedrock
was insufficient to support the weight of the piers. Either way, the
bridge had to bend.
Construction started on both sides of
the river simultaneously in 1927, and the piers were complete by August
of 1928. A grand opening was planned for New Year’s Day 1929. The
Mississippi River had other plans. Floods and ice slowed the work, and
the Chain of Rocks Bridge finally opened to traffic in July of 1929.
as now, actual expenditures for construction often exceed projected
costs. Chain of Rocks Bridge cost just over $2.5 million--twice its
original estimate. Fortunately, the public got its money’s worth. The
bridge had beautifully landscaped approaches. A park-like setting
around a pool and a large, ornate toll booth anchored the Missouri end.
On the Illinois side, 400 elm trees lined the approach. The bridge
brought travelers into St. Louis by way of the picturesque Chain of
Rocks amusement park on the Missouri hills overlooking the river. On a
clear day, crossing the Chain of Rocks Bridge was a real pleasure. That
pleasure became an official part of the Route 66 experience in 1936,
when the highway was rerouted over the bridge.
World War II, Chain of Rock’s colorful red sections had to be painted
green to make the bridge less visible from the air. At the same time,
wartime gas rationing reduced traffic. To offset these costs, the City
of Madison increased bridge tolls to 35 cents per car, with an
additional five cents per passenger—a fee structure that sets on its
head today’s system of special high-speed lanes reserved for cars
carrying more, not fewer, people.
In 1967, the New Chain
of Rocks Bridge carrying Interstate 270 opened just 2,000 feet upstream
of the old bridge, which closed in 1968. The bridge deteriorated, and
during the 1970s, Army demolition teams considered blowing it up just
for practice. In 1975, demolition seemed eminent. Fortunately for the
bridge, a bad market saved the day. The value of scrap steel plummeted,
making demolition no longer profitable. At that point, the Chain of
Rocks Bridge entered 20 years of bridge limbo--too expensive to tear
down, too narrow and outdated to carry modern vehicles. In 1980, film
director John Carpenter used the gritty, rusting bridge as a site for
his science fiction film, Escape from New York. Otherwise, the bridge
Today you might say that the Chain of
Rocks Bridge has completed a historic cycle. Built at the beginning of
America’s love affair with the automobile, it is now a reflection of
America’s desire not to ride in cars so often. During the 1980s,
greenways and pedestrian corridors became increasingly popular, and a
group called Trailnet began cleanup and restoration of the bridge.
Linked to more than 300 miles of trails on both sides of the river, the
old Chain of Rocks Bridge reopened to the public as part of the Route
66 Bikeway in 1999.
Because the bridge has not been
significantly altered over the years, a visit there today conveys a
strong sense of time and place, an appreciation for early-20th-century
bridge construction, and outstanding views of the wide Mississippi
River. The Chain of Rocks Bridge was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 2006.
Chain of Rocks Bridge parallels U.S. 270 along West Chain of Rocks Rd.
between Riverview Dr. in St. Louis, MO and Illinois 3 in Madison
County, IL. Connections are present to the MCT Confluence Trail,
Mississippi River Trail, and St. Louis Riverfront Trail, and free
parking is available in Illinois at the bridge entrance and at North
Riverfront Park, south of the bridge along the Riverfront Trail. Access to the bridge from the Missouri side is CLOSED due to severe issues with car vandalism. Free parking is available at the Illinois Bridge entrance and at North Riverfront Park, south of the Bridge along the Riverfront Trail. It is strongly advised to avoid leaving any valuables in your car. Park at your own risk. The
bridge is open to bikers and pedestrians daily from 9:00am to dusk and
is wheelchair accessible. Call 314-416-9930 for information or visit
the Trailnet website. The National Register nomination form for the bridge can be found here.
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Illinois Road Segments
For the most part, Illinois Route 66 glides evenly and easily through
the State in a southwest-northeast diagonal alignment between Chicago
and St. Louis. The Illinois section of historic Route 66 has a
relatively level alignment. Due to Ice Age glaciers that scraped much
of the upper Midwest flat, the Illinois Route 66 roadbed was never to
offer motorists the thrilling or terrifying switchbacks, dips, and cuts
encountered along the southwestern portions of the Mother Road. Unlike
many other segments of Route 66, Illinois Route 66 runs through a
densely populated, highly developed State. By the mid 1920s, Illinois
already had a considerable infrastructure, including a modern road
network. When officially commissioned in 1926, Illinois Route 66 simply
took over State Route 4, a pre-existing, heavily-used fully paved or
“slabbed” two-lane road between Chicago and St. Louis. Thus, while the
national span of Route 66 would not be completely paved until 1938, the
Prairie State could boast from the very start that its segment of the
Mother Road was mud free and “slab all the way.”
first glance, Route 66 may look inert and fixed, but a little
investigation into its history (and archeology) reveals a dynamic
process of change and transformation. Due to population and development
pressures, Illinois Route 66 received constant ongoing repairs,
upgrades, widening, resurfacing, and even rerouting. A distinguishing
feature of the history of Illinois Route 66 was the speed of its
evolution. From its very first years, engineers worked to bypass as
many rural towns as possible to ensure a speedy and unobstructed flow
of the ever-increasing traffic between Chicago and St. Louis. Thus from
the time of its birth, Illinois Route 66 was already moving away from
its classic main street course toward the model of its interstate
successor and its own demise.
With the designation of
Route 66 as a strategic defense highway during World War II, the
process of change accelerated. While traffic to and from the great
ordnance factories outside Chicago was critical to feeding the nation’s
hungry war machine, it also devastated the Route 66 roadbed, which had
not been built to sustain the constant flow of the heavy load bearing
munitions trucks. Even as the war raged, the road received significant
upgrading, much of it pointing toward the four-lane limited access
interstate system of the 1950s. The role of the Federal Government,
especially its far-reaching Federal Defense Highway Act of 1941, was
critical in the funding of these efforts.
While the story
of the road’s physical evolution naturally focuses on the specifics of
road construction such as alignment, materials, and methods, the
traveler along historic Route 66 might keep in mind that these
remarkable engineering feats not only left their mark on the earth’s
surface, but also upon people’s lives. Every change in the Mother Road
type and its route meant something good or bad for the people along the
road. A major rerouting could bring welcomed business and travelers to
the new corridor, but it also could painfully wound the areas left
behind. The modern upgrade to a four-lane, limited access road was a
boon to motorists but could spell disaster to the bypassed roadside
establishment. The story of Route 66 is about individuals and
businesses adapting, successfully or not, to the winds of change. In
the course of its many transfigurations over the decades, the Mother
Road gave--but also took away.
The Road Segments
Route 66 in Illinois is a very tenacious road. Although decommissioned
in 1977, the Prairie State’s portion of the Mother Road endures, often
under new designations, and all but about 13 miles of the final
alignment remains traversable. The six road segments below are listed
in the National Register of Historic Places. Individually and
collectively they offer the traveler insights into the engineering
achievement and evolution of Illinois Route 66. In terms of their
period of historic significance, the segments of Route 66 Carpenter
Park, Illinois Route 4/North of Auburn, and Route 66, Girard to
Nilwood, evoke the engineering and transportation developments of the
1920s and 30s. The segments of Alternate Route 66, Wilmington to
Joliet, Route 66, Cayuga to Chenoa, and Route 66 Litchfield to Mount
Olive, are significant as wartime and postwar upgrades during the years
1942 to 1955. Road segments are listed geographically east to west.
Alternate Route 66, Joliet to Wilmington (1942-1956)
This road segment, currently designated Illinois Route 53, stretches
for 15.9 miles between Joliet and Wilmington. The original 1920s era
road served as an Alternate Route 66 around Joliet. The impacts of
World War II and the Federal Government are central to this segment’s
story. Due to the punishing wartime traffic to and from the nearby
Kankakee and Elmwood ordnance plants, the original two-lane highway was
replaced with a limited access four-lane divided highway constructed
between 1942 and 1945. It was authorized and funded by the Federal
Defense Highway Act of 1941. In order to sustain the wear and tear of
wartime traffic, updated construction methods were applied, including
application of a special sub base of gravel and stone on top of the
older roadbed, and a divided 24-foot wide roadbed with 10-inch thick
Portland cement slab. This segment remained a major transportation
artery until the coming of interstate I-55 after 1956. Aside from a new
macadam overlay, much of the road’s original 1945 character remains.
Travelers should look for the 1942 Union Pacific Overpass near the
northern end of the segment’s boundary and four remaining box concrete
Route 66 by Carpenter Park (1922-1936)
This short, surviving segment of abandoned roadbed, extending for about
one quarter mile in Springfield Township, offers the traveler the
sensation of visiting not only a road but an archeological site, for it
has not seen automobile traffic since 1936. The two-lane, 16-foot wide
road reflects the prevailing engineering and design methods of its time
of construction in 1922. It is also a good example of how existing
paved roads were merely redesignated Illinois Route 66 at the Mother
Road’s inauguration in 1926. In 1922, this 16-feet wide roadway was
paved with a mix of cement and gravel, with expansion joints placed
every 30 yards. Parts of the road are still flanked by its original
four-foot gravel shoulders and four inch curbs. This segment’s life as
Route 66 was short, for almost immediately engineers began work on a
new, wider (four-lane) alignment a few yards to the east completed in
1936. The Carpenter Park segment remains largely intact because it has
not carried traffic since 1936, although it is missing its bridge over
the Sangamon River (The Old Iron Bridge). With the decommissioning of
the road in 1936, the bridge was dismantled, leaving only concrete
abutments. This segment is now a part of Carpenter Park in Sangamon
County. Visitors are welcome to walk on this stretch of Route 66
surrounded by a forest preserve of native hardwood.
Route 66, Cayuga to Chenoa (1943-44; 1954-55)
The original 1920s state-of-the-art pavement of this segment boasted a
width of 18 feet and a Portland cement slab six inches deep. Like the
Route 66 Alternate between Wilmington and Joliet, this 18.2-mile
segment stretching from Cayuga to Chenoa proved woefully inadequate to
carry the burden of Route 66’s World War II mission. The excessive
weight and volume of wartime traffic wreaked havoc on the thin roadbed,
necessitating a serious upgrade. A 1943-44 wartime makeover included
two lanes of 24-foot wide, ten-inch thick concrete. The sections were
generally striped for 11 foot driving lanes (an extension of two feet
over the older pavement). The southbound lanes, constructed directly
over the older roadbed, were finished in 1944, and the northbound lanes
were completed in 1954-55, together creating a four-lane highway with a
center median. Today the northbound lanes have a new macadam overlay,
but the southbound lanes retain, for the most part, their original
concrete surface. The segment retains six historic bridges.
Illinois Route 4, North of Auburn (1921-1932)
This segment consists of two sections: a 1,277 foot section of 16-foot
wide Portland cement dating from 1921, and a 1.53 mile section,
overlaid with brick from 1932. Originally part of State Route 4, both
sections illustrate early highway era construction methods. They are
well-preserved examples of Route 66’s early years in Illinois, when the
newly designated national highway simply took over existing paved roads
in 1926. They served as part of Route 66 until 1930, when the
relignment of the Mother Road south of Springfield rerouted traffic to
the less populated eastern side through Litchfield in order to speed up
the flow of traffic by avoiding as many towns as possible. The
1,277-feet concrete section of this segment briefly reverted to its
State Route 4 designation before being abandoned in a 1932 relocation
of the State road. The second 1.53-mile section was incorporated into
the 1932 modifications and resurfaced with brick at the same time.
Today known as the Auburn Brick Road, it contains two original single
span concrete bridges constructed in 1920 and paved with brick in 1932.
Route 66, Girard to Nilwood (1919-1931)
This segment underscores the fast paced evolution of Route 66 in
Illinois. Designated as a part of the Mother Road in 1926, it was
quickly replaced in 1930 with a major realignment to the east.
Constructed in 1920 as part of old State Route 4, this short-lived
section of Illinois Route 66 is typical of the engineering and
construction methods of the post-World War I era. This was a time of
genuine transition in road construction, often combining horse and mule
with World War I state-of-the-art trucks and machinery. The road’s
cross section included two eight-foot wide lanes with four to seven
foot wide gravel shoulders. The Portland cement slab was generally six
inches thick. Although cracked in places, its current concrete pavement
is original. The road segment retains five of its original concrete box
culverts and an original, 1920 single span concrete bridge.
Route 66, Litchfield to Mount Olive (1943-1955)
As with Alternate Route 66 from Wilmington to Joliet and Route 66 from
Cayuga to Chenoa, the Mother Road’s stretch from Litchfield to Mount
Olive was transformed as a result of World War II. By 1942, the
original alignment in this area had significantly deteriorated under
the stress of wartime traffic. Authorized by the Federal Defense
Highway Act of 1941, the approach to constructing this segment shows
both the pressures of wartime conditions and the long-term postwar
vision (already present in 1941) of transforming Illinois Route 66 into
a modern, limited access freeway between Chicago and St. Louis. The new
two-lane road, with a pavement of Portland cement 24-foot wide and 10
inches thick, was set down just to the west of the older route, which
had been constructed in 1930-31. The older, deteriorated pavement was
kept in service until the new alignment was complete. When the new
Route 66 southbound lanes were completed in 1943, the older alignment
was designated Old Route 66 and remained open to local traffic.
Construction of the northbound lanes had to wait until after the war,
but when completed in 1954-55, they formed, along with the 1943-44
southbound lanes, a state-of-the-art four-lane highway with a center
median–-a veritable precursor to the Interstate freeway. This segment
received a Cost-Share Grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in 2002.
Joliet to Wilmington: Begin at Patterson Rd. in Joliet and travel south on
Highway 53 toward Wilmington. The course ends at the junction of
Highway 53 (Alternate Route 66) and Illinois Route 102 (Water Street)
in downtown Wilmington.
Carpenter Park: The entire segment is
contained within the boundaries of Carpenter Park in Sangamon County.
The northern boundary is the road segment’s intersection with Cabin
Smoke Trail. The southern boundary is the abutment of the Old Iron
Bridge on the Sangamon River, a quarter mile to the southeast. The
National Register nomination form can be found here.
Cayuga to Chenoa: From Odell, travel south on Odell Rd. toward Pontiac
to Cayuga. From Cayuga, take Pontiac Road into Pontiac. Follow the
gradual curve right, then curve left onto Division Street. Cross North
Creek, then curve right onto Lincoln, and left onto Ladd Street. Cross
the junction with Howard. At Reynolds, turn right with Highway 116.
Turn left onto Bypass 66 and follow the Frontage Road through to
Chenoa. The National Register nomination form can be found here.
Auburn: To reach the first 1,277-foot section, travel south on Highway
4 to Alpha Rd. Go west on Alpha Rd. The segment is located on Alpha Rd.
between Highway 4 and Curran Rd. The Auburn Brick Rd. is located
between Chatham and Auburn on Snell and Curran Rds. Heading south from
Chatham on Highway 4, take a left on Snell Rd., which is historic U.S.
Route 66. Snell Rd. will curve south and turn into Curran Rd. before
rejoining Highway 4.
Girard to Nilwood: Heading southbound on Highway 4 toward Girard, turn
right on Madison St. and left on 6th St. Continue south on 6th St.
across Highway 4. Turn right on Wylder, then left past the railroad
underpass. Turn right on Morean Rd. Turn left on Pine and right on
Morean St. in Nilwood, which will reconnect with Highway 4. Stay ahead
across. The road segment ends at 4.0 miles at the intersection with
Illinois Route 4 at the west end of Moraine Street. The National
Register nomination form can be found here.
Litchfield to Mt. Olive: Traveling westbound, from Interstate 55 take
the 13th Street exit into Litchfield. Head south on “Old US 66
1940-1977.” This road will meet up with “1930-1940 Historic 66 at North
10th Ave. Continue south on Route 6. Cross St. James Road, then turn
left on Old Route 66 St. into Mount Olive. Follow Old Route 66 Street
across the Junction of Highway 138 and on out of town. The National
Register nomination form can be found here.
For additional information on driving Route 66 in Illinois, visit these websites: Route 66 Association of Illinois, Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, and Illinois Route 66 National Scenic Byway.
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Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge, East of Eureka, St. Louis County, Missouri
After its designation in 1926, the course Route 66 took from Illinois
to California did not remain static. As practical and political
concerns arose, authorities rerouted it to meet them. Meramec River
U.S. 66 Bridge resulted from this rerouting. The bridge and the road it
supported helped to transform the surrounding area from a wealthy
retreat center to a working-class town. More recently, the bridge has
become a centerpiece of a State Park devoted to Route 66.
government mostly funded and maintained highways and bridges before the
late 19th century. Boats and trains were the preferred means of
transportation before that time, and roads were expensive. In the
late-19th and early-20th centuries, bicycle and automobile enthusiasts
began establishing good roads associations to lobby for highway
infrastructure, and the States and Federal government responded with
funding for transportation.
A combination of state and
federal actions developed Missouri’s 20th-century road system. In
response to good roads pressure, Missouri established a state highway
system in 1909 and an inter-county network road system in 1913. In
1916, the United States passed the Federal Highways Act to begin
funding interstate roads. Missouri responded in 1917 by creating a
state road fund, State Highway Board, and State Highway Engineer to
supplement federal funding. The most far-reaching state legislation
occurred in 1921, when the Centennial Road Law made the state solely
responsible for road building. Missouri established a Bureau of Bridges
the same year to deal solely with the issue of crossings.
building increased dramatically in Missouri during the 1920s. In 1918,
the state funded a mere 35 new bridges. By 1931, the Bureau of Bridges
had prepared designs for 2,465 additional bridges. When the United
States designated Route 66 as a federal highway in 1926, Missouri’s
existing infrastructure enabled its routing across the state.
66 initially bypassed the lower Meramec River, which late 19th-century
hotel and railroad operators had made a destination for well-off area
residents. The grandest resort was the Meramec Highlands, established
in 1895 ten miles upriver from the eventual bridge site. The 1904
World's Fair in St. Louis introduced a new audience to the area as
well. In 1925, a working-class resort called Times Beach opened there.
Route 66 was rerouted from Gravois Road to Chippewa in southern St.
Louis in 1931, requiring a Meramec River crossing. The Meramec River
U.S. 66 Bridge that resulted is a 1009-foot-long 30-foot-wide steel
structure, and the Bureau of Bridge engineers employed a Warren deck
truss type in its design. Truss bridges use a triangular placement of
beams to stiffen and strengthen the roadbed. Horizontal “chords” at the
top and bottom of the bridge’s sides are connected by vertical posts
and diagonals. Abutments are used to provide additional support. Truss
patterns work very well with metal materials, and the type became
popular in the middle of the 1800s, when iron was commonly used in
bridge construction. James Warren and Theobald Manzani patented the
Warren truss, defined by its placement of the chords to create
equilateral triangles, in 1848. The bridge’s type makes it a rarity in
Missouri, whose flat rivers often provide insufficient clearance for
this type of structure. Most of Missouri’s few deck truss bridges were
constructed in the 1920s and 1930s and all were designed by the state
highway department. Only four rigid-connected Warren deck truss bridges
remain in the state, including the Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge, which
builders completed in 1932.
bridge supported subsequent development of the area. During the
Depression, Times Beach transitioned into a permanent community because
of the relative affordability of its small homes. In the 1940s, as
commuting supported by the bridge became a popular option and
river-based recreation developed further, more people moved to this
section of shoreline. Times Beach incorporated in 1954, and the state
added an auxiliary bridge for eastbound traffic two years later. By the
late 1960s, construction of Interstate 44 had begun and traffic was
permanently rerouted to the 1956 bridge relegating the Meramec River
U.S. 66 Bridge to local traffic. By 1985 Route 66 was entirely
decommissioned in the state. Interest in the road remained, however,
and sparked Missouri's 1999 creation of the Route 66 State Park. The
419-acre park interprets and showcases the surrounding environment and
portions of Route 66 within its boundary, including the Meramec River
U.S. 66 Bridge. Although listed on the National Register of Historic
Places in 2009, the bridge was recently closed to all traffic due to
advanced deterioration. The future of the bridge remains uncertain.
The Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge is located approximately two miles
east of Eureka, MO, within the Route 66 State Park along the historic
alignment of Route 66. The Meramec River separates the visitor center
and east side of the bridge from the bulk of the park and the west side
of the bridge. To access the east side of the bridge, take Interstate
44 exit 266/Lewis Rd. and follow the signs to the park. To access the
west side of the bridge, take Interstate 44 exit 265/Williams Rd. and
follow signs to the park. Exit 265 is accessible only to eastbound
traffic, so cars traveling west will need to first take exit 264 to
reverse direction. Call 636-938-7198 or visit the park website for more information.
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Big Chief Restaurant, Wildwood, Missouri
Originally called the Big Chief Hotel, the Big Chief Dakota Grill is
distinctive for its Spanish Mission Revival styling. Two stories tall,
its white stucco walls, terra-cotta tile roofing, exposed rafter ends,
and arcaded front porte cochere are unusual in Wildwood, Missouri. The
only original feature missing is a prominent false bell tower that rose
from one corner, which was removed during the 1950s. Otherwise, the Big
Chief looks and operates much as it did when Route 66 passed by the
key to the success of the Big Chief was pavement. The section of Route
66 through Pond, once the name of this section of Wildwood, was one of
the earlier parts of the Federal highway to be paved. After its
commissioning in 1926, Route 66 had sections that remained dirt for
years. It was upwards of 10 years before travelers could drive from
Chicago to Los Angeles on pavement. The road through Pond, by contrast,
was paved all the way to St. Louis by 1924.
came cars. In 1913, Americans owned 1.2 million cars; by 1925 that
number had jumped to 19 million. Individual mobility reached a level
never possible before, and automobile tourism grew nearly as fast as
did the rate of automobile ownership.
When autos first
began crossing America on Federal highways, drivers tended to camp by
the roadside on their own or to stay in tourists camps. There were few
hotels except in major cities. Built and opened in 1928 as the Big
Chief Hotel, the complex wasn’t really a hotel at all—at least not as
we think of hotels today--but a solution for the traveler weary of
camping out. The Big Chief was actually a tourist cabin court,
sometimes called a “cabin hotel”--at the time the latest thing in
The Big Chief was unusual in three
ways: It was one of the earliest cabin courts in Missouri, it offered
full service dining, and it was one of the largest cabin courts. In
1935, a guide to Missouri listed only nine courts with more than 30
cabins. The Big Chief had 62, each with its own garage.
from the period boasted that the Big Chief cabins had both hot and cold
running shower baths. Small individual cabins had a strong appeal for
families traveling together, and the Big Chief was primarily a family
destination. The property featured a large playground. One could spend
the night for a dollar and 50 cents, buy a 75-cent steak dinner, a
40-cent special plate lunch, or a 5-cent sandwich. The front porte
cochere served as a Conoco gas station, and customers could also buy
groceries. In the evenings, dining room tables were pushed aside to
allow for dancing. Bar service was added when Prohibition ended in
1933. By then, the transcontinental Mother Road had been rerouted over
more southerly highways, but the Big Chief remained popular as a local
destination, sponsoring a series of fall dances and attracting
conferences and meetings.
The Big Chief survived the
lean years of World War II by furnishing housing for employees of the
nearby Weldon Spring Ordinance Works. That change to longer term
housing continued after the war, when the cabins were rented to workers
at a Weldon Spring uranium processing plant. By 1949, the restaurant
had closed. Over the years the rented cabins fell into disrepair and
were demolished. The restaurant building, however, survived, and in the
early 1990s was restored and returned to its original function as a
restaurant. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003,
the Big Chief is one of the few surviving full-service restaurants left
on Missouri Route 66 and provides a feel for roadside stops during the
The Big Chief
Restaurant building, now occupied by the Big Chief Roadhouse, is at
17352 Old Manchester Rd. in Wildwood, MO. The restaurant is open Monday
4:00pm to 10:00pm, Tuesday-Friday 11:00am to 11:00pm, and Saturday and
Sunday 7:00am to 11:00pm, and is wheelchair accessible. Call
636-458-3200 for information or visit (call to get new website address
in early Dec.) The National Register nomination form for the building
can be found here.
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Red Cedar Inn, Pacific, Missouri
Pacific, Missouri, had little commerce in the early 20th century except
for mining silica for use in making fine glassware and in the
production of construction materials such as the bricks used in the Red
Cedar Inn. The silica came from large caverns in bluffs just north of
town that are still visible to drivers on Route 66. Pacific got a major
boost in 1932 when Route 66 arrived. Shortly thereafter, the Red Cedar
Inn opened with Route 66 right at its front door. Opened just after
Prohibition ended, the Red Cedar Inn was an atmospheric, full service
restaurant serving cocktails. Located at the edge of Pacific and close
to St. Louis, the restaurant became popular with travelers on Route 66
and with celebrities like St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Klinger and
his wife and friends, such as famed ball players Dizzy Dean and Ted
for two modest additions to the back, the restaurant looks very much
like it did during the 1930s, with its peeled cedar posts, a 1930s
barbeque shack, square red cedar logs “v”-notched at the corners, and
lines of wide, white chinking. Materials inside like the log or knotty
pine interior walls are as rustic as the ones on the exterior. The
builders, James and Bill Smith, intentionally selected such rustic
materials to reflect Missouri pioneer days and catch the eyes of
tourists eager to experience some local color.
provided a life-changing business opportunity for brothers James and
Bill Smith. The two made their living for nearly a decade bootlegging
liquor from the family farm at Villa Ridge. When Prohibition ended in
1933 so did their livelihood. Both brothers opened legal taverns--Bill
in Fenton and James in Eureka. At the same time, they built the Red
Cedar Inn on newly designated Route 66.
The Smiths cut
logs from their family farm, hauled them to the Red Cedar site on a
one-ton Ford truck, to build their restaurant. Even before they opened
the doors for business, Route 66 was carrying hungry out-of-state
customers past the front door. The Red Cedar Inn was an immediate
success, allowing the Smiths to add a bar to the restaurant in 1935.
Smith brothers did not spend much time at the new restaurant. When
James and Bill finished building the restaurant, they turned its
management over to James II and went back to the pool hall in Eureka
and the tavern in Fenton. James II was just 24 when he took over the
brand-new business which he ended up spending most of the next four
decades managing. In 1935, he hired Katherine Brinkman as a waitress,
and in 1940, she became Mrs. James Smith II. The couple bought the
business from James Smith I in 1944, and, with the help of their son
James Smith III, they ran the business until 1972. The Red Cedar was
closed from 1972 until 1987, when James III reopened the business.
April of 2003, the Inn was listed in the National Register of Historic
Places. The town celebrated the designation on July 11 with speeches, a
caravan, and music. The town’s fire truck raised a huge American flag
high on its boom, a local teen sang “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” a
caravan of old cars arrived, a color guard marched, and the crowd sang
“The Star Spangled Banner.” Meanwhile, a train passing on nearby tracks
slowed to a stop until the singing ended. When the music stopped, the
train conductor blew the whistle and traveled on down the tracks.
The Red Cedar Inn is located at 1047 East Osage St. in Pacific, MO. The
restaurant closed in 2005 and is not open to the public to visit but
can be viewed from the road. The National Register nomination form for
the Red Cedar Inn can be found here.
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Wagon Wheel Motel, Cafe and Station, Cuba, Missouri
Identified by its landmark neon sign, the Wagon Wheel Motel, Cafe and
Station in Cuba offers contemporary travelers a glimpse of a well
preserved, historic example of a locally owned and operated Route 66
tourist court and a place to sleep. After nearly three quarters of a
century, the Wagon Wheel Motel is still in operation! The Wagon Wheel
Motel started out along Route 66 in 1936 as a mom and pop food, fuel,
and lodging establishment. Aside from the roadside cafe and gas
station, the facility consisted of three stone lodging buildings set
200 feet back from the road. Known as the Wagon Wheel Cabins, each
building housed three cabins with garages. This layout was unusual
because the cabins were not the traditional, freestanding tourist court
buildings typical at the time. Instead, the Wagon Wheel Cabins were
similar to the multiple unit motel layout that was more common in the
1940s and 50s.
1939 AAA travel directory entry for the site illustrates the full
service approach favored by many roadside businesses at the time:
Wheel Cabins on U.S. 66, the east side of town. 9 newly constructed
stone cottages each with a private tub or shower bath. Very well
furnished; gas heat; fans in summer; enclosed garages. Rates $2.50 to
$3 per day for two persons. This is a home away from home. Splendid
surroundings. Café; laundry services; rest rooms; super service
station. One of the finest courts in the state. Very good.
original buildings on the property were constructed of the local--and
plentiful--Ozark sandstone, with a twist. Local builder Leo Friesenhan
designed the buildings in the distinctive Tudor Revival style, which he
mastered as a stonemason in nearby St. Louis. Each building, although
slightly different in its details, evokes this style’s signature look:
steeply pitched roofs with front facing cross gables, round or slightly
arched doorways, and decorative stone trimming around windows and
doors. This unusual design choice illustrates how roadside businesses,
in the age before national chains, were very much a personal statement
of the individual owner’s tastes and inclinations. Imagine a road 2,448
miles long lined with thousands of such individualized establishments,
and you have imagined the Mother Road in its heyday.
the mid-1940s, the original cafe and gas station units ceased to be
part of the business, and some of the cabin garages were converted into
lodging units. In 1947, John and Winifred Mathis purchased the Wagon
Wheel Cabins. The name changed to the more modern sounding Wagon Wheel
Motel, and two additional buildings, a concrete lodging building and a
laundry facility, were added to the rear of the property. Sometime
around 1947, Mr. Mathis put in the motel’s neon signage, including the
famous Wagon Wheel neon sign, which he personally designed. The Wagon
Wheel Motel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in
2003. The Wagon Wheel Motel underwent renovations in 2009 and 2010
under the new ownership of Connie Echols. The renovations included
updating the motel rooms and rehabilitating the Wagon Wheel Café to
house a gift shop and the motel office.
The Wagon Wheel Motel, Cafe, and Station is located along old Route 66
on 901-905 East Washington St., on the eastern edge of Cuba, MO. The
cafe and gas station are currently used as a gift shop and the motel
office, while the motel continues to provide nightly accommodations.
For information call 573-885-3411 or visit the website, Wagon Wheel Motel.
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Pulaski County Courthouse, Waynesville, Missouri
The historic roadbed of Route 66 runs through downtown Waynesville
where the most prominent building in town is the Pulaski County
Courthouse. The building has a museum inside where visitors can see
exhibits about the Civil War, both World War I and II, and Desert
Storm. Even better, the original courtroom complete with wooden jury
box remains. Before going inside, visitors can take a look at the
courthouse exterior. For heartland Missouri, the detailing is more than
a little unusual. Built in 1903 in the Romanesque Revival style with
Italianate features, the two story red brick courthouse is an
illustration of undeniable civic pride and optimism on the part of the
citizens of none-too-large, turn-of-the-century Waynesville.
H. Hohenschild, State architect at the time, designed the courthouse,
one of many public buildings he designed in Missouri. The irregular
shape of the courthouse is interesting, especially the distinctive,
square Italianate tower, or campanile, with arched windows on each
side. The east façade is dominated by the main entrance where a double
door is topped by a molded and paneled hood decorated with wooden
medallions and supported on giant wooden brackets. Six windows with
rounded arches flank the door. These same arched windows are repeated
on all sides of the courthouse. If you look up, you’ll notice that
exposed rafters edge the bell tower’s roof. They are supported by a
decorative corbel table - pieces of protruding, decorated stone
provided to carry the weight of the roof above. This is worth noting
for its lovely Italianate aspect right there in the middle of Missouri,
the Show Me State.
The south entry to the courthouse is
the one most commonly used and the most elaborate. An open portico
porch supported by brick piers is topped with a Queen Anne-style arch
and a hard-to-miss decorative grill of wrought iron. Two stories up,
the brick date stone is projected at the center of the attic level.
Designed like a shield and showing the building’s construction date,
1903, the date stone is decidedly diagonal, as if standing against a
Inside, look for the original wooden
frames around the windows and doors and the original Stromboli fan with
wooden blades hanging in the old county clerk’s office. On the wooden
stairway leading to the second floor, the original decorative spindle
balustrade is just like it was in 1903. Once upstairs, visitors can see
the original oak ceiling with exposed rafters and joints in the
courtroom--an example of superb craftsmanship.
courthouse is the fourth in Waynesville’s less than two-century
history. Built in two weeks in 1839, the first courthouse was a log
structure with only one window. Only four years later, Waynesville
became the county seat, necessitating a larger courthouse, one with
more logs and bigger windows. That courthouse served the country
through the Civil War when it became a hospital for Union troops. Soon
after, the county condemned courthouse number two, because it was
“unfit for the county and no longer safe due to damages during the
war.” Built in 1872, the third Pulaski County Courthouse was two
stories, brick, built at a cost of about $8,000, and barely used before
being struck by lightning and burning to the ground in 1903. The
current substantial Romanesque courthouse is the centerpiece of the
square today. In January of 1990, Pulaski County moved government
operations into a new building alongside the historic courthouse. The
historic Pulaski County Courthouse was listed in the National Register
of Historic Places in 1979 now houses the Pulaski County Courthouse
County Courthouse is located on Old Route 66 on the Courthouse Square,
between Benton and North Lynn Sts. in Waynesville, MO. The Pulaski
County Courthouse Museum in the building is open April-September,
Saturday, 10:00am to 4:00pm. Admission is free. Private tours are
available at other times with advance arrangements for a $25 minimum
donation. The first floor is wheelchair accessible. Call 573-774-5368
or 573-774-6566 for information or visit the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum website. The National Register nomination form for the building can be found here.
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Gillioz Theatre, Springfield, Missouri
One of the Midwest’s great old theatres is located on historic Route 66
in Springfield, Missouri. The Gillioz Theatre opened in 1926 to
tremendous acclaim. The sold-out crowd was enchanted by the opulent
Spanish Colonial Revival design, and modern visitors are equally
lavish detailing begins with the façade. The front doors are flanked by
terra-cotta tiles, brick pilasters, and a terrazzo floor. A large
stained-glass arched window in the upper façade features the letter G
executed in blue glass. The corners of the building are banded with
terra-cotta tiles, as is the roofline, and don’t miss the urns on each
Just inside the front doors, visitors will find
plaster friezes complete with griffins, winged cherubs, leaf-and-dart
designs, and flowers. The auditorium is an exuberant mixture of
molding, medallions, columns, wrought iron, organ pipes, a Proscenium
arch with floral fret bands, and a recessed oculus in the ceiling.
Spanish design plays a role here, but so do Italian and Moroccan. The
theatre reopened in 2006 after 25 years of disuse. The current
restoration is true to the original design, minus all the heavy,
flammable drapery that was in vogue a century ago.
Earnest Gillioz was a well known builder and developer in southwestern
Missouri early in the 20th century. He financed and built the theatre,
which was named in his honor. Because of the materials to which Gillioz
had access, the theatre is constructed of steel and concrete like a
bridge, using wood for only the handrails, doors, and door frames. When
restoration efforts began in 1990, the owners learned that the theatre
was so well built that it would have cost as much to tear it down as to
preserve it. Fortunately, preservation of the theatre and its historic
The theatre officially opened in
1926, when organist Glen Stanback sang the national anthem while
playing the house Wurlitzer. The main feature of the evening was the
movie Take It From Me. Later that year, Springfield, Missouri was
dubbed the Birthplace of Route 66, when the U.S. Secretary of
Agriculture officially designated the Federal Interstate Highway System
in the neighboring Woodruff Building. The Federal highway ran right in
front of Springfield’s premier entertainment venue.
Gillioz introduced talking pictures in 1928 and Technicolor in 1936. By
then, the theatre was famed for the outstanding service of its 10
ushers and doormen. Throughout the Great Depression and during World
War II, the theatre hosted community songfests to raise morale. In an
early version of American Idol, the Gillioz featured “Beauty with a
Voice” competitions in which 15 girls sang on stage and the audience
voted for its favorite. Ronald and Nancy Reagan attended a premier at
the Gillioz in 1952, and Elvis was spotted there (before he died)
sneaking away between his matinee and evening performances at the
By 1970, customers were leaving downtown
for theatres in suburban malls. A tarp was draped over the old unused
Wurlitzer, and the Gillioz began to fall into disrepair. In 1980, the
grand old theatre closed its doors following a final performance of La
Traviata. By 1986, Springfield’s homeless population had settled into
the abandoned space setting oil barrel fires to keep warm. While this
use of the building did some damage to the interior, the steady human
presence also protected the landmark building from vandals.
1990, a local group headed by Springfield business Bass Pro Shop
founder John L. Morris had begun to talk about returning the building to
its historic appearance and identity as a theatre. The group banded
together to purchase it that year and, by 1991, had also formed a
non-profit organization, the Springfield Landmarks Preservation Trust.
Also in 1991, the building was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places. A year later, the Gillioz Theatre was deeded to the
Trust. The Trust involved public and private partners to complete the
rehabilitation project—a project originally quoted at $1.8 million and
ultimately finished for nearly five times that amount. Replicating the
original marquee was an early emphasis and interior renovations
followed. The Gillioz opened its doors again in 2006 to rave reviews.
The Gillioz Theatre is located at 325 Park Central East, just east of
the square, in downtown Springfield, MO. The theatre is open for
performances, prearranged behind-the-scenes tours, and special events.
Call 417-863-7843 for information or visit the Gillioz Theatre website. The National Register nomination for the theatre can be found here.
Rock Fountain Court, Springfield, Missouri
Although the actual rock fountain is long gone, visitors to this
well-preserved roadside site along historic Missouri Route 66 can still
take in the stately semi-circle of nine original stone veneered cabins
facing north along the old Mother Road in Springfield. This arrangement
of freestanding tourist cabins was the preferred design for roadside
lodgings in the 1920s and early 30s. By the time Rock Fountain Cabins
was built in 1945 by local developer “Mac” MacCandless, however, the
popularity of this layout was waning, giving way to the more modern
“motel” design of multiple units under one roof. It was the year when
wartime rationing and travel restrictions ended, and the Mother Road’s
great golden age began. Between 1945 and the coming of the interstate
highways in the 1960s, Route 66 would enjoy prosperity.
out of fashion in outward appearance in 1945, Rock Fountain Cabins was
fully typical of its time as a locally owned and operated roadside
lodging facility. It may be difficult to imagine in an age of national
chains, but as late as 1948, around 98% of lodging businesses in the
United States were still independent operations. In the time before
corporate standardization, proprietors along Route 66 did not hesitate
to put their unique stamp on construction and design. This often meant
utilizing local, readily available building materials. Mr. MacCandless
chose a regional favorite: Ozark sandstone. Ed Waddell, a mason, gave
each of the nine frame cabins a distinctive Ozark Rock sandstone
veneer. Typical for such roadside businesses, only the first cabin--the
only one fully viewable from the road--is sheathed entirely in stone.
