Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
Route 66

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
The Circle Theater, Tulsa
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
Santo Domingo Trading Post, Santo Domingo
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
Pig and Calf Lunch, Albuquerque
Cottage Bakery, 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
Acoma Curio Shop, San Fidel
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
Wigwam Village #7, San Bernardino
Aztec Hotel, Monrovia
Foothill Boulevard Milestone, Pasadena
Howard Motor Company Building, Pasadena
Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena
Bekins Storage Co., Pasadena
Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena
Arroyo Seco Parkway, Los Angeles
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.

Located 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 other amusements.

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 Chicago.

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.

The booths 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 66.

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.

The 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 Mother Road.

>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 815-584-3077.

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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.

In 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 mud.”

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.”

By 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.

Traffic 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

The 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 clientele.

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 summer.

The Downey 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.

During 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.

In 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” Kranich.

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."

The hard 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.

The 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.

The 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.

A 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.

Then, 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.

During 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 was abandoned.

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.”

At 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 culverts.

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.

Local 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.

Bridge 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.

Route 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.

The 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 front door.

One 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.

With pavement 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 roadside lodging.

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.

Advertisements 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 1930s.

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 Williams.

Except 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.

Route 66 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.

The 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.

In 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.

A 1939 AAA travel directory entry for the site illustrates the full service approach favored by many roadside businesses at the time:

Wagon 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Henry 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 stiff breeze.

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.

The 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 Museum.

The Pulaski 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 impressed today.

The 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 corner.

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.

Maurice 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 character prevailed.

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.

The 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 Shrine Mosque.

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.

By 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.

Although 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 asbestos garage.

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 2003.

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.

The 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 sign.

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.

The 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 Street Deli.

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, but there are still things to see and do.

The Litch 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.

Walking the 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.

Like 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 prices.

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 parking.

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 1990s.

The 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.

The bridge 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.

The 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 Service Station.

The 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.

Citizens 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 First Streets.

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 candelabra-toting statues.

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.

In 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.

Transcontinental 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.

Perhaps 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.

The 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.

At 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.

Perhaps 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.

By 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 66.

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 park.

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 American portraits.

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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The Circle Theater, Tulsa

In 1945, Tulsa had 26 movie theaters. Of those, only one remains standing today: the Circle Theater. Built in 1928 on the old 1926-32 alignment of Route 66 through Tulsa, the Circle was part of the central shopping district in Tulsa’s earliest suburban development. Like almost all historic single-screen movie palaces, the Circle struggled to remain viable in the age of the multiplex. By the mid-1990s it was shuttered and threatened with demolition. But thanks to the tireless work of the Circle Cinema Foundation, today the Circle is going stronger than ever, and in July 2013 celebrated its 85th anniversary grand re-opening.

The building, which was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, is a two-story brick commercial-style structure, quite distinct from the opulence that characterized most theaters of the era. Its suburban location, the fact that it was not designed by a professional architect, and its mixed-use character (the building hosted apartments above the theater) explain its understated nature. Because the theater was only one part of the multi-use building, the structure was also known as the Chilton Building (named for the original owner), and “Chilton” flanked by the numbers 19 and 28 can still be seen inscribed into the front of the building near the roofline. A beautifully restored neon sign and neon-lit marquee grace the façade, which was recently taken back to its appearance circa 1952, thanks in part to a grant through the NPS’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in 2012. The setback of the building is quite shallow, a practice common to theaters that was designed to draw people in from the sidewalk. What was originally a storefront to the north of the theater houses the Circle Cinema Foundation’s offices; another storefront to the south of the ticket window was incorporated into the theater’s lobby sometime after 1957.

When the Circle Cinema Foundation purchased the original theater, it also purchased two adjacent storefronts to the south of the theatre. Those renovated spaces now adjoin the original lobby space and house a gathering/reception area, a display of movie posters, and an art gallery for local artists to exhibit their works. In 2013 the main auditorium of the original theatre was renovated, and today the Circle Cinema boasts four screens of various sizes and seating capacities. The Circle is a boon not only for lovers of Route 66 and historic theaters, but for film aficionados as well. The Circle provides an innovative mix of programming focusing on art-house and international films, and also showcases special screenings of classic and contemporary films that often feature guest appearances from stars, directors, or other personalities associated with the various productions. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the Circle Cinema Foundation, the theater is a crucial piece of an ongoing process that is transforming the neighborhood from a declining condition back to its suburban heyday as a walkable district for entertainment, shopping, and dining.

The Circle Theater, now the Circle Cinema, is located at 10 S. Lewis Ave., Tulsa, OK 74104, and can be reached at 918-585-3504. Showtimes are available via phone at 918-592-FILM, or online at The theater is wheelchair accessible.

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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.

The 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.

Phillips 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.

The 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 necessity.

Built 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.

In 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.

In 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.

Bridge #18 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 Show.

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.

When 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 918-968-3990.

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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 flat roof.

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.

The 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 toilets.
The Seaba 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 1940.

Bryan 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 Italy.

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.

Local 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.

In 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 Ford Mustang.

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.”

This 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 Tulsa.

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.

Built 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.

The 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.

The 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 filling station.

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.

The 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.

After 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 flourished.

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 66 landmark.

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.

If 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 was up.

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.

Aside 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, and 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. 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.

In 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.

One 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.

The 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 elegant one.

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.

For 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.

Today 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, OK. You may also wish to visit the nearby city-owned Route 66 Park, located on the west side of Lake Overholser at 9901 NW 23. More information is available at:

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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.

There 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.

Mr. Avant’s 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.

The 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.

The 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 War II.

Many 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.

Soldiers at 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.

Fort 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.

After the 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.

The 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 luncheonette.

Fort 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 downstairs.

The 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.

The station 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.

The 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.

Landscaped 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.

The 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.

This 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.

Aside 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.

Designed 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.

Traffic 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.

The 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.

In 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.

The 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.

Platted 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.

World 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 was born.

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.

Motor 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.

Particularly 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 2004.

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 country.

At 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.

This 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 suffering. 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. Arcadia (1922-1952)
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 in 1952.

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.

West 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.

Ozark 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.

Arcadia: 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.

Bridgeport 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 Bridgeport Hill.

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.

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.
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.

Today, 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 community center.

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.

In 1929, 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 2004.

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 information. 

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.

Motorists 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, and green.

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 exit 89.

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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 facilities.

When 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 hotels.

Areