National Park Service, Department of Interior Image with Arrowhead ParknetLinks to Pastcontact Title Image entitled Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, Preserving America's Heritage
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Grass Roots Preservation I

(Released: November, 2003)

It is estimated that we have been losing 7% of our historic Route 66 properties every ten years. If this rate continues, there will be little left on the road to remind us of the authentic, historic Route 66 experience. Many people have asked our National Park Service program for assistance in keeping historic properties from being demolished, or from further falling into ruin. And we are certainly committed to do whatever we can to further the preservation and continued use of these important parts of our American heritage. But we can’t keep up with every situation that arises. We estimate that there are over 4000 historic properties along Route 66, ranging from the classic gas stations, motels, cafes to the vernacular barns, residences and commercial strips, not to mention the great landscapes that make up the open road.

The real monitors, or watch dogs for preserving the historic properties along the route are you, the reader. Whether you live on Route 66 and are concerned about a particular building that may be flagged for demolition, or you live far from the route but understand the importance of preserving the historic vestiges of the road for the future, many times you are the ones that make the difference on whether a property will be saved or not. City councils, county commissioners, tourism officials, state representatives and senators, congressional staff, and a myriad of other offices and organizations, react and respond to their constituent’s concerns, much more so than they would from a government office like ours.

There are good examples of how advocates like you have successfully lobbied decision makers, or simply taken matters into your own hands to preserve parts of the Mother Road. For example, the De Anza Motel in Albuquerque, New Mexico was recently acquired by the City of Albuquerque in order to develop the property for continued commercial ventures. This preemptive move to protect the property from unsympathetic development or demolition was a joint effort between very active citizen groups and the City of Albuquerque.

Another example is a group of citizens known as the Friends of the Mother Road, who have taken the initiative to help property owners along the route repaint their neon signs and conduct other preservation projects. They have donated their own time, paint, and elbow grease to make this happen. Many of the Associations (especially the Illinois Route 66 Association) have preservation committees that do the same.

Residents of Seligman, Arizona have rallied together to get their Route 66 downtown district nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with assistance from our Program. This move may go a long way in helping their unincorporated town maintain its historic community character.

In Highlands, California, concerned citizens noticed a business owner taking down a neon sign that he thought was blight to his business storefront. When they told him how much the sign meant to them and to Route 66, he ended up not only saving the sign, but restoring it to operating condition as well.

In Mount Olive, Illinois, citizens have banded together to help restore the historic Soulsby’s gas station. This has been an effort between the property owner, residents, volunteers from neighboring towns, and others, who have committed their time, skills, and collective resources to make it happen.

Others have been helping to protect the roadbed itself. By staying in communication with their highway departments, they have raised awareness about how proposed highway projects can negatively impact original sections of roadway.

Then of course, there are the numerous businesses owners on the route who are doing everything they can to keep their properties alive and vibrant. These are just a few examples of citizens who have realized that they do make a difference.

If you want to be active in preserving Route 66 and aren’t already a member, start by joining a state Route 66 Association, and/or the National Historic Route 66 Federation. These groups are strong advocates for preserving Route 66. They will direct you on how to lobby area decision-makers, or who to contact if a particular property is threatened. They will also let you know how you can be directly involved with hands-on preservation work. There are eight state associations and other non-profit organizations committed to preserving Route 66, and you do not have to be a resident of a particular state to join. In fact, you can be members of all of them. Their modest dues usually provide members with a regular newsletter and activities that are fun and productive for the Mother Road. These organizations are made up of great folks who love the road and are committed to using their volunteer time to keep the road alive. If you are interested in being members or subscribers to any of them, please access our web page at to find links to each of the groups.

Michael Taylor
Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program
National Park Service


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