The others received the masonry work just on their visible façades and
porches, with the less noticeable sides and rears done in asbestos
shingle. Structurally, all cabins are generally the same. They are
rectangular and have steep, gabled roofs with stylish front cross
gables and recessed porches, and yet thoroughly reflecting the
idiosyncratic approach of the mom and pop era, each cabin is slightly
different. Floor plans and window locations vary; some have brick
chimneys, and the masonry veneer differs widely in color and tone from
cabin to cabin.
The nine cabins are arranged in a
semi-circle around a hedge-trimmed grass courtyard, which held the now
vanished rock fountain. At the eastern end of the semi-circle is the
residence/office, which no longer retains its original character.
Behind the cabins to the southwest is an original stone veneer and
As with so many roadside businesses
along the Mother Road, Rock Fountain Court evolved after the
decommissioning of Route 66 and the coming of I-44 in the 1960s. Today
known as the Melinda Court Apartments, it is a long-term rental
property. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in
The Rock Fountain Court is located at 2400 West College St. in Springfield, Mo. It is not open to the public.
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66 Drive-In, Carthage, Missouri
Americans took to the road in unprecedented numbers with the lifting of
wartime rationing and travel restrictions during the Mother Road’s
golden age that began in 1945. Businesses along Route 66 that had
endured the lean war years now reaped their reward, while the increase
in traffic was so great that it also spawned new businesses to
accommodate every need of postwar travelers. Although technically an
innovation of the 1930s, the drive-in theater really came of age during
the postwar auto and travel boom of the late 40s and early 50s.
Drive-in theaters offered millions of (pre-television) motel guests an
opportunity for affordable evening entertainment without having to
leave the car or wander too far from the road. The number of drive-in
theaters nationwide surged from a mere 52 in 1941 to 4,500 by 1956.
66 Drive-In in Carthage was part of that postwar wave and today is one
of a very few historically intact drive-in theaters still operating
along old Route 66. It looks and feels very much as it did when it
opened for business in the fading light of September 22, 1949. A
striking feature of the 66 Drive-In is that it still retains its
original rural setting on a nine-acre plot about three miles outside of
town. Although outdoor theaters were traditionally set down in field
and pasture well beyond town, most sites today have since been engulfed
by suburban sprawl.
Almost all of the 66 Drive-In’s
original structural elements still exist and are in operation. The
66-foot high, steel framed screen house continues its original dual
role. Its front serves as a support for the movie screen, while its
outward sloping back is a huge billboard announcing its original 1949
message: 66 DRIVE-IN THEATRE CARTHAGE, MO. Located below the screen is
an original playground, a testament to the Baby Boom phenomenon of
postwar America. The low, stucco concession stand/projection booth in
the center of the theater area and the tiny five by nine foot, waved
glass block ticket booth at the southeast entrance still retain their
original Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styling, evoking--at least to
the 1949 customer--a modern, cutting edge feel. At the theater
entrance, alongside old Route 66, stands the original steel and neon
Sometime after 1953, a wider model covered the
original movie screen to accommodate the new Cinemascope craze.
Visitors today will note the forest of speakerless speaker
poles--surviving theaters have long since canned the original squawk
boxes for radio frequency sound. A new support building on the eastern
edge of the property is an addition that was added at the time of the
66 Drive-In renovation in the 1990s. The theater ran from 1949 to 1985.
After a period of decline following the decommissioning of Route 66 and
a nationwide fall in drive-in theater attendance, the 66 Drive-In was
renovated and reopened on April 18, 1998. The theater was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
The 66 Drive-In is located at 17231 Old Route 66 Blvd. in Carthage
(Brooklyn Heights), MO and offers first run feature films every Friday
through Sunday, from April to October. The Box Office opens at 8:00pm.
To find out about featured films, when the movies start, and other
information, call 417-359-5959, or visit the 66 Drive-In Theatre website.
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Kansas Route 66 Historic District-East Galena, Galena, Kansas
The town of Galena sprang to life in 1876 when Galena, the natural
mineral form of lead sulfite, was discovered there. Incorporated in
1877, Galena is the oldest mining town in Kansas. The road that would
later become Route 66 was initially an important corridor for the
mining network. Around the turn of the 20th century, Galena boasted a
population of nearly 30,000 people, and its burgeoning prosperity was
such that it became one of the most important towns west of New York
City. Even with all this affluence, the hard life in the mines
continued to manifest itself when Galena became the site of several
bloody United Mine Workers’ strikes between 1935 and 1937, one of which
involved intervention by the National Guard.
establishment of Route 66 along the town’s main street in 1926 added
greatly to Galena's prosperity. As more and more travelers in search of
adventure began to pour through town, gasoline stations, restaurants,
and hotels opened for business to greet them. Some businesses, in an
attempt to keep the old town alive, utilized the buildings from
Galena’s glorious past, a recycling tradition that continues to this
day. A perfect example of this is the former Miners’ & Merchants’
Bank, later named Galena National Bank, which was located on the first
floor of the three-story New Century Hotel. The hotel and bank were
razed several years ago leaving the annex and the bank’s huge walk-in
vault, which proved too large to move. Vi-D’s Café later moved into
this site and, after removing the locking pins from the vault, turned
the vault into its pantry. Today, the site is in operation as the Main
Despite its struggles, Galena’s importance
as a mining town lasted throughout World War II, when the entire
tri-state area of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma became a major
producer of zinc and lead ores which were vital to wartime production.
In the early 1970s, the zinc and lead mines finally played out and the
interstate bypassed Galena, which made the town decline. Today, most of
the businesses in Galena have closed, and the old brick buildings are
boarded up, but you can still see the peeling painted signs from early
advertising on many of the deserted buildings.<
Historical and Mining Museum, named for the town’s local historian and
beloved citizen Howard “Pappy” Litch, is housed in the old
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Lines train depot (MKT), acquired in 1983 and
donated to the museum and historical society. The museum contains items
of local history and numerous artifacts from the days of lead and zinc
mining operations in southeast Kansas. Another point of interest named
after Mr. Litch is the Howard “Pappy” Litch Memorial Park on Main
Street, which was at one time a Federal weigh station on Route 66. An
original Will Rogers Highway plaque from 1952, formerly located on the
Missouri-Kansas State line, is now on permanent display in the park,
named an official Route 66 Roadside Attraction.
many of Galena’s fine old buildings are boarded up, walking the silent
streets of this once-booming mining town offers a glimpse into a grand
past. East Galena’s historic business district was placed on the
National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
The Kansas Route 66 Historic District-East Galena is located along Main
St. in Galena, KS. To follow the oldest alignment of Route 66 through
the Kansas Route 66 Historic District-East Galena, travel west out of
Joplin, Missouri on 7th St. and enter Galena from the north end of
town, then make a sharp left turn onto Main St.
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Williams' Store, Riverton, Kansas
Following service duty in World War I, Mr. Leo Williams and his wife,
Lora, opened a small diner and garage on the eastern edge of Riverton,
Kansas. Mr. Williams worked at the Empire District Electric Plant
across the street while his wife served lunches and sold groceries.
After a tornado destroyed the building in 1923, Mr. Williams built the
current one-story vernacular building on an adjacent lot. The new
Williams' Store opened in 1925 with a small apartment in the west half
for the Williams family.
most businesses in the area, the Williams’ Store catered primarily to
local customers but also played an important role for travelers on
Route 66. Business prospered after it was featured as an official stop
on a Route 66 map series in the 1930s and 40s. Travelers would stop to
enjoy a cold slice of watermelon, have a famous barbecue sandwich, use
the facilities, or get directions. Patrons also bought shoes and
clothes, as well as food staples such as ice, milk, eggs, bread, fresh
meat, canned goods, and penny candy. Stores like this filled an
important niche for travelers unable to afford café and restaurant
Mr. Williams also built a regulation croquet
court in the open lot east of the store. Constructed to standard
specifications and with low walls surrounding the playing field, the
court was lit for night games. It was a focal point of entertainment in
Riverton, drawing crowds for tournament play. When the store’s parking
needs increased, however, the Williams removed the court for additional
The Williams family sold the store in 1973 to
Joe and Isabell Eisler, whose nephew, Scott Nelson, now runs the
business as a market, deli, general store, and Route 66 souvenir shop.
The one-story red brick building has changed little over its 80 years
of operation, still retaining the glass-enclosed porch, the wooden
shelves, the rear deli counter, and the interior pressed-tin ceiling.
It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 and
received a National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program Cost-Share Grant award in 2005 for repairs to the roof and electrical system upgrades.
The Williams' Store, now the Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store, is
located at 7109 SE Highway 66 in Riverton, KS. The store is open for
business Monday-Saturday 9:00am to 3:30pm. For further information,
please contact the store at 620-848-333 or visit the store's website.
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Brush Creek Bridge, Cherokee County, Kansas
Three and a half miles north of Baxter Springs, Kansas stands the
elegant Brush Creek Bridge, the only remaining example of a fixed Marsh
Rainbow Arch bridge left on Kansas Route 66. Two other examples, the
Spring River and Willow Creek bridges, were dismantled in the early
Brush Creek Bridge, also known as the Rainbow Bridge, was part of a
project in the early 1920s to connect the mining communities of Galena,
Riverton, and Baxter Springs with a concrete road. The unique and
graceful Rainbow Arch design was the brainchild of James Barney Marsh,
a bridge designer from Iowa, who patented the concrete and steel truss
design in 1912. Marsh spent the next two decades erecting approximately
70 of his Rainbow Arch bridges throughout the Midwest, most of them in
Kansas, where approximately 35 still remain.
consists of a pair of arches disposed between two abutments, with
concrete banister railings aligned parallel with the bridge deck. The
original patents called for slideable wear plates, molded into the
concrete where the bridge deck came into contact with the beams and
abutments. This is important, as one of the main benefits of this
design was to allow for the expansion and contraction of the reinforced
concrete bridge under varying conditions of temperature and moisture.
Built in 1923, the 130-foot bridge carried Route 66 motorists over
Brush Creek until it was bypassed by the interstate in the 1960s.
Brush Creek Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic
Places in 1983. In 1992, upon seeing two other Marsh Arch bridges on
the short stretch of Route 66 through Kansas dismantled, the Kansas
Historic Route 66 Association worked successfully to save the Brush
Creek Bridge. At this time, a new bridge was built just to the east of
the Brush Creek Bridge to redirect and accommodate the increasing needs
of local traffic. Two years later, the Association and the Cherokee
County Commission combined efforts to make important repairs to the
Brush Creek Bridge. In 2005, the National Park Service Route 66
Corridor Preservation Program provided additional Cost-Share Grant funds to assist with repairs to the concrete superstructure. Although
local traffic has been rerouted around the bridge, it is still possible
to walk or drive across the bridge. If you’re lucky, you may discover
it in use as a venue for a community picnic or wedding – and you’ll
likely be invited to join in.
The Brush Creek Bridge can be reached by driving north on N. Willow
Ave. (Southeast 50th) approximately 3.5 miles out of Baxter Springs, KS.
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Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station, Baxter Springs, Kansas
Not even 13 miles, 12.8 miles to be exact --that’s how long Route 66 is
in Kansas. Despite its short length, the route passes through three
towns that are rich in cowtown, mining, and route 66 history -- Galena,
Riverton, and Baxter Springs. In Baxter Springs, motorists will find a
bold example of its Route 66 history in the Independent Oil and Gas
stock market crash of 1928 and the Great Depression that followed left
major oil companies in disarray. Some companies failed, and others were
bought out. The survivors struggled to attract and hold customers in
order to rebuild their damaged brands. In a savvy public relations
move, oil companies began establishing uniform station designs that
immediately identified their brand to car-driving customers. For good
reason, many of these new station designs had a distinctly domestic
flair. The homey, cottages designs sought to appease local customers by
blending into the surrounding neighborhood and provided travelers with
a sense of security and comfort during an economic era fraught with
uncertainty and discomfort.
Baxter Springs has a prime
example of just such an “automotive cottage.” Small and square when it
was built in 1930 at the north end of the Baxter Springs commercial
district, the station featured brick and stucco walls, a pitched roof,
a chimney, and shuttered windows. A small copper-roofed bay window was
located next to the entrance, and Tudor Revival influence was apparent
in the cross-timbered gables and deep eaves. In 1940, the building was
enlarged without seriously disrupting the building’s original plan,
form, and materials. A tall, shield-shaped Phillips 66 pole sign still
stands at the southwest corner of the property. The station’s design
clearly conveys its original use as an early service station as well as
the intentional “welcome home” iconography of its owners--first
Independent Oil and Gas and later Phillips Petroleum.
of Baxter Springs have had a strong interest in local history and
preservation for a long time. In 1980, the Baxter Springs Heritage
Society opened a museum. The society became interested in the gas
station, which had stopped selling gasoline and been used as a gift
store, dog-groomer’s shop, and chiropractor’s office. In 2003, the
National Park Service listed the station in the National Register of
Historic Places, and the heritage society acquired it the same year.
Grants from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation
Program and the Kansas Humanities Council and local volunteer labor and
in-kind contributions assisted with the repairs and cleaning needed in
order to reopen the building as the Kansas Route 66 Visitor Center. The
center had its grand opening in 2007. Occupying a corner lot, the
building continues to communicate its 40-year association with Route 66
and to offer services to the travelers of today.
The Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station building is
at 940 Military Ave. in Baxter Springs, KS. The building now houses the
Route 66 Visitor’s Center, which is open to the public Monday-Saturday,
10:00am to 5:00pm. Call 620-856-2066 for information or visit the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum website. The National Register nomination form for the building can be found here. More information about the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program can be found here.
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Coleman Theater, Miami, Oklahoma
Starting in 1929, weary travelers along the recently designated U.S.
Highway 66, who arrived in the small Oklahoma city of Miami, received
not only the usual hot food and lodgings but also a unique feast for
the senses. When it opened on April 18, 1929 along Miami’s Main Street
segment of Route 66, the Coleman Theatre was proudly billed as the most
elaborate entertainment facility between Dallas and Kansas City. Local
mining magnate, George Coleman, who conceived and funded the theatre,
determined to give Miami--and Mother Road travelers-- the very best
entertainment in the most modern surroundings.
The Coleman’s Spanish Revival style exterior was a favorite choice of the
Jazz Age, and this stucco palace is considered one of the best
surviving examples in Oklahoma. In its heyday, the Coleman rivaled the
Spanish Revival theaters found in the “big city” (Oklahoma City) down
the road. Above the east, Main Street entrance is a dominating,
curvilinear gable topped with three ornate finials. Underneath this
gable are compound arched windows with exquisite, hand-carved terra
cotta ornamentation. The east façade’s parapet wall with low relief
carvings and a central spire-like bell tower are also trademarks of the
style. Around the corner, hovering above the south, First Street
entrance are twin bell towers with balconettes, wrought iron railings
and red tile hip roofs. In order to diversify income, the design of the
theatre’s ground floor included offices and shops along both Main and
Entering the theatre, contemporary
visitors experience the treat of seeing a remarkable period piece.
Restored to its 1920s splendor, the theatre’s gaudy Louis XV decor
mightily competes with any entertainment program then or now. The
interior offers intricate historical detailing, a fully restored
original chandelier, and carved winding staircases flanked by gilded
Historically, the Coleman’s
varied program offerings typified an American entertainment industry in
marked transition. Alongside the latest movies from Hollywood,
including talkies from the very start, customers could enjoy old time
vaudeville, live music from a ten-person orchestra, and a vintage pipe
organ called the “Mighty Wurlitzer.”
Opened in 1929,
the Coleman Theatre still remains in business. In 1989, the Coleman
family donated the building to the City of Miami. With the support of
private and public funding, including a matching grant from the Federal
Economic Development Administration, hundreds of community volunteers
helped restore the historic Coleman Theatre. Even the old Mighty
Wurlitzer, long thought lost, is back. The theatre was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
The Coleman Theatre is located at the corner of 1st and Main Sts. in
downtown Miami, OK. It remains an important entertainment and
commercial center for the community and is a popular stop for travelers
along Route 66. The theatre offers free tours Tuesday through Friday,
from 10:00am to 4:00pm, and 10:00am to 12:00pm on Saturdays. For hours
and programs, call 918-540-2425 or visit the Coleman Theatre's website.
Miami Marathon Oil Company Service Station, Miami, Oklahoma
A Greek temple with motor oil on the floor? A service station that’s
mostly porch? A house with gas pumps out front instead of rocking
chairs? Take your pick. The Miami Marathon Station is a little of each.
The building is significant as a fine example of the Neoclassical
Revival style “house with canopy” gas station and for the role it
played in commerce along Route 66.
Miami, Oklahoma old Route 66 ran right down Main Street where the
station still occupies a corner lot. This location allowed convenient
automobile access and increased visibility from a distance during the
years when Route 66 became the nation’s major east-west artery.
Oil built the station in 1929 and a local family leased it for $40 a
month. Marathon Oil soon acquired Transcontinental and, before long,
the station sported the Marathon Oil Company emblem, the Greek runner
Pheidippides. Because Pheidippides was the original marathon man, the
company’s slogan, “Best in the long run,” was a natural choice.
to complement the Greek runner on the station’s signage, the building
used the Neoclassical Revival style. The exterior of the front gabled
square building of white glazed brick has a full height portico held up
by massive classical columns. The building is like a small Greek temple
with a triangular pediment fronting the carport and crown molding over
the door. Buzzing light bulbs lit the bay, six down each side and five
in the front, their weak, yellow light guiding motorists in out of the
night. Even in the 1930s, when canopies like the one in Miami fell out
of favor in much of the country, they remained popular in the Southwest
because they provided daytime protection from the harsh sun.
porch-like canopy and homey design of the station suggested a haven to
early motorists as they traveled the Mother Road. Oil companies used
domestic designs to fit comfortably within adjacent residential
neighborhoods, and small stations like this one in Miami reassured
travelers that while the route through town may be unfamiliar, it could
still be friendly.
The station is easy to find today. The
owner recently restored the building for use as a beauty salon. It
looks much as it did in the 1930s, although the gas pumps have been
removed, and only a ghost outline of the Pheidippides runner is
visible. The National Park Service listed the station in the National
Register of Historic Places in 1995.
The Miami Marathon Oil Company Service Station is located at 331 South
Main St. in Miami, OK. Call 918-541-1615 for information. The Miami
Marathon Oil Company Service Station National Register nomination form
can be found here.
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Chelsea Motel, Chelsea, Oklahoma
Cafes, motels, and gas stations were the backbone of the Route 66
economy. The Chelsea Motel--modest and now abandoned, with paint
peeling off its once-white walls--is evidence of that vibrant period
when Route 66 helped transform the social and economic landscape of
Middle America. All along the length of Route 66, the highway generated
social change--first as the stimulus for hundreds of mom and pop motels
like the Chelsea Hotel, and later as those same enterprises faded away.
the time of Route 66’s designation as a Federal highway, Chelsea was
one of a string of towns in northeastern Oklahoma connected by the
highway. At that point, Chelsea had a solid commercial district and at
least one oil refinery. The center of town was the railroad depot.
Route 66 shifted the center. For most of its distance in Chelsea, the
highway ran on the east side of the railroad, opposite the business
district. Route 66 did not enter Chelsea’s business district at all but
skirted to the southwest toward Claremore and Tulsa. Route 66 was a
powerful magnet, and Chelsea commerce followed the new highway. Within
a few years, several businesses emerged along the east side of Route 66
(Walnut Avenue)--stations, cafes, and motels designed to accommodate
the auto traffic that was increasing along the route.
It’s easy to imagine a vacationing family, tired from a long day on hot
Oklahoma roads, taking pleasure in the sight of a line of cafes and
motels where they could eat, rest, and sort out the back-seat quarrels
between the kids. One of the most prominent of those businesses on
Walnut Avenue was the Chelsea Motel, complete with a large, elaborate
neon sign. The simple stucco rectangular building held six motel units.
by 1936, but certainly by 1939, the motel was operating at the corner
of First and Walnut. These were good years for small-time motel owners.
The Chelsea changed ownership occasionally during its two decades of
operation, but the late 40s and early 50s were a booming time in the
mom-and-pop motel industry. A modest row of rooms on a busy
thoroughfare could provide a family with a steady income.
the mid 1950s, however, pressures were increasing on enterprises like
the Chelsea Motel. Competition increased as the number of motels more
than doubled nationwide between 1946 and 1953. Motels were changing,
too, requiring bigger facilities and amenities like telephones and air
conditioning. The Chelsea Motel responded to these demands, but an even
bigger threat to the survival of the enterprise was building.
Automobile traffic on Route 66 led to the creation of the Chelsea Motel, and
paradoxically its success would lead to its demise. During the post-war
years, Route 66 in Oklahoma became increasingly congested with cars,
trucks, and buses. Federal efforts to improve the highway turned into a
project to replace it altogether. In 1953, the Turner Turnpike between
Tulsa and Oklahoma City opened, running essentially parallel to Route
The Chelsea Hotel is at the
intersection of Historic Route 66, called N. Walnut Ave. locally, and
E. First St. in Chelsea, OK. The motel is privately owned and used for
storage. It is not accessible to the public but can be viewed from the
public right of way. The National Register nomination form for the
building can be found here.
Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park, Foyil, Oklahoma
Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park is the oldest and largest example of a
folk art environment in Oklahoma; its construction lasting from 1937 to
1961. Totem Pole Park contains the original, highly decorated creations
of Galloway, one of Oklahoma’s premier folk artists and significant in
the “visionary art” movement. The park is located just 3.5 miles off
the Mother Road. All of the art objects are made of stone or concrete,
reinforced with steel rebar and wood. Galloway incised and carved the
objects in bas-relief and applied paint to decorations that generally
include representational and figurative images of birds and Native
Americans of Northwest Coast/Alaska and Plains cultures arranged facing
the four cardinal directions.
Nathan Edward Galloway was born in 1880 in Springfield, Missouri and began
wood carving as a boy. He became proficient in woodworking and
blacksmithing and obtained employment at Sand Springs Home, teaching
manual arts to orphan boys. In 1937, he retired to live on the property
now known as the Totem Pole Park. He constructed a vernacular Craftsman
residence, a smokehouse, and a workshop (which no longer exists). He
began to make violins, furniture, and decorative wall art. Galloway
became interested in Native Americans and found inspiration in post
cards and National Geographic magazines to construct totem poles in the
Between 1937 and 1948, he created a 90-foot tall
main totem pole heavily carved with bas-relief designs, the largest art
object on the property. This totem pole is made of red sandstone framed
with steel and wood with a thick concrete skin and sits on a large
three-dimensional turtle. The turtle forms the base and is carved from
a broad, flat outcrop of sandstone in place on the site. The totem pole
is hollow and ascends nine “floors,” with the ground floor measuring
nine feet in diameter. The plastered interior depicts painted murals of
mountain-and-lake scenes and bird totems. Native American shields and
arrow points line the tops of the murals. At the very top, the cone is
open to the sky.
Other totems include a pre-1955
Arrowhead Totem, a c.1955 Birdbath Totem, and a Tree Totem dating c.
1955-1961. The park also includes two sets of concrete totem picnic
tables with seats, a concrete totem barbeque/fireplace, small bird
gateposts, as well as the Fish-Arch gates designed by Galloway to look
like a gar-like fish with bird images facing east and west.
A museum stands on the property called the “Fiddle House” which houses
Galloway’s fiddles and other creations. The eleven-sided building
resembles a Navajo hogan, decorated with totemic columns and Native
In 1961, Galloway died and the park
fell into disrepair until the Rogers County Historical Society acquired
it in 1989. In a restoration effort conducted from 1988-1998 by the
Rogers County Historical Society and the Kansas Grassroots Arts
Association, art conservators and engineers studied the site and
repainted, replaced, and replicated materials in disrepair.
Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park is located on Oklahoma State Highway 28A,
at a point 3.5 miles east of U.S. Route 66. The junction of these two
roads occurs in the center of Foyil, OK. The park and its gift shop are
open to the public Monday-Saturday 11:00am to 3:00pm and Sunday 12:30pm
to 4:00pm. No admission fee is charged. To make an appointment or for
more information please call the Rogers County Historical Society at
918-342-1169 or 918-342-9149, or visit its website. The National Register nomination form for the park can be found here.
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Vickery Phillips 66 Station, Tulsa, Oklahoma
In the 1920s, Tulsa was without exaggeration the oil capital of the
world, which caused its downtown to experience major growth. In 1926,
with the designation of Second Street as U.S. Route 66, businesses that
catered to the traveling public, such as gas stations, diners, and
tourist camps, replaced private residences. In the fall of 1930,
Phillips Petroleum Company purchased a property near downtown Tulsa at
the corner of Sixth and Elgin Streets and replaced a two-story home
with a gas station in 1931.
Phillips Petroleum Company constructed its station in the Cotswold
Cottage design, which the company used throughout the country in an
effort to make its stations look both attractive and uniform in
appearance. Each station had a central chimney and was painted a
distinctive dark green with orange and blue trim. The cottage style
conveyed an image of domestic tranquility and romanticism, an attempt
to blend into residential neighborhoods, and unmistakably communicated
a corporate image with its consistency of design and colors. The
Phillips 66 cottage style immediately became recognizable to travelers
along the nation’s highways.
The Vickery Station, its
name today, consists of two separate buildings, one for the office and
one for the service bays. Both are of brick with steeply pitched
shingled roofs. A graceful arch made of soldier-coursed bricks marks
the entrance to the station office, and the tapered chimney has a
circular inset designed for a backlit Phillips 66 medallion.
operated the station for seven years and then leased it to individuals.
This was a common practice in the industry, whereby the oil company
retained its rights of ownership--including the requirement that the
leased station sell only that company’s products--but reduced its
managerial and personnel burdens. The disadvantages of such an
arrangement to the individual operator soon became evident, and over
the following five years, the lease changed hands twice. By 1943, it
became the Victory V W Phillips 66. The name of the station represented
an interesting ploy to attract customers in the spirit of winning World
War II at the same time that it hinted at the name of the new lessee:
V.W. Vickery. Mr. Vickery lived in a small apartment less than a block
away, indicating the mom-and-pop status of the station, even though a
large corporation actually owned it. After the war ended, the name of
the station changed in 1946 from the Victory Station to the Vickery
Phillips 66 Station.
While the circumstances of the war
proved challenging, the end of the war and flourishing Route 66 traffic
and automobile culture turned the station into a successful business by
the 1950s. By the end of the decade, however, with the substantial
rerouting of Route 66 south of the station, business declined. By the
end of the 1960s, the station had a new lessee. In 1973, the buildings
became vacant, and Phillips sold the property. After that time, the
station served other purposes, mainly as a paid parking lot.
station was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Between 2006 and 2008, a new owner restored the station utilizing Cost-Share Grant assistance
from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program
as well as Federal tax credits for historic preservation. This
initiative resulted in the restoration of the vacant buildings on the
property into a rental car facility serving downtown Tulsa.
The Vickery Phillips 66 Station is located at 602 S. Elgin Ave. on the
southwest corner of 6th and Elgin Sts. facing north toward 6th St. in
Tulsa, OK. Visitors are welcome at the station, which now operates as
an Avis Rental Car field office. For information call 918-582-2534.
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11th Street Arkansas River Bridge, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Built in 1916-1917 over the Arkansas River in Tulsa, the 11th Street
Arkansas River Bridge is significant as the first major multi-span
concrete bridge in Oklahoma. The bridge became a critical link between
downtown Tulsa and the oil fields to the west. The mid-1910s was a
period of great activity for Tulsa because of the booming oil economy.
Across the Arkansas River, West Tulsa expanded rapidly to become a busy
area for refining oil. The increase in traffic and trucking associated
with the oil business made replacing the earlier wooden bridge a
by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company for $180,000, the 11th
Street Arkansas River Bridge is a multi-span concrete arch bridge with
18 spans set on piers sunk into bedrock. Harrington, Howard and Ash of
Kansas City, a firm that designed many bridges in the Midwest,
engineered the bridge. Completed in 1917 and regarded as an
architectural beauty with all modern features, the bridge, at 1,470
feet long and 34 feet wide, was one of the longest concrete structures
in the Midwest. It supported a railroad track in the center and single
lane of vehicular traffic on each side with sidewalks adjacent to the
exterior lanes. The original design included a classical balustrade and
Victorian-era lighting. In 1929, the installation of new Art Deco style
guardrails and lighting fixtures updated the bridge. These lights are
no longer extant.
Tulsan Cyrus Avery served as County
Commissioner from 1913 to 1916, and was involved with construction of
the bridge. In 1924, the Federal Government appointed Avery as a
consulting highway specialist and assigned him the task of creating a
U.S. highway system. Recognizing the economic impacts of these
highways, Avery became a strong proponent of a route from Chicago to
Los Angeles that would pass through his hometown of Tulsa. Already in
existence as the primary crossing over the Arkansas River, the 11th
Street Bridge became a major determining factor in defining the path of
Route 66 to and through Tulsa.
A project in 1934
widened the bridge to its present width of 52 feet 8 inches and
included construction of a second arch structure downstream of the 1916
structure and the connection of the new and old bridges with a single
deck. New sidewalks were also built on both sides of the bridge. After
completion of the project, the new 40-feet curb-to-curb width allowed
the bridge to accommodate four lanes of traffic. The bridge remained in
service until 1980, when it closed to traffic. In 1996, the bridge was
listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
2003, the voters of Tulsa County approved a series of projects as part
of the Vision 2025 initiative, one of which involves promoting and
enhancing Route 66 in Tulsa. Plans are underway to implement the Vision
2025 projects with repairs to the 11th Street Bridge and the opening of
a visitor center at the site. In 2004, the bridge officially received a
new name, the “Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge,” in honor of the
man responsible for bringing Route 66 through Tulsa.
The 11th Street Arkansas River Bridge spans the Arkansas River on
historic Route 66 between the Southwest Boulevard Bridge and Interstate
244 Bridge in Tulsa, OK. Visit the Vision 2025 website for more information on Vision 2025 projects. The National Register form can be found here.
Bridge #18 at Rock Creek, Sapulpa, Oklahoma
Of the great number of bridges built on Route 66, Bridge #18 at Rock
Creek is one of the better examples of the remaining steel-truss
bridges in Oklahoma. Truss bridges were developed in the mid-1800s and
used extensively until World War II, when technology changed and more
standardized concrete designs were developed.
terms of lineage, the ancestor of the steel-truss bridge is the beam
bridge, usually built of wood and limited in the amount of weight it
could support. As a result, early roads generally followed old trails
where rivers and creeks were shallow. Even bridges that were quite long
were located at shallow crossings.
One of the oldest
types of modern bridges, truss bridges were altogether something new.
Bridge #18 at Rock Creek is composed of connected elements, in this
case steel beams, which stressed by tension and compression (or
sometimes both) in response to dynamic and heavier loads. Because of
truss bridges, deeper water could be safely crossed. Roadways no longer
had to meander from one low-water crossing to another. Instead they
could be built along the shortest route. Bridge #18 is a Parker through
truss bridge. Its ancestor is the beam bridge, while its descendants
are today’s cantilever, truss-arch, and lattice bridges. Unusual for a
steel truss bridge, #18 has brick decking.
is an illustration of the bridges of its era. Route 66 travelers who
crossed Rock Creek near Sapulpa during the late 1920s would have
thought the bridge the most dynamic design of its time, and it was.
Constructed in 1924, #18 served as part of the old Ozark Trail, one of
the few marked U. S. roads at the time. It became part of Route 66 in
1926. Just over a decade later the State’s entire section of Route 66
was paved. The bridge served Route 66 until the construction of a new
alignment in 1952. The bridge was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 1995.
Sapulpa itself, a town of about
20,000, has some notoriety unrelated to its historic bridge. Chief
Sapulpa, the area’s first permanent settler, was a Creek Indian. In
1850 (at just about the same time engineers were designing the first
truss bridges), he established a trading post near the meeting of the
Polecat and Rock Creeks. Sapulpa is the home of Frankoma Pottery,
established in 1933 and sometimes making appearances on Antiques Road
Bridge #18 at Rock Creek is still in use as the part of Historic Route 66 crossing Rock Creek in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
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Rock Café, Stroud, Oklahoma
Like so many Route 66 roadside businesses, the landmark Rock Café in
Stroud began as a start up business with modest capital. Owner Roy
Rives took three years to finish construction and, at times, resorted
to hiring high school students as a labor force. The concrete
foundation of the Bungalow/Craftsman influenced café was poured by
wheelbarrow, and its now famous Giraffe-style sandstone exterior may
very well have been the result of economy over inspiration. Some say
that Mr. Rives spotted a deal and purchased the entire supply of local
colorful sandstone (leftovers from a recent construction project on
Route 66) for just five dollars.
the Rock Café finally opened for business in August 1939, conditions
were favorable. Traffic along the Mother Road steadily increased as
America emerged from the Great Depression. The café flourished even
during the rationing years of World War II, in part because it doubled
as a stop for the Greyhound bus lines that carried thousands of
travelers and hungry, thirsty GIs to and from home leave. Following the
war, the café went to a 24-hour schedule, a sign that Route 66 was
entering its boom years. The café installed its strikingly modernistic
neon sign in the late 1940s.
The Rock Café survived the
decommissioning of Route 66, but by the early 1990s, the restaurant
needed extensive rehabilitation. When the current owners purchased the
property in 1993, the outlook appeared grim, and it got worse when in
1999 a major tornado hit Stroud, devastating the town’s economy.
Persisting through a commitment to their adopted town and to the memory
of the Mother Road, the owners held on. In 2001, they succeeded in
placing the café in the National Register of Historic Places and
received a cost share grant from the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program
the same year. The owners used the funds for a top to bottom
rehabilitation of the café, including restoration work on the green tin
roof, neon sign, and Giraffe-style sandstone exterior. They also
restored two original entrances on the east and west sides of the café
that had been covered over with stone. The entire dining room returned
to an earlier era with booths, counter, and counter stools restored to
an original floor plan. In 2008, the café suffered a disastrous fire.
Funding from NPS and National Trust Southwest Office assisted with
post-fire assessment and preservation plan that led to meticulous
rehabilitation of the cafe. Reopened in 2009, this welcoming roadside
café is a favorite stop for travelers along historic Route 66.
The Rock Café is located at 114 W. Main St. in Stroud, OK. The café is
open from 6:00am to 9:00pm seven days a week. For information, call
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Seaba Station, Warwick, Oklahoma
The Seaba Station, formerly known as Seaba’s Filling Station and Seaba
Engine Rebuilding and Machine Shop, offers travelers an example of an
early rural service station along historic Route 66. It also tells the
story of commercial adaptation along the ever-changing Mother Road. In
1921, John Seaba constructed the filling station near Warwick along
State Highway 7, which was part of the old Ozark Trails network. This
already established thoroughfare was simply re-designated U.S. Highway
66 in 1926.
Now flanked by later additions to the north and south, the original
irregular shaped red polychrome brick station had a five-sided open
service bay. The gas pumps, which dispensed the cheerfully optimistic
“NevrNox” brand, were located in the central bay. Although called a
filling station, its additional auto repair function illustrates the
growing trend in the 1920s toward full service stations. Brick and
metal windows filled in the open service bays in the 1940s, but
visitors today can easily see the original brick columns that supported
them. Light brick rectangles decorate both the columns and the areas
above the bays. A crenulated parapet capped with white brick rims the
Directly behind the bay area is a detached
red brick workshop with a gabled roof, also constructed in 1921. Here
Mr. Seaba began to diversify. Initially he purchased and reassembled
Model T Fords. In 1934, he opened an engine repair shop, specializing
in rebuilding connecting rods. As traffic--and breakdowns--increased
along the Mother Road, the station flourished and by the late 1930s
employed about 18 people. The coming of World War II and its strict gas
rationing sealed the fate of the filling station. Boosted by government
contracts to repair the military trucks plying Route 66, Seaba filled
in the bay areas and converted to full-time engine rebuilding. The
building served this purpose until 1994. In the early 1990s, new owners
reopened the station as an antique, gift, and tourist stop along
historic Route 66. After that business closed, the station housed a
motorcycle museum that is no longer open. The owners received a NPS Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program Cost-Share Grant in 2005. In 2008, three of the original five bays were re-opened to evoke the station’s 1921 appearance.
Seaba Station is especially noteworthy for the restored, original rock
outhouse building, which is a state-of-the-art roadside restroom from
the 1920s. Amenities included his and hers cast iron toilets, which
conveniently flushed the entire time individuals sat on the rims of the
Station is located on the north side of Route 66 eight miles west of
Chandler, OK near the community of Warwick. It is also one mile east of
Highway 177. The station currently is not open to the public.
Chandler Armory, Chandler, Oklahoma
Among the highlights of Chandler’s Route 66 landscape is the Chandler
Armory, behind which stands the only brick outhouse in Oklahoma,
thought to have been built between 1903 and 1912 and still containing
its original French fixture. The Chandler Armory is an excellent
example of Works Progress Administration (WPA) architecture; it is rich
with history. The armory is also significant as the home of Battery F,
Second Battalion of the 160th Field Artillery of the Oklahoma National
Guard, 45th Infantry division and for its role in helping the men of
Battery F prepare for their role in World War II after mobilization in
W. Nolan, an architect and major in the National Guard, served as the
supervising architect for the WPA armory construction program in
Oklahoma. Constructed of local sandstone, the armory’s recessed
stonework and projecting pilasters give the building a vertical
emphasis and an Art Deco influence. You’d never mistake the building
for anything but a military installation. There are five
big-truck-sized bays with overhead doors, and one section of the
building is topped with those barrel vault roofs utilized by so many
1930s military structures.
The WPA built the Chandler
Armory in two sections between 1935 and 1937. The eastern half of the
building contains offices, locker rooms, truck bays, an ammunition
vault, and classrooms. The other half is mostly drill hall. At one end
of the hall is an elevated stage, and beneath the stage is a long,
narrow rifle range.
Oklahoma is tornado country which
may be why the armory was built so soundly. Not only are the walls made
of sandstone, but the roof of the drill hall was constructed of
half-inch cellutex insulation and five-ply built-up felt and asphalt
laid on metal sheeting supported by steel trusses also.
All in all, the Chandler Armory is evidence of the intention and the
success of the WPA program. It used native materials, served the
public, and employed local workers. More than 250 men worked the local
quarry to keep laborers at the jobsite supplied with material.
Staggered crews of 14 men were employed on the jobsite, because the
schedule provided as much employment as possible for workers in need of
jobs. Workers dressed the stone and hoisted it into place by hand. The
wooden floor of the drill hall required a great deal of hand labor,
too. Workers cut more than 156,000 wood blocks on the jobsite and set
them into place manually. During the Great Depression, the armory put
Chandler to work.
When the job was finished in March of
1937, the community celebrated with a parade, a banquet, the laying of
a cornerstone, an open house, and a dance with music provided by a WPA
swing band from Okmulgee, Oklahoma.
The new armory
provided the 58 men and five officers of the 45th Infantry Division of
the Oklahoma National Guard with a modern facility, allowing the unit
to achieve a greater level of military efficiency and
preparedness--skills they would need soon enough. In September 1940,
the unit was mobilized and saw action in North Africa, Sicily, and
Eventually, in 1971, the National Guard constructed a
modern facility to replace the historic armory and deeded the older
building to the town. Despite occasional use as stores, a vehicle shop,
and a maintenance building, the building became so decayed that the
city council debated demolishing it. Sections of roof and windows were
missing; water damage was extensive; pigeons roosted throughout the
building, and electricity and water did not work.
interest in the building, however, remained. The property was listed in
the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, and the Old Armory
Restorers (OAR), a group of volunteers dedicated to saving, restoring,
and reusing the building as a public space, formed in 1998.
the summer of 2002, OAR was delighted to receive a Transportation
Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) grant through the Oklahoma
Department of Transportation. The grant required a 20 percent match and
the combined dollars funded much of the armory restoration. In 2007,
the eastern half of the armory opened as the Chandler Route 66
Interpretive Center, with exhibits featuring virtual hotel rooms,
vintage billboards, and period video viewed from the seats of a 1965
OAR’s vision did not end with the
interpretive center. It also included rehabilitation and reuse of the
drill hall, complete with its gem of a wooden floor. OAR continued to
apply for funds, receiving assistance from the National Park Service
Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and the Oklahoma Centennial
Commemoration Commission. The Ben T. Walkingstick Conference Center and
Exhibition Hall, now open in the rehabilitated drill hall, boasts
state-of-the-art technology and design and convenient location right
between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
The facility currently
welcomes 700 to 800 visitors a month, approximately 20 percent of whom
are international. The building’s transition from National Guard armory
to decaying building to Route 66 tourist destination is truly a
preservation success story.
Located in the middle of
Oklahoma, Chandler (population about 3,000) contains a number of
attractions for devotees of The Mother Road. You’ll find the Oklahoma
Law Enforcement Museum, a county museum of pioneer history, a
cottage-style Phillips 66 gas station, the colorful P. J.'s Bar-B-Que,
and one of the remaining painted barns advertising Meramac Caverns.
Long gone are other businesses that catered to Route 66 clientele--the
Childress Café, the J&E Café, Betty’s Grill, the Red Wing Café, and
finally, the Lewis Café where travelers along Route 66 were served what
was advertised as “the coldest beer in town.”
sizable boom in Chandler cafes continued until Interstate 44 was built
and transcontinental traffic left town. Today, Chandler’s economy is
driven mostly by agriculture and livestock, as well as insurance and
some manufacturing. Chandler has become a commuter town, just 30
minutes from the Oklahoma City metropolitan area and 45 minutes from
The Chandler Armory at 400 East Route 66 in Chandler, OK now houses the Route 66
Interpretive Center and Gift Shop. The center is open from 10:00am to
5:00pm every day April-August and Tuesday-Saturday September-March and
is almost entirely wheelchair accessible. Call 405-258-1300 for
information or visit the Route 66 Interpretive Center and Gift Shop website. The National Register nomination form for the armory can be found here. For more information on the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, click here.
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Threatt Filling Station, Luther, Oklahoma
Drive three miles east of Luther on U.S. 66, and you will arrive at a
quiet intersection where old Route 66 and Pottawatomi Road meet at
right angles. The historic Threatt Filling Station, an early gas
station that catered to African American travelers along Route 66, is
difficult to miss. It’s the only building there.
around 1915 using local sandstone, the “house type” station has
Bungalow/Craftsman features typical of the period. Each of its four
gables has wide eaves and triangular braces. The prominent front-facing
gable is positioned over wide double-entry doors. That entry used to
have spring-loaded screen doors, the kind that banged, bounced, and
banged again when people came and went. The original 1915 gasoline
pumps had glass containers on top so the attendant could measure how
much gas went into the car. In their place now are two 1940s enamel
pumps complete with the old geared system to indicate the flow of gas
with clicking metal numbers. The signage that used to top the pole
between the pumps is gone, but the old lights that once illuminated the
front of the station are still in place. Except for a 1961 addition to
the rear of the property, the station’s form is virtually unchanged
from the way it looked when Allen Threatt built it.
Threatt family homesteaded in the Luther area, a part of modern-day
Oklahoma that was opened to United States settlement in 1889, after the
Federal system of American Indian reservations and land allotments had
been established. Like many African Americans at the time, the Threatts
saw Oklahoma land as a great opportunity. They joined former slaves of
local Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole owners, as well
as former slaves from the southeast, in seeking greater security,
economic opportunity, and racial solidarity in Oklahoma. The Threatt
family raised crops on their farm, sold sandstone from their quarry,
and, ultimately, opened and ran the filling station.
filling station benefited from its proximity to Route 66. State Highway
7 formed the northern border of the Threatt farm, and as traffic on the
road increased during the early decades of the 20th-century, Route 66’s
local alignment incorporated Highway 7. Allen Threatt made a sensible
business decision to take advantage of the farm’s location and open the
From the mid 1910s through the 1950s,
the Threatt Filling Station was a popular roadside stop for locals and
travelers alike. The station was one of a very few places on Route 66
where people of color were welcome during an age when African American
children setting out on trips asked their parents why they needed to
carry so much food and water, as well as toilet paper and empty jars.
Black adults growing up along Route 66 in Chicago just “knew which
stretches they weren’t allowed to use.” The National Park Service
listed the Threatt Filling Station on the National Register of Historic
Places in 1995.
Threatt Filling Station is at the intersection of Historic Route 66 and
North Pottawatomi Rd. in Luther, OK. It is closed to the public and may
be viewed from the road. The Threatt Filling Station National Register
nomination form can be found here.
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Arcadia Round Barn, Arcadia, Oklahoma
Sitting atop a low terrace overlooking the Deep Fork River, the Round
Barn in Arcadia has been a center of community activity and curiosity
for over a century. William Harrison “Big Bill” Odor arrived in
Oklahoma County in 1892, and shortly after, in 1898, oxen cleared the
ground for construction of his barn. He built a barn 60 feet in
diameter and 43 feet high with a local red Permian rock foundation.
Local burr oak timbers were soaked in water until soft and then banded
into the mold to create the rafters. Mr. Odor apparently designed the
barn himself, though no one knows how he chose the round design.
its construction was completed in 1898, the barn housed hay, grain, and
livestock, but almost from the start, it served as a community center.
During the barn’s construction, three young workers, realizing what a
fine place it would be for dances, persuaded Mr. Odor to let them pay
the difference between planed rough flooring and hardwood, which was
more suitable for dancing. From time to time for the next 25 years,
barn dances drew crowds and musicians to Arcadia from a wide area. Mr.
Odor compared the barn’s acoustics with those of the Mormon Tabernacle
in Salt Lake City, and it became a popular rallying point while Arcadia
With the U.S. Highway 66 alignment through
Arcadia in 1928, travelers along the Mother Road were only a stone’s
throw from the architectural curiosity. The barn quickly became a Route
Although the barn decayed and was only
partially standing by the late 1970s, it was listed in the National
Register of Historic Places in 1977. Restoration efforts began when the
Arcadia Historical Society acquired the property in 1988. A committed
group of volunteers repaired the collapsed roof and restored the barn
using many of the original construction methods. In 1992, the barn
opened to the public, and in that same year, the Society received a
National Preservation Honor Award for its efforts. By 2005, the barn
again needed repairs, which dedicated volunteers completed with funding
assistance from the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. Today, the barn remains open as an important community resource and popular resting stop for Route 66 travelers.
The Arcadia Round Barn is located in Arcadia, OK. Turn east off
Interstate 35 at Route 66 and travel six miles. Admission is free. The
barn is open 7 days a week from 10:00am to 5:00pm. The upstairs loft
can be reserved for special events. For information, call 405-396-0824
or visit the Round Barn website. The National Register nomination can be found here.
Milk Bottle Grocery, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Milk Bottle Grocery in Oklahoma City is the type of historic Route 66
establishment that you can miss only if your eyes are closed.
Constructed in 1930, the tiny, 350-square foot triangular commercial
building of red brick is located on a speck of real estate smack in the
right-of-way of a busy urban thoroughfare. It sits at an old streetcar
stop along a line that ran diagonally across Classen Boulevard, which
served as a segment of Route 66’s original Oklahoma City alignment.
Subsequent realignments of the highway, first along Western Avenue and
then on 23rd Street, remained only a stone’s throw from the site.
conducting business in a tiny brick store in the middle of a city
street is not remarkable enough, the towering milk bottle perched on
the store’s flat roof confirms that the Milk Bottle Grocery is a Mother
Road must see. Built of sheet metal around 1948, the eye catching milk
bottle was, and still is, a funky advertising gimmick for the dairy
industry. The building’s tight spatial restrictions--hemmed in on all
sides by roadway--no doubt determined the milk bottle’s rooftop locale.
With only inches to spare beyond its walls, the only place left to go
The supersized milk bottle is representative of
the mimetic tradition in commercial architecture, which seeks to mimic
a commonplace object--often to grotesque proportions--to draw attention
to a business or product. Yet, the milk bottle never directly connected
to the business of its place. It has always been rented separately.
Over the years, lettering and logos on this classic icon have been
painted and repainted to accommodate a long line of milk related
promotions. For those too young to remember what a real milk bottle
actually looks like, this rendition is remarkably true to form, from
its long, tapered neck up to its rimmed mouth and its clever, metal
crenellated version of the traditional, folded paper bottle cap.
from the big bottle, what is most memorable about the Milk Bottle
Grocery is the primacy of its location for doing business in the
automobile age. Over the decades, this modest but well-situated
building has continued to draw a wide range of commercial ventures,
including a cleaners, a realty office, the Classen Fruit Market, a
barbecue “shak,” and the Triangle Grocery. Today, the building houses a
Vietnamese sandwich shop. The Milk Bottle Grocery was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
The Milk Bottle Grocery is located at 2426 North Classen Blvd in
northwestern Oklahoma City, OK. Today the building is occupied by the
Saigon Baguette, which can be reached at 405-524-2660. The National
Register nomination form can be found here.
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Lake Overholser Bridge, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Lake Overholser Bridge in Oklahoma City is a proud reminder of
Route 66. During the early 1920s, automobiles were replacing horses and
buggies on Oklahoma roads which, at that time, were not part of an
organized system but were instead an assortment of poorly maintained
lanes connecting rural villages to county seats. Navigating from one
part of Oklahoma to another was not always easy. The development of a
State highway system and the coming of Route 66 changed all that.
1924, the State Highway Commission made a bold move. The commission
published a State road map showing Oklahoma’s 5,000 miles of road and
labeling them as highways identified by numbers 1 to 26. The map
described each State highway by the towns through which it passed. The
commission also determined that each highway was to be marked by a
sufficient number of official State highway signs, in the center of
which would be a figure denoting the number of the highway.
of these new State highways was old Highway 3, which ran east and west
from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Texola on the Texas border over a
different route than today’s Highway 3. Known also as the Postal Road,
Highway 3 was a primary corridor stretching across Oklahoma, but very
little of it had pavement. What little pavement there was on Highway 3
washed away along with every bridge in the Oklahoma City area during
the massive floods of 1923. For two years, traffic on the Postal Road
had to use a ferry to cross the Canadian River where it emptied into
Oklahoma’s water reservoir, the Overholser Lake.
need for a new bridge was obvious. Construction of the Overholser
Bridge began in 1924 and the bridge opened for traffic in August of
1925. Accommodating a wide bed of 20 feet for traffic, the Overholser
was no ordinary bridge. The engineers who designed it not only used the
new steel truss technology, but also combined a variety of trusses in
unusual ways. With both Parker through trusses and pony trusses, the
748-foot bridge is not only an unusual design, but a balanced and
The bridge was no sooner finished than its status
began to change. The local press reported that the old Highway 3 was
being considered as part of one of the routes to be designated a U.S.
Highway. When the path of Route 66 was announced the next year, Highway
3 was part of the plan. When Route 66 left Oklahoma City, it carried
travelers over the Lake Overholser Bridge.
more than three decades the bridge served as a critical link for
motorists traveling across the State and country. Some were
vacationers, others crossed this bridge with hopes of finding better
lives further west, and others were part of the trucking industry which
was rapidly replacing rail transport. The volume was tremendous. By the
1950s, the bridge could not sustain this level of constant traffic.
Heavily chromed cars with shapely fins had to sit too long at the
bottleneck the bridge had become. In 1958, the Federal Government took
action, replacing this segment of Route 66 with a new four-lane divided
highway just to the north. The new section included a wider bridge,
while local traffic continued to pass over the Lake Overholser Bridge.
it carries only local traffic, yet the symmetry and size of the old
bridge still catch the eye of drivers speeding by on the more recent
replacement lanes just north of the bridge. Officially, the Overholser
Bridge lost its association with Route 66 in 1958, but its size and
symmetry and long-time service as part of old Route 66, make it a
landmark today for anyone traveling America’s Mother Road. The bridge
was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Lake Overholser Bridge carries local traffic as part of North
Overholser Dr. and is half a mile west of Council Rd. in Oklahoma City,
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Avant's Cities and Jacksons Conoco Service Stations, El Reno, Oklahoma
Driving along the old alignment of Route 66 in the western Oklahoma
town of El Reno, travelers will come to a sharp turn at the corner of
Wade and Choctaw where two very distinctive reminders of the service
station business along Route 66 remain. At 220 North Choctaw is the old
Avant’s Cities Service Station, and immediately to the south, at 121
West Wade, is the Jackson Conoco Service Station. Both businesses began
in the 1930s, a favorable time when the paving of Oklahoma Route 66
west of Oklahoma City neared completion.
seem to be no dramatic stories of cut-throat commercial rivalry between
the establishments' long time managers Tom Avant and Carelton Jackson,
even though their two stations were constructed at nearly the same time
along the same highway, and within sight of each other. Perhaps this
was because as long as the Mother Road reigned supreme, it channeled a
constant and growing stream of traffic through small towns such as El
Reno, seemingly bringing enough customers for all. Products of their
time, the stations represent two contrasting examples of the oil and
gas industry’s practice of achieving brand recognition through
distinctive service station architecture.
station is an Art Moderne /Art Deco mixed design favored by the Cities
Service Oil Company in the 1920s and 1930s. Its overall streamlined and
trimmed down look with smooth walls and a flat roof is typical Art
Moderne. Art Deco elements include the prominent zigzag parapet and
stepped out pilasters. The circular depression beneath the parapet once
held the Cities Service logo. A lonely overhead light socket that
illuminated the logo still remains. The station’s original color scheme
was Cities Service’s trademark white with green trim.
Jackson Conoco Service Station across the street is a sharp contrast.
Unlike the 1930s futuristic approach of Cities Service, but very
similar to other competitors such as Phillips 66 and Pure Oil, Conoco
Oil opted for the welcoming and domesticated look. The station is
styled in the Conoco’s house-with-bays style, resembling a residential
home or cottage with a steeply pitched gabled roof, chimney, and
decorative corbelling at the eaves under the corners. Distinguishing
Conoco’s version of this cottage look is the white glazed brick
exterior with red brick trim.
Both stations had a
service bay incorporated into their distinctive designs, a sign that
these roadside facilities were transitioning toward full service
stations. In keeping with its homey motif, the Jackson Conoco’s bay
looks like a residential garage with a gabled roof. Both stations added
additional service bays and gas pump canopies in the prosperous era
after World War II.
Each of the stations replaced
earlier casualties of the automobile age. Built in 1933, the Avant
Station is on the site of the once flourishing Campbell Hotel, a
traditional downtown-lodging establishment that did not appeal to
hurried motorists along Route 66. Travelers in automobiles ultimately
preferred motor courts and motels at the city’s edge. The venerable
hotel was razed to make way for the service station. The early 20th
century was a period of increasing competitiveness in America’s oil and
gas business, and in 1934, the Jackson Conoco replaced a demolished
1920s state-of-the-art Marland Oil “triangular station” (gas pumps
only), after Conoco bought out its parent company.
stations managed to hold on after the coming of Interstate 40 in the
early 1960s, but neither really flourished. The two stations eventually
evolved to serve new functions. Today, the Avant’s Service Station is a
muffler shop. The Jackson Conoco Service Station serves as a used car
dealership. Both stations were listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 2004.
The Avant’s Cities Service Station is located at 220 N. Choctaw, and
the Jackson Conoco Service Station is located at 121 W. Wade in El
Reno, OK. The Jackson Conoco Service Station's National Register
nomination form can be found here.
Fort Reno, El Reno, Oklahoma
The U.S. Government commissioned Fort Reno in 1874, the same year that
George Custer’s expedition confirmed reports of gold in the Black
Hills, and used the fort as a military post until just after World War
II. Fort Reno policed and enforced the government’s aims for the
surrounding area. The fort provided support for its transition from
Indian Territory to the State of Oklahoma before its location along
Route 66 helped make it a military prisoner-of-war camp during World
American Indians, including most of the Cheyenne, fought against the
government’s plan to confine them to small reservations. The U.S. Army
issued an ultimatum to the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne bands to
relocate onto reservations by January 31, 1876 and began attacking
those who resisted. As part of that campaign, the army forcibly
resettled many Cheyenne people near Fort Reno. Late in 1878, 300
American Indians escaped and fled for home, eventually making it to
their ancestral land in southern Montana. Ably lead by Dull Knife and
Little Wolf, they managed to evade the army.
Fort Reno also supervised the conversion of Oklahoma territory to farms
and ranches. Eastern opportunists began trying to claim and settle the
area surrounding Fort Reno immediately following the 1876 ultimatum,
and troops at Fort Reno worked to expel them. Fort Reno troops also
supervised the race to stake claims in the 1889, 1892, and 1894 land
rushes after the opening of the territory to legal settlement.
Reno served various purposes during the 20th century. In 1908, the fort
shifted from a station for troops to a remount station raising horses
and mules for army use, a function it served for nearly four decades.
During World War II, Fort Reno continued to foster large-scale
movements of people in support of the United States war effort. As
defense-related traffic hummed along on adjacent Route 66, stimulating
economies adjacent to military bases, nearly 100 acres of Fort Reno’s
eastern portion became an internment camp for German prisoners of war.
United States forces shipped more than 1,300 German soldiers, mostly
captured in North Africa, to Fort Reno, where they became laborers for
local farmers and construction crews for the chapel north of the parade
ground. The bodies of 70 German and Italian soldiers who died while
imprisoned throughout Oklahoma and Texas are interred in plots
adjoining the western portion of the cemetery.
station’s closure in 1947, Fort Reno hosted the Department of
Agriculture's Grazinglands Research Laboratory. The laboratory
continues to operate Fort Reno, which still suggests a frontier fort.
Buildings cluster around a parade ground, and a walk around the site
reveals mellow brick buildings from the 1880s, old sheds, living
quarters, and a rock-walled military cemetery.
National Park Service recognized the fort’s historic significance in
1970, by listing it in the National Register of Historic Places.
Historic Fort Reno, Inc. eventually formed to promote and care for the
site. The Fort Reno Visitor Center opened in the summer of 1997 and has
since greeted over 80,000 individuals. The National Park Service
awarded the site a $598,000 Save American’s Treasures grant, and the
Oklahoma Centennial Commission is another major supporter. Historic
Fort Reno, Inc. uses the funding to stabilize and restore the fort’s
buildings, which presently support education, special events, and the
USDA operations. Future plans call for office space, public space, bed
and breakfasts, a restaurant, a USDA information center, and a
Reno is located on Old Route 66/Business 40 four miles west of downtown
El Reno, OK. The fort’s visitor center at 7107 West Cheyenne St. Fort
Reno is open Monday-Friday 10:00am to 5:00pm and Saturday and Sunday
10:00am to 4:00pm and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New
Year’s Day. The grounds and some buildings are wheelchair accessible.
Call 405-262-3987 for information or visit the Historic Fort Reno, Inc.
website. The Fort Reno National Register nomination form can be found here.
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Provine Service Station, Hydro, Oklahoma
Carl Ditmore built this two-story gas station in 1929 in a rural area
approximately one-half mile south of Hydro along U.S. Route 66. Rural
service stations, similar to the Provine Service Station, began
springing up across the countryside in the late 1920s in response to
increasing transcontinental automobile travel. This style of rural
station was convenient for the traveler to get gasoline, pay the
attendant, and be on his way. Like other rural, mom and pop-built
stations of the time, this one was built with the owner’s living
quarters located on the second story. Mr. Ditmore and his family used
the upstairs as private living quarters while operating the station
small station is a vernacular interpretation of the Bungalow Craftsman
style. Its hipped roof has wide, overhanging eaves with exposed rafter
tails. The projecting second-story covers the open service bay,
supported by massive, tapered piers.
changed ownership several times but continued to pump gasoline for
Route 66 motorists. In 1934, W.O. and Ida Waldroup purchased the
station and renamed it the Provine Service Station, the name it still
goes by today. In 1941, the Hamons family took over its operation.
Lucille Hamons ran the business and lived there for nearly 60 years.
She quickly became one of the highway’s legendary characters. Her
self-reliance and generous assistance to motorists earned her the
nickname “Mother of the Mother Road.” The Provine Service Station is
commonly known as Lucille’s Place.
In 1971, the completed
section of Interstate 40 a few miles to the south cut the station off
from direct access to the new highway, but Lucille found a way to
survive. She installed a beer cooler, and her best regulars were the
boys at Southwest Oklahoma State University in nearby Weatherford (a
dry town). She kept the station open until the day she died, August 18,
2000. Today, crosses commemorating Lucille’s life sit along the Mother
Road across from the station.
The Provine Service Station was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
The Provine Service Station is located ½ mile west of the intersection
of Highway 58 and Interstate 40 south of Hydro, OK on historic Route
66. The station is no longer operating, but visitors are welcome to
stop and take photographs.
McLain Rogers Park, Clinton, Oklahoma
Between 1934 and 1937, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the
Civil Works Administration, and the Works Progress Administration
helped employ out-of-work citizens of Clinton, Oklahoma with the
construction of McLain Rogers Park. It was intended to be the city park
and was named for the mayor. The park welcomed visitors, who could
enter it directly off Route 66, through an impressive Art Deco style
gate with brick piers on either side of Bess Rogers Drive. McLain
Rogers Park is important in the recreational and economic development
of Clinton between 1934 and 1942 and for its unified design that
reflects the New Deal’s influence. This design is still evident today.
12-acre park has changed very little over the years, still featuring
the kinds of recreational attractions that appealed to local residents
and cross-country travelers during the 1930s and 40s. Visitors to the
park will find pavilions, a bandstand, tennis courts, putt-putt golf, a
baseball field, picnic tables with fire pits, playgrounds, a volleyball
court, amphitheaters, and a bathhouse. Many of the buildings and
structures are historic and date from the earliest days of the park.
Traffic on Route 66 increased the work of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol,
and the last Depression era building constructed in the park is the
1941 Highway Patrol Building near the main entrance gate.
during the 1930s, the grounds now contain mature hardwoods and conifers
that partially encircle the amphitheaters. Bess Rogers Drive meanders
charmingly along the rolling terrain of the park. Devotees of the
Mother Road go to Clinton to use the park but also to see the a WPA
masterpiece, the Art Deco east gate of the park, situated directly on
old Route 66 and still shining with its original neon at night.
brick piers that support the gate are best described as zigzag. The
piers are elaborately built so that the core of each has recessed
corners buttressed with additional staggered brickwork. The piers
support a cross member that repeats the zigzag motif of the piers and
supports the neon lights that spell out the name of the park in that
modernistic, spare, square font associated with the Art Deco style.
impressive entrance is connected to the park’s north gate by a short
drive. The north gate has the same Art Deco zigzag brickwork, but no
cross member or neon. These two gates along with the drive and stone
bridge that connect them are the signature elements in the park.
Overall, this is a recreational area where it is easy to imagine the
travelers of the past. The park was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 2004.
The McLain Rogers Park is located at the intersection of South 10th St.
and Bess Rogers Dr. in Clinton, OK. The park is bounded on the east by
10th St., on the south by Jaycee Ln., on the west by 13th St., and on
the north by Opal Ave. Call 580-323-4572 for information or visit the Clinton Parks and Recreation website. The National Register nomination form for the park can be found here.
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Y Service Station and Café, Clinton, Oklahoma
If it is true that location is everything, then the Y Service Station
and Café along old Route 66 in Clinton had it all. Constructed in 1937,
this roadside business was strategically located on a triangular lot
that formed the fork in a Y shaped intersection on the southern
outskirts of Clinton. Tenth Street, which doubled as Route 66, splits
at this point, with Route 66 continuing off to the west and U.S. Route
183 heading south. Situated in the middle of this fork with gas pump
islands flanking both highways, the Y Service Station and Café
prospered. Typical of its era, this full service roadside facility
offered not only food, fuel, and auto repair, but lodging as well.
About 100 feet to the south of the station and café on the same lot
were the Y Modern Cabins, which are no longer standing.
from its golden location, this business indirectly received an added
boost from the New Deal. Starting in 1936, the City of Clinton directed
part of its Federal Works Projects Administration funding toward
developing this southern suburb. WPA projects extended city water lines
into the area and constructed Neptune Park. Soon the “Y” found itself
in the middle of a busy commercial district.
in the Southwestern Mission Revival style, the building housing the
service station and café has stucco finishing, curvilinear parapets,
and simulated red roof tiles. In its original form, the pronounced
height of the building’s northwest corner parapet (now reduced in
height) seemed to mimic a classic mission bell tower. Yet the building
also contains a strong hint of a streamlined Moderne styling, which was
also in vogue at that time. The flat roof with coping around its
perimeter and a corner, metal window in the northeast second floor are
typical of this look. This eclectic approach to style and design
illustrates a simple but central point about business ownership and
roadside architecture in the age before corporate standardization.
Owners were free to build and design as they pleased. Travelers along
historic Route 66 are still enjoying the results.
and profits continued until the mid-1950s, but at that time, the Y
Station learned a very hard lesson about doing business along the
Mother Road. In the words of historian Michael Cassity, “what Route 66
had brought, it could also take away.” By 1956, traffic on 10th Street
was so dense that the highway was realigned. The new alignment bypassed
the Y Service Station and Café.
Like many roadside
businesses bypassed by Route 66, the Y Service Station did not die, but
instead evolved. Today, the gas pump islands are gone, the brick trim
is painted blue, and blue metal awnings dominate. The building is
currently host to an automobile dealership. Still, a large sign on its
second floor reminds visitors that the Y and Route 66 once were
closely, and profitably, connected. The station was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
The former Y Service Station and Café is located at 1733 Neptune Dr. in
Clinton, OK and is an automobile dealership accessible to the public.
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Beckham County Courthouse, Sayre, Oklahoma
Built in 1911, the Beckham County Courthouse is one of the few
courthouses in Oklahoma topped by a large dome. One of the tallest
buildings in Sayre, the courthouse has been the center of civic and
legal activity for nearly a century, and remains a landmark in this
community of approximately 4,000 people.
three-story, brick-and-stone courthouse with massive Tuscan columns
replaced an earlier two-story brick building just four years after
Oklahoma became a State and Beckham County was formed. Officials chose
a location just half a block from the train tracks for the court
square. The railroad was the most crucial link between the town and
outside commerce, and the substantial Neoclassical courthouse sought,
through design and placement, to provide railroad travelers from within
the county or further away with an impressive first encounter with
Beckham County and its government.
Beckham County was,
at the time of its founding, largely agricultural, producing cotton,
wheat, alfalfa, kafir, milo maize, and broomcorn. Agricultural
processing became important to the town. By 1909, Sayre boasted two
cotton gins, and by 1918 two more, and two grain elevators and a flour
mill operated in town as well. In the 1920s, companies drilled oil and
gas wells around Sayre, and within a decade, five oil companies and a
gasoline plant operated there.
The courthouse stood on
Sayre’s main square for less than 20 years before the routing of Route
66 through the town in 1928. That was when Sayre changed. Within a
couple of years, the town tied its fate to feeding and fueling the
steady stream of people exploring the country in automobiles on the
east-west Mother Road. In the 1930s and 1940s, the town built and
maintained a public library, a hospital, a forty-acre city park, a golf
course and swimming pool, baseball and softball fields, a racetrack,
and rodeo grounds. Sayre Junior College opened in 1938 and merged with
Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1987. By 1937, Route 66 was
paved through the entirety of Oklahoma.
During the 1930s
and 1940s, Sayre felt and looked like the beginning of the real West to
travelers from Chicago to Los Angeles. The town’s website still boasts
of being the place where the spirit of the West is still alive. Working
ranches are common in this part of Oklahoma. You might hear somebody’s
spurs rattle on the courthouse square and not think much about it.
the midst of that change, the old courthouse that the architectural
firm of Layton, Smith, and Hawk designed provided a formal and fitting
centerpiece. The north and south sides of the building have wide
pilasters, and the third floor is distinguished by a cornice of copper
sheeting. Dentils and pearl molding line a brick parapet. Twelve Doric
columns support the large clock dome, which in turn is topped by 12
Doric columns supporting a smaller dome. This beautiful and distinctive
design won the courthouse a 30-second appearance in the final cut of
John Ford’s movie, The Grapes of Wrath. The courthouse was listed in
the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
building is not Sayre’s only feature associated with historic Route 66.
The highway meanders through the town’s historic district, centered on
Main and Fourth Streets, which is listed in the National Register. Many
of the area’s buildings are being refurbished to reflect their original
appearance. The old Owl Drug Store served milkshakes to Route 66
travelers for many years, and the old Stovall Theater entertained them
with movies on its wide screen. Even more unusual is the pedestrian
underpass at the center of Fourth and Elm Streets, a walkway that
provided safety from congested Route 66 traffic. In 1975, Interstate 40
replaced Route 66 through Beckham County, diverting through traffic
away from the downtown core.
The Beckham County Courthouse, at 302 East Main St. in Sayre, OK, still
houses government functions, and is open Monday-Friday, 8:00am to
4:00pm. The courthouse is accessible to wheelchairs. Call 580-928-3330
for information or visit the court's website.
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West Winds Motel, Erick, Oklahoma
Seven miles east of the Oklahoma and Texas border, the town of Erick
sits on the edge of the high plains of the Panhandle surrounded by arid
countryside. Built to support vacationers and other automobile
travelers along Route 66 in 1948, the West Wind Motel’s white stucco
buildings with red mansard roofs created a bright presence in Erick.
The motel was in a good location to capture the business of travelers
on Route 66.
in 1901, Erick initially served as a regional agricultural center. Gas
production from a nearby field supported the economy as well. Fine old
brick buildings from the town’s first several decades remain in its
historic downtown. Erick sat on the edge of the Dust Bowl, however, and
agricultural depression hit the little town hard during the 1920s and
1930s. Many residents moved to California and elsewhere.
War II brought rejuvenation. By the end of the war, travelers flooded
Erick’s Broadway Street, the local Route 66 alignment. The Chamber of
Commerce printed a circular proclaiming Erick “not a war spoiled town
or just another boom town but a town with a half century of service,”
and declared it "the first town you encounter, going west, which has
any of the true western look, with its wide, sun-baked streets,
frequent horsemen, occasional side-walk awnings, and similar touches."
It was into this appealing business climate that the West Wind Motel
Five blocks west of the town’s main
intersection, the West Winds Motel occupied the north side of Route 66,
a location with the commercial advantage of visibility for the
westbound traveler. A neon sign flashed the name of the motel beneath a
painting of a bucking bronco. Faded today, the sign with its
head-down-heels-up horse and his tenacious rider is still visible.
courts like the West Winds Motel generally consisted of individual
guest cottages or multiple-unit guest buildings with continuous
facades, often with attached garages; an office and owner-residence
building; and perhaps a coffee house; arranged around a central open
space. At the West Winds, an office and two multi-unit buildings set at
right angles form the courtyard. A gravel loop once outlined the
U-shaped central public space, giving the motel two street entrances.
Until 2002, a rusting children’s swing set, evidence of the prosperous
post-war years when families stayed at the West Winds, still stood
windblown and creaking in the courtyard.
significant are the motel’s design accommodations for automobiles. Its
location alongside the highway and some distance from the town center
made automobile access easy. The architectural design also caters to
drivers and riders. The northern building has four motel units
separated by open garage bays, which provide the only entrance to the
rooms. In lieu of garages, the eastern building features a canopy that
stretches along its front, its wide metal band wrapping around the
corners like an automobile grill. As lodging people became more
profitable than lodging automobiles, new motor courts generally left
off the garages, and owners of older courts filled in garage bays like
those remaining in the West Winds. Their survival here makes the motel
unusual and closely ties it to the decade of the 1940s when private
automobiles transitioned from novel and highly valued possessions to
common modes of transportation.
The West Wind’s
stone-and-stucco construction, linear buildings, courtyard, and Mission
style invoke a Spanish hacienda. The motel’s name ties it to a time in
history when the West had captured the imagination of much of the
United States. Because of its historic significance, the National Park
Service listed the motel in the National Register of Historic Places in
The West Winds
Motel is at 623 Roger Miller Blvd. in Erick, OK, and is now used as a
private residence. Its National Register nomination form can be found here.
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Oklahoma Road Segments
U.S. Highway 66 in Oklahoma occupies a very special place along the
great arc of the Mother Road. Here the densely populated and nuanced
terrain of the Midwest meets the western road’s wide open plains
the creation of Route 66 in 1926, Oklahoma was not yet 20 years into
statehood and was still developing a modern infrastructure, which the
condition of its transportation and communication network at the time
illustrates. As late as 1926, Oklahoma had more railroad mileage, the
transport choice of the 19th century, than road miles. On the eve of
the Mother Road, less than 12% of the State’s roads had hard paved
surfaces. As a result, the first generation of Route 66 roadbed in
Oklahoma was a patchwork of disparate and often primitive roads.
situation soon improved as the State, with Federal support, replaced
Oklahoma’s various private highway associations as custodians of the
roadway. This shift demonstrated a new level of State and Federal
partnership in organizing human and material resources. From its very
beginning, Route 66 in Oklahoma was a work in progress, constantly
undergoing rerouting, widening, straightening, and resurfacing. The
straightening and realigning of Oklahoma Route 66 shortened it by 47
miles between 1926 and 1951.
Route 66 in Oklahoma
offers a good example of how a road and its environment can be mutually
sustaining. With the improvement of the roadbeds and the increase in
local and interstate traffic, new commercial activity sprouted up along
the Oklahoma roadside. These interconnected developments exposed many
of the State’s isolated rural communities to a broader range of social,
cultural, and economic contacts. In a sense, both Oklahoma and Route 66
grew together. The story of U.S. Highway 66 in Oklahoma is not
exclusively a tale of uplift and progress, however. While many roadside
communities flourished, others suffered when they lost the highway in
one of its periodic realignments. For some, moreover, the coming of an
exciting, wider world via Route 66 proved an unwanted experience. In
addition, the trek of Dust Bowl migrants along the Mother Road during
the 1930s continues to evoke vivid images and memories of human
The postwar boom in tourism and transport
catapulted Route 66 into its Golden Age but also nudged it closer to
extinction, as Oklahoma opted to replace the eventually overburdened
highway with a new generation of multi-lane, limited access
thoroughfares. By 1957, the Turner Turnpike and Will Rogers Turnpike
connected Oklahoma City to Joplin, Missouri, and after 1970, Interstate
40 spanned the entire western half of the State. These super highways
relegated Route 66 to servicing local traffic.
The Road Segments
These five road segments total only about 26 miles, but they offer the
traveler along historic Oklahoma Route 66 a vivid picture of the
highway’s historical development. They are valuable artifacts that tell
a story of evolving pavement design, traffic engineering, and changing
patterns of social interaction. The Route 66 segments at Miami, West
Sapulpa, Stroud (Ozark Trails), and Arcadia represent the earliest
roadbeds, those that existed prior to their designation as part of the
new national highway in 1926. These sections offer the traveler good
examples of the road engineering and construction methods from the
early 20th century. The fifth segment, the Bridgeport Hill-Hydro
section, including the famous William H. Murray Bridge, is primarily a
product of road improvement from the early to mid 1930s and represents
conditions that characterized the second generation of Oklahoma Route
66. The road segments are in order geographically east to west.
Miami Nine-Foot Section (1921-1937)
At its inception, U.S. Highway 66 consisted simply of existing State
routes across the continent pieced together. The result was a national
highway composed of a disparate chain of road segments stretching from
Chicago to Los Angeles. Of all these first generation roadbeds, the
Miami Nine-Foot Section must rank among the most unique. Constructed
between 1919 and 1921, this three-mile segment south of Miami stands
out because it is only nine feet wide. The reasons for this odd gauge
remain obscure. Legend explains it as a lack of funding; highway
engineers had the choice of either paving a short distance with two
lanes or a longer distance with one lane, which was what they chose.
Despite its peculiar width, the road was of sound construction
according to the technology and materials of the time. The original
roadbed consists of large stone, Topeka asphalt over a concrete base,
flanked with five-foot gravel shoulders. At two sharp curves in this
otherwise straight segment, the road widened and banked. Originally
part of State Highway 7, this segment became Route 66 between Miami and
Afton in 1926. It remained Route 66 until the realignment and widening
of the highway in 1937. Today, the original roadbed and curbing are
still visible in places, despite the covering of its Topeka asphalt
with a more recent layer of asphalt and loose gravel. The road
continues to serve local traffic.
West Sapulpa (1924-1952)
This 3.3-mile section of meandering country road was originally an
unpaved part of the Ozark Trails, a private road network that
spearheaded Oklahoma’s early road development. Built in 1924-25, the
current roadbed was part of a county, State, and Federal partnership to
connect the eastern Oklahoma towns of Sapulpa and Bristow with a
modern, paved road. The construction materials and road design met the
highest State and Federal standards in the 1920s. The two-lane roadbed
of Portland Concrete was a standard 18 feet in width with graded
three-foot shoulders on each side. After a long legal battle with the
Frisco Railroad Company, the installation of a poured concrete railroad
trestle allowed for a critical underpass about two miles into the road.
This victory reflected the growing dominion of the automobile over the
railroad. In addition to this trestle, other original features include
Bridge No. 18 at Rock Creek, a 120-foot long steel truss bridge with
red brick decking, and the Biven Creek Box Drain. This segment also
features a two-mile stretch of original concrete guardrail and
retaining wall. Designated as Route 66 in 1926, this heavily traveled
road began to flourish commercially, sprouting numerous gas stations,
motels and cafés along the route, as well as the now defunct Dixieland
Amusement Park. A wider and straighter alignment constructed to the
north replaced this road segment’s designation as Route 66 in 1952.
Today, the road retains much of its original integrity. Patches of a
later asphalt overlay cover the length of the road.
Ozark Trails Section (1915-1930)
The 1.3 mile Ozark Trails stretch of dirt roadbed does not
automatically conjure up images usually associated with historic Route
66. This section has no asphalt, no neon signage, and no crowded
roadside cafés, yet this short stretch of straight dirt road remains an
important remnant of the Mother Road’s early history. The U.S. Highway
66 corridor created in November 1926 often took advantage of the
pioneering work in road construction carried out in the early 20th
century by private and local “good roads” associations from Missouri to
Arizona. As part of the organization’s regional effort to modernize
Oklahoma’s roads, a local subdivision of the Ozark Trails Association
constructed this segment between 1915 and 1917. Today, this section
remains in its original condition as a so-called “improved” dirt
road--a dirt road that was occasionally graveled and graded. It is
approximately 18 feet wide, but with variations, as there is no precise
edging to the pavement. An old and rare Ozark Trails Monument--a
21-foot stone obelisk that marked the intersection of Ozark Trails
roads--sits at the eastern end of the segment. On the western end was
the Dosie Creek Bridge, a steel truss, wood-decked structure
constructed in 1917, then demolished and replaced in 2004. In the
middle of this segment are two original stone Box Drains probably built
in 1917. After the road’s designation as Route 66, traffic increased
and roadside businesses took root--a development cut short in 1930 with
the construction of an improved alignment of Route 66 further north.
This original Route 66 two-lane roadbed, about nine tenths of a mile in
length, follows along a wooded hillside approximately one mile east of
Arcadia. Constructed as an unpaved section of State Highway 7 in 1922,
it was paved during the years 1928 and 1929, shortly after the newly
designated U.S. Highway 66 incorporated Highway 7. The surfacing of
this roadbed in the late 1920s-–with the most up to date materials and
standards--illustrates the impact of the national highway system as
increased traffic volume accelerated modernization. It also underscores
the impact of federal funding. This section of roadbed includes the
meeting point of two separate Federal aid, paving projects, each
applying a different type of surfacing. From the east, the 1928 project
used a pure Portland Concrete, Bates Type surface, while the western
part--paved in 1929--utilized a Modified Bates Type design, consisting
of a two-inch asphalt surface over a five-inch concrete base with
nine-inch concrete edgings. The more complex Modified Bates Type
surfacing required an on-site chemist. Although the simpler Portland
Concrete was cheaper, easier, and effective, the modified version shows
the ongoing willingness to experiment as the steadily increasing volume
and weight of traffic required better road surfaces. At the point where
the two projects met (about midway in the road segment) stands the
original three-foot high Federal Aid Project marker with its inlaid
brass shields describing both projects. This section served as part of
Route 66 until the construction of a multi-lane alignment to the north
Bridgeport Hill to Hydro (1934–1962)
This 18-mile segment is largely a straight road of Portland Concrete
that linked the western Oklahoma towns of El Reno and Hydro.
Topographically, the road courses through a distinctive area where the
open country of the West begins to emerge. A highlight of this segment
is the famous El Reno cut off, a straightening, shortening and paving
project begun by the State with Federal aid in 1930. When completed in
1934, this project created a more direct alignment of Route 66 between
El Reno and Hydro, eliminating an original dirt route that jogged north
through the towns of Calumet, Geary, and Bridgeport. The new alignment
in response to the ever-growing traffic along Route 66 hurt these
bypassed towns. Bridgeport became a ghost town. The new alignment’s
construction standards demonstrate the progressive adjustment of road
design to increased traffic volume: the roadbed’s width adhered to the
1930s standard of 20 feet over the previous decade’s 18-foot allowance.
The new roadbed also boasted a system to facilitate drainage in rainy
weather, which included a parabolic crown, lip curbs, and gutters. This
same project also replaced a private toll bridge, the Key Bridge in
Bridgeport, with the public William H. Murray Bridge, which spanned the
south Canadian River along the new alignment. This nearly 4,000 feet
long, 38 span bridge was a 1930s engineering marvel. As was often the
result with such modernizing projects, the new road soon was lined with
commercial start-ups ranging from service stations and cafés to motor
courts. This segment of Route 66 flourished until the construction of a
new alignment further north in 1962.
Miami Nine-Foot Section: This three-mile long segment begins at the
junction of E. 130th St. and South 550 south of the city of Miami, OK.
From this point, it proceeds west for one mile, then curves to the
south for one mile, before turning west for another mile. It terminates
50 feet from the present Route 66 Highway.
Sapulpa: This segment is currently designated Ozark Trail and is
located approximately one mile west of Sapulpa, OK beginning at the
junction of Ozark Trail and SR 66, one-quarter mile west of Sahoma Lake
Rd. Traveling west, Bridge No. 18 at Rock Creek is located about one
tenth of a mile from this point. The Biven Creek Box Drain, which
appears to be a conventional bridge, is located along the roadside two
miles west of the starting point. The guardrail, which is actually the
visible portion of a concrete retaining wall, is located slightly over
two miles from the segment’s starting point. The railroad trestle is
located about one half mile to the west of the guardrail.
Trails Section: This dirt road segment is located west of Stroud, OK.
After the junction with State Highway 99, travel one mile and turn left
on N3540 Rd. and go almost a mile before turning right at the obelisk
and then passing over Dosie Creek with its now replaced bridge. The
segment will reconnect with the 1930 alignment of Route 66.
This segment is located one mile east of Arcadia, OK at the
intersection of Oklahoma State Highway 66 and Hiwassee Rd. From there
it travels in a southeasterly direction for approximately one half mile
before entering a banking, uphill left hand curve of about one tenth
mile in length. It then turns east for about three tenths of a mile,
where it reconnects with Oklahoma State Highway 66.
Hill to Hydro: This segment begins just east of Bridgeport Hill, OK as
it intersects Spur Route 281 and ends at the turn north to Hydro on
State Highway 58. The William H. Murray Bridge is located east of
For additional information on driving Route 66 in Oklahoma, visit these websites: Oklahoma Route 66 Association and Oklahoma Route 66 State Scenic Byway.
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Route 66 Bridge over the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad, Shamrock, Texas
The Route 66 Bridge over the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad is a Route 66 landmark that travelers might miss if they’re not looking for it. The bridge stands in the arid plains eight miles east of Shamrock, five-and-a-half miles west of the Oklahoma State line, and 12 miles southeast of Wheeler.
The Kiowa and Comanche Indians once lived in the area, hunting great herds of buffalo. Anglos arrived in the late 1800s, replacing the buffalo with crops, sheep, and Hereford cattle. During the 1920s, agriculture in the Texas Panhandle boomed. The oil industry emerged, generating substantial growth in Amarillo, which became a commercial and corporate center of the region. Highways had to be built to connect the relatively isolated Panhandle to the rest of the country.
Paved in 1932, Route 66 was the primary road in this development. The highway passed through numerous small towns, most of which had fewer than 500 residents. The high plains of the Panhandle are relatively flat, so the area didn’t require many bridges, which makes the bridge in Wheeler County somewhat unusual. Another unusual feature is that the bridge carried both automobile and train traffic. Designed as a double-decker, the bridge has train tracks for the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad running along a deck 25 feet below the roadbed of Route 66.
The only problem with this useful arrangement is that the blast from locomotives below could play havoc with the integrity of the steel I-beams supporting the deck above. (Not to mention that motorists could get the paint sandblasted right off the sides of their cars.) To correct these problems, the engineers did something a little unusual for 1932. They encased the steel beams in concrete. The result is a 126-foot bridge with a main span of concrete-encased beams. Other spans are made of reinforced concrete girder units resting on reinforced concrete pile bents. If you’re an engineer, you’ll know what all that means. Otherwise, just enjoy the view from the middle of the bridge.
The Route 66 Bridge in Wheeler County has not been altered since its construction, allowing visitors a good look at the design, workmanship, and materials of its era. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
The Route 66 Bridge over the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad crosses the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad eight miles east of Shamrock, TX, and remains in use as part of a frontage road for Interstate 40.
Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café, Shamrock, Texas
The Route 66 Bridge over the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad is
a Route 66 landmark that travelers might miss if they’re not looking
for it. The bridge stands in the arid plains eight miles east of
Shamrock, five-and-a-half miles west of the Oklahoma State line, and 12
miles southeast of Wheeler.
Kiowa and Comanche Indians once lived in the area, hunting great herds
of buffalo. Anglos arrived in the late 1800s, replacing the buffalo
with crops, sheep, and Hereford cattle. During the 1920s, agriculture
in the Texas Panhandle boomed. The oil industry emerged, generating
substantial growth in Amarillo, which became a commercial and corporate
center of the region. Highways had to be built to connect the
relatively isolated Panhandle to the rest of the country.
in 1932, Route 66 was the primary road in this development. The highway
passed through numerous small towns, most of which had fewer than 500
residents. The high plains of the Panhandle are relatively flat, so the
area didn’t require many bridges, which makes the bridge in Wheeler
County somewhat unusual. Another unusual feature is that the bridge
carried both automobile and train traffic. Designed as a double-decker,
the bridge has train tracks for the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf
Railroad running along a deck 25 feet below the roadbed of Route 66.
only problem with this useful arrangement is that the blast from
locomotives below could play havoc with the integrity of the steel
I-beams supporting the deck above. (Not to mention that motorists could
get the paint sandblasted right off the sides of their cars.) To
correct these problems, the engineers did something a little unusual
for 1932. They encased the steel beams in concrete. The result is a
126-foot bridge with a main span of concrete-encased beams. Other spans
are made of reinforced concrete girder units resting on reinforced
concrete pile bents. If you’re an engineer, you’ll know what all that
means. Otherwise, just enjoy the view from the middle of the bridge.
Route 66 Bridge in Wheeler County has not been altered since its
construction, allowing visitors a good look at the design, workmanship,
and materials of its era. It was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 2007.
Plan your visit
The Route 66
Bridge over the Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad crosses the
Chicago, Rock Island, and Gulf Railroad eight miles east of Shamrock,
TX, and remains in use as part of a frontage road for Interstate 40.
The Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café is located along historic Route
66 in Shamrock. Built in 1936 by J. M. Tindall and R. C. Lewis at the
cost of $23,000, this gem of a building got its start in the dust when
John Nunn drew his idea for the station on the ground with an old nail.
Plans were later given to architect Joseph Berry who set the final
wheels in motion. With its Art Deco detailing and two towers, the
building was designed and constructed to be three separate structures.
The first was the Tower Conoco Station, named for the dominating
four-sided obelisk rising from the flat roof and topped by a metal
tulip. The second was the U-Drop Inn Café, which got its name from a
local schooolboy's winning entry in a naming contest. The third
structure was supposed to be a retail store that instead became an
overflow seating area for the café. The Tower Station was the first
commercial business located on the newly designated Route 66 in
Shamrock, and is one of the most imposing and architecturally creative
buildings along the length of the road.
Until about the late 1970s, the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café was light
brick with green glazed tiles. Now refurbished with light pink concrete
highlighted by green paint, it still looks much the same as it did
during the heyday of the Mother Road. The towering spire above the
service station still spells out C-O-N-O-C-O, a reminder of the booming
business that the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café once saw.
the City of Shamrock owns the building, which it has fully restored
using a Federal Transportation Enhancements Grant and local
fundraising. Visitors are welcome to the station, which is now
operating as a visitor center, chamber of commerce office, and
The Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café is located at 101 East 12th St. at
the intersection of US Highway 83 and Historic Route 66 in Shamrock, TX
about six blocks north of Shamrock’s downtown commercial
district. Today, the building houses the Shamrock Chamber of
Commerce, which can be reached by telephone at 806-256-2501 or through
its website. Visitors are welcome.
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McLean Commercial Historic District, McLean, Texas
A map of the Texas Panhandle looks a little like a checkerboard with its
grid of mostly straight roads, uncongested highway stretching through
bare, undulating Texas terrain. The open road across expansive
landscapes captures the Route 66 experience. That kind of driving was
what took thousands of motorists to McLean, Texas during its heyday.
The McLean Commercial Historic District is a remarkable time capsule on
the Mother Road. Roll down Route 66 today, cross under I-40 at exit
146, and you’ll find streets that remain true to their mid-20th century
appearance, a commercial district created and defined largely by the
presence of Route 66.
In 1927, when Route 66 arrived in
town, McLean was still shipping livestock and oil by rail. Running down
Main Street, the new United States highway shifted the town’s focus
from rail to road and ensured McLean’s prosperity for decades to come.
During the golden age of Route 66, the little Panhandle town boasted 22
auto-related businesses, including repair shops and dealerships. Three
quarters of those businesses were service stations. In McLean, gas
stations literally drove the local economy.
Phillips Petroleum chose McLean as the location for its first Texas
station. The building’s quaint Tudor Revival design complete with
shutters and an exterior brick chimney reflected the trend of building
gas stations that looked like cottages. The station operated for five
decades before closing in 1977. It has been restored and is well worth
a visit. Look for the shield-shaped, yellow and black Phillips 66 sign
at 218 West First Street.
At this station and numerous others, the classic cars of the 1940s and 50s
rolled in for service and gas. With plumped out fenders that suggested
childhood mumps, these cars sported toothy chrome grills and bumpers
that looked as if they could shove around small houses. By the 1950s,
McLean service stations welcomed sleeker model cars with unforgettable
fins, white-walled tires, foot-wide tail lights, and long, low lines
accentuated by chrome edges. If McLean had had two stop lights in the
50s, the Chevrolet Bel Air might have stretched from one of them clear
back to the other.
McLean also offered motels, tourist
cabins, cafés, and restaurants to travelers. The earliest tourist
cabins are nearly all razed, but the Cactus Inn Motel--yes, the sign is
shaped like a cactus--is still in business. The Avalon Theater adds
ambiance to the district too, as do the Devil’s Rope (barbed wire) and
Old Route 66 Museum at 100 Kingsley Street. The museum is housed in the
building where another McLean enterprise once operated--a bra
manufacturing company. Motorists arriving in McLean were once greeted
by a colorful billboard announcing that they had entered “The Uplift
Capital of the World.”
By the 1970s, the growth of nearby
Amarillo had eclipsed McLean, and Interstate 40 was crossing the
Panhandle. McLean business owners fought hard to keep the town alive,
knowing that a bypass would draw away the tourist trade they needed to
survive. In the end, McLean was the last Texas Route 66 town bypassed
by Interstate 40. Businesses closed. Population declined. Today only
about 800 people live in McLean.
This very lack of
growth is why the town can be experienced as an authentic step back in
time. McLean’s collection of early-20th century commercial buildings,
especially its gas stations, provides a strong sense of time and place.
The district was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in
The McLean Commercial Historic District is along North Main, First, and
Railroad Sts. roughly bounded by Railroad, Lowe, Second, and Gray Sts.
in McLean, TX. The former Masonic hall at 220 North Main St., now
housing City Hall, is open Monday-Friday 8:00am to 12:00pm and 1:00pm
to 5:00pm, and is wheelchair accessible. Call 806-779-2481 for
The McLean Alanreed Historical
Museum at 116 South Main St. is open Tuesday-Friday 10:00am to 12:00pm
and 1:00pm to 4:00pm March to December, and is wheelchair
accessible. It is free and accepts donations. Call
806-779-2731 for information. The Devil’s Rope Museum at 100
Kingsley St. is not in the historic district but is a good local stop
that houses the Texas Old Route 66 Museum. The museum is open
Monday-Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm and Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm from
March 1 to December 1, and is wheelchair accessible. It is free
and accepts donations. Call 806-779-2225 for information or visit
the Devil's Rope Museum website.
Route 66, SH 207 to Interstate 40, Conway, Texas
The segment of Route 66 between State Highway 207 and Interstate 40 is
the longest and best preserved section of Route 66 in Texas. Turn off
your cell phone, and you won’t need the GPS. Put on your Ray Bans. Open
a Coca Cola, the kind that comes in a sweating green glass bottle. Put
some Sinatra on the player, and roll down the windows. It’s time to
drive the 7.2 miles of Route 66 west of Conway, Texas.
on the two-lane road will pass a windmill after a mile or so. Driving a
little farther, they will see concrete agricultural buildings on the
south side of the road, important reminders of the regional economy. As
the road intersects County Road L (dirt) and, a little later, County
Road K (also dirt) stop to look around, because with the exception of a
single windmill way off in the distance, visitors can see not a single
modern intrusion, only wide open range. The abandoned railroad bed
beside this stretch of Route 66 serves as a reminder of how expansive
the landscape is, and how quiet.
Between 1930 and the mid
1960s, travelers along this stretch of Route 66 experienced much of
what you see today. From here to Carson County (where travelers can get
back on I-40) you will experience only old Route 66, fences, dirt farm
roads, grain elevators, and more windmills. Early in the 1900s, this
roadway was little more than a dirt path. In 1930, the path was paved,
and by 1940, it was a bustling highway. An aerial view today looks much
the same as it did then -- a straight line of highway framed on both
sides by square agricultural fields in various shades of brown, yellow,
When Interstate 40 was completed through
Carson County, this section of Route 66 became Texas Farm Road 2161,
part of the county’s highway system. Today it is the longest and best
preserved section of Route 66 in Texas, carrying local traffic and
travelers out to capture the distinctly American ambiance of old Route
66. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
This section of Route 66 is in the vicinity of Conway, TX and is
labeled locally as Texas Farm Rd. 2161. Access from the east is from
State Highway 207/County Rd. N and from the west is from Interstate 40
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Ranchotel, Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo is the only major city traversed by Texas's 177-mile section
of Route 66 through seven long, flat, Panhandle counties. The city
evolved into an oasis along the highway. From the 1920s to the 1950s,
local entrepreneurs opened gas stations, cafes, and tourist courts to
serve travelers along Route 66, including the Ranchotel in 1940. The
Ranchotel is among the best preserved of Amarillo’s Route 66 tourist
Americans first began long-distance automotive travel, they typically
stayed in hotels or camped beside the road. Partly out of civic pride
and partly from a sense of self protection, towns began furnishing free
campgrounds with water, cooking, and bathing facilities. In response to
Amarillo’s popularity with travelers, the city constructed the Amarillo
City Tourist Camp in June of 1924. Located on Fifth Avenue, between
Travis and Bowie Streets, the publicly supported camp was about nine
blocks from the later Ranchotel.
During the mid-1920s,
privately owned tourist courts began replacing publicly supported camps
as an alternative to downtown hotels. Amarillo had a profusion of
courts. Many owners built on the city’s edge where land was cheaper and
building and operating costs lower. This enabled proprietors to keep
room rates low and intercept travelers before they reached the downtown
such as Sixth Avenue, between the congested downtown business district
and the burgeoning San Jacinto neighborhood, were attractive places for
tourist cabins and motels. As many as six courts in L-shaped, U-shaped,
continuous-row, and individual-cabin configurations soon occupied the
10 blocks from Georgia Street on the west to Bowie Street. The total
number of private lodging operations along Route 66 in the city grew
from 25 in 1928 to 37 in 1945, and eventually reached 68 in 1953.
U-shaped Sixth-Avenue building with 16 units linked by alternating
garage spaces, the Ranchotel lived up to its name by incorporating the
imagery of the region’s vernacular adobe and ranching traditions. The
Ranchotel has stucco-covered walls and squat chimneys complemented by
wooden windows flanked by rustic wooden shutters. Triple panes graced
the upper halves of paneled doors. Gable ends featured simple wooden
siding, and shifts in roof level distinguished each segment of the
unit, recalling pueblo design. Exposed rafter ends in the overhanging
eaves suggested the traditional construction of the region. Shed-roofed
porches were supported with rustic square posts and framed by
wagon-wheel handrails. Inside, the proprietors served up the West to
vacationers with rustic bedsteads, tables, and chairs; cowhide
lampshades; horseshoe shaped mirrors; and curtain rods that looked like
Soon after 1952, Route 66 shifted off of
Sixth Avenue to Amarillo Boulevard and tourist courts began to
disappear. The Ranchotel eventually became an apartment building. Its
tenants created additional space by enclosing the garages and the north
entry porch of the office, yet the building remains recognizable and in
good repair. It is especially significant as one of the few surviving
pre-war examples of the tourist courts that historically lined Route 66
in Amarillo, and the National Park Service listed it in the National
Register of Historic Places in 1995.
The Ranchotel is at 2501 West Sixth Ave. in Amarillo, TX and is currently used as private apartments.
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U.S. Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District, Amarillo, Texas
The U.S. Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District comprises 13 blocks of
commercial development in the San Jacinto Heights Addition west of
Amarillo’s central business district. It runs along an east-west axis
through a grid system of streets between Georgia and Forrest Avenues.
Developed as an early 20th century streetcar suburb, the district was
transformed by the establishment of a national transportation artery
running through its center. The road was originally paved with gravel
in 1921. Asphalt pavement on a concrete foundation replaced the gravel
when the road became part of federally designated Route 66 in 1926. The
commercial corridor was the first highway constructed to carry
travelers out of Amarillo to the south and west.
Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District is Amarillo’s most intact
collection of commercial buildings that possess significant
associations with the highway. Featuring elements of Spanish Revival,
Art Deco, and Art Moderne design, these buildings represent the
historic development phases of this early 20th century suburb and the
evolving tastes and sensibilities of American culture.
district is now a hub for nightlife and shopping, and the surrounding
San Jacinto neighborhood remains a vibrant center of activity. Today,
restaurants, antique stores, and specialty shops are housed in the
rehabilitated storefronts. The district was added to the National
Register of Historic Places in 1994.
The 12 buildings
described below represent many of the significant road trends that have
shaped this district along historic Route 66 and provide an overview of
the district’s character.
The Natatorium (The Nat
Ballroom). The Natatorium, better known as the Nat, is located at 604
South Georgia. Built in 1922 as an indoor swimming pool in a Gothic
Revival style, the Natatorium faces West Sixth and acts as the visual
gateway to the district. High turrets at the corners and a crenellated
parapet ornament the two-story block clad in stucco veneer. An ample
pointed arch marks the primary entrance, and windows and doors are set
deep in the wall. Reflecting its nautical theme, the north side of the
building around the corner is designed to look like an ocean-faring
vessel replete with lifeboat-like elements near the roofline.
Nat was converted into a ballroom in 1926. The interior was redesigned
in an Art Deco style adding some Art Deco ornamentation and neon
lighting. The pool was covered by polished maple flooring giving space
for a small stage and a dance floor on the first floor. The second
floor was adapted with new sitting areas and private rooms.
hosting headliners like Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington, the Nat closed
its doors in the 1960s. The adjoining Alamo Bar, which was built in
1935 and connects to the Nat by tunnel, is still open for business.
Buildings. The Bussey Buildings are located at 2713-2727 West Sixth and
were the first major commercial buildings in the district. Built in the
late 1920s, the modest strip of commercial buildings consists of four
storefronts with large glass display windows and dark brick with
limestone detailing. The building’s most famous occupant was the San
Jacinto Beauty School, which received Texas’ first beauty license. The
beauty school occupied the store from 1941 to 1964.
Buildings. The Cazzell Buildings are located across the street from
each other at 2806 and 2801 West Sixth. W.E. Cazzell purchased the
one-story brick building at 2806 West Sixth in 1918 and operated a
general store and post office. When he sold the building in 1922, he
commissioned a new two-story one across the street.
Heap-O-Cream. Borden’s Heap-O-Cream at 3120 West Sixth is a one-story
frame building with Art Moderne detailing such as oval plate glass
windows, 3-lite wood double doors and a rounded metal awning on front
and sides. Preservation Amarillo and the San Jacinto Boy Scout Troop
rehabilitated the building in 1990. The grandson of the original sign
painter provided plans to aid in replication of color, dimension, and
Adkinson-Baker Tire Company. The Adkinson-Baker
Tire Company is located at 3200 West Sixth. This service station was
built in 1939 and is fronted by a projecting canopy over the pump
island. The station originally housed the Adkinson-Baker Tire Co.#2 and
exclusively sold Texaco gas. It was sold in 1945 and became the Theo A.
Bippus Service Station. The Adkinson Baker Tire Company is one of three
extant historic stations in the district and has been virtually
unchanged since it opened in 1939.
Carolina Building. A
fine example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, the Caroline
Building at 3313-23 West Sixth is divided by brick piers into eight,
glass storefronts. Built in 1926, it is one of the earliest examples of
strip commercial buildings in Amarillo. Original occupants included an
auto paint firm, a barbershop, beauty shop and a drug store. The red
tile pent roof runs the length of the building and shades the store
entrances and display windows. The parapet features cast concrete
coping broken by several gables.
Dutch Mill Service
Station and Café. The Dutch Mill Service Station and Café has been in
operation since 1932 at 3401 West Sixth. This seemingly plain looking
building may fool visitors, but it has just as much character as some
of the flashier places. The stuccoed walls are pierced by a glass
paneled door, plate glass windows, and a roll down garage door.
Ornamental crenellations grace the building, which originally featured
a large Dutch windmill at its curbside to attract passing motorists.
Until the 1950's this building housed both the service station and the
café, which later expanded into the larger building at 3403 West Sixth.
Taylor’s Texaco Station is located at 3512 West Sixth.
Built using the standard Texaco design developed by Walter D. Teauge in
1937, this one-story station clad in white porcelain has a projecting
canopy over the pump island and also houses an office, two service
bays, and restrooms. One of the first standardized gas station designs,
the basic formula and red star motif provided instant recognition for
the motorist in search of Texaco products.
Martin’s Phillips 66 Station at 3821 West Sixth
operated from the 1930s to the 1990s. The earliest facility at this
site included the corporation’s standard issue Tudor Revival style
cottage, designed to blend in with a residential neighborhood. The
building survived on the site until after construction of the current
facility in 1963. Designed to catch the eye, its replacement exhibits
exaggerated modernistic features including an office with canted plate
glass walls, angled service bay entrances, and a soaring triangular
canopy over the pump island. Herb Martin operated the station through
all the changes in styles and marketing. Martin assisted many Route 66
travelers during the 1930s, giving gas to some and allowing those
without money for lodging to spend the night at the station.
Duplex. Prominent local architect Guy Carlander designed the Hubbell
Duplex at 3912 West Sixth in 1925 for Mr. and Mrs. Hubbell, who owned
Hubbell Diamond T Truck Company. At the western end of one of
Amarillo’s busiest streets, the house typifies the modest housing built
during the city’s boom years. The dark brown brick dwelling features
typical Craftsman details such as battered brick piers supporting the
twin entry porticoes. The duplex remains virtually unchanged since its
San Jacinto Fire Station. Located at 610
South Georgia, the San Jacinto Fire Station was built in 1926 to serve
the rapidly growing population of the San Jacinto area. The one-story
brick building was designed in Mission Revival style with a red tile
roof, battered walls and curvilinear parapets. The station served the
neighborhood until 1975 and is the only surviving pre-World War II fire
station in Amarillo.
San Jacinto Methodist Church.
Constructed in 1926, the San Jacinto Methodist Church is located at 505
South Tennessee. The church is a two-story, dark brown brick building
with a pedimented entryway supported by square brick pilasters with a
double limestone stringcourse below the cornice. The double entry doors
sit below an arched stained glass transom. When Sixth Street was
widened in 1924, the church lost its original entry stairway. The
original concrete steps lead to Sixth Street and were flanked by a
broad balustrade capped in cast stone. Today, the main entrance is on
South Tennessee and flanked with pipe railings. The south façade of the
church features four sets of paired wooden double hung, narrow stained
glass windows, with two pairs of the same windows lighting the east and
west sides of the entry. A large two-story brick building was added in
the rear that houses the present sanctuary and educational facilities.
The U.S Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District runs for 13 blocks
along 6th St. between Georgia and Forrest Aves. west of downtown
Amarillo, TX. Restaurants and antique stores line the street. The
district hosts a number of festivals throughout the summer.
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Vega Motel, Vega, Texas
to Route 66’s designation in 1926, the town of Vega in the western
portion of the Texas Panhandle was primarily an agricultural community.
A segment of the Ozark Trail connected Vega to Amarillo, Texas and
Tucumcari, New Mexico. When Route 66 was created, this road became part
of the national highway. The highway extended directly through town,
and before long, new businesses like the Vega Motel emerged along its
Ervin Pancoast constructed the Vega Motel
(originally Vega Court) on Route 66 in 1947 at the dawn of an era of
unparalleled prosperity in the United States and Texas, a time when
leisure and travel became a booming industry. The motel had west and
south wings, which contained 12 units. Aware of the importance of
automobiles to travelers, Mr. Pancoast incorporated garages into his
motel design, and pairs of garages alternated with pairs of motel units
in each wing. At the same time, he also constructed a small house in
the center courtyard that served as an office and personal living
quarters. Mr. Pancoast married the following year, and the couple lived
on the property, which became their life’s work.
was good for the young couple, as traffic along Route 66 through Vega
remained busy over the following decades. In 1953, the Pancoasts added
an east wing containing eight units with built-in garages. All of the
new units had bathrooms and some had kitchenettes. Like many motels of
the mid-20th century, the Vega Motel was modernized in 1964 with a new
exterior of Perma-Stone.
Traffic remained heavy on Route 66 through Vega throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
During this same period, the desires for better and faster
transportation coupled with advances in technology made the road
obsolete. Plans for an interstate through the Texas Panhandle were
forming, and the new modern highway (I-40) was completed in the early
1970s. This traffic change ultimately affected the Vega Motel. After
operating the motel for over 30 years, the Pancoasts sold the motel in
1976. The current owners continue to run it and the motel has been in
continuous operation since its construction.
Motel is one of the rare surviving intact motel complexes left in the
small towns of the Texas Panhandle. While Amarillo boasts several Route
66 motels, only three are currently documented to survive intact
outside Amarillo. The Vega Motel was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 2006.
The Vega Motel is located at 1005 Vega Blvd. in Vega, TX. Call 806-267-2205 for room availability.
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Glenrio Historic District, Glenrio, Texas & New Mexico
During the 1940s and 1950s, Glenrio sat very much alone in the open scrub
desert of the high plains straddling the Texas-New Mexico border.
Amarillo was 73 miles to the east and Tucumcari 41 miles west.
Travelers driving Route 66 across the desert could see a world of stars
at night, with Glenrio providing some of the only light pollution
around with its diners, bars, western-themed motels, a dance hall, and
gas stations. Glenrio was a flash of neon in the desert, an overnight
Mecca, and a spot of evening cool in the days before cars had air
Straddling the State line, Glenrio began
as Rock Island Railroad stop. Although part of the town was located in
Texas and the other part in New Mexico, the Federal Government
considered Glenrio to be a Texas town during those days. Mail would be
dropped off on the Texas side of the border and then the station master
would carry the mailbag to the post office on the New Mexico side for
Glenrio was not a railroad town for long. In
1913, the Ozark Trails Association organized and began marking and
promoting hundreds of miles of highways connecting several States,
including New Mexico and Texas. Ozark Trails pioneered the transition
from horse-drawn buggies and wagons to automobiles along America’s
roads. By 1917, the Glenrio Hotel began receiving guests traveling by
automobile along the Ozark Trail. At that point, trail was a good
description of the Ozark. The crooked, dirt track was dusty in the sun
and muddy in the rain. It had square turns as it followed section
lines. Yet motorists came. By 1919, green and white Ozark Trail markers
stood along the route through Glenrio. The Ozark Trail was incorporated
into the United States highway system as part of Route 66 in 1926.
By that year, Glenrio had essentially turned its back on the railroad
in favor of the highway. Businesses near the railroad either closed or
moved to be closer to the highway. Several gas stations, a restaurant,
and at least one motel were built on the northern right of way of Route
66 by the early 1930s. On the south side of the highway, a welcome
station on the Texas side offered assistance--including water to cool
overheated radiators--to motorists along the road. Local lore has it
that the welcome station served as a film location for the 1940 movie,
The Grapes of Wrath. This cannot be confirmed, but if location scouts
didn’t choose Glenrio as a set, one has to wonder why. Even today, it’s
not hard to imagine heavily loaded cars full of families leaving the
Dust Bowl behind to seek a better life in California, their hopes
pinned to Route 66.
During the 1930s, Route 66 was transformed into a continuous two-lane
paved highway across Texas. Several gas stations, a new restaurant, and
a motel clustered along the north side of the road. A few buildings
from Glenrio's rail-town past were moved close to the new highway, but
most were demolished or fell into ruin. There were no bars on the Texas
side of the community, since Deaf Smith County was dry, and no service
stations on the New Mexico side because of that state's higher gasoline
the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, travelers packed the highway and Glenrio
thrived. Former resident John Paul Ferguson worked summers at Glenrio
gas stations. He recalls constant traffic during the daytime, with cars
lined up five or six in a row waiting to get gas.
cluster of businesses were built during the 1950s. Two of them, a
Texaco Gas Station and a nearby diner, are of particular interest
today. Both were designed with Art Moderne influence. Look for the
curved vertical panels on top of the drive-thru bay of the station and
for curved concrete corner walls and a curved metal canopy on the
diner. Both of these buildings are well preserved.
boom times ended in 1975 when Interstate 40 bypassed the town. It was
listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Today, the
Glenrio Historic District includes the old Route 66 roadbed and 17
abandoned buildings. Most of the buildings are utilitarian with
concrete foundations, stucco walls, and flat roofs, but several of the
buildings are distinctive. You can still identify the Little Juarez
Diner, the State Line Bar, and the State Line Motel whose sign reads
“Motel, Last in Texas” to travelers arriving from the east, and “Motel,
First in Texas” to traffic motoring into town from the west. Only two
Glenrio buildings are occupied--the Joseph Brownlee House and an office
in the Texas Longhorn Motel. Other buildings have overgrown sites,
missing windows, or debris surrounding them, the detritus of four
decades when Glenrio welcomed tens of thousands, fed and entertained
them, and sent the on their way toward Chicago or California.
well worth the detour to get off Interstate 40 and cruise Route 66
through Glenrio. Crossing the State border in one of the country’s best
preserved mid-century ghost towns evokes some of the adventure
motorists from decades ago felt when the traveled long stretches of
two-lane blacktop through the American West.
The Glenrio Historic District includes the Historic Route 66 roadbed,
also called State Loop 504, and properties north of it in Glenrio, TX
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Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico
Carpenter W.A. Huggins began construction on the Blue Swallow Motel
prior to the outbreak of World War II, and Ted Jones, a prominent
eastern New Mexico rancher, opened the motel in 1942. Facing Route 66,
the Blue Swallow offers access to motorists from both the highway and a
side street. The motel has an L-shaped plan and consists of 14 units
with a discreet office and manager’s residence. Garage units, some with
wood overhead doors, are located between the sleeping units. With its
pink stucco walls decorated with shell designs and a stepped parpet,
the façade reflects a modest use of the Southwest Vernacular style of
Mr. Jones and his wife died in the 1950s, Lillian Redman and her
husband bought the motel and successfully operated it. From the start,
the Redmans put their customers first. When guests didn’t have enough
money for a room, the Redmans accepted personal belongings in trade or
provided the room for free. Ms. Redman and the Blue Swallow became
icons of Route 66 folklore. She described the special and close
connection she had with the Route 66 motorists who came in each night
this way. “I end up traveling the highway in my heart with whoever
stops here for the night."
At the end of the 1960s,
Interstate 40, a better and faster highway, took the place of the old
Route 66. The development of this new highway drastically changed the
traffic circulation of Route 66 affecting many of the businesses along
the way, including the Blue Swallow Motel. Ms. Redman said of the
effect of Interstate 40, which bypassed Tucumcari, “When Route 66 was
closed to the majority of traffic and the other highway came in, I felt
just like I had lost an old friend. But some of us stuck it out and are
still here on Route 66.”
After owning the Blue Swallow
for almost 50 years, Ms. Redman sold the motel in the late 1990s.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, the motel
continues to operate as a popular overnight destination. The motel
received a Cost-Share Grant
from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program
in 2007 for restoration of the neon sign, neon swallows, and office
Swallow Motel is located at 815 East Route 66 Blvd. in Tucumcari, NM.
Visitors can still spend the night at the motel. Call 575-461-9849 for
rates or visit the motel's website.
Richardson Store, Montoya, New Mexico
Located in the heart of Montoya, New Mexico, Richardsons Store initially
provisioned railroad workers and ranchers and later expanded to serve
highway crews and tourists on Route 66. Like many southwestern towns,
Montoya began as a stopping point along a major railway. In this case,
the stop was along the Rock Island Railroad. During construction of the
line in 1901, Montoya became a settlement for a crew of workers. The
town is roughly halfway between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa and was about
a day’s ride from both at the time of its formation. Mesa Rica rises on
one side and Mesa Las Palomas on the other. Mesquite, junipers, and
cactus cover the landscape. Montoya residents and the surrounding
ranchers depended on windmills and storage tanks for water. Even in
this arid setting, G. W. Richardson, an experienced storekeeper from
Missouri, sensed possibility. He moved to New Mexico and started a
store in Montoya in 1908.
In 1918, New Mexico began
improving the road between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa, leading to
substantial traffic through the town. As had the railroad crews and
ranchers before them, highway workers boosted the town’s population and
economy. They also patronized Richardson Store. The same year as the
road improvements, Richardson relocated his store across the railroad
tracks, closer to the road, and replaced his wooden store with the
current red sandstone building. The road eventually became part of the
national highway network and a leg of Route 66. Despite poor weather
and marketing conditions and a resultant exodus of ranchers in the
early 1920s, Montoya’s highway connection enabled the town to thrive
with Richardson Store at its core.
During the 1930s and
1940s, travelers found a cool oasis and something to drink under the
tall elms that shaded Richardson Store. Designed to be as cool as
possible, with a big portico out front shading the windows and the gas
pumps, the store has a recessed front door and high windows designed to
let in light and a breeze but not sunlight. The store adjoined a picnic
grove and carried groceries and auto supplies for tourists and
residents and also stocked saddle blankets, work gloves, feed buckets,
and windmill parts for local ranchers. Like other local stores of the
period, Richardson’s place was also a community meeting spot, complete
with post office boxes and a postal service window. The portico is
painted white to reflect the sunlight, as is the west side of the
building, where bold, if faded stenciled letters read “Richardson
In 1956, crews built Interstate 40 several
hundred yards south of the old Richardson Store. An interchange
provided continued traveler access, but the distance and speed of the
interstate caused a dramatic drop in business and ultimately the
abandonment of the store. Old posters and local artifacts are still
visible inside the front windows. Along the east side of the building,
away from the area’s prevailing west winds, is the old Richardson
residence, complete with a pump shed at the corner. Those who remember
say that the Richardsons cultivated a wide yard outside of their
dwelling, and that the area drew songbirds. The National Park Service
listed the Richardson Store in the National Register of Historic Places
Store is located between the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks and Route
66 at the site of the village of Montoya, NM. It is presently vacant
and closed to the public, and may be viewed from the road.
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Park Lake Historic District, Santa Rosa, Ne Mexico
Park Lake Historic District is located in Santa Rosa in northeastern
New Mexico on the Pecos River, where the Great Plains rise up to meet
the Rockies. Santa Rosa is known for its numerous natural springs that
are anomalies in the surrounding desert climate. The town was founded
in 1865 and, shortly after the turn of the century, the railroad
connected it to El Paso, Chicago, and beyond. When Route 66 passed
through Santa Rosa in 1930, the town filled with service stations,
cafés, and motor courts to accommodate motorists traveling the Mother
the Great Depression, Park Lake was the site of a Federal Relief
Emergency Administration project. Between 1934 and 1940, the Works
Progress Administration (WPA) employed local men to construct a 25-acre
municipal park focused on the lake. With its swimming pier, picnic
ramada, and playing field, the park soon became the center of Santa
Rosa’s outdoor recreation and welcomed Route 66 travelers who picnicked
and swam in the natural spring-fed lake.
The park is
designed in the typical WPA Rustic style that grew out of the Romantic
and Picturesque traditions. During the social turbulence of the Great
Depression, a national emphasis on egalitarian and democratic values
emerged. The construction of local, regional, and national parks
throughout the country was a manifestation of the desire to provide
gathering places for communities to reaffirm social values and a common
Park Lake Historic District is landscaped in a
frontier pastoral style that accentuates the natural topography of the
site. A series of terraces cut into the park’s sloping contours to
create a recreational area. Other characteristic features of the style
found at Park Lake include informal groves of shade trees creating a
frontier pastoral feeling, a series of masonry canals that drain the
area and carry water from the lake to El Rito Creek, and retaining
walls built from locally quarried stone.
interest in the town’s roots encouraged local citizens to restore the
park to its original condition after it suffered from neglect. The Park
Lake Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic
Places in 1996.
Park Lake Historic District is located at the junction of Will Rogers and
Lake Drives in Santa Rosa, NM and is open to the public. For additional
information, visit the city's website.
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Pueblo of Santo Domingo (Kewa Pueblo), Santo Domingo, New Mexico
Called Kewa (Khe-wa) in the native Keresan language of its inhabitants,
and previously known as the Pueblo of Santo Domingo, this traditional
pueblo is located on the Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Its people have a rich local culture that has not been overwhelmed by
the outside influences brought to the area by Spanish colonization, the
railroad in the 19th century, and Route 66 in the 20th century.
Residents of the pueblo maintain their traditional religious practices
and social structure. The pueblo has a long history of producing,
trading, and selling crafts, especially jewelry and pottery. Visitors
to the pueblo can still observe the traditional way of life there and
attend ceremonial events, such as the internationally famous corn dance
held every year on August 4.
the arrival of Spanish explorers and colonizers in the summer of 1598,
many pueblo people initially aligned themselves with the Spanish as
means of combating Apache and Comanche raiders. The Spaniards quickly
designated Santo Domingo a provincial capital, and, by 1610, the pueblo
was a headquarters in the Spanish colonial mission system. Because the
alliance failed to stop the raiding and the Spanish proved oppressive,
Santo Domingo became a staging area for Pueblo resistance to Spanish
rule late in the 17th century. After the Spanish quelled the uprisings
in 1700, violent interaction between the Spanish and Pueblo residents
began to cease.
Major floods from the Rio Grande in the late 1600s and 1886 were so
destructive that residents had to rebuild the pueblo. Originally
constructed around a central plaza, the pueblo, which residents rebuilt
after the flood in 1886, has long blocks of adobe houses along a wide
central street. Builders incorporated surviving structures into the new
plan and extended the pueblo to the east. Two large kivas (circular
rooms used for religious purposes) are within the pueblo, and a
mission-style church from 1890 is located on the edge of the pueblo, a
legacy of Spanish cultural influence.
long been a central part of Pueblo life. Farming shaped local culture,
and the indigenous religious system of Santo Domingo Pueblo stresses
agricultural rhythms and products. The local belief system strives for
balance not only between people but also between people and the cosmos.
Group ritual knowledge and ceremonies are integral to achieving this
balance. Key religious figures are Kachinas, entities who bridge the
cosmic and worldly realms and bring rain to help produce crops. A
February hunting dance and an August corn dance reflect the poles of
the agricultural year. The Corn Dance, a very popular local tradition,
is also part of the Pueblo’s railroad and Route 66 history, as the
dance is a cornerstone of the Santa Fe Fiesta, an event created and
promoted during the time when tourism first became such a force in the
Once the area became part of the United States,
the pueblo and its residents experienced new cultural influences,
largely due to the pueblo’s location along the major transportation
arteries of the Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad in the 1880s
and Route 66 in the 20th century. Railroad boosters and entrepreneurs
promoted Pueblo people and crafts to 19th-century tourists via a stop
at nearby Domingo Station. Many automobile tourists visited Santo
Domingo Pueblo in the mid-1920s, after the completion of Route 66.
Along the highway, tourists and Pueblo residents bought and sold
crafts, particularly pottery and jewelry made for the tourist trade.
Befitting the traditional culture of the Pueblo of Santo Domingo, the
pottery reflects ancient crafting techniques. Roadside stands offer
travelers different types of pueblo crafts.
Park Service listed Santo Domingo Pueblo in the National Register of
Historic Places in 1973. In addition to the pueblo itself, a museum and
cultural center provide opportunities to learn more about the area and
Santo Domingo Pueblo (now Kewa Pueblo) is located approximately 35
miles north of Albuquerque and 25 miles south of Santa Fe, NM, via the
Santo Domingo exit on Interstate 25. For more information, call
505-465-2214 or visit the New Mexico Tourism Department's website.
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Luna Lodge, Albuquerque, New Mexico
As traffic grew along Route 66 after World War II, so did the need for
roadside businesses, including gas stations, restaurants, and motels.
Evolving from the primitive campgrounds of the 1920s and the motor
cabins of the 1930s, motels offered greater comforts such as private
bathrooms, daily linen service, and eventually television, phones, and
swimming pools. At the peak of Route 66 in 1955, 98 motels lined the
Mother Road in Albuquerque. Today, fewer than 40 pre-1955 motels
remain. Among these is the Luna Lodge. Built in 1949, the motel was one
of the easternmost motels along Albuquerque’s commercial strip.
Lodge consists of two one-story buildings and a third building with a
two-story portion. The buildings have flat roofs, white stucco walls,
and concrete foundations. Details reflect a modest use of the Southwest
Vernacular style including a parapet, flared stucco hoods over the
doors, and slightly articulated stucco sills. Classic features of the
Pueblo Spanish Revival style are also featured, such as projecting
wooden vigas (roof beams), blunted and rounded corners, irregular
stuccoing, exposed lintels, and a stepped back roofline. The property
is organized in a broken U-shape plan with 28 units surrounding a long
interior courtyard that faces Central Avenue with an office and
residence at the front of the property. A neon sign with a large arrow
at the entrance points down toward the motel.
Lodge faced an increasingly difficult economic time during the 1960s
and 1970s. After Interstate 40 bypassed Albuquerque and as national
chains with greater amenities competed with the smaller motels, the
number of locally-owned motels gradually dwindled.
Today, Luna Lodge remains in use as a long-term rental facility, with a few
rooms available for overnight lodgers. The property was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and described as one of
the best examples of a largely unaltered tourist court remaining along
New Mexico Route 66. In 2006, the motel was documented for the Historic
American Engineering Record by University of New Mexico, Historic
Preservation and Regionalism students. The resulting drawings and
photographs are archived at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
Luna Lodge is located at 9119 East Central Ave. in Albuquerque, NM. It
is no longer in operation. Luna Lodge has been documented by the
National Park Service's Historic American Engineering Record.
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Tewa Motor Lodge, Albuquerque, New Mexico
When wartime rationing and travel restrictions ended in 1945, Americans took
to the road in unprecedented numbers, and Route 66 entered its golden
age. Tourism was a growing industry in Albuquerque and development
continued to push east and west along Central Avenue (Route 66) past
the fringe of Albuquerque. Constructed on the cusp of this transition,
the Tewa Motor Lodge opened in 1946 to welcome motorists along the
Mother Road. Other motels, many of them also using regional Indian
names to evoke the Southwest, would soon appear in this area.
The Tewa Lodge consists of a one-story building and a two-story building
with a manager’s residence located above the office portion of the east
building. The motel is an example of the popular Pueblo Revival style
with rounded parapets, irregular massing, battered walls, and
projecting vigas (wooden roof beams). The units, some with garages, are
organized in a parallel linear plan facing a small courtyard. Although
the neon sign isn’t original to the building, it is highly regarded
along Route 66. The motel’s use of neon has been judged as among the
best in Albuquerque. A giant arrow points to the motel’s entrance with
flashing gold lights. The Tewa Motor Lodge was listed in the National
Register of Historic Places in 1998.
The Tewa Motor Lodge is located at 5715 Central Ave. NE in Albuquerque,
NM and is still in operation as a motel. For information on room rates
and reservations, call 505-255-1632.
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De Anza Motor Lodge, Albuquerque, New Mexico
S.D. Hambaugh, a tourist court operator from Tucson, and C.G. Wallace,
a trader with the Zuni Indians, built the De Anza Motor Lodge in 1939,
along the Central Avenue alignment of Route 66 through Albuquerque. The
motel is an important example of a pre World War II tourist court
expanded after the war to take advantage of automobile traffic along
Route 66 and for its association with Wallace, a well-known trader with
the Zuni Indians who soon became the sole proprietor. The motel offered
comfortable lodging and Zuni merchandise and served as a gathering
place for traders and craftsmen, and tourists who appreciated and
collected Southwestern Indian crafts and jewelry.
Garrett Wallace came to New Mexico in 1919 and began working for the
Ilfeld Company, a mercantile enterprise with stores in railroad towns
and on Indian reservations. The company sent Wallace to work at the
company’s trading post at Zuni. In 1920, Wallace acquired his trading
license with the Zuni Pueblo and set out to learn as much as he could
by visiting residents and studying their language. The Zuni called him
Lhamsta, or Tall Thin Man, and sometimes Mujugi, or Night Owl, because
of his practice of writing letters well into the night advertising his
trading business. By either name, Wallace soon emerged as a central
figure in Zuni trading. Between 1920 and 1950, he introduced new
jewelry equipment, provided materials, was the innovator of new designs
and techniques, and promoted traditional motifs, all of which
contributed to a rise in jewelry-related tribal income from four to 65
As soon as the Fred Harvey Company began
offering hugely popular Indian Detours in the mid 1920s, Wallace saw
Route 66 as a potential market for Zuni goods. During this period,
especially with the onset of the Great Depression, the barter system
that characterized the earlier trading post economy began to fail.
Tourism along the highway emerged as a means of infusing the pueblos
with outside cash. Wallace also saw the road’s commercial potential and
invested in six ventures along the storied corridor. With his tireless
promotion of Zuni crafts, Wallace functioned as an indispensable
conduit between the Zuni people and tourists.
The De Anza
Motor Lodge offered convenience, comfort, and atmosphere and was the
largest motel project to date at the time of its construction along
East Central Avenue. Described as an ultra-modern tourist court, the De
Anza provided showers and steam heat, private telephones, and an
air-cooling system in every unit. The complex initially reflected
Spanish and Pueblo architectural styles in its exposed vigas, wide
overhangs, and battered walls. A jewelry counter was easily accessible
in the lobby, and a small silver shop occupied part of the maintenance
room. Within two years of its opening, traffic along Central Avenue
increased by 25 percent. The De Anza Motor Lodge was well prepared to
meet the influx.
updated the lodge when he saw opportunities to add revenue and
functions. As Route 66 tourism grew after World War II, Wallace
expanded the number of rooms from the original 30, to 55, to 67. He
also added a café called the Turquoise Room to the building’s
southwestern corner, and a new carport with sandstone supports provided
shelter for people leaving their cars at the office. Two buildings went
up on the rear of the lot, and one was expanded via a second story.
Below this two story component, Wallace arranged for the excavation of
a basement. In the basement conference room, Zuni artist Tony Edaakie
painted a series of murals depicting the winter Shalako procession, a
culminating event in the Zuni year.
His quest for
improving motel service and appearance also prompted Wallace to become
involved with the US 66 Highway Association. When it began in the
1940s, the association embraced motels from Missouri to California,
including Wallace's De Anza. As the association expanded to include
other highways, it renamed itself Western Motels, Inc., and eventually
became known as Best Western.
During the late 1950s, when
larger franchises eclipsed many pre-World War II motels along Route 66,
the improvements Wallace made enabled the De Anza to remain
competitive. The motel remained listed as an American Automobile
Association-approved accommodation until the early 1990s. Wallace died
Today, the neon, triangular, 35-foot-high “De
Anza Motor Lodge” sign in front and the distinctly
square-with-rounded-corners, pueblo-like shape of the buildings define
the only survivor of Wallace’s Route 66 endeavors. Although in
disrepair, the De Anza remains a fine example of a Route 66 motel.
American Movie Classics filmed recent episodes of its series “Breaking
Bad” in the parking lot there. Recognizing the significance of the
property, the City of Albuquerque acquired the motel with the intent of
seeking a new owner who will develop and reuse the property in a way
respectful of its history. The National Park Service listed it in the
National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
De Anza Motor Lodge is located at 4301 Central Ave. Northeast in
Albuquerque, NM. The lodge is not operating and is accessible only for
viewing from the public right of way.
Nob Hill Shopping Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico
The impact of the automobile has been the single most important factor
in shaping Albuquerque’s physical, cultural, and social landscape as we
see it today. Travellers going east along Albuquerque’s Central Avenue,
the old Route 66, past the railroad commercial and residential
districts near Huning Highlands toward Nob Hill, can see evidence of
the evolution of the automobile landscape in the historic urban fabric.
Approaching the University of New Mexico, one begins to see one-story
commercial storefronts built shoulder to shoulder at the sidewalk’s
edge forming a continuous street wall. Continuing into Nob Hill, these
neighborhoods developed around local business districts and the ability
of residents and merchants to travel short distances for work and daily
needs. As one reaches the end of the district, a visible shift in the
treatment of the streetscape is evident at the Nob Hill Shopping
1946, local developer DKB Sellers constructed the Nob Hill Shopping
Center, New Mexico’s first drive-in shopping center, at the corner of
Central Avenue and Carlisle Boulevard. The center is organized in a
U-shaped layout with an interior parking lot facing Central Avenue. The
shopping center represents a shift in the built form away from the
pedestrian realm toward accommodating the increasingly prominent
automobile. Mr. Sellers’ goal was to provide spaces for separately
owned businesses with integrated, on-site parking in an architecturally
unified building. The Nob Hill Shopping Center was the first major
investment in significant commercial infrastructure outside of
downtown. Many considered the Nob Hill Shopping Center to be too far
away from the city core to be successful, because it was on the eastern
edge of town. The center of town, however, was nearly filled to
capacity by 1949, and the new shopping center garnered tenants such as
Stomberg’s Men’s Clothing and Rhodes Supermarket.
Hesselden, a man well known for his work designing many of the city’s
public schools, was the shopping center's architect. The Moderne style
center has white-stuccoed walls, architectural neon, decorative brick
courses, bands of terra cotta tile, and large expanses of plate glass
display windows. Two pairs of decorative towers rise from the four
Despite threats from shopping malls and other
neighborhood centers, the Nob Hill Shopping Center remains an anchor in
one of the most vibrant parts of the city. It was renovated in the
early 1980s. Today, the center houses restaurants, specialty shops, and
services. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in
1994 under an exception to the 50-year criteria consideration because
of its exceptional significance and condition.
The Nob Hill Shopping Center is located at the corner of Central Ave.
and Carlisle Blvd. in Albuquerque, NM’s Nob Hill district. Visitors
will find a number of restaurants, specialty shops, and services.
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Jones Motor Co., Albuquerque, New Mexico
In 1939, Ralph Jones, prominent local businessman and president of the
Route 66 Association and the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce,
commissioned the construction of a gas station, a car dealership, and
service station along Route 66 in Albuquerque. Architect Tom Danahy
designed the one-story building in an Art Moderne style with white
stucco, red brick coping, and a flat roof. The intent was to attract
travelers with its location, design, and accessibility. The detailed
stepped tower with abstract ornamental molding above the central
portion of the building was one of the first icons encountered by
westbound travelers on Route 66. Constructed at the eastern end of
Albuquerque, the station featured gas pumps at an angle on one side,
allowing motorists to easily access the pumps from two sides. Large
display windows in front showcased the latest car models to passing
travelers on the other side. Both sides were marked by curved walls.
later, the place became so popular that Mr. Jones constructed a canopy
on the southern wall of the garage, so that the customers could unload
their vehicles in the shade before servicing. Upon its completion, the
Jones Motor Company was considered the most modern station in the West.
1957, the Jones Motor Company moved out to a new location, and
ownership of this building changed hands several times. Kelly’s Brewery
purchased the building in 1999 and restored many of the original design
elements, including Texaco pumps and the original garage doors. Today,
the building is a popular brewpub and restaurant. It was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
The Jones Motor Company, now Kelly’s Brew Pub, is located at 3222
Central Ave. SE in Albuquerque, NM. It is open 7 days a week. For
restaurant hours, call 505-262-2739 or visit the Kelly's Brew Pub website. Kelly’s is handicapped accessible.
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Barelas-South Fourth Street Historic District, Albuquerque, New Mexico
The Barelas-South Fourth Street Historic District near downtown
Albuquerque is a linear corridor running along South Fourth
Street-Historic Route 66-through the heart of one of the city's oldest
areas, the Barelas residential neighborhood. Buildings in the district
reflect the different phases of development along South Fourth Street
and convey three interrelated stories. The Hispanic farming village of
the early 19th and 20th centuries was modernized when the Atchinson,
Topeka, and Santa Fe (AT&SF) Railroad built tracks through the
Middle Rio Grande Valley. The railroad arrived in Albuquerque in 1880,
and the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe located its repair shops and a
roundhouse in the Barelas neighborhood stimulating the local economy
and urban development. In 1926, Fourth Street, the main north-south
corridor through the area, became U.S.Route 66, giving rise to
the designation of Route 66 along South Fourth Street, commercial
development began in earnest. Over the next 30 years, the district
flourished. The Barelas-South Fourth Historic District reached its
commercial peak in the mid-1950s as a thriving automobile commercial
strip serving the local community as well as travelers. The commercial
strip offered local residents and farmers from Albuquerque’s South
Valley a full line of businesses with bilingual proprietors. It also
provided Route 66 motorists a range of gas stations, grocery stores,
and curio shops. At the height of activity, 4,000 to 6,000 cars
traveled the road each day.
The mixture of residences and
a variety of commercial building types in the district create a varied
streetscape pattern. For the most part, the commercial strip buildings
and supermarkets at the edge of the sidewalk define a traditional
commercial, walled corridor. Owner-built, utilitarian structures and
vernacular interpretations of popular architectural styles account for
the majority of buildings, although a handful of high style buildings
form the visual landmarks of the district. Most of the commercial strip
stores have little or no overt architectural detail, but achieve their
effect through a straightforward presentation of standard
elements--door, windows, and sign panel--enlivened, perhaps, by a
textured walls surface material. Kandy’s Supermarket and Piggly-Wiggly
Market are examples of this type of design. After the designation of
Route 66 in 1926, some builders drew from the Mission-Mediterranean
genre in an attempt to attract the eye of the auto tourist. Curvilinear
or stepping parapets and terra cotta tiles, such as those on the
Magnolia Service Station, are the most common types of details. One
service station combines a tile roof with Bungalow style brackets to
strike a domestic note appropriate to the neighborhood.
number of prominent Streamlined Moderne buildings provide the strongest
visual note. Driving along South Fourth Street, motorists see rounded
corners and windows, white stuccoed or tile walls, glazed tile kick
plates, projecting flow lines, pipe railings, porthole windows, and a
faceted tower. Note the 1200-1300 block, Durand Motor Company and
Service Station, and Arrow Supermarket.
After World War
II, Albuquerque builders turned increasingly to the more angular
International style, made more at home in the American West by the use
of textured brick piers and modest Territorial Revival brick cornices.
See Mike’s Food Store and the Tasty Freeze Drive-in, a drive-in
restaurant erected about 1960 with articulated I-beam columns and beams
and single pitch roofs that echo that era’s structural expressionism,
sometimes referred to as Exaggerated or Mannered Modernism. Some
pre-World War II buildings were remodeled with veneers of
variegated-colored cast stone. Stone or cast stone veneers, polychromy
and rich textures are all components of an aesthetic, streetscape style
popular in Mexican-American neighborhoods across the Southwest
following World War II. See the El Coronado Café and Red Ball Café.
Barelas-South Fourth Street Historic District suffered an economic
decline after the AT&SF converted from steam to diesel locomotors.
Repair shops closed causing dramatic unemployment and the movement of
residents out of the district. Completion of the interstate in
Albuquerque also added to the neighborhood’s decline. The decline in
the 1970's led to the demolition of boarding houses and homes on South
Fourth Street and the displacement of families. In 1974, construction
of the Civic Plaza closed Fourth Street to through traffic downtown,
which hastened the social decline in the community. The diversion of
traffic to the interstate devastated the commercial district, which was
entirely dependent on tourism and shopping. Owners boarded up
storefronts and crime increased.
began in the mid-1990s when the New Mexico Legislature appropriated $12
million to construct a Hispanic cultural center at the southern end of
the Barelas-South Fourth Street Historic District. In 1999, dignitaries
from Spain, Mexico, and the United States attended groundbreaking
ceremonies for the National Hispanic Cultural Center. This major public
investment was an impetus for additional revitalization projects in the
Barelas neighborhood, including façade improvements and business
renovations. Now rejuvenated, the corridor today is home to popular
shops and restaurants like the Red Ball Café and Barelas Coffee House.
The district was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in
Visitors to the Barelas-South Fourth Street
Historic District can see a variety of automobile-oriented commercial
buildings associated with Route 66, such as these that are
characteristic of the buildings found in the district:
Hudson Dealership Service Garage, 714 4th Street
Mike’s Food Store, 907 4th Street
Tasty Freeze Drive-In, 910 4th Street
Durand Motor Company, 929 4th Street
Hi-Way (later Horn Oil) Service Station, 1024 4th Street
Magnolia Service Station, 1100 4th Street
Arrow Market, 1101 4th Street
Piggly-Wiggly Market, 1115 4th Street Navajo Super Service Station, 1124 4th Street
Kandy’s Food Market, 1200 4th Street
Figaro Barber Shop and Mariano Residence, 1223 4th Street
Red Ball Café and Padilla Residence, 1303 4th Street
San Antonio Drugs, 1305 4th Street
El Coronado Café, 1407 4th Street
Garcia y Sánchez General Merchandise, 1428 Barelas Road
The Barelas-South Fourth Street Historic District is located along 4th
St. from Stover Ave. to Bridge St. south of downtown Albuquerque, NM. A
number of shops, restaurants, and other businesses in the dictrict are
open to the public.
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KiMo Theater, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Built in 1927 to show both motion pictures and stage productions, the
KiMo Theater has an important place among the elaborate palatial
dream-theaters of the 1920s. KiMo, in the language of the nearby Isleta
Pueblo, means “king of its kind,” and the name is certainly well
deserved. The KiMo was the first theater constructed in the Pueblo Deco
style, a fusion of ancient American Indian and Art Deco design. This
short-lived style was highly unique during a time when Chinese and
Egyptian designs were the predominant styles used for film palaces.
for Italian immigrant Oreste Bachechi by the Boller Brothers firm at a
cost of $150,000, the theater is a steel frame and brick building
three-stories high, with retail shops flanking the entrance on both
sides. Its exterior is finished with strongly textured light brown
stucco embellished with ornamental details of glazed terra cotta tile
and vividly-colored reliefs. The large marquee and vestibule entrance
reflect remodeling from the 1950s.
interior is designed to look like the inside of a ceremonial kiva, with
log-like ceiling beams painted with dance and hunting scenes. The
interior also includes air vents disguised as Navajo rugs, chandeliers
shaped like war drums and American Indian funeral canoes, wrought iron
birds that descend the staircases, and rows of garlanded buffalo skulls
with glowing amber eyes. Painted in oil by Carl Von Hassler, seven
murals depict the Seven Cities of Cibola. Each image depicted
throughout the theater was carefully chosen for its historical
significance, including rain clouds, birds and swastikas. The swastika
is an original Navajo symbol for life, freedom, and happiness that was
applied to the KiMo long before Nazi Germany adopted the symbol.
1961, a fire destroyed the stage and other areas of the theater. With
the combined forces of suburban growth and competition, the theater
fell into decline and closed in 1968. It was nearly demolished in the
1970s, before the citizens of Albuquerque voted to purchase and restore
it. The theater was listed in the National Register of Historic Places
in 1977 and partly rehabilitated in 1981. The restoration was completed
in the 1990s as part of downtown Albuquerque’s revitalization
efforts--just in time for Route 66's 75th anniversary celebration in
The KiMo Theater
is located at 423 Central Ave. NW in Albuquerque, NM. The theater
operates Tuesday-Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm, Saturday 11:00am to 5:00pm.
It is open to the public for self-guided tours from 9:00am to 4:00pm.
Today, the theater seats 650 people and operates as a lively
performance venue. Guided tours are available by appointment only and
can be arranged by calling 505-768-3522. To obtain information about
performances, call 505-768-3544 or visit the City of Albuquerque’s website. The KiMo Theater has been recorded by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
Maisel's Indian Trading Post, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Located in the heart of downtown Albuquerque, Maisel’s Indian Trading
Post has been selling Southwestern and Mexican curios for over 65
years. Completed in 1939, the building was celebrated for what
Albuquerque Progress, the local business magazine, described as its
Indian Pueblo architecture. The distinctive façade clearly signaled the
building’s function to tourists, making it a popular stopping place for
souvenirs of the Southwest, a role it continues to fulfill today.
Maisel built the trading post in the late-1930s after the rerouting of
Route 66 through Albuquerque. Mr. Maisel selected architect John Gaw
Meem, the leading proponent of the Pueblo Revival style, to design the
building. Mr. Maisel advised Mr. Meem that he was “not content with the
usual Indian thing.” The flat-roofed, one-story building is located in
the middle of a commercial block. The front features large display
windows set on a base of carrara glass (a trade name for pigmented
structural glass) topped by a continuous panel of murals of
Southwestern Indians in ceremonial clothing.
Mr. Meem hired Olive Rush, a prominent artist of the period, to design the
murals depicting various aspects of American Indian ceremonial life.
The young artists, including Pablita Velarde, Ben Quintana, Harrison
Begay, and Pop Chalee, later became highly regarded for their careers.
The Maisel Trading Post was unique in that it was the only Pueblo Deco
building in Albuquerque that employed work by Pueblo and Navajo artists.
building’s front windows recede at the entry, forming a large protected
space 20 feet deep with additional display windows. This protected
space has a glazed terra cotta floor with American Indian designs and
the name "Maisel’s" inlaid in front of the double wood-framed
By the 1940s, the trading post had
become the largest of its kind on Route 66 and at one time employed
over 300 American Indian craftsmen onsite. The store closed after Mr.
Maisel died in the 1960s. In the 1980s, Mr. Maisel’s grandson, Skip
Maisel, reopened the shop. It was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 1993.
Indian Trading Post is located at 510 Central Ave. SW in Albuquerque,
NM right near the intersection of Historic US 66 and 5th St. NW. It is
open Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm. For further information, call
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New Mexico Madonna of the Trail, Albuquerque, New Mexico
One of the earliest public memorial sculptures in New Mexico, Madonna
of the Trail, in Albuquerque has been a local landmark since 1928 when
the mayor led a parade from a downtown hotel to the public plaza. Bands
played patriotic songs at the unveiling of the robust pioneer mother
before a crowd of 500 local citizens. Cast in a pinkish mixture of
crushed marble, Missouri granite, stone, cement, and lead ore, the
stern-faced five-ton Madonna commemorates the contributions made by
women on the road west.
18-foot Amazon had sisters. The National Society of Daughters of the
American Revolution (DAR) erected 12 identical statues across the
country during late 1920s. The idea for the statues began in 1909, when
a group of women formed a committee to advocate the locating and
marking of the Old Santa Fe Trail in Missouri. The effort quickly
sparked successive groups tied to the DAR and dedicated to establishing
an Old Trails Road--a modern highway that both connected the country’s
coasts and memorialized United States exploration and settlement. The
DAR discussed various ways of marking the route and ultimately decided
to construct the 12 large markers titled “The Madonna of the Trail.”
Between 1928 and 1929, the DAR placed Madonnas in Springfield, Ohio;
Wheeling, West Virginia; Council Grove, Kansas; Lexington, Missouri;
Lamar, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Springerville, Arizona;
Vandalia, Illinois; Richmond, Indiana; Beallsville, Pennsylvania;
Upland, California; and Bethesda, Maryland--one in every State through
which the National Old Trails Road passed.
The one on the
central square in Albuquerque was number six. Santa Fe, however, almost
got the statue. The reason Albuquerque got the statue in the end is
because the monument did not blend well with the Spanish-style art and
architecture of Santa Fe. And, more to the point, the Albuquerque DAR
chapter came up with funds to ship the monument before the Santa Fe
Not everyone in Albuquerque was pleased with
the new piece of public art. At least one citizen, Mary Austin, voiced
her negative opinion in the press. She wrote, “not only is the statue
indifferent art, but as a descendant of a long line of Pioneer Mothers
myself . . . I regard the proposed monument a caricature.” To be fair,
the melodramatic design was reflective of the patriotic zeal of its
era. Sculptor August Leimbach was straightforward in expressing his
admiration for his no-nonsense female paragon of frontier strength
wearing remarkably durable boots. According to Leimbach, the idea he
had in mind was that this strapping woman was waiting for her husband
at a block house in the West. The father had not arrived home as
promised. Baby in one arm, gun in the other, and an extra child
clinging to her skirts, the granite Madonna strides out to search the
Aesthetic objections aside, Albuquerque welcomed
the monument with open arms. It was placed in the city’s McClellan Park
facing Route 66, the main highway through the city. The statue looked
out on Route 66 until 1937 when a new alignment moved the highway south
to Central Avenue.
In 1996, the sculpture was in need of
cleaning and repair. Restoration work included removal of the soot and
dirt and repair of holes and gouges with mortar. Following its
restoration, the statue was relocated approximately 100 feet north of
its old location, due to the construction of a new Federal courthouse
on the block. The monument was rededicated at its new site on September
Although moved a short distance, the monument
continues to be oriented toward the 1926-1937 era roadbed of Route 66
through the city. The Albuquerque monument retains its integrity of
setting, design, and feeling. The only other Madonna that has retained
its integrity is the one in Upland, California. The Albuquerque Madonna
of the Trail was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in
2006. The Albuquerque statue remains a local landmark, a physical
remnant of 1920s ideas about the connection between trans-Atlantic
automobile travel and western settlement, and a tribute to the women
who helped move the country westward along its earliest roadbeds.
The New Mexico Madonna of the Trail is located at the intersection of
Marble Ave. and Fourth St. in a small park on the grounds of the
Federal Courthouse in Albuquerque, NM.
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El Vado Auto Court Motel, Albuquerque, New Mexico
In anticipation of the realignment of Route 66 through Albuquerque,
Daniel Murphy left his post as manager of the Franciscan Hotel in
downtown Albuquerque to open the El Vado in 1937. Mr. Murphy, an
Irishman who learned the hotel business in New York City before coming
to New Mexico, constructed the El Vado Auto Court Motel along Central
Avenue in Albuquerque near the Rio Grande and Old Town. He chose the
motel’s name Vado, which means 'ford' in Spanish, for its location near
the old ford that crossed the Rio Grande where Bridge Street is today.
motel consists of 32 units, some of which are interspersed with covered
carports, arranged in two parallel, one-story buildings facing a
parking courtyard. When the motel opened, gas pumps were located along
Central Avenue in front of the motel office on the northeast corner of
the site. A flashy neon sign topped by an American Indian wearing a
colorful headdress welcomes travelers on Route 66. Mr. Murphy
constructed the motel in the Spanish Pueblo Revival style.
Purposely-designed irregularities give the motel the look of the nearby
Pueblos. These include curvilinear and straight parapets, irregular
massing, varying buttresses, and exposed vigas (wooden roof beams). The
interior of the motel office and lobby is ornately decorated in the
Pueblo style. When the motel opened in 1937, the local business journal
Albuquerque Progress described the units as “swanky tile cabin suites
ready for the summer tourist trade.”
The El Vado retains
a high degree of historic integrity, because it has been largely
unaltered since its original construction. Route 66 historian David
Kammer describes the motel as “one of the best examples of a largely
unaltered pre-World War II tourist courts remaining along Route 66 in
New Mexico.” Alterations include the removal of the gas pumps in front
of the motel office, the addition of a swimming pool, the replacement
of original windows with metal double-hung windows, and the painting of
Southwest Indian designs on the façade. The El Vado’s relatively
unaltered appearance coupled with its spatial arrangement, remaining
carports, and use of Spanish Pueblo Revival style convey a strong sense
of the property’s era. The El Vado is historically significant for its
association with automobile tourism along Route 66; its role as an auto
court in defining Albuquerque’s growth, appearance, and image; and its
picturesque architectural style designed to attract tourism and immerse
travelers in the exoticism and mystique of the Southwest. It was listed
in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
The El Vado Auto Court Motel is located at 2500 Central Ave. SW in
Albuquerque, NM and is currently closed to the public.
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Rio Puerco Bridge, Rio Puerco, New Mexico
Heading west out of Albuquerque on Route 66, travelers can enjoy a
scenic descent from Nine Mile Hill into the Rio Puerco Valley, where a
Parker through truss bridge crosses the steeply eroded banks of the Rio
Puerco River. The valley is the site of Laguna Pueblo, the home of
Puebloans since the 1300s. Because the Rio Puerco is known for its
violent flooding and severe erosion, the State Highway Department
specifically chose a Parker through truss bridge design for the Rio
Puerco Bridge to eliminate the need for a center pier and prevent
Federal Government funded the bridge in 1933 as part of President
Roosevelt’s effort to use emergency monies for highway construction.
Completed within a year, the bridge opened the Laguna Cutoff to
transcontinental traffic. In 1937, the alignment officially became U.S.
Route 66.The Kansas City Structural Steel Company conceived the
structure, and F.D. Shufflebarger was in charge of constructing the
bridge. The Rio Puerco Bridge has a 250 foot long span and is one of
the longest single span steel truss bridges built in New Mexico.
bridge consists of 10 panels measuring 25 feet in length, each with its
top cord at a different angle, as is characteristic of Parker truss
design bridges. The 25-foot wide deck is concrete with an asphalt
surface and rests on steel stringers. This design was selected
partially because it was commonly used during the late-1920s and 30s,
but also because it was particularly suitable for this bridge, which
needed to withstand a river capable of massive flooding that had washed
away previous bridges along the Rio Puerco.
In 1957, the
truss was remodeled, and the lower portal struts were removed and
replaced by lighter struts that were inserted above to create a higher
clearance. Metal guardrails were added to protect the truss members.
This bridge served motorists on Route 66 for many years, and when I-40
was completed, the Rio Puerco Bridge became part of a frontage road
across the Rio Puerco.
The structure was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in 1997. In 1999, the New Mexico
State Highway and Transportation Department replaced it but preserved
the historic bridge. Though currently closed to car traffic, the old
bridge is open for people to walk across, allowing visitors a glimpse
of the old Highway 66 slowly curving and dipping as it disappears into
the vast New Mexico desert.
The Rio Puerco Bridge is located off of and parallel to Interstate 40
at exit 140 west of Albuquerque, NM. A post-1937 alignment of Route 66,
now used as a frontage road, is east of the bridge and reconnects with
the interstate at exit 149. Visitors can walk across the bridge.
Pueblo of Laguna, Laguna, New Mexico
The Pueblo of Laguna, the largest of the Keresan pueblos, is 45 miles west
of Albuquerque on Route 66. Its most prominent landmark, the
whitewashed St. Joseph Church, is readily visible from the road. The
entire pueblo covers four large counties and includes the six villages
of Encinal, Laguna, Mesita, Paguate, Paraje, and Seama. Listed in the
National Register of Historic Places since 1973, the district consists
of approximately 108 acres including a southeastern section of the
pueblo that dates from the 1400s and a larger section established in
The historical record indicates that ancestors of
the pueblo’s current residents have been in residence since at least
1300, and that people have inhabited the area since at least 3000 BCE.
Pueblo tradition says that Pueblo people have always been there. Their
Spanish name, Laguna, translates to lagoon and derives from a lake, now
dry, once located in the pueblo. The local language is called Keresan,
and the name of the people in that language is Kawaik. Prior to Spanish
incursions in the region in the 1500s, Kawaik residents lived in a
border region between Ancestral Pueblo people to the north and Mogollon
people to the south. When Spanish people arrived there, they found a
self-governing, agricultural society.
The pueblo we see
today was established after the Peublo Revolt in 1699 by a group of
Kawaik people and other refugees from Cienguilla, Santo Domingo,
Cochiti, and Zia Pueblos. It expanded rapidly, growing to the north,
east, and west. The pueblo’s main village is built into the soft,
light-yellow sandstone slope on the west side of the San Jose River.
Buildings are of stone and adobe, and the St. Joseph Church, which
dates from 1701, dominates the skyline. Agriculture continued to be a
way of life, and pueblo visitors often remarked on the quality of their
crops. Starting with a Baptist presence in the 1850s and a Presbyterian
presence in the 1870s, Protestant Christianity gained strength in the
community and resulted in a split and the establishment of Mesita late
in the 1800s.
66 bisects the heart of pueblo land. The initial 1926 alignment through
this part of new Mexico curved north from Santa Rosa to Santa Fe, and
then south to Albuquerque and Los Lunas, returning to an east-west
alignment near Laguna. Route 66 through new Mexico was realigned in
1937 to eliminate this dramatic “S-curve” through the state, reducing
its mileage from 506 to 399. The new alignment left Santa Fe and Los
Lunas behind, but Laguna remained along Route 66. In the 1946 Guide
Book to Highway 66, the author Jack Rittenhouse mentions the Laguna
Pueblo as the only major pueblo still visible from the highway.
the Pueblo of Laguna remains an active place. Uranium became an
important economic engine in the community after its c.1950 discovery
on pueblo land. Tourism and the craft industry it supports, as well as
a tribal casino along Interstate 40, are additional sources of revenue.
The St. Joseph Church is a popular tourist destination, and local
crafts are available from pueblo venders in the village. Feast days are
exciting times to visit: March 19 for the Laguna Village Feast, July 26
for the Seama Village Feast, August 15 for the Mesita Village Feast,
September 8 for the Encinal Village Feast, September 19 for the year’s
second Laguna Village Feast, September 25 for the Paguate Village
Feast, and October 17 for the Paraje Village Feast. On September 19,
all the villages celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph, which features
dances after a Mass at the San José Mission Church and hundreds of
booths offering various native arts and crafts to view and purchase.
Pueblo of Laguna is approximately 45 miles west of Albuquerque, NM, off
Interstate 40 along the San Jose River. A main tourist
destination is St. Joseph Church at 1 Friar Rd. The church is
wheelchair accessible and is generally open to visitors 9:00am to
3:00pm Monday-Friday, but for more information call 505-552-9330.
Large festivals open to the public occur annually on September 19
and March 19, and other events, both public and private, occur
throughout the year. Much of the pueblo is private, and
photography, drawing, and audio/video taping are not generally allowed,
but visitors interested in seeking permission for these activities or
to hike or drive in tribal areas should call 505-552-6654 or look for
more information on the Pueblo of Laguna website and the State of New Mexico Tourism Department website. For information about the Dancing Eagle Casino and Travel Center visit its website.
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Bowlin’s Old Crater Trading Post, Bluewater, New Mexico
in the high, scrub desert north of Bluewater the Old Crater Trading
Post stands as a quiet testimony to the booming trading post and curio
shop industry that once lined the Route 66 roadside. Built in 1954, its
stucco walls, viga beams, and flat roof are typical of vernacular
construction in the Southwest. However, this building is distinguised
for its connection to an enterprising family with a long trading post
history, and also for its colorful, stylized murals that have caught
the eye of travelers for more than half a century.
along the façade today reveals a painting of an American Indian holding
a hoop. Another plays a drum. A man rides horseback; a woman weaves a
rug. Two girls walk with pots balanced on their heads. Above the
paintings are several layers of painted advertising. Largely faded or
superimposed over one another, some are still legible. “Jewelry,” says
one, and “Rugs” another. “Bargains” and "Bowlin” can both be read along
the south wing of the building, along with the Bowlin Company logo, a
running Indian holding a tomahawk and wearing a headband and feather.
Colorful and simplistic, the murals illustrate the way native peoples
were commonly represented in tourist and popular mainstream culture.
the current Old Crater Trading Post was built in 1954, an earlier
trading post stood in its place. Owner and operator Claude Bowlin built
the original post in 1936, naming it for a nearby volcanic crater that
had become a local tourist attraction. Bowlin had an extensive
background in commercial trade, particularly with American Indians, and
came from a long line of traders and merchants.
began his mercantile career in 1912 as an off-reservation trader in
Gallup, on the southern periphery of the Navajo Reservation. The
majority of Bowlin’s customers were Navajos. He quickly became the
primary trader with the area Navajo population, dealing in commodities
such as rugs, jewelry, sheep, and wool. Bowlin left the business to
serve in World War I, but, by the 1920s, he was back in the trade. For
more than a decade, he continued to develop a trusting relationship
with Navajos, particularly artists. In 1936, he sold his interest in a
trading company based in Gallup and built the Old Crater Trading Post
on unpaved Route 66 just about a mile north of Bluewater.
enterprise reflected the traditional trading posts of the late-19th and
early-20th centuries. The grounds contained corrals, dipping vats, and
shearing sheds. Inside, a pot-bellied stove warmed a pot of coffee, and
a roof support post studded with nails held cups. Horse bridles, canned
peaches, pants, and shawls were on the shelves. Claude Bowlin, whom the
Navajo called Nahtsonahi or “Mouse,” was in his element.
addition to being the local mercantile, the trading post became the
center of community life for the surrounding Navajo population. The
Bowlin family sponsored a number of activities such as chicken pulls,
buckboard races, and card games. Claude Bowlin was well-respected among
the Navajo, and likewise he held the Native Americans in high regard.
When a local Navajo asked the Bowlins to raise his child so that he
would become familiar with the white man’s world, Claude and his wife,
Willa, agreed. Their “adopted” son, Tom, grew up to become the first
Navajo elected to the New Mexico Senate.
By 1938, the entire length of Route 66 had pavement and traffic increased
dramatically. The nature of Bowlin’s business began to change. Bowlin
added gas pumps. He marketed Navajo dolls and souvenir moccasins to
passing tourists and hired silversmiths and rug weavers to work at the
trading post. Change was gradual at first, and most of Bowlin’s
customers continued to be local Navajos. But during the years following
World War II, tourism boomed and Bowlin’s focus shifted to
accommodating travelers along Route 66. During the 1940s, he and other
family members built three more stores in southern and eastern New
Mexico. The chain of stores expanded further in the 1950s with two
stores near Las Cruces and another north of Alamogordo.
the face of a growing number of curio shops that often called
themselves “trading posts,” Claude Bowlin sought to distinguish his
stores as true to the ways of old-time traders. He continued to deal
with area Native Americans and made a strong effort to educate passing
tourists about tribal cultures. He hired artists from area reservations
to work in his stores and he printed and distributed pamphlets that
taught tourists how to identify authentic Navajo jewelry. Bowlin became
a member of the United Indian Traders Association (UITA), which set
standards for the creation of American Indian arts and crafts, and sold
only UITA silverwork in his stores.
With the success of
their chain of stores, the Bowlins decided to demolish the first Old
Crater Trading Post and construct a new building on the site. The
building that stands there today was completed in the spring of 1954.
Twenty years later, Interstate 40 was built across New Mexico, and
Route 66 was largely abandoned. The Old Crater Trading Post closed in
1973. Claude Bowlin had been enjoying retirement for several years by
that time. He died shortly after his trading post on Route 66 closed,
and his widow, Willa, sold the property. The deed stipulated that the
property be conveyed for religious purposes only. The building was home
to the Bluewater Bible School and Church during the 1980s and 1990s,
and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
Old Crater Trading Post is at 7650 Old Route 66, which is now the
frontage road for Interstate 40 one-and-a-half miles north of
Bluewater, NM. The building is used to mount bill boards, and the
interior is not accessible.
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Roy T. Herman's Garage and Service Station, Thoreau, New Mexico
T. Herman’s Garage and Service Station in Thoreau is one of the oldest
remaining gas stations along Route 66 in New Mexico and one of the
State’s earliest examples of franchise service stations with its style,
plan, and materials. Despite being uprooted and moved twice, the
building retains its historic appearance and orientation to Route 66, a
reminder of what it was like for travelers to stop for gasoline and
service on the Mother Road.
building served as a gas station along Route 66 beginning in 1935 when
it was a Standard Oil Company Station in the nearby town of Grants. In
1937, the building was moved to Thoreau just as Route 66 moved to its
present alignment a half-mile south of Thoreau’s main street north of
the railroad tracks. It was the first roadside business along this
realigned section of the Mother Road. As a young veteran, Roy T. Herman
worked at the station and operated the garage in the late 1940s. In
1950 he purchased the station, and he and his son have operated it
since. In 1963, Mr. Herman moved the building 200 yards farther west on
Route 66, and ceased selling gasoline to operate solely as a repair
This former gas station is a one-story building
with hipped and flat roof portions. Sections of white enamel covering
with red and blue strips characteristic of early Standard Oil Company
gas stations remain on the walls. A broad-pitched hipped canopy extends
over a service lane to the concrete pump island. Like most service
stations along rural portions of Route 66, the building is set back
from the road, permitting parking and providing off-road maneuvering
room. The station’s 1940s pumps and 1950s sign remain on the property.
Roy T. Herman’s Garage and Service Station was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
Roy T. Herman’s Garage and Service Station is located on State Road
122, 150 yards west of the I-40 Exit 53 at Thoreau, NM.
Return to top
Fort Wingate Historic District, Fort Wingate, New Mexico
Fort Wingate sits among the red rocks seven miles east of Gallup along
Interstate 40, next to the reservations of the Navajo Nation and the
Zuni Tribe. An ancestral homeland to both tribes, Fort Wingate contains
more than 400 ruins traceable to both Navajo and Zuni traditions. The
fort’s history is deeply rooted in the Indian wars of the late 1800s,
fought between American Indian tribes and the United States military
for control of what would become the western United States. Fort
Wingate later became a key military installation along Route 66 during
World War II.
United States established Fort Fauntleroy on the site of modern Fort
Wingate in 1860, as part of a campaign against the region’s Navajo
population. The Civil War disrupted the campaign, and Fort Fauntleroy’s
troops quickly deployed away from New Mexico. Fort Fauntleroy served
briefly as a mail station before being abandoned c.1865.
and United States forces continued to contest the surrounding
territory. General James Carleton, commander of the Department of New
Mexico (a regional designation predating statehood), believed that
confining the Indians to reservations was the best solution to the
conflict. Joined by Ute allies, Carleton led forces against the
Navajos, destroying sheep and homes and finally removing thousands of
Navajos to the Bosque Redondo Reservation in a 400-mile trek called The
Long Walk by the participants and their descendents. The reservation
operated for four years. Poor growing conditions and lack of water on
the reservation resulted in malnutrition and disease among the Navajo.
Navajo and U.S. government representatives signed a treaty in the summer of
1868 allowing the Navajo to return to their homes. The treaty also
provided replacement livestock in return for the Navajo’s pledge to
confine themselves to a finite area and cease raiding activities. The
new Navajo reservation included a United States military installation
called Fort Wingate, which occupied the site of the abandoned Fort
Fort Wingate remained a large and active
installation operating primarily as a police force for the Navajo
reservation and the surrounding area. One of its roles was to protect
construction activities of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad,
which played a key role in fostering western settlement and tourism.
Navajo scouts based at the fort also supported United States efforts
against Apache forces to the south, and the fort became an
incarceration facility for captured Apaches.
soldiers stationed at Fort Wingate found their conditions grim.
Lieutenant John Pershing wrote to a correspondent “this post is
a … and no question – tumbled down, old quarters, though Stots is
repairing it as fast as he can. The winters are severe…it is always
bleak and the surrounding country is barren absolutely.” An 1896 fire
destroyed many of the fort’s buildings, which the military replaced
with buildings of local red sandstone shortly after 1900.
United States decommissioned the fort in 1912, making way for a variety
of 20th-century uses. The fort briefly served again in 1914 and 1915
when an internment camp in a fenced enclosure just north of the post
housed refugees from the Mexican Revolution. Just four years later, the
United States Ordnance Department took possession of the site, using it
as a depot. In 1925, the fort became the site of an Indian school.
66 became an important artery for military logistics during World War
II, making military sites along its way busy places and supporting
economic growth in nearby communities. War heightened the demand for
munitions storage facilities. Fort Wingate, with its earthen,
igloo-like storage buildings visible from Route 66, became a major
storage center. Most famous of Fort Wingate’s World War II
contributions, however, were the Navajo code talkers who trained here.
The code talkers baffled Japanese forces in the Pacific using a code
based on the Navajo language.
Remaining at Fort Wingate
today are several historic features. From its military period, the fort
retains parade grounds, an 1883 adobe clubhouse, one barracks, and a
row of c.1900 officers’ quarters. The cemetery remains, though most
military burials were removed to the Santa Fe National Cemetery in
1915. The Fort Wingate cemetery continues to be used for the burial of
Navajo veterans and graves of some of the Mexican refugees remain.
Though the Bureau of Indian Affairs demolished many of the fort’s
historic buildings in the late 1950s to build the still-active Wingate
Elementary School, the first school’s barn and silos, power house, and
maintenance building remain. The National Park Service listed the Fort
Wingate Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places
is approximately 12 miles southeast of Gallup, NM. To reach it, take
Interstate 40 exit 33 for Highway 400 toward McGaffey; the fort will be
visible along the road after it reaches the mountains. Historic Fort
Wingate is behind a fence; to seek access, call Wilbert Dempsey of the
Wingate Elementary School at 505-488-6421.
Return to top
El Rancho Hotel, Gallup, New Mexico
Joe Massaglia constructed the El Rancho Hotel in 1936 along U.S. Route
66 for Mr. R.E. “Griff” Griffith, brother of the famous movie director
D.W. Griffith. El Rancho Hotel is a large, rambling, Rustic style
building that still feeds the fantasy of the Old West in Gallup, New
Mexico. Griff came to Gallup in the early 1930s and fell in love with
the area, returning a few years later to build the hotel. From the very
start, El Rancho was the center of the movie industry in Gallup. Both
Griff and his brother encouraged moviemakers to use El Rancho as a base
for crews and stars on location because of its proximity to striking
western landscapes and the hotel’s rustic elegance. When it opened in
1936, the El Rancho boasted superior service and accommodations for
roughing it in comfort. Its employees were trained by the famous Fred
Harvey Company hotel and restaurant chain.
El Rancho Hotel is built of brick, random ashlar stone, and roughhewn
wood. Some of the brick areas consist of unusual and intentionally laid
wavy brickwork that gives the hotel a rusticated fantasy appearance.
The rambling hotel revolves around a central three-story building
containing the main lobby and early rooms. It has a pitched wood shake
roof with several brick and stone chimneys. The main entry has a large
portico and a second floor balcony supported by six square wood posts
with lathed and rounded tops. This section is reminiscent of the
southern Plantation style.
The main entry leads into a
square lobby with a crisscross balustrade balcony running around the
perimeter at the second-story level. The ambiance of this room combines
rusticated western grandeur with the feel of a hunting lodge. The lobby
is furnished with heavy, carved, dark wood furniture and has Navajo
rugs hanging from the balcony, deer head trophies hanging from the
columns, and stamped tin lights. At the rear of the lobby is a
spectacular walk-in fireplace cove made of brick and random ashlar
stonework. On each side of the massive fireplace, wooden stairways wind
their way up to the balcony, which encircles the first floor. The
stairs are made of split logs, and the railings are of naturally bent,
stripped, and polished tree limbs. Several rooftop patios are lined
with photographs of scenes and movie stars from westerns filmed in
El Rancho continued to be linked to Hollywood and
the movie industry until the mid-1960s. Ronald Reagan, John Wayne,
Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Kirk Douglas, Gregory
Peck, and Humphrey Bogart are only a few of the film stars who stayed
at the hotel while making movies in the vicinity. By 1964, however, the
lure of the western hero was fading, and brilliant Technicolor vistas
were replacing dramatic, stark images in black and white. The
mysterious West was no longer mysterious but readily available by
automobile along Route 66 and the almost completed Interstate-40.
Ortega, a well-known Indian trader, bought the hotel and restored it to
its original luster. Today, the hotel is a popular stop for Route 66
travelers, who can stay in rooms named for movie stars who were guests
before them. El Rancho was listed in the National Register of Historic
Places in 1988 and received a Cost-Share Grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in 2003 for a new wood shingle roof.
The El Rancho Hotel is located at 1000 East 66 on the corner of Route
66 and Ford Dr. in Gallup, NM. When approaching from I-40, take exit 22
and turn south onto Ford Drive/Miyamura. The hotel has both overnight
accommodations and a restaurant. For information, call the hotel at
505-863-9311, or visit the hotel's website.
< Return to top
New Mexico Road Segments
As it moves across the State of New Mexico, U.S. Highway 66 generally
follows the region’s traditional east-west transportation corridor
through the center of the State along the 35th Parallel. The topography
of this route had always presented special challenges to New Mexican
road builders even before the coming of Route 66 in 1926. New Mexico’s
elevation along this path varies from a low of 3,800 feet at the Texas
border to over 7,200 feet at the Continental Divide near Thoreau,
creating a roadbed characterized by climbs, descents, switchbacks and
cuts. These topographical conditions were especially daunting
considering that until the 1930s, much of the road construction was
done by human and animal muscle. The Big Cut north of Albuquerque and
the La Bajada Hill switchbacks south of Santa Fe are testaments to
these challenges--and achievements--of early road building in New
Despite considerable progress after achieving
statehood in 1912, New Mexico could boast of only 28 miles of hardened
pavement. The rest of the roads had surfaces of gravel, rock or
unimproved dirt. In addition, many of the bridges along New Mexico’s
roads at this time were constructed of untreated timber or creosote
coated timber. These less than modern conditions did not stem the
increasing traffic flow across the State during the first years of
Route 66. The mid-1920s witnessed the convergence of powerful social
and economic trends that set the nation in motion as never before. The
creation of Route 66 and a Federal highway system in 1926 coincided
with the beginning of widespread automobile ownership and the rise of
automobile tourism. Aided by private and civic booster organizations
alert to these trends, the sparsely populated but visually stunning New
Mexico became a major beneficiary of these developments.
Mexico Route 66 became fully modernized during the Great Depression, as
the Federal Government undertook massive public spending programs, many
of which concentrated on road building. Between 1933 and 1941, New
Mexico was a major recipient of these funds. Starting with the National
Recovery Act of 1933, which allotted the State nearly six million
dollars for road work, New Mexico received millions of Federal dollars
throughout the 1930s and early 1940s for road construction and
modernization projects that included new bridges, paving, grade
crossing elimination, and roadway straightening.
midst of these New Deal efforts, the year 1937 stands out as a
milestone in the history of Route 66 in New Mexico. In that year, New
Mexico's section of the highway was significantly shortened and
straightened by eliminating the major exception to the State’s
east-west course: a giant S shaped detour in the center of the State
that ran northwest from the eastern town of Santa Rosa to Romeoville
and Santa Fe, and then south (through Albuquerque) to Los Lunas. At
that point, the road turned once again in a northwesterly direction
toward Laguna Pueblo, where it finally resumed its western direction.
The new alignment shortened the road, reducing Route 66’s total New
Mexican mileage from 506 to 399 miles, and routed the highway directly
on an east-west axis through Albuquerque and its famous Central Avenue.
By the end of 1937, the paving of Route 66 throughout the entire State
was complete, making Route 66 New Mexico’s first fully paved highway.
spending priorities and civilian travel restrictions of the Second
World War cut short the economic upswing that emerged in the wake of
the New Deal improvements. The postwar explosion in travel and
transport, which launched Route 66 into its golden age, proved a
double-edged sword. Despite heroic attempts to keep abreast of the
surging traffic flow of the 1950s through road widening and new
alignments, the Mother Road’s days as a national highway were numbered.
The Road Segments
The historic road segments described below follow Route 66 east-to-west
through the State of New Mexico. Together, they illustrate the history
New Mexico and Route 66 share. Some are still in use today. The
man-made structures and natural wonders continue to draw travelers
along the route.
Glenrio to San Jon
Extending from the Texas border at Glenrio to two miles east of San
Jon, this 14.6 mile segment of Route 66 runs almost two miles south of
Interstate 40 through the sites of the early homestead towns that lined
the now abandoned Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. This
departure from the interstate enhances the feeling of cross-country
travel in rural eastern New Mexico, especially with the vistas across
the slightly rolling semi-arid rangeland, the barbed wire fencing
paralleling the road, and the remains of the railroad grade with its
wood trestle bridges. While the segment has little elevation change,
several small streams near Endee mark a visible change in the area’s
topography. These streams made the area attractive to homesteaders but
posed challenges for early road builders who used several stream
crossings to pass through the area. When the road became part of Route
66 in 1930, road builders realigned it to eliminate stream crossings
and run parallel to the railroad lying to the south. Engineers raised
the grade and added several concrete culverts, often marked by short
guardrails consisting of wood posts and connecting steel cables.
Notable along this segment are four creosote-treated beam bridges east
of Endee built during the 1930 alignment. These structures characterize
bridge building over many of the flood plains and shallow riverbeds of
the State in the 1920s and early 1930s. The cross sections of the early
roadbed and the bridges remain largely unaltered. When the road was
turned over to Quay County, it was given a gravel surface that enhanced
its historic feeling and recalled the era of Route 66 that preceded its
paving in the 1930s. This segment served as Route 66 until 1952.
San Jon to Tucumcari
Running across the rangelands and irrigated farmlands of eastern Quay
County, this 23.9-mile segment is largely unaltered beyond normal road
maintenance. The segment generally follows what was known as the Ozark
Trail, a regional trail association that preceded the creation of the
Federal highway system in 1926. The roadbed was paved with a hard
surface in 1933. Traveling west, the road section passes through San
Jon where commercial buildings, many now vacant, recall earlier
roadside businesses that Route 66 travelers supported. In the distance,
to the south and west, the Caprock and Mount Tucumcari offer views of
the increasingly rugged terrain awaiting the westbound motorist. West
of San Jon, the road diverges from Interstate 40 crossing rangeland
well removed from the modern highway. Concrete box culverts and fill
carry the road across small arroyos. Sandstone outcroppings mark the
drainage of Plaza Largo and Revuelto Creeks with the pre-1933 alignment
of the road visible 50 yards to the south. West of the drainage the
road parallels the interstate, coursing beneath two overpasses. As the
road approaches Tucumcari, canals and irrigated fields marking the Arch
Hurley Irrigation District lie to the south.
Palomas to Montoya
This 10.4-mile road segment passes through the Parajito Creek Valley
with Mesa Rica to the north and Palomas Mesa to the south. Remaining
relatively flat at 4,300 feet, the road has a few bank or slope cuts
along this stretch. Several sections, however, are marked by raised
grades with culverts and bridges permitting water from small
intermittent streams to flow into Parajito Creek just to the south.
This road section was realigned from an earlier course in 1933. Of
particular interest are the road’s three bridges consisting of
reinforced concrete beam construction with concrete abutments. As the
road approaches Montoya, it passes a series of vacant businesses and
the Montoya Cemetery. This improvement is a good example of the Bureau
of Roads’ staged construction policy and illustrates the changes New
Deal road building projects brought to Route 66. This segment served as
Routes 66 and 54 until the coming of Interstate 40 following the
Interstate Highway Act of 1956. Works Project Administration project
number plates are affixed to their headwalls.
This 20.3-mile segment was originally designated as State Highway 3 in
1914. This section of Route 66, like other stretches in eastern New
Mexico, generally follows the Ozark Trail that preceded the creation of
the Federal highway system in 1926. Coursing across pinyon and juniper
covered hills and mesas and crossing small drainages feeding into Bull
Canyon and Parajito Creeks, this portion of Route 66 is largely
unaltered beyond normal road maintenance. Several ridges permit
remarkable panoramas of the interstate, railroad, and Route 66 grades
roughly paralleling each other. Each alignment, however, negotiates the
topography differently, offering a striking contrast in evolving
Cuervo to Junction with SR 156
This long abandoned stretch of Route 66 offers unbroken views of scenic
vistas of the eastern New Mexico rangeland. Interstate 40 is so well
removed to the north that it does not impinge on the historic feel of
Route 66. This part of the Mother Road that leads from Cuervo to State
Road 156 consists of 6.9 miles built as part of the realignment during
1932. It marks one of the few places where the road deviated
substantially from the railroad right-of-way. Even though the years of
neglect have led to the erosion of most of the asphalt surface,
concrete culverts, modest bank cuts, and fence lines marking the
right-of-way still remain, giving the atmosphere an almost reverent
feel, as though an old Chevy pickup might come skidding to a stop at
the gas station pump. Passing southwest from Cuervo, this portion of
Route 66 crosses a deep arroyo carved out by Cuervito Creek. It then
climbs 200 feet to an elevation of 5,100 feet at Mesita Contadero.
Built on the mesa’s relatively flat rock and caliche surface here, the
roadbed stretches to 24 feet wide in some places. Typical of most
ascents along Route 66, a yellow median stripe in the road and a gas
station awaited motorists at the rise, a spot now marked only by the
building’s foundation and concrete pump. The road segment served as
Routes 66 and 54 until 1952, when the highway was realigned to its
present course following Interstate 40. This segment still serves as a
Albuquerque to Rio Puerco
This 8.5-mile section is marked by a scenic descent from Nine Mile Hill
into the Rio Puerco Valley and a through-truss bridge across the
steeply eroded banks of the Rio Puerco. At the segment’s eastern end at
Nine Mile Hill, the summit offers notable scenery. Eastward lies the
emerald chain marking the middle Rio Grande Valley, with Albuquerque
stretching across the valley to the Sandia Mountains beyond. To the
west is the Rio Puerco Valley with Mount Taylor, rising above to 12,000
feet. Many travelers who drove the Mother Road during the historic
period fondly recall the vistas at Nine Mile Hill, especially the views
of Mount Taylor and Albuquerque at night, as some of the most inspiring
in the American West. Crossing the Rio Puerco is a Parker through-truss
bridge with its original bridge plates affixed to the headwalls of the
reinforced concrete approaches. Although this portion of the highway
was not paved and officially designated as Route 66 until 1937, it was
included as mileage in the State’s Federal aid projects in 1932,
anticipating its inclusion as a part of Route 66. Federal funding was
then used to construct the Rio Puerco Bridge in 1933.
Laguna to McCarty’s
This 17.7-mile road section passes through both Laguna and Acoma tribal
lands, gradually ascending into the Rio San Jose Valley through the
Route 66 Rural Historic District, which encompasses approximately 216
acres and seven buildings. The sandstone cliffs of Paraje Mesa to the
north and red willows lining the Rio San Jose to the south present a
rich Southwestern landscape. The seven buildings at the two roadside
trading posts offered several roadside services including gas, food,
lodging, towing, and auto repairs. The Budville Trading Post (1938) and
Villa de Cubero (1936) are two of the best remaining examples of
early-roadside architecture catering to passing motorists. Both trading
posts have one-story stucco-coated buildings embracing characteristics
of the Southwest Vernacular and Mediterranean styles. In varying
scales, both indicate the spatial organization of 1930s rural roadside
businesses with their long gravel parking lots paralleling the road and
their gasoline pump islands at the center of the parking area in front
of each trading post. This road segment offers much evidence of early
transportation as it crosses over the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe
(AT&SF) Railway tracks as well as traces of the old State Road 6
that predated Route 66. The dominant vista along this segment is Mount
Taylor, with its often snow-covered conical summit rising to 12,000
McCarty’s to Grants
Passing through several miles of lava flow, known locally as malpais,
this 12.5-mile road section presented a challenge to early road
builders during the Depression. During the 1930s, numerous New Deal
projects improved this portion of Route 66. A grade separation was
added at Horace in 1934, and the entire road section was paved in
1935-36, when a pony truss bridge and a concrete subway were also
constructed near McCarty’s. The alignment served as Route 66 until
Interstate 40 replaced it after 1956. This road segment’s alignment
approximates the drainage of the Rio San Jose and the tracks of the
former AT&SF Railway. With Mount Taylor rising over 12,000 feet to
the north and the Zuni Mountains to the west, the terrain suggests the
rugged Southwest, especially where the road weaves its way through the
Milan to Continental Divide
This 31.4-mile segment was designated as State Highway 6 in 1914 and a
part of the National Old Trails Highway, a trans-regional road
association that preceded the creation of the Federal highway system in
1926. The road’s climb out of the Rio San Jose drainage toward
Continental Divide takes motorists out of an area that was known for
its irrigated agriculture, especially carrots, in the 1940s. The
discovery of uranium and development of nearby mines in the 1950s is
evident in distant tailing piles and settling ponds near Bluewater. As
the road begins to climb toward the Continental Divide, the highest
point on Route 66 with an elevation of 7,263 feet, pastures give way to
a pinyon and juniper landscape with Navajo homesteads, trading posts,
and other businesses periodically lining the roadside. From Prewitt
westward, Entrada sandstone cliffs parallel the road to the north,
offering a stretch of spectacular unbroken red sandstone extending to
the Arizona border. This roadbed remained gravel until the 1930s, when
Federal funding resulted in projects to realign and pave the highway.
Among these improvements was the elimination of two grade crossings by
realigning the highway entirely south of the AT&SF Railway line. As
a result, Thoreau and other villages, which prospered with roadside
commerce in the 1920s, saw businesses disappear or relocate in the late
1930s, when Route 66 no longer passed along the towns’ main streets.
Iyanbito to Rehobeth
This 9.4-mile segment passes through the broad valley of the Rio Puerco
of the West, as it descends from the Continental Divide a few miles to
the east. Notable for westbound motorists on Route 66 were the striking
red Entrada sandstone cliffs to the north forming an unbroken wall and
the increasing evidence of Navajo homesteads lining the road. This
roadside geology and cultural landscape served to reinforce the Town of
Gallup’s efforts to promote itself as the heart of Indian country,
which was part of the attraction of automobile traffic along the Mother
Road in New Mexico. The segment was designated State Highway 6 in 1914
and a part of the National Old Trails Highway, a trans-regional road
association that preceded the creation of the federal highway system in
1926. During the 1930s the road section was improved and finally paved
in 1937. Several concrete box culverts dating to the paving of the road
in the 1930s mark small arroyos. This portion served as part of Route
66 until Interstate 40 replaced it after 1956.
Manuelito to the Arizona Border
This 8.4-mile section takes motorists by yellow and red sandstone
cliffs rising abruptly from the valley floor, often covered by juniper
and pinyon trees. Because the valley floor is unstable and susceptible
to flooding, both the highway and the railroad cling to the slopes just
beneath the mesas as they pass through narrow portions of the valley.
Here large and often unstable roadcuts result in brief rises high above
the valley floor, affording motorists a spectacular view of the
sandstone cliffs lining the valley. Realigned and paved in 1930, this
was one of the first rural sections of Route 66 to receive a hard
surface. The road section begins at the west end of a reinforced
concrete grade separation. West of Manuelito the road climbs above the
railroad to make its way around the lower slopes of two mesas,
including Devil’s Cliff. Both cliffs have substantial slope cuts,
conveying a feeling of the challenges facing early road builders.
Chronic problems with land and rockslides at Devil’s Cliff led to the
installation of steel mesh fencing along the escarpment. As the road
descends the slope at Devil’s Cliff, it stretches west to the Arizona
border, passing through a narrow portion of the valley. With trading
posts and other evidence of the nearby Navajo Nation lining the road,
this segment had a close association with the Indian Country image that
drew many motorists to the Southwest.
to San Jon, NM: The road diverges from I-40 at Glenrio, passing almost
two miles to the south of the interstate through Trujillo and San Jon
Creek drainages remaining at about 3,850 feet with little elevation
change throughout the road section. Take exit 0 from I-40 into Glenrio.
Follow the Route 66 dirt road past where the pavement dead-ends west of
San Jon to Tucumcari, NM: Take exit 356 from
I-40 into San Jon. From San Jon, follow the south Frontage Rd. past
exits 343 and 339. At exit 335, cross under the interstate and curve
with BL 40-Tucumcari Blvd. through Tucumcari. On the west side, rejoin
I-40 at exit 329.
Palomas to Montoya, NM: Take I-40 exit
321 (Palomas) across the interstate. Go south to the Frontage Rd. and
turn right. Continue ahead on the S. Frontage Rd. past the next
overpass (no exit). Slow to curve sharply under I-40, and then continue
on the N. Frontage Rd. through Montoya. This segment serves as a
frontage road for local traffic. The three bridges are located, 6, 7.2,
and 8 miles west of the eastern end of the road section. As the road
approaches Montoya, it diverges from its close parallel with I-40,
passing a series of small roadside businesses, now vacant and some
deteriorating, as well as Montoya cemetery.
Cuervo, NM: This section of State maintained Route 66 serves as a
frontage and local road along I-40 from west of the Montoya interchange
to where the road junctions with the westbound exit ramp at the Cuervo
interchange. At I-40 exit 311, cross over I-40 and follow the S.
Frontage Road. Cross I-40 again (no exit) and continue along the
railroad through Newkirk to Cuervo. Join I-40 at exit 291. Heading west
from Montoya, at 7.1 miles, an overpass carries the road into a hilly
area punctuated by sandstone outcroppings. At mile 12 the road passes
through Newkirk, a rural village with several vacant garages, tourist
courts, and cafés that once served Route 66 travelers. West of Newkirk,
Route 66 resumes its close parallel with I-40.
NM 156, NM: As a warning, this road is very rough with many washouts
and potholes. High clearance vehicles are recommended. This segment
serves as a local road for ranchers and utility company line crews. It
passes southwest from Cuervo and crosses Cuervito Creek before
ascending Mesita Contadero. From I-40, take exit 291 to State Rd. 156.
Head west on 156 toward Santa Rosa.
Albuquerque to Rio
Puerco, NM: This road segment serves as a frontage road along I-40 west
of Albuquerque. It climbs Nine Mile Hill from Albuquerque and Middle
Rio Grande Valley before descending into the Rio Puerco Valley. Along
Central Ave. in Albuquerque, head west and cross over I-40 at exit 149.
Take a left onto the frontage road on the northern side of the
interstate. The segment ends at I-40 exit 140, marked by the Rio Puerco
Laguna to McCarty's, NM: The eastern half of the
section is a local road connecting a series of Laguna tribal villages.
The eastern most half-mile portion of the road is four lanes with a
slight concrete median, a section completed in 1951 to alleviate
congestion around the Pueblo of Old Laguna. West of the Pueblo, this
segment returns to a 24 ft. wide two-lane road, containing numerous
culverts over the arroyos and drainages descending from Paraje Mesa.
The western half of the road passes through several small towns
bordering the Laguna and Acoma tribal lands. As the road moves west
beyond Budville and San Fidel, numerous drainages from the mountain’s
southern slopes account for five multi-box concrete culverts. From I-40
exit 117 (Mesita), take the East-side Frontage Rd. toward Laguna.
Follow the curves away from I-40, and around “Dead Man’s Curve.”
Approaching town, follow the sharp left turn, then turn right onto
Highway 124 through Laguna. Stay with Highway 124 across the railroad,
past New Laguna, Paraje, and Budville then through Villa Cubero.
Continue on Highway 124 through San Fidel. Cross over I-40 at exit 96;
stay with Highway 124 on the south side to McCarty's.
to Grants, NM: This section serves as a frontage road along I-40 from
west of the McCarty’s overpass at I-40 to the junction of I-40 and NM
117 and then as a local road from that junction westward to where it
intersects Business 40 at the east end of Grants. The eastern portion
of the section measuring 7.3 miles is designated NM 124, and the
western portion, measuring 5.2 miles, is designated NM 117. At
McCarty’s a concrete and steel subway (1936) eliminates a grade
crossing. One mile west, a steel pony truss bridge bearing 1936 bridge
plates cross the Rio San Jose. After the road completes a deviation of
approximately one-quarter mile to pass under I-40, it resumes its
historic alignment as it diverges from I-40 and passes over a wood
grade separation (1934) before reaching the eastern edge of Grants.
to Continental Divide, NM: This road segment is now designated NM 122
and serves as a frontage road along I-40 from west of Milan to the
Continental Divide. The eastern 8.6 mile stretch is a divided four-lane
road completed in 1951 when several sections of Route 66 in New Mexico
were widened. The remaining 22.6 miles is a two-lane road, often
closely paralleling I-40 and the tracks of the former AT&SF Railway
as it climbs toward the Continental Divide.
Rehobeth, NM: This road segment serves as a frontage road along I-40.
The east end of the segment lies at the junction of Route 66 and the
westbound exit ramp of I-40 at the Iyanbito interchange. The segment
ends at the State Police station at Rehobeth one-half mile east of the
junction of Route 66 and I-40, as the highway widens to four lanes and
enters the Gallup commercial strip.
Manuelito, NM to the
Arizona Border: This segment is now designated as State Road 118 and
serves local residents. It follows the upper contours of the Rio Puerco
of the west floodplain, crossing the AT&SF tracks three miles east
of Manuelito and then paralleling them to the Arizona border. Take I-40
exit 8 toward Manuelito on SR 118.
For additional information on driving Route 66 in New Mexico, visit these websites: New Mexico Route 66 Association and New Mexico Route 66 National Scenic Byway.
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Querino Canyon Bridge, Houck, Arizona
Querino Canyon Bridge is picturesquely situated over a rugged and
beautiful canyon just outside Houck, Arizona. Designed by the Arizona
Highway Department, the bridge is a representative example of early
highway truss design: 77 feet long, 20 feet wide, and comprised of a
concrete-decked steel trestle with three Pratt deck trusses supported
by steel piers. Concrete abutments support the bridge from below and
steel lattice guardrails typical of the period line the roadway.
State built the bridge in 1929 as part of a grand rehabilitation and
relocation of Route 66 across northern Arizona. The project included
several bridges, drainage construction, and at least 25 miles of
roadway. The largest of these multiple efforts, the bridge over Querino
Canyon formed an integral link on one of America’s primary arteries.
section of the highway became a county road during the 1960s after
construction of Interstate 40. The Querino Canyon Bridge remains
intact, carrying local traffic on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It was
listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
The Querino Canyon Bridge crosses Querino Canyon 3.8 miles southwest of Houck, AZ as part of Old Highway 66.
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Painted Desert Inn, Navajo, Arizona
Only one national park in the country includes and protects a section
of historic Route 66: the Petrified Forest National Park with one of
the world’s largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood,
multi-hued badlands of the Painted Desert, historic structures,
archeological sites, and displays of over 200-million-year-old fossils.
The national park and this section of Route 66 are not to be missed,
and one of the most special places to visit in the park is the Painted
inn is situated on a mesa overlooking the vast and colorful Painted
Desert. It is rooted in a lodge that entrepreneur Herbert David Lore
completed around 1920. In 1935, the National Park Service purchased the
inn and its surroundings. The National Park Service immediately began
planning to overhaul the building using the rustic aesthetic so popular
in park architecture of the time. The National Park Service
commissioned Lyle Bennett, one of its most sought-after architects, for
the remodeling. Young men employed in the Civilian Conservation Corps,
one of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s back-to-work
programs, supplied the labor.
The inn is of wood and
native stone in the Pueblo Revival style. Outside, flagstone terraces
surrounded by low walls overlook the desert. The building’s stone walls
are more than two feet thick and finished with textured earth-toned
stucco. Multiple flat roofs with parapets give the inn its varied
massing, and Ponderosa Pine logs pierce the walls, adding play between
light and shadow.
construction foreman noted the importance of the building’s details.
Its openings, for instance, had semi-oval shapes rather than
right-angled edges. He commented that: "This shape was produced in the
rock and plaster to resemble the openings in old pueblo buildings where
the wet adobe was shaped by the sweeping motions of the women's arms
that shortened the horizontal width of the opening at the top and
bottom. Consider the difficulty of teaching a journeyman mason to
understand…After much arm waving they got the message and were able to
proceed.” That same foreman recalled how the concrete floors, walls,
and furniture made the whole interior glow with soft, blended coloring.
The CCC used ponderosa pine and aspen poles from Arizona forests for
the vigas or roof beams and crafted handmade light fixtures from tin
and wooden tables and chairs with American Indian designs. The concrete
floors in the dining room and viewing porch had etched and painted
patterns from Navajo blanket designs.
The inn opened in
1940 under the management of the Fred Harvey Company, which was famous
in the Southwest for providing hospitality services to tourists and
travelers on the Santa Fe Railroad. For two years, the inn offered
Route 66 travelers food, souvenirs, and lodging, and local people with
event and meeting space. It closed in 1942, as American involvement
with World War II shifted resources away from domestic programs.
1947, the Harvey Company’s noted architect and interior designer, Mary
Jane Colter, was given responsibility for renovations of the facility.
Along with overseeing repair work, Colter created a new interior color
scheme and made other changes. New plate glass windows to capitalize on
the magnificent surrounding landscape were an important addition. At
Colter’s behest, Hopi artist Fred Kabotie painted murals on the dining
room and lunchroom walls that are reflections of Hopi culture. The
Harvey Girls provided their legendary service to the public at the
Painted Desert Inn.
so, over the next decade, the inn declined and suffered from structural
damage. In 1963, the inn closed and a new facility opened to house the
park visitor center and the Fred Harvey operations. The park scheduled
the building’s demolition in 1975, but a public campaign helped save
the building, which the National Park Service listed in the National
Register of Historic Places in 1976. The Secretary of the Interior
recognized the historic significance of the inn by designating it a
National Historic Landmark in 1987.
In 2006, the Painted
Desert Inn reopened following its restoration. The inn now appears as
it would have in 1949. Today, visitors again are able to experience the
exquisite architectural details and richly colored walls of the Painted
Desert Inn. Some highlights include the Trading Post Room, a
magnificent architectural space with six hammered-tin, Mexican-style
chandeliers, an enormous skylight, and windows overlooking the desert.
The skylight has multiple panes of translucent glass painted in Indian
pottery designs. The posts supporting the corbels and vigas are painted
in muted colors. The inn still has the original Fred Kabotie murals. A
large and stunning mountain lion petroglyph is on display inside the
inn. Discovered in the 1930’s, the petroglyph is considered one of the
finest, most vividly animated and lifelike depictions of mountain lions
in the region.
The Painted Desert Inn is located in the northern section of Petrified Forest National Park in Petrified Forest, AZ. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos.
The inn is now a museum open Monday-Sunday 9:00am to 5:00pm every day
except Christmas. Guided tours are also available with special
Halloween tours that focus on the purported ghosts said to haunt the
inn. Times vary from season to season. The park has an entrance
fee but no additional fee is charged to visit the inn. Call
928-524-6228 for more information on visiting Petrified Forest National
Park and the inn or go to the park website , or visit the park’s Painted Desert Inn website or call the inn directly at 928-524-3522. The Painted Desert Inn has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.
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Wigwam Village Motel #6, Holbrook, Arizona
the arid Arizona desert, the Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook still
provides Route 66 aficionados the opportunity to “Sleep in a Wigwam!”
passing through Cave City, Kentucky in 1938, Chester E. Lewis was
impressed by the distinctive design of the original Wigwam Village
constructed in 1937 by architect Frank Redford. An astute observer may
notice that the Wigwam Village is not composed of wigwams but of
teepees. Mr. Redford, who patented the wigwam village design in 1936,
disliked the word ‘teepee’ and used ‘wigwam’ instead.
Lewis purchased copies of the plans and the right to use the Wigwam
Village name. The purchase included a royalty agreement in which Mr.
Lewis would install coin operated radios, and every dime inserted for
30 minutes of play would be sent to Mr. Redford as payment. Seven
Wigwam Villages were constructed between 1936 and the 1950s. Finished
in 1950, Mr. Lewis’ village was the sixth, thus its designation as
Wigwam Village #6.
concrete and steel freestanding teepees are arranged in a semi-circle
around the main office. The motel office and its surrounding small
buildings represent the quarters of the chief and his family. Each
teepee is 21 feet wide at the base and 28 feet high. The teepees are
painted white with a red zigzag above the doorway. Rooms feature the
original hand-made hickory furniture, and each is equipped with a sink,
toilet, and shower. Vintage automobiles are permanently parked
throughout the property, including a Studebaker that belonged to Mr.
Lewis. In front of the main office were gas pumps that are no longer in
Mr. Lewis successfully operated the motel until
Interstate 40 bypassed downtown Holbrook in the late-1970s. Mr. Lewis
sold the business, and it remained open, but only to sell gas. Two
years after Mr. Lewis’ death, his wife and grown children re-purchased
the property and reopened the motel in 1988. They removed the gas pumps
and converted part of the main office into a museum, which is open to
the public. The museum holds Mr. Lewis’ own collection of Indian
artifacts, Civil War memorabilia, Route 66 collectibles, and a
petrified wood collection. Wigwam Village Motel #6 was listed in the
National Register of Historic Places in 2002. In 2003 and 2007, the
motel received Cost-Share Grants from the NPS Route 66 Corridor
Preservation Program. Of the seven original Wigwam Village Motels, two
other Wigwam Village Motels survive: #2 in Cave City, Kentucky and #7
in Rialto/San Bernardino, California.
Wigwam Village Motel #6 is located at 811 West Hopi Dr. in Holbrook,
AZ. For reservations contact 928-524-3048 or visit the Wigwam Motel
website. Each teepee has a private bathroom with toilet and
shower, a television, and air conditioner. Keeping with the
authenticity of the original motel, there is no ice machine, but if
requested, staff will fill a small ice bucket for customers.
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La Posada Historic District, Winslow, Arizona
Built in 1929, the 11-acre grounds, hotel, and train station that make
up La Posada Historic District are, in their own right, historic. But
an additional layer of history is here, one invented in the imagination
of the architect. In order to design the La Posada complex, architect
Mary Colter made up a century and a half of history for the site. She
imagined La Posada as a Spanish rancho of the early 1800s. Here lived a
wealthy Spanish don. When the don and his family fell on hard times,
the hacienda was renovated into a hotel with furnishings and grounds
intact. In such an inaccessible location, Colter reasoned, materials
would have been local, and the labor native. The complex would have
been changed and added onto through generations.
this story in mind, she designed Mission Revival buildings with adobe
walls, complete with niches for saints, roofs of red terra cotta, and
windows with wooden shutters and iron rejas (grilles). Floors were
flagstone, and exposed ceiling beams were covered with branches to
simulate indigenous adobe construction. There were period maids’
costumes and dinner china, vigas (protruding wooden beams) beneath the
gables, wrought-iron railings on the stairways, clay tiles on the
chimneys, sand-blasted planks on the doors, and a wishing well in the
garden. Best of all in this elaborate history-within-a-history
confection, Colter faked an archeological site--the supposed ruins of
an old fort that had stood on the site before the don built his
How well did Colter do her work? Go online
today, and you’ll find travelogues and blogs that claim Colter’s
whimsical history is fact. The dreamed-up don lives on. Only we know
In reality, La Posada was the result of an
ingenious turn-of-the-century partnership between the Atchison, Topeka,
and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF) and the Fred Harvey Company. The ATSF did
not initially provide sleepers or dining cars for its passengers, who
were forced to rely on trackside establishments. These were of, to put
it politely, uneven and unpredictable quality. Overall, the restaurants
were dirty. It was also common practice for railroad and restaurant
staff to arrange for the train to pull out after orders were taken and
money exchanged but before meals could be eaten. When food was served,
passengers complained of “chicken” stew whose main ingredient was
really prairie dog. Lastly, brawling among staff members was reputedly
Fred Harvey saw opportunity in the situation. In 1876, he took over the
ATSF’s Topeka, Kansas depot, refitted it, and opened it as the first
Harvey House. It served full-course meals with tremendous amounts of
food (breakfasts finished with apple pie and coffee), and soon did
capacity business to locals and railroad passengers alike. Impressed
with Harvey’s emphasis on cleanliness, service, reasonable prices, and
good food, the ATSF gave him control of food service along the route.
built a hospitality empire that worked symbiotically with the Atchison,
Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad to provide consistently good service at
reasonable prices in its restaurants and hotels. Quality was hugely
important to Harvey. His restaurants often used fresh, local food, but
he did not hesitate to bring in more exotic items like Great Lakes
whitefish, Texas beef, or Atlantic shellfish. Where local water quality
was lacking, the company shipped in and used its own spring water to
make coffee. Menus were planned such that food did not repeat as
passengers traveled on down the railroad line. Meals were typically
priced at 75 cents. Harvey Houses constantly operated at a financial
loss, but their consumer appeal was so important to ATSF ticket sales
that the railroad line was happy to underwrite the establishments.
famous Harvey Girls served the food. Harvey attracted them with the ads
he placed in newspapers seeking "young women of good character,
attractive and intelligent, 18 to 30, to work in eating houses in the
West." These largely white, eastern women agreed to live under fiercely
conservative standards, maintain a spotless appearance and competent
demeanor, and meet Harvey’s exacting standards for service in return
for well-paid employment and a chance at western adventure and
opportunities. Between 1883 and the late 1950s, approximately 100,000
Harvey Girls made this bargain. Approximately half of them enjoyed
their new environment so much that they stayed, often marrying and
establishing southwestern families. Harvey Girls, the 1946 movie
starring Judy Garland, paid romantic tribute to Harvey’s business
empire. When Garland sang the show-stopping “On the Atchison, Topeka,
and the Santa Fe,” she not only garnered an academy award, she reminded
the United States of this time of railway travel and new national
Harvey restaurants proliferated until, by the
late 1880s, a Harvey House was located at least every 100 miles along
the ATSF route. By the end of the century, Harvey operated 15 hotels,
47 lunch and dining rooms, and 30 dining cars. By 1912, operations had
grown to 65 eating houses, 12 large hotels, and 60 dining cars, all in
conjunction with the Santa Fe and Frisco Railroads. In 1930, one period
writer claimed, the Fred Harvey Company served 15 million meals a year.
Railroads remained the primary mode of long-distance travel until the
1920s, and the Fred Harvey Company saw potential in a series of “Indian
Detours” serving the Southwest tourist trade. The Santa Fe Railroad and
Fred Harvey teamed up to market the route between Chicago and Los
Angeles, building major hotels in communities along the way--in
Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Gallup,
Santa Fe and, finally, in Winslow. Planned just before the stock market
crash of 1929, La Posada was the last of the great railroad hotels.
Colter, who designed many Harvey hotels along with marvelously
imaginative hotels in the Grand Canyon, always considered La Posada her
best work. The hotel opened in May of 1930, at the beginning of the
the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, passengers abandoned trains and took to cars.
Tourism expanded from an endeavor possible only for the wealthy into
something that people of more moderate income also enjoyed.
Correspondingly, these new tourists sought out modest accommodations.
Declining numbers of travelers arrived at the train station attached to
the hotel, and, despite a 1940s boost due to railroad shipments of
troops entering the Second World War, La Posada ultimately failed. It
lasted longer than many of the grand railroad hotels, which went out of
business during the Depression years, but closed by the end of the
1950s. The railroad converted La Posada into office space, installing
new walls and lowering the ceilings, and La Posada’s future remained
tenuous for the next 40 years. Disrepair and neglect were taking a toll
when the complex was listed in the National Register in 1992.
in 1997, new owners purchased La Posada and began restoration of one of
the country’s great architectural treasures. That work continues today.
The gardens are back, guest rooms are open, and fireplaces, faux-adobe
walls, arched ceilings, and period furnishings await the visitor.
(Also, cuisine continues to be an emphasis at La Posada—its restaurant
is award winning!) La Posada has begun another “life.” Counting the
history Mary Colter invented, that makes three.
La Posada Historic District, now La Posada Inn and Gardens, is at 303
E. Second St. /Route 66 in Winslow, AZ. The district includes the
hotel, gardens, museum, trading post, and dining. Call
928-289-4366 for information or visit the La Posada Inn and Gardens website.
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Walnut Canyon Bridge, Winona, Arizona
1922, the United States Bureau of Public Roads undertook a 23-mile
road-building project along the Winslow Highway that stretched between
Flagstaff and Angel through the Coconino National Forest in Arizona.
The largest structure built as part of the project was the Walnut
Canyon Bridge, which spans the canyon crossing Walnut Creek one mile
northwest of Winona. Soon after its completion in 1924, the road and
the bridge became part of Route 66.
After Arizona became
a State in 1912, roads advocates began lobbying for assistance to
upgrade Arizona’s roads. Individual counties had the primary
responsibility for road building and maintenance in Arizona during the
1910s, and county governments were unable to meet the public demand for
roads. Grades were rough and often treacherous, and bridges were few.
In 1916, the Federal Government began distributing Federal money to
State highway departments. Arizona received $3.7 million for the
initial five-year program. In response, the existing State Engineer’s
Office became the Arizona Highway Department, which quickly became the
State’s largest agency. Right away, surveyors began work on the system
that officially became Route 66 in 1926.
The 1922 Bureau
of Public Roads projects were part of the period boom in road
construction. Arizona received $216,507 in Forest Highway funds that
year, part of a $6.5 million national appropriation for construction of
highways through the country’s national forests. Federal engineers in
Phoenix completed drawings for the Walnut Canyon Bridge in December
1922 and builders finished it by June of 1924.
employs a straightforward design. It has a single span of 101 feet and
a 19-foot-wide roadbed. The superstructure is of riveted steel and uses
a five-panel Parker through truss. Truss bridges have a combination of
members, usually arranged in a triangular configuration, to form a
rigid framework. A Parker truss includes an additional element: an
upper polygonal chord. The substructure has concrete abutments and wing
walls. The floor is a concrete deck over steel stringers. The bridge
has steel lattice guardrails with concrete curbs. The design and
materials were efficient.
While the Walnut Canyon Bridge
represents common construction of its time, it is now a rare surviving
example on Route 66. The bridge is closed to traffic, but remains
intact on a short stretch of abandoned roadbed. The National Park
Service listed the Walnut Canyon Bridge in the National Register of
Historic Places in 1988.
The Walnut Canyon Bridge is one mile northwest of Winona, AZ, and
crosses Walnut Canyon on a former alignment of the Townsend-Winona
Road/County Road 394 just north of the current alignment. A pullout
provides a place to park and view the bridge; west of the bridge is
North Copley Road and east of it is Bridge Road, both which run north
from the Townsend-Winona Road.
Railroad Addition Historic District and Boundary Increase, Flagstaff, Arizona
railroad has always had an important association with Route 66, and
this is well illustrated in central Flagstaff. A walk along Santa Fe
Avenue (Route 66) shows the influence of the railroad on the city’s
development, as every building is oriented toward the iron tracks. As
automobiles replaced the train as the country’s primary mode of
transportation, the Route 66 corridor paralleling the tracks exerted a
similar force on development.
The Atlantic and Pacific
Railroad laid tracks through Flagstaff and the rest of northern Arizona
and New Mexico in the 1880s. After the Santa Fe Railroad’s purchase of
the line by 1885, Flagstaff became part of a continuous rail connection
between St. Louis and the Pacific Ocean. Constructed after an 1888 fire
and now used as offices by the Burlington, Northern, and Santa Fe
Railway, the sandstone depot was at the geographic center of
Flagstaff’s development. The transportation connection enabled regional
industries like lumber, cattle, and sheep to develop and thrive. By
1895, tourism was also an important industry, with visitors drawn by
the cool summer climate and nearby Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon,
Walnut Canyon, and San Francisco Peaks.
The National Old
Trails Road, an early predecessor of Route 66, followed railroad
alignments through Flagstaff and other areas of northern Arizona in the
1910s. Railroad traffic continued to be important, however, and in
1926, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway built a new, more
elaborate railroad depot across from the old one. This Tudor Revival-
and Queen Anne-influenced building is the Flagstaff Visitor Center
Highway 66 through Arizona was commissioned the same year, and followed
the approximate routing of the National Old Trails Road. In Flagstaff,
this route ran south of the railroad tracks, but it was soon realigned
north of the tracks to Santa Fe Ave. A block away on San Francisco
Street, community support funded the construction of the Hotel Monte
Vista the same year as Route 66’s commissioning. The
Romanesque-inspired hotel drew visits from Carol Lombard, Gary Cooper,
Spencer Tracy, Jane Russell, and others drawn to Flagstaff’s mountain
setting. The hotel continues to host visitors today.
this time Flagstaff was at the end of what one magazine writer
described as “18 miles of narrow, crooked, poorly surfaced road which
is particularly dangerous in dry weather due to raveling and
innumerable potholes.” The Daily Sun described the nearby Motel Du
Beau, constructed in 1929 at the intersection of Beaver Street and
Phoenix Avenue, as "a hotel with garages for the better class of
motorists." Units rented for $2.60 to $5.00 each, and were perfect for
the new phenomenon of automobile tourism. Rates are a little higher
now, but the Craftsman-style facility provides affordable
accommodations to today’s travelers as the DuBeau International Hostel.
use became a primary function of Route 66 during World War II.
Flagstaff hosted a huge ammunition depot then, which brought increased
business to the surrounding area and heavy traffic to and from the
facility. Tourism boomed at war’s end, and Arizona’s National Parks,
mountains, and tribal lands drew travelers to the area.
Interstate 40 was completed through the Flagstaff, business was
siphoned away from Route 66 and downtown Flagstaff. During the 1970s
and 1980s, many businesses shifted away from the city center, and
downtown fell into decline.
In 1983, the
historical significance of the area was recognized through listing on
the National Register of Historic Places. In 1987, the city drafted a
new master plan to revitalize downtown into a regional center for
shopping, trade, finance, office use, and government. Filling the
district now are city services, tourists, residents, and local
university students, who flock to the streets to conduct business,
sightsee, dine, shop, and relax.
The district still
contains many of the historic travel, trade, and social buildings that
date from the period between the late 1880s and the 1940s when
Flagstaff developed into a regional center for commerce and
tourism. The district is a historic stop along Route 66 and a
perfect gateway to the surrounding attractions in the region such as Grand Canyon National Park, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, the Coconino National Forest, Meteor Crater, the San Francisco Peaks, the Red Rocks of Sedona, and neighboring American Indian nations.
Railroad Addition Historic District includes portions of Santa Fe
Ave./Route 66, Aspen Ave., Leroux St., and San Francisco St. in
Flagstaff, AZ and is bounded by Birch Ave., the Santa Fe Railroad
tracks, Beaver St., and Agassiz St. The Flagstaff Visitor Center
in the old train station at 1 East Route 66 is open Monday-Saturday
8:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday 9:00am to 4:00pm; it is wheelchair
accessible and admission is free. For information, call
928-774-9541 or 800-842-7293 or visit its website
to find out more about what to see and do and where to stay and
eat. For information on staying at the historic Hotel Monte
Vista, see the hotel’s website. For information on the DuBeau International Hostel, visit its website.
Seligman Historic District, Seligman, Arizona
Along Route 66 in Seligman Commerical Historic District
courtesy of Jeff Marquis
Seligman Commercial Historic District is the commercial heart of the
small community of Seligman, Arizona and the commercial center of
Northern Yavapai County. First a railroad center, Seligman’s commercial
core grew when Route 66 came through in 1926. The district is an
important reminder of how transportation systems influenced the
development of communities in the American West. The district contains
a significant collection of railroad and auto related commercial
architecture. Seligman offers today’s travelers a real understanding of
what kinds of commercial establishments were available to motorists
travelling the Mother Road.
Seligman got its start when James A. Lamport, a land surveyor, obtained
a homestead claim in 1895 along the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad and
laid out a grid of 300-foot-square blocks along the tracks. In the
first decade of the 20th century, the Old Trails Highway, the first
true transcontinental roadway through northern Arizona, came through
Seligman along Railroad Avenue beside the tracks, then zigzagged along
Havasu, Main, and Chino Streets. This same corridor became Route 66
from 1926 until 1933. After that time, Route 66 took a new more direct
east-west route along Chino Street, eliminating the zigzags.
Arizona Highway Department reported that more than 500,000 out of state
cars travelled Route 66 in 1937, but Seligman experienced its real
heyday after World War II, when returning veterans and other motorists
hit the road and made the Southwest a popular tourist destination.
Seligman’s businesses lured travelers along Route 66 with their
exuberant slogans, signs, neon lights, and other gimmicks, until
Interstate 40 opened in 1978, bypassing Seligman and signaling the end
of the heyday of the Mother Road.
In the Seligman
Commercial Historic District, the 50-foot wide 1926 to 1933 alignment
of Route 66 follows two blocks along Railroad Avenue and one block
along Main Street between Railroad Avenue and Chino. Driving this
segment gives today’s visitors an opportunity to experience what Route
66 looked like in its infancy.
The early 20th century commercial buildings along the streets of the
district are similar to those from the same period in small towns
across America. Most are one story with central, sometimes recessed,
entries; transomed windows; sloping or flat canopies; and tall
parapets. Examples include Pitts General Merchandise Store and the the
U.S. Post Office from 1903, Pioneer Hall and Theatre and the Seligman
Garage from 1905, and Seligman Pool Hall from 1923.
After the 1933 rerouting of Route 66, commercial buildings in the
district became more ostentatious and exuberant manifestations of the
roadside architectural style. The Deluxe Inn, Snow Cap Drive-In, Supai
Motel, Nomad Motel, Canyon Shadows Motel, Aztec Motel, and Copper Cart
Restaurant exemplify this change. Automobile dealerships like Olson’s
Chevrolet and the Studebaker Agency, and repair shops such as Donovan’s
1-Stop Garage and the Snow Cap Drive-in attest to the popularity of the
automobile. Snow Cap Drive-In, with its neon lights and visual appeal,
is one of the best examples of roadside architecture in northern
Arizona. Donovan’s Texaco Station, Olson’s Shell Station, the Richfield
Oil Station, the Studebaker Agency, and Olson’s Chevrolet are
illustrations of the petroleum or automobile company franchises that
sprung up along Route 66.
After Interstate 40 bypassed Seligman in 1978, commercial activity in
the district declined steeply. A group of local business people
successfully lobbied the State of Arizona to designate Route 66 as a
Historic Highway in 1987, and Seligman’s Chamber of Commerce started
promoting the town as the “Birthplace of Historic Route 66.” The
National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program provided
a grant to document and nominate the district to the National Register
of Historic Places. National Register listing of the district in 2005
focused additional public attention on Seligman and the value of
preserving the significant historic resources that illustrate its
Seligman Historic District is located in Seligman, AZ. The district is
roughly bounded by First and Lamport Sts. and Picacho and Railroad
Aves. Chino St., now renamed Historic Route 66, is the main east-west
artery, and Main St. the primary north-south street in the district.
The 1926 alignment of Route 66 begins at the corner of Lamport St. and
East Railroad Ave., and extends along E. Railroad Ave. to Main St. then
north on Main St. to the corner of Main and Chino Sts.
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Peach Springs Trading Post, Peach Springs, Arizona
Springs lies within the traditional territory of the Hualapai people.
The springs were reliable water sources that were used by Native
Americans for centuries. Euro-Americans became aware of the springs
during explorations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Beginning in 1858, emigrants along the Beale Wagon Road increasingly
used Peach Springs as a rest stop and watering place.
of the post-Civil War era had a profound effect on Peach Springs. In
1866, the U.S. government granted the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad
(later known as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe) a right-of-way to
build a transcontinental railroad, and construction through northern
Arizona was completed in 1883. With its abundant water, Peach Springs
became a "division point" for the railroad.
railroad town sprouted along the tracks at Peach Springs. A post office
was established in 1887. The ease of access to the Grand Canyon via
Peach Springs led to the construction of a "Harvey House" restaurant
and hotel for tourists. The initial period of prosperity lasted for
approximately two decades.
At the turn of the century,
the railroad constructed the Santa Fe and Grand Canyon Railway via
Williams to the Grand Canyon. The decline in tourist traffic through
Peach Springs led to a decline in the town. In 1907, the railroad moved
its division point to Seligman, leaving Peach Springs as only a minor
stop along the tracks.
the "Good Roads" movement of the 1910s came the National Old Trails
Road, which led to a new era of prosperity for the town. By 1917, E. H.
Carpenter opened a trading post. In 1921, his friend Ancel Early Taylor
bought a half interest in the store, and by 1924 Taylor was the sole
owner of the Peach Springs Trading Post. In 1926, the National Old
Trails Road became part of Route 66. With the widening and improving of
the road, traffic through the town steadily increased. Taylor’s trading
post business boomed, and two years later he razed the frame store and
constructed a new stone building to house the trading post.
1928 Peach Tree Trading Post had stone walls, stepped parapets, heavy
Ponderosa Pine vigas (exposed beams), and massive chimneys. Rocks were
hauled from a spot on the side of a nearby hill, and pine logs were
brought from the forest in the northeast part of the reservation. The
building’s appearance reflects a blending of prehistoric and historic
southwestern architectural styles, likely designed to appeal more to
Route 66 tourists than to the surrounding Hualapai Tribe it also served.
Peach Springs Trading Post enabled the Hualapai to swap traditional
craft items, like baskets, and food for canned foods, cloth, medicine,
and other processed goods. Occasionally the Hualapai also pawned items,
redeeming them if they were able or leaving them for eventual sale. The
Peach Tree Trading Post did a brisk business selling crafts to tourists
passing through on Route 66 and the Santa Fe Railroad. The trading post
linked Native American and European American cultures, and served as a
local meeting place for news and gossip and medical help. New owners
bought the Peach Springs Trading Post in 1936 and continued to operate
it in similar ways.
Hualapai Tribe acquired the Peach Springs Trading Post circa 1950, and
continued to use it as a post office and store until 1965 when the post
office moved to a new building. In the early 1970s, after the
construction of a new tribal store in Peach Springs, the old trading
post became office space for the Job Corps. Soon after, the new
Interstate 40 between Kingman and Seligman bypassed the 84-mile stretch
of Route 66 that had passed through Peach Springs. One local business
owner recalled, “Before the bypass, Route 66 was almost like a Big City
street. After completion of Interstate 40, it was ghostly quiet.”
That’s why Peach Springs, Arizona served as an inspiration for the
fictional town Radiator Springs in the Pixar movie Cars, which depicts
the losses that it and many other cities along Route 66 faced after
they were bypassed by Interstate 40. The Peach Springs Trading Post was
listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
The Peach Springs Trading Post is at 863 Highway 66 in Peach Springs,
AZ and is used as offices for the Hualapai Tribal Forestry, Wildlife
Conservation, and Game and Fish.
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Schoolhouse at Truxton Canyon Training School,
The Schoolhouse at Truxton Canyon Training School, a boarding school
constructed to assimilate Hualapai Indians, is located in Mohave County
15 miles southwest of the Hualapai Tribe’s offices in Peach Springs.
Local road and railroad arteries affected planners’ decisions about
where to put the facility. When workers completed the building in 1903,
it was along the transcontinental Atlantic and Pacific Railroad and the
Beale Wagon Road, which later became Route 66.
1870 and 1930, education was central to United States Indian policy.
This policy required mandatory attendance at boarding schools that
removed children from their families and communities.
Like other Indian schools during this period, Truxton was an industrial
training institution. Students spent some time each day in academic
classes. During the remaining hours, boys practiced a trade while girls
learned domestic skills. A 1922 excerpt from "The Course of Study for
United States Indian Schools" is revealing: “our Indian schools…could
not possibly be maintained on the amounts appropriated by Congress for
their support were it not for the fact that students are required to
do…an amount of labor that has in aggregate a very appreciable monetary
to work hard and separated from their families, many students found
life at Truxton Canyon traumatic. The regimented lifestyle afforded
little free time. Diseases such as measles, influenza, and tuberculosis
were common. Some of the older female students adopted younger ones,
forming impromptu “families” that helped ease adjustment to the school.
nearly three decades, the school continued to grow enrolling about 200
students throughout most of the 1920s and 1930s. By then, not only
Hualapai, but also Apache, Havasupai, Hopi, Pima, Tohono O'odham
(Papago), Navajo, and Yavapai children attended. In 1937, shortly after
a Hualapai day school opened in Peach Springs, the Truxton School
At the same time, Arizona’s system of roads grew
and developed. In 1913, a year after Arizona became a State, the
Arizona Good Roads Association published a tour book describing the
road past the training school and through Valentine as a “fair road
[with] east grades.” Booster groups like the association sought in part
to attract tourists to Arizona, and American Indian groups were often
highlighted. Not surprisingly, when a continuous route through the
State was upgraded and marked as the National Old Trails Road during
the 1910s and designated as Route 66 by 1926, it passed through several
portions of tribal land. One section of road took Route 66 through the
Hualapai Tribal Nation, just past the Truxton Canyon Training School.
by an agricultural landscape, a dozen or so buildings once stood on the
school grounds, but only the two-story brick schoolhouse remains now.
The schoolhouse reflects a Colonial Revival style often favored by
early 20th-century middle-class homeowners and progressive education
Today, opinions vary among the Hualapai
regarding preservation of the property. For many, it evokes memories of
a time of forced assimilation. For others, the property is a tangible
reminder of a history that, however painful to remember, should not be
forgotten. The schoolhouse was listed in the National Register of
Historic Places in 2003. The Hualapai Indian Nation owns the building
and is currently seeking funds for its rehabilitation and reuse.
Schoolhouse at Truxton Canyon Training School is on the northwest side
of Route 66 along Music Mountain Circle in Valentine, AZ. It is
currently closed to the public for renovations, but can be viewed from
the road. The Hualapai Tribal Nation plans to reopen the building as a
community center and offices.
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Kingman Commercial Historic District, Kingman, Arizona
Arizona is situated in the scenic Hualapai Valley between the Cerbat
and Hualapai mountain ranges. Founded in 1882 as an Atlantic and
Pacific Railroad town, the city was named for railroad surveyor Lewis
Kingman. Christened as the Mohave County seat in 1887, it grew into an
important supply and shipping center for miners and ranchers in western
The commercial district that defined the town
included the impressive Hotel Beale (319-327 Andy Devine Ave.), a
two-story building built in 1899 of local stone and brick. In 1907, a
substantial, stylish Mission Revival railroad depot was built after
fires twice destroyed earlier, wood-and-concrete depots. That same
year, the Hotel Brunswick (313-315 Andy Devine Ave.) was built to
provide another lodging option.
marketed goods and services to both local and visiting populations and
thrived during Kingman’s first decades. Built in 1888 and doubled in
size by 1908, the Luthy Block (409 Andy Devine Ave.) occupied a
prominent corner location and became the retail anchor of the business
district. In 1899, Ed Thompson’s Saloon (323 and 331 Andy Devine Ave.)
joined the hotels as a place for locals and travelers to drink and
By the 1910s, roads and automobiles competed
with the railroad for importance in Kingman. In 1914, the local section
of the National Old Trails Road was officially marked through town. In
a nod to the route’s significance, the owner of Ed Thompson’s Saloon
renamed it Old Trails Saloon the same year.
increased automobile traffic, Kingman’s commercial core expanded away
from the depot along Front Street (later Andy Devine Ave.) to the east
and west and Beale Street to the north. The Old Trails Garage (307 and
308 Andy Devine Ave.) was established on Front Street in 1915 and
represents the changing commercial emphasis to automobile repairs and
sales. It was the largest and most complete automobile service garage
in Kingman for many years. The John Mulligan Building (301-305 Andy
Devine Ave.) was built in 1922. Its concrete construction, horizontal
bands, and Mission Revival parapet echoed the earlier Luthy Block and
reflected local efforts to create a cohesive feel for the downtown
district, partly to appeal to California-bound automobile tourists.
66’s original 1926 course followed the National Old Trails Road through
Kingman. The new federal highway boosted the town’s economy, as did
other important federal activities that took place through the 1930s
and 1940s. This included construction of the nearby Hoover Dam from
1931 to 1936, which once again inspired the renaming of the original Ed
Thompson Saloon to the “Gateway Café” in reference to the town’s
relationship to the dam. Military installations proliferated during
World War II, and an airfield was established a few miles east of town
bringing with it an influx of new residents and business. Route 66
facilitated the shipment of tungsten to Kingman for use in military
An era ended for Kingman when construction
of Interstate 40 was completed, drawing through-traffic away from Route
66 and the downtown area. After a period of decline, the district is
slowly experiencing revitalization. Acknowledging its historic
significance, the National Park Service included the Kingman Commercial
Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
The National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program also
provided grant support for work on the Old Trails Garage Building, and
just outside the district the historic Powerhouse has been restored as
a Visitors Center.
Kingman Commercial Historic District encompasses nine properties on the
300 and 400 blocks of East Andy Devine Ave. in Kingman, AZ. The
Hotel Brunswick, at 315 East Andy Devine Ave., offers overnight
accommodations and a restaurant and bar open Monday-Friday 11:00am to
2:00pm and Monday-Saturday 5:00pm to 9:00pm. Call 928-718-1800
for more information. Though not in the historic district, the
Powerhouse Visitors Center at 120 Andy Devine Ave. is a good first stop
and provides maps for walking tours of historic downtown Kingman.
The Visitors Center is free, open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm,
and wheelchair accessible. Call 928-753-6106 or visit the Visitor
for more information. Within the Visitors Center is the Historic
Route 66 Museum. The museum is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm,
costs $3 for seniors and $4 for other people, and is wheelchair
accessible. Call 928-753-9889 for information, or visit the
museum’s website. More information about the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program can be found here.
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Durlin Hotel, Oatman, Arizona
Located in beautiful and historic Oatman and named for its builder John
Durlin, the Durlin Hotel is the only historic two-story adobe building
in Mohave County. From its famous guests to its otherworldly
inhabitants, the Durlin, known as the Oatman Hotel today, is a must
stop for Route 66 travelers.
namesake for the town of Oatman was Olive Oatman, a young Illinois
woman kidnapped by Apache Indians and forced into slavery. The town of
Oatman in the Black Mountains of Mohave County flourished soon after
prospectors discovered gold worth $13 million dollars in 1908 and
another gold mine in 1915 worth $14 million dollars. Oatman’s
population ballooned to 3,500 within a year. In the 1920s and 30s, the
population grew to around 10,000. In 1921, a fire swept through the
town destroying most of Oatman’s buildings. Originally built in 1902,
the Durlin Hotel was rebuilt in 1924 after the fire.
eight-room hotel enjoyed a prosperous business with local miners. The
walls and ceiling of the hotel’s saloon are covered in one-dollar bills
that are dated and signed, a practice that began with the miners, who
searched for their dollar bill on the wall when they were short on cash
to pay for their drinks.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard
stopped at the historic Durlin Hotel for their honeymoon after their
wedding in Kingman, Arizona in 1939. Mr. Gable fell in love with the
town and often returned to play poker with local miners. The
Gable/Lombard honeymoon suite is one of the hotel’s attractions, and
the hotel’s owners report that the pair loved the hotel so much they
simply refused to leave. They claim their ghosts still occupy the
building and are often heard whispering and laughing in empty rooms.
The friendly poltergeist Oatie is known to occupy the hotel as well and
is believed to be the ghost of William Ray Flour, an Irish miner who
died behind the hotel. Other friendly spirits are said to inhabit the
hotel, including playful ghosts in the saloon, who have been known to
raise money off the bar and lift glasses into the air.
1924, United Eastern Mines, the town’s major employer, permanently
closed its operations in Oatman. By 1941, the U.S. Government ordered
the shutdown of the town’s remaining mining operations as part of the
country’s war efforts. Miners were sent elsewhere to work in the
extraction of more valuable wartime metals.
fortunate because of its location on U.S. Highway 66, and local
commerce shifted toward accommodating motorists traveling between
Kingman, Arizona and Needles, California. From 1926 to 1952, the Mother
Road coursed through the heart of town, sustaining a healthy tourism
business. Interstate 40 bypassed Oatman in the early 1950s, however,
leaving the town all but abandoned within a decade. Today, the
community has only about 100 fulltime residents who primarily cater to
In the late 1960s, the Durlin Hotel’s name was
changed to the Oatman Hotel. The hotel no longer has overnight
accommodations but still houses a bar and restaurant on the first floor
and a museum on the upper floors. It was listed on the National
Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Durlin Hotel, now the Oatman Hotel, is located at 181 Main Street in
Oatman, AZ. The bar and restaurant are open to the public Monday-Friday
10:00am to 6:00pm, Saturday and Sunday, 8:00am to 6:00pm. The museum is
temporarily closed. For information, call the hotel at 928-768-4408.
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Old Trails Bridge, Topock, Arizona
steel arch of the Old Trails Bridge simply soars. An innovative piece
of engineering, one enormous span of 600 feet supports the 800-foot
bridge that crosses the Colorado River in Topock, halfway between Yuma
and the Utah border. The bridge carried automobile traffic over the
Colorado River from 1916 until 1948.
the Old Trails Bridge in 1914 partly to compete with the Ocean-to-Ocean
Bridge being built in Yuma, south of Topock. To entice traffic farther
north, the States of Arizona and California and the Bureau of Indian
Affairs decided to erect another substantial span over the Colorado
River. The new bridge would be part of the National Old Trails Road, an
early transcontinental route well underway to connecting St. Louis to
Los Angeles by 1914. In the process, the designers created a landmark
of American civil engineering.
structure is nationally significant as an outstanding example of steel
arch construction. The engineers for the Old Trails Bridge had studied
the problems builders and engineers encountered while constructing the
Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge. They knew the engineers there had found
constructing and securing a large span over the deep Colorado gorge
difficult, so they tried the task a different way.
Topock, engineers used a unique cantilever method of construction
assembling bridge halves on their sides on the ground and hoisting them
into place using a ball-and-socket center hinge. This meant that the
structure was not supported by traditional spans from the ground up as
it was being built. The use of the cantilever was a daring move for its
time, creating the longest arched bridge in America. At 360 tons, it
was the lightest and longest bridge of its kind. From the day it
opened, this graceful arch and the deck it supported were a pivotal
Colorado River crossing, first on the transcontinental National Old
Trails Road and, by 1926, on Route 66.
The Old Trails
Bridge carried traffic for 66 years, until 1947, when cars and trucks
began moving onto interstate systems. In 1948, the deck was removed so
the bridge could accommodate a natural gas pipeline, which it still
carries. The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic
Places in 1988.
Old Trails Bridge is several hundred feet south of Interstate 40 where
it crosses the Colorado River at Topock, AZ. To park and view the
bridge, take the Interstate 40 exit for Park Moabi, the last California
exit from the west and the first from the east. Signs direct visitors
to the park. Follow the Park Moabi Entrance Rd. north to its
intersection with the National Trails Highway/Park Moabi Rd. then turn
right. The first vantage point is from an old brick bridge nearly a
mile from the intersection. Visitors can park on the side of the road
and walk down the bridge top. The second vantage point is nearly two
miles from the intersection. Visitors should continue along the
National Trails Highway/Park Moabi Rd. past the first vantage point and
intersection with Interstate 40; then look for a historic concrete
billboard and adjacent pullout pad. This location provides the best
view of the bridge.
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Arizona Road Segments
Arizona Route 66 has its roots in the ancient past with aboriginal
trails that linked trade partners from the Great Plains to coastal
California. Used for centuries, these trails followed gentle terrain
and led to water sources. After the United States acquired lands in the
Southwest from Mexico in 1848, Congress sent exploratory parties to the
area to assess its resources and search for transportation routes.
Between 1857 and 1859, Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale traversed one
such route, when he constructed a wagon road between Fort Smith,
Arkansas and the Colorado River along the 35th Parallel, a relatively
level terrain with a mild climate. In the final decades of the 1800s,
the Beale Wagon Road guided thousands of settlers, ranchers, military
personnel, and others west. Railroad engineers followed the path of the
Beale Road when surveying for the 1883 transcontinental Atlantic and
Pacific Railroad. Towns and settlements soon grew up along the
railroad, and roads linked the towns’ main streets. Route 66 stems from
the Territorial years from 1863 to 1912, Arizona had an inadequate road
system. Individual counties had authority over road construction but
generally lacked the tax revenues or organization to carry out an
effective road construction and maintenance program. Arizona became a
State in 1912. The advent of the automobile in the early years of the
20th century revolutionized the concept of road building in Arizona and
ushered in a boom in road construction activity. In the second decade
of the 20th century, coast-to-coast and regional highways developed,
largely due to the influence of the Good Roads movement. The Arizona
Good Roads Association published a tour book with road maps in 1913 to
publicize the State’s roads. In it, the publishers proclaimed that, “…
Arizona has … the best natural roads in the Union,” but also conceded
that, “… some difficulties are encountered in the remote sections.”
These difficult sections included the future path of Route 66.
passed before travelers in the northern part of Arizona saw any
substantial improvement in the roads. Arizona could not keep pace with
the enormous demand for roads by a public increasingly fascinated with
the automobile, and counties did not have adequate funding or
organization to take on the responsibility. After Congress passed the
Federal Aid Road Act (also known as the Bankhead Act) in 1916, Arizona
received $3.7 million. Dirt roads were graded, cinder surfaced, and
widened, and new bridges and culverts were constructed at canyon and
river crossings. The road across northern Arizona, known as the
National Old Trails Highway, was part of a transcontinental route that
linked segments of old trail. The United States Government considered
several routes to pave as part of the nation’s first system of Federal
highways, and promoters of the Old Trails Highway eventually convinced
the government of the route’s worthiness leading to its designation as
part of U.S. Route 66 in 1926. Some 400 miles of Route 66 passed
through Arizona, and in 1926, virtually none of it was paved.
as elsewhere, experienced an explosive increase in automobile use
during the 1920s, and as traffic increased, engineering standards were
no longer adequate for the heavy road use. The outmoded 1920s roadways
needed rebuilding, straightening, and reengineering. Paving of Route 66
began with the main streets of towns, which helped fund the projects,
making Route 66 the “Main Street of America.” Arizona received more
than $5 million of National Recovery Administration highway funds in
1933 as part of President Roosevelt’s sweeping unemployment relief
programs, and by 1938, Route 66 was completely paved from Chicago to
As the economy improved in the late 1930s,
Americans began to take vacations by automobile, and the scenic wonders
along Route 66 were a major destination. Arizona offered many
attractions: National Parks like Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon,
cool mountain vistas, and the Navajo reservation. America had a love
affair with American Indian culture, fueled by popular “Cowboy and
Indian” motion pictures. Western movies conveyed a stereotyped image of
Indian tribes, one perpetuated by business owners along the way.
Although teepees and war bonnets associated with the Plains tribes were
not authentic to Arizona, they became the banner of Route 66 found in
curio shops and on neon signs and billboards.
War II, tourism, growth, and development boomed in Arizona. Post-war
prosperity brought an unprecedented increase in automobile travel to
the State, and to Route 66 in particular. Towns once again buzzed with
activity, and cash registers rang the chime of good times.
Route 66 received constant maintenance through the years, traffic
congestion worsened, especially in the small towns along the way. One
in seven accidents in Arizona occurred on Route 66, giving rise to
another, less flattering, name for the road: Bloody 66. The realignment
of some sections straightened out particularly dangerous curves--the
famous Ash Fork Hill in 1950 and the Oatman grade in 1951 are two
notable examples. Nevertheless, the highway was obviously out of date
and too congested.
The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956,
known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, appropriated
billions of dollars to build interstate highways. The new system of
interstates would conform to new design standards that included limited
access, a minimum of two traffic lanes in each direction, and bypasses
around every city and town along the way. Work soon began on the new
highway in Arizona, now designated Interstate 40. It took more than a
decade and over $375 million before much of it was open to traffic. By
bypassing several sections of winding road, Interstate 40 reduced the
mileage across Arizona from 376 miles to 359 miles. The final section
of the entire national length of Route 66 to be bypassed was a six-mile
stretch through the town of Williams, Arizona on October 13, 1984. This
momentous occasion was marked by a ceremony in Williams in which Bobby
Troup sang his famous song “Route 66.”
The Road Segments
Route 66 road segments listed in the National Register of Historic
Places are described in geographical order from east to west. Of
particular interest are the road segments in the Parks area where
visitors can view the evolution of Route 66 through this small
community. Abandoned segments dating from 1921 and 1931 are still
extant, illustrating the various alignments and the road’s relationship
to the town of Parks.
Brannigan Park to Parks (1931)
The most recent iteration of Route 66 through the area, this 6.5 mile
segment passes through the scenic high country of the Coconino Plateau,
beginning at the open watered meadows of Pitman Valley, ascending Oak
Hill to Garland Prairie Vista, and ending at the small community of
Parks. During the Mother Road’s heyday, this segment offered travelers
many scenic attractions and amenities. Midway between Flagstaff and
Williams, the community of Parks had a small store, gas station,
restaurant, school, post office, spring water, and campground. Just
north and west of Parks, the Fireside Inn offered tourist cabins, gas,
and a barbeque lunch counter. Continuing west, campers could stay at
Spitz Springs Forest Camp or the scenic Garland Prairie Vista with its
spectacular view of the San Francisco Peaks. In Pitman Valley, the
McHat Inn provided guest cabins and a filling station. The Elmo Dance
Hall was across the road. The one tourist amenity remaining in
operation is the Pines General Store and Post Office in Parks, which
opened in 1933. This road segment was built in 1931 and replaced a
circa 1920 alignment located to the south. Arizona Highways Magazine
proclaimed in 1931 that construction of this section would “… eliminate
18 miles of narrow, crooked, poorly surfaced road which is particularly
dangerous in dry weather due to raveling and innumerable potholes.” The
new road featured a straight alignment, improved road surface, and
standard concrete box culverts. Upgraded again in 1939 with new
pavement, this section still has several miles of Portland cement still
in place. A slight realignment in 1941 abandoned about a mile of the
road. Coconino County assumed responsibility for this overall segment
with the completion of Interstate 40 in 1964.
Abandoned Route 66: Town of Parks (1931)
Built in 1931, this abandoned .85-mile segment of Route 66 was part of
the realignment connecting Brannigan Park and Parks (described above).
When the road was realigned again in 1941 near Parks, this segment was
abandoned. This section retains its asphalt pavement and concrete
culverts, and despite some deterioration of the road surface has
changed little in appearance since its 1931 construction.
Abandoned Route 66: Town of Parks (1921)
This .35-mile segment predates the 1931 alignment of Route 66.
Constructed in 1921 and designated as Route 66 in 1926, it was
abandoned during the 1931 realignment. Although pre-1930s alignments
were generally unpaved, this section appears to have a bituminous
surface, formed by spraying hot oil on pebbles or cinders. Arizona
Highways Magazine referred to this segment in 1931 as a “narrow,
crooked, poorly surfaced road which is particularly dangerous in dry
weather due to raveling and innumerable potholes.” A sharp curve just
west of this segment earned the dreaded title of dead man’s curve in
the local newspaper after numerous accidents. The 1931 realignment that
abandoned this segment straightened and widened Route 66, necessitating
a shift in the roadbed (described above). This short section of road is
an excellent example of one of the earliest alignments of Route 66. It
is the best-preserved section of the circa 1921 roadway in the Parks
area and although it is only .35 miles long, the segment presents an
unbroken view of the roadway to the horizon.
Williams has the honor of being the very last town on Route 66 bypassed
by the interstate. In 1921, downtown Williams had a 1.6-mile graded and
cindered roadbed that had replaced an earlier muddy track. It was paved
with Portland cement in two separate projects: the west end in 1928 and
the east end in 1932. Population centers tended to be the first parts
of Route 66 to be paved. Organized towns not only lobbied hard for
pavement but also had the money to pay for it. Construction of motels,
restaurants, curio shops, and gas stations soon boomed on the east end
of Williams creating the Williams Historic Business District.
businesses far outnumbered the traveler-related businesses on the west
end of town, supporting the theory that towns along Route 66 tended to
expand eastward to capture the abundant westbound traffic. In 1957, the
Arizona Highway Department built a new overpass on the east end of town
and dedicated Route 66 for westbound traffic. On October 13, 1984,
Interstate 40 bypassed Route 66 through the center of town. Williams
still looks much as it did in the 1940's with its numerous curio shops,
motels, and cafes. In both function and appearance, Williams embodies
the spirit of historic Route 66.
Pine Springs Section
This 1.1-mile section of Route 66 dates from 1932-33. In 1950,
realignment up Ash Fork Hill bypassed this segment, but local access to
Pine Springs Ranch on the south side of the road was maintained. In
1966, ownership of the road transferred to the Kaibab National Forest.
The Forest Service requested that the Arizona Highway Department
fulfill its right-of-way permit obligations to remove all structures
and improvements and restore the site to its natural appearance. The
Forest Service requested to “have this old highway ripped up, the
concrete culvert ends demolished, and the entire area revegetated.”
Only this 1.1-mile section survived the obliteration of the roadway
east and west of Pine Springs Ranch.
Ash Fork Hill
Two road segments are located in the Ash Fork Hill area, one dating
back to 1921-22 and the other to 1932-33. Both segments were designed
to ascend Ash Fork Hill, a 1,700 foot incline that was one of the
steepest sections along the entire length of Route 66. The 1921-22 road
was built in two sections and was never paved. The western section was
4.8 miles long and the eastern section 2.8 miles in length. The 1932-33
road, which was eventually paved, was an 8.2 mile long stretch and
followed the same general direction of the earlier road. Despite the
1932-33 realignment, the Ash Fork Hill roadway plagued travelers,
especially when traffic increased in the 1940s. In 1950, the road was
again realigned and a steep grade was built straight up the canyon.
Interstate 40 was later built on top of the 1950 alignment. The two
earlier segments were officially abandoned in 1964 to the Kaibab
National Forest, but the roads were left intact and even the guard
rails still stand along sections of the 1932-33 roadway. These roads
are closed to the public today except for a short section of the
1921-22 road that is used for local access.
Park to Parks, AZ: This segment is actively used as a local access
road. Driving west from Flagstaff on I-40, take exit 185.
Turn right and then left onto the Frontage Rd. Head west for 2.2
miles. The Frontage Rd. closely parallels I-40 until it heads
northwest toward Brannigan Park. At 2.5 miles, you will enter the
Kaibab National Forest where you will find a Route 66 roadside
interpretive sign giving history of the road. The sign has a good
map of Route 66 alignments in the area. The National Register
district begins at Brannigan Park (3.9 miles) where the pavement ends,
and the road becomes gravel. Continue on this alignment toward
Town of Parks, AZ: Follow the instructions above to the dirt
segment at Brannigan Park. About a half-mile after pavement resumes,
there will be another Forest Service pull out where you can park your
car. The abandoned 1931 section is only accessible to pedestrians and
bicyclists. A roadside interpretive sign marks the entrance to this
abandoned segment. To reach the 1921 segment, drive west from
the Parks Store. On your right, a few feet away in the trees, is
the 1921 road segment running along beside you on a raised bed.
Williams, AZ: Heading westbound on I-40, take exit 165 and turn
left under the interstate to follow BL 40 into Williams. Follow
Railroad Ave. one-way through Williams (double back to drive both
one-way streets). Continue out to I-40 exit 161.
Pine Springs, AZ: The roadbed is visible from I-40. Driving west
from Williams, as you descend the hill toward Ash Fork, you will see to
your left the roadbed hugging the edge of the hillside.
Ash Fork, AZ: The two Ash Fork Hill road segments are cut in half by I-40, just west of Pine Springs.
For additional information on driving Route 66 in Arizona, visit these websites: Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona,Arizona Scenic Roads, and Arizona Route 66 National Scenic Byway.
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El Garces, Needles, California
Early in the 1900s, when trains were the principal means of personal
transportation, depots gave travelers a first impression of their local
destinations and provided for the security and comfort of the
railroad’s clientele. Design and materials were important to both
surrounding communities and railroad companies. After the Atchison,
Topeka, and Santa Fe Depot at Needles burned in 1906, the railroad
spared no expense on its new facility. Built to suggest a Greek temple
and opened in 1908 to great adulation, El Garces was a freight and
passenger depot with hotel and restaurant amenities. The depot took its
name from missionary Father Francisco Garces, known as the first
European to cross the Mojave Desert.
depot was luxurious. Large Mexican Fan Palms native to the site
surrounded the two-story building with its distinctive symmetrical
façade. Architect Francis S. Wilson included interior open-air loggias
upstairs and down. Tuscan columns placed in pairs supported these
walkways. The interior ceilings were ornamental and intricate
egg-and-dart detailing edged the woodwork. Wilson’s use of the
Classical Revival style, particularly popular on the East Coast and for
civic and residential buildings, was unusual for a western depot and
lent an aura of sophistication to the small town.
reason for the success of El Garces was its beauty. Another was its
management by the Fred Harvey Company. Known as “the civilizer of the
West,” Fred Harvey managed a large line of cafes and hotels along the
Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. Motorists also availed
themselves of Harvey establishments, including El Garces, after the
construction and marking of the National Old Trails Highway during the
1910s. This highway often ran parallel to the railroad, providing a
continuous automobile route between St. Louis and Los Angeles.
traveling on the Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad or along the
National Old Trails Highway or, later, Route 66, patrons appreciated
the quality of service that Harvey establishments provided. A
Harvey-run restaurant or hotel often had the nicest dining facilities
and friendliest service in town. El Garces was known for linen and
silver, distinctive china, and fresh flowers that it provided daily for
guests. The lunchroom had two horseshoe-shaped counters and could serve
140 people. According to the Harvey Girls, who traveled the country to
work for the company, El Garces was a crown jewel in the enterprise. An
assignment to the Grand Canyon, to Las Vegas, or to El Garces was “like
going to Europe.” Community members also used the facilities for
private dinners, banquets, and special occasions.
motorists and railroad passengers alike made El Garces a popular
destination through the end of World War II, the waning popularity of
railroad passenger service in favor of automobile travel took a toll on
Harvey Houses. Automobile travel was accessible to people with a wider
range of incomes, who often could afford to travel but not to dine or
stay at a place as opulent as El Garces. El Garces closed as a Harvey
House in the fall of 1949, at which time the building was partitioned
and used as Santa Fe Railway offices. In 1988, the Santa Fe Railroad
moved to another facility and closed the building. Abandoned, El Garces
was under threat of destruction until a local group formed in 1993 as
the Friends of El Garces. The group petitioned the City of Needles to
purchase the station, an effort that succeeded in 1999. The National
Park Service recognized the building’s significance in 2002, by listing
it in the National Register of Historic Places. Though still renovating
the facility, the city plans to reopen it as a “Harvey House Hotel,”
including a Route 66 museum and shops.
Garces is at 950 Front St. in Needles, CA, and is currently undergoing
rehabilitation to reopen as a hotel with a restaurant and lounge,
museum, and visitor center. Call 760-326-0583 for information or
visit the hotel’s website.
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Harvey House Railroad Depot, Barstow, California
Harvey House Railroad Depot in Barstow is one of the Fred Harvey
Company hotels and restaurants, a chain described as a “the greatest
civilizing influence in the West.” Fred Harvey hotels and restaurants
were a unique adjunct of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway
that played an important role in improving the quality and service of
food along the rail lines. Prior to the founding of the first Harvey
House restaurant, rail passengers often had to endure poor quality food
and rushed service at the few eating places available at railroad
stops. The custom was to hold the train for a few minutes while
passengers bolted for the nearest available fare of the day.
a very successful venture to establish suitable eating facilities in
Topeka in 1872, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway developed an
agreement with Fred Harvey in 1878, in which he would provide quality
service and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway would supply the
buildings. By 1883, Fred Harvey assumed exclusive control of all meal
service on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway from Topeka to El
Paso. Mr. Harvey’s operation functioned with an extremely high level of
efficiency even sending telegrams from trains as they neared the depot.
This enabled Harvey House staff to have all the facilities ready for
customers as they got off the train. The Harvey Girls aided the
popularity of the Harvey Houses. Recruited from eastern States, these
rigorously trained waitresses served meals with precision and tact.
early Harvey Houses were built for a maximum of utility and a minimum
of capital outlay. With new management of the Atchison, Topeka, and
Santa Fe Railway, however, a noticeable change took place after 1900.
As a manifestation of modernism and the rise of a regional
consciousness, Harvey Houses began to be designed by professional
architects to reflect the historical currents and architectural styles
of the Southwest. They were given names to reflect the region’s history
and conjure images of the Southwest. The Harvey House in Barstow was
called “Casa del Desierto” (House of the Desert).
constructed in 1885, the Harvey House Railroad Depot in Barstow
consisted of a wooden depot, restaurant, and hotel that later burned in
1908. Designed by talented architect Mary Colter and constructed from
1910 to 1913, the present Harvey House portrays a regional sensibility
in its design, a hybridization of Santa Fe 16th century Spanish and
Southwest American Indian architecture. In general, this Santa Fe style
is characterized by long and low buildings with horizontal façade lines
and relief from roof beams, inset porches, arcades, and flanking
buttresses. The Harvey House in Barstow also includes Moorish elements
and motifs worked into an interesting combination of towers and
At its creation in 1926, the alignment of Route
66 ran adjacent to the Harvey House Railroad Depot. It is not
coincidental that Route 66 is in close proximity to the railroad along
most of its length. The railroads did extensive surveys across the
country to locate the most efficient path according to the topography.
Because the route the railroads chose moved through the landscape in
harmony with local topography, Route 66 runs parallel to the railroad
for most of its length. Today, motorists along Route 66 will find many
places where the railroad tracks and interstate highway parallel each
other. As airplanes cross the skies above, the layers of transportation
history are visible on the earth's surface reflecting the evolution of
cross-country travel in the United States.
House Railroad Depot was listed in the National Register of Historic
Places in 1975. After extensive restoration of the building, utilizing
Federal Transportation Enhancement Funds and local contributions, the
Route 66 Mother Road Museum opened its doors in the depot in 2000. The
museum displays a collection of historic photographs and artifacts
related to Route 66 and the Mojave Desert communities.
The Harvey House Railroad Depot, which now houses the Route 66 Mother
Road Museum, is located at 681 North First Ave. in Barstow, CA. The
museum is open Friday-Sunday from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Admission is free.
Contact the museum to confirm hours of operation at 760-255-1890, toll
free at 877-997-8366 or through the museum's website. The depot has been recorded by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.
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Aztec Hotel, Monrovia, California
When it opened in 1925, the Aztec Hotel was not only the most ornate
hotel in Monrovia, it was also the first attempt to apply the
principles of Mayan art and architecture to modern American buildings.
Located along an early alignment of Route 66, the hotel quickly became
Monrovia’s premier hostelry and an architectural curiosity in the area.
Today, it is the most highly visible landmark in the city, the first of
a very few remaining Mayan-styled buildings in the United States, and
one of the more unique lodging establishments on Route 66.
by John L. Stephen’s book, Incidents of Travel in Central America:
Chiapas and Yucatan, architect Robert B. Stacy-Judd designed the
building, which he named the ‘Aztec’ because he believed that the
general public was better acquainted with that tribe than with the
Maya. Mr. Stacy-Judd constructed the building on a modest budget
concentrating most of the ornamentation along the rooflines, on the
building corners, and around the entrance structure to the lobby.
Stepped projections, square spires, and geometric designs are
reminiscent of Mayan pyramids and art in Mexico. Mr. Stacy-Judd also
included Mayan mosaics, murals, and reliefs in the interior to continue
the theme inside. The lobby furniture completed the effect with Aztec,
Toltec, and Inca designs, and even the electrical fixtures exhibited a
The publicity associated with the hotel’s
completion spurred an almost immediate response, influencing the design
of buildings across the country including the Mayan Theater in Los
Angeles, the Beach and Yacht Club in La Jolla, and the Mayan Hotel in
Kansas City. New companies sprung up manufacturing furniture, tile,
fixtures, and other items of Mayan design. The Mayan style proved to be
a short-lived phenomenon, however, and effectively died out by the end
of the 1920s.
In 1931, the realignment of Route 66
bypassed the Aztec Hotel. Although its lifespan on a commissioned Route
66 alignment was brief, the hotel remains a popular icon on the route.
It is now one of only a few remaining Mayan styled buildings in the
The Aztec Hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. With grant assistance
from the National Park Service's Route 66 Corridor Preservation
Program, the hotel’s owners began restoration in 2000, by removing the
façade’s stucco using water pressure to reveal the original Mayan
glyphs. Work on the building has focused on preserving as much of the
original ornamentation as possible.
The Aztec Hotel is located at 311 West Foothill Blvd. in Monrovia, CA.
The hotel has 44 rooms and the complex includes the Mayan Room
Restaurant, banquet facilities, and a courtyard. Contact the hotel at
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Foothill Boulevard Milestone (Mile 11), Pasadena, California
is not a gravestone in the grass between the street and the sidewalk,
though many motorists are fooled at first glance. At 12 inches wide,
six inches thick, and three and a half feet high, the concrete tablet
with its rounded top would not look out of place in a cemetery. This
cement sign never marked a place of rest though, rather, it marked a
city on the move. The Foothill Boulevard Milestone, also known as the
Bancroft Marker, is one of Pasadena’s earliest mileposts.
milepost’s block numbers distinguish it as part of the Bancroft system.
Albert Bancroft wanted to help motorists locate residences, businesses,
property boundaries, and postal delivery addresses, so he developed a
system to divide road miles into 10 conceptual blocks with variations
of block numbers as addresses (e.g. 220, 220a, 220b, 220c, etc . . .).
Bancroft envisioned that the system would be used for maintaining
voting records, taking censuses, and calculating mileage and gasoline
consumption. The Bancroft system debuted in Contra Costa County in
1892. In Pasadena, the old Los Angeles County Courthouse was the
system’s locus, and the Foothill Boulevard Milestone’s circled “11”
told motorists how many miles they were from it. The block numbers
beneath the circle, in this case 220 and 222, indicate how far along
mile 11 they had driven.
Workers placed the markers as
part of a turn-of-the-century road improvement project of the Highway
Commission of Los Angeles County. At the beginning of the 1900s, civic
promoters and advocates of the “Good Roads” movement recognized modern
road systems as the key to commerce and tourism. Road improvements were
hot topics, including road markers, signage, pavement, streetlights,
lane width, and bridges. Founded in 1899, the Pasadena Better Road
Society and the Pasadena Auto Club advocated locally for roadway
improvements. Between 1902 and 1908, the Highway Commission of Los
Angeles responded to the demand by measuring six routes within Los
Angeles County and marking them with the Bancroft milestones. Pasadena
abandoned the system in 1908 however, just two years after its
implementation. Today, the milestone at the junction of Holliston
Avenue and East Colorado Boulevard on the Foothill Boulevard route is
the only marker that remains. The National Park Service listed the
milestone in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
The Foothill Boulevard Milestone is just south of 1308 East Colorado
Blvd., west of the intersection with Holliston Ave. in Pasadena, CA.
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Howard Motor Company Building, Pasadena, California
is the ornate, sculpted, baroque architectural style of the Howard
Motor Company Building. Popularized in Spain during the late 17th and
early 18th centuries, Churrigueresque was revived during the 1915
Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park, San Diego. In the years
between World War I and World War II, the country entered the age of
the automobile, and this high-relief style worked particularly well in
the expanding California automotive market where dealers competed
fiercely for attention and for sales.
Route 66 garages
and dealerships like the Howard Motor Company are significant for many
reasons. Dealers sold, repaired, and sometimes even assembled the
automobiles that crowded Route 66 and local roads by the middle of the
20th century. Facilities like garages and dealerships provided tangible
indicators of the social and economic changes generated by the highway
and automobile usage generally, and their activities, appearance, and
location were closely tied to factors such as highway designation,
paving, changes in alignment, and local and national economics.
Pasadena, as an eventual terminus of Route 66, was well situated to
host profitable automobile dealerships.
Pasadena automobile dealers located their showrooms on Colorado
Boulevard. Two groupings developed: one on a two-block stretch of West
Colorado Boulevard between Orange Grove Boulevard and downtown, and the
other located in the then-geographic center of the city along East
Colorado Boulevard between Lake and Hill Avenues. Built in 1927, the
Howard Motor Company Building was one of several auto-related buildings
located along East Colorado Boulevard, and it was among the showiest.
With considerable growth in the automobile industry during the 1920s,
competition among dealers was fierce. It was not unusual for
dealerships to move often, each time seeking a more elaborate or
advantageous location. When builders constructed the Howard Motor
Company building in 1927, Churrigueresque was an apt choice. The
exterior of the building is richly ornamented. Corners are chamfered
and topped with a broad ornamental frieze. Showroom windows and entry
doors are recessed in a single elliptical arch, which spans the entire
street facade. The arch has a grooved mold that terminates in unusual
1285 East Colorado was built for and used by the Howard Motor Company,
it has also been occupied by several other automobile dealers and
related businesses over the years. The building remains a
well-preserved example of its type and was listed in the National
Register of Historic Places in 1996.
The Howard Motor Company Building is at 1285 East Colorado Blvd. in
Pasadena, CA. It is currently vacant and closed to the public, but is
easy to view from public right of ways.
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Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena, California
With its majestic arches rising 150 feet above the deeply cut Arroyo
Seco, the Colorado Street Bridge was proclaimed the highest concrete
bridge in the world upon completion in 1913. The bridge impressed
travelers from the day it opened. Until then, the crossing of the
Arroyo Seco required horses and wagons to descend the steep eastern
slope, cross a small bridge over the stream, and then climb the west
bank through Eagle Rock Pass. Given this harsh topography, the Colorado
Street Bridge proved a challenge to design and build. Solid footing
eluded engineers in the seasonally wet arroyo bed.
engineering challenges were solved when engineer John Drake Mercereau
conceived the idea of curving the bridge 50 degrees to the south. This
solution coupled with a graceful design of soaring arches and a curved
deck created a work of art that received Historic Civil Engineering
Landmark designation and listing in the National Register of Historic
Places. Mercereau chose to support the bridge’s 28-foot-wide roadway
and five-foot-wide sidewalks using spandrel construction. In this
system, support columns rest on the expansive arched ribs of the
bridge. Mercereau’s design also included classical balusters and ornate
cast-iron lamp posts supporting multi-globed lamps.
took 18 months. Horse carts brought materials down the steep sides of
the gorge. Records show that some 11,000 cubic yards of concrete and
600 tons of steel reinforcing went into the bridge. The company's
single cement mixer poured concrete half a yard at a time into the
bridge's hundreds of wooden forms that, when removed, revealed the
bridge's arches, girders, spandrels, and decorative details. The bridge
cost one quarter of a million dollars to build. Thousands of Pasadena
citizens came to celebrate its opening.
bridge connected Pasadena to Los Angeles, poising it to grow. Traffic
on the new bridge was heavy. Only two lanes wide, the bridge was
considered inadequate as early as the 1930s. The bridge remained part
of Route 66 until the 1940 completion of the Arroyo Seco Parkway. By
then, the Colorado Street Bridge had a sinister reputation as “suicide
bridge.” The first person jumped from the bridge in 1919. A number of
other deaths by suicide followed, especially during the Great
Depression. Over the years, estimations put the number of people, who
took their lives leaping into the Arroyo, at more than 100.
historic bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places
in 1981, but by that time, it was in disrepair. Chunks of concrete
sometimes fell from its ornate arches and railings. After the Loma
Prieta earthquake in 1989, the bridge closed as a precautionary
measure. Eventually Federal, State, and local funds provided 27 million
dollars in renovation costs. The bridge reopened in 1993, complete with
all of its original ornate detail and a suicide prevention rail.
admiring the bridge’s engineering, find a local and ask about some
hauntings. A number of spirits are said to wander the bridge as well as
the Arroyo below.
Colorado Street Bridge spans the Arroyo Seco as part of Colorado Blvd.
just south of the Ventura Freeway and between North San Rafael Ave. and
North Orange Grove Blvd. in Pasadena, CA. To view the bridge from
below, take West Holly St. west from North Orange Grove Blvd. and then
turn left on Arroyo Dr., which joins with North Arroyo Blvd. to pass
below the bridge. The local advocacy group, Pasadena Heritage,
hosts a summer festival on the Colorado Street Bridge, closing the
bridge to vehicular traffic. To learn more about the bridge and
festival, visit Pasadena Heritage’s website.
Bekins Storage Co. Roof Sign, Pasadena, California
Bekins Storage Company Roof Sign, which today reads “A. American
Storage Co.,” may well strike viewers as unusually large. Mounted 60
feet above the street, the rectangular sign is 32 feet long and 12 feet
high and is visible for several blocks in both directions along
Pasadena's South Fair Oaks Avenue. Bordering Route 66 when it used Fair
Oaks Avenue from 1926 until 1940, the Bekins sign’s size made it
impossible to miss, even from the window of a passing automobile.
sign represents the influence that automobiles had on businesses all
across the country. The owner installed the original Bekins sign, which
used light bulbs to spell "STANDARD FIREPROOF STORAGE CO," the same
year that Route 66 was routed past the building. In 1929, its owner
replaced the bulbs with neon and the text became "BEKINS STORAGE CO."
made signs this high and this large to be read from passing cars. They
were meant to be viewed from a distance and at cruising speeds. This
particular sign represents not only the ascension of automobiles as the
chief mode of transportation, but also the introduction of neon to
signs in Los Angeles in 1923. Scale, speed, and the flash of neon
created a whole new way of attracting attention and customers.
and projecting signs had an early association with theaters, movie
palaces, and department stores, all dependent on attracting large
crowds. The Bekins sign illustrates the adoption of bigger, flashier
signs by other businesses as well. Large illuminated signs became more
practical and widespread with turn-of-the-century advancements in
electrification. They became a near necessity when commercial
establishments could no longer rely solely on foot traffic for business
by virtue of the increased mobility of customers.
early decades of the 20th century saw more and more signs designed to
be visible from greater distances, at greater speeds, and during the
night. Signs and lettering grew, and locations of signs became more
prominent. The Bekins sign, colorful, large, high, and elaborate,
exemplifies the impact of transportation on commercial history. Because
of its significance, the National Park Service listed it in the
National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Today, the sign is
Pasadena’s only pre-war example of the once-popular massive projecting
roof signs designed to attract customers in automobiles.
The Bekins Storage Co. Roof Sign is a rooftop sign at 511 South Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena, CA.
Rialto Theatre,South Pasadena, California
The Rialto Theatre is one of a dwindling handful of Pasadena’s grand
theatres from the early 20th century. Fortunately, it is also one of
the best preserved. Completed in 1925 and trimmed with Spanish tile,
the Rialto building’s design included spaces for the grandiose theatre,
retail shops, and apartments. Despite minor modifications to the
street-level shop frontage, the original Moorish motif is still intact
and the building remains largely unaltered.
building’s façade is symmetrical with a central projecting bay
containing a recessed entrance and the marquee. Sometime in the 1930s,
a larger, three-line, three-face, neon Art Moderne marquee replaced the
original marquee, which was a two-line reader board featuring white
glass and tin changeable letters. Above the marquee, Moorish-style
paired arched windows combine with vertical elements to mix historical
fantasy with the latest Art Deco influences. On each side of the
central bay is a storefront.
The interior of the theatre
seats 1,300 people and is a lavish example of flamboyant eclecticism.
Multiple rows of crown molding surround the first level of seating, and
below the massive balcony, also finished with extensive molding, hang
chandeliers mounted in Moroccan-influenced ceiling fixtures. Gilded
niches protrude from the walls; patterned, swirling finishes surround
openings; and at points of emphasis are Egyptian-influenced sphinxes
and Romanesque winged torsos. The entire effect conjures fantasies of
opulent African and Middle Eastern cultures to create a setting removed
from the cares of daily living, a place of escape where audiences could
revel in glamorous surroundings and immerse themselves in the stories
presented on the stage or screen. During the 1930s, general admission
was 30 cents and children under 12 paid only a dime. Going to the
theatre was worth it. No matter what the audience watched—whether it
was Vaudeville or a motion picture—the Rialto interior was part of the
About 30 feet deep, the stage was designed for live
productions. Dressing rooms and an orchestra pit are underneath the
stage. The scenery loft remains intact, although the theatre has not
mounted a stage production since the 1950s. Today, it hosts events and
screenings on special occasions. The National Park Service listed the
theatre in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Rialto Theatre is at 1019-1023 Fair Oaks Ave. in South Pasadena, CA. It
ceased regular movie showings some years ago, and now hosts only
special events or screenings.
Broadway Theater and Commercial District, Los Angeles, California
The many buildings and myriad of architectural styles in the Broadway
Theater and Commercial District reveal the exuberance of the early
entertainment industry in Southern California. When commercial activity
in Los Angeles turned south down Broadway early in the 20th century, it
created a thoroughly modern environment for extravagant shopping and
flamboyant theaters. As the western terminus of Route 66 between 1926
and 1936, the district was a portal to coastal California for a
national audience ranging from Dust Bowl refugees to pleasure-seeking tourists.
is the ultimate example of the explosive growth of Los Angeles and
Southern California between 1900 and 1910. Prior to the turn of the
century, Los Angeles’ commercial center was the intersection of Spring
and First Streets, and Broadway below Third Street was primarily
residential. The construction of a new city hall between Second and
Third Streets in the late 1800s was a catalyst in reorienting the
commercial district south, along Broadway. The street’s most dramatic
turning point, however, was the 1905 announcement that Hamburger’s
would build a large department store at Broadway and Eighth Street.
Despite concerns that its Eighth Street location was too far south,
investors followed Hamburger's to the area.
concerns of skeptics were allayed when Hamburger’s new store opened
with its dramatic Beaux Arts exterior and deeply recessed, arched
entryway surrounded by an upper frieze and flanking Doric pilasters.
The five-story building boasted largest store aisle in the United
States, and the Los Angeles Herald asserted that on the first day of
business, 35,000 people came to ride the building’s escalator, the only
one west of St. Louis. By the time Hamburger’s was complete,
multiple-story retail and office buildings surrounded it, and Broadway
was the commercial thoroughfare of the city. Nearly two dozen major
department and clothing stores and manifold smaller venders operate in
the Hamburger’s building and other historic retail buildings today, and
the district continues to bustle with buyers and sellers.
development of Broadway as a commercial district coincided with its
emergence as a theatrical center. At the turn of the century, the major
theaters of Los Angeles were along Main Street, which parallels
Broadway two blocks to the southeast. In 1903, however, the Mason Opera
House opened on Broadway. As various theater owners vied for the title
of city impresario, theaters along Broadway became larger and more
numerous. The Orpheum, now the Palace, was one of the first theaters to
locate within the present district. The Palace Theatre’s French
Renaissance appearance established the early preference for that style,
and its terra cotta façade included eye-catching carved figures.
Theater architecture became increasingly flamboyant, creating a diverse
and colorful streetscape. The Globe Theatre’s gargoyles, the corner
clock tower on the Tower Theatre, and the Los Angeles Theatre’s eagles
all reflected the ebullient mood of the district. The Roxie Theatre,
constructed in 1931 and a relative latecomer, employed the popular Art
Deco style for its flowery patterns and grillwork. Twelve of these 1910
to 1931 movie palaces remain, many now used as special-event venues,
filming locations, and retail operations, and their fanciful exteriors
lend elegance to the district.
For decades, Broadway
provided a major source of revenue, a location for premieres, and
copy for the gossip columns of Southern California, before
transitioning into a vibrant Latino shopping district. In large part,
the stores and theaters built on Broadway nearly a century ago survive,
but until a decade ago, the upper stories stood vacant. Since then, the
district has become a laboratory for adaptive reuse, as loft-style
apartments and condominiums lend new life to former office and retail
space. The National Park Service listed the district in the National
Register of Historic Places in 1979, and expanded the listed district’s
size in 2002. In 1999, the Los Angeles Conservancy, active on Broadway
for 20 years, joined members of the city council, the mayor’s office,
property owners, and other stakeholders to launch Bringing Back
Broadway, an ongoing effort that focuses attention on and investment in
the district’s rich architecture and cultural potential.
Broadway Theater and Commercial District includes approximately seven
blocks along South Broadway in Los Angeles, CA; its northern boundary
is midway between West Second St. and West Third St. and the southern
boundary is between West Ninth St. and West Olympic St. The Los
Angeles Conservancy offers walking tours of the district for a fee on
Saturday at 10:00am. Call 213-430-4209 or visit this website
for information. The Bradbury Building at 304 South Broadway is
open Sunday-Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Call 213-626-1893 for
information. The Los Angeles Theatre at 615 South Broadway is
used for screenings and other special events, and is available for
booking. Call 213-629-2939 for information or visit its website.
The Million Dollar Theater at 307 South Broadway hosts special events
and location filming. Call 213-617-3600 for information or visit
The Orpheum Theatre at 842 South Broadway still hosts live
performances, special screenings, and other events, and is available
for location filming. Call 877-677-4386 or visit its website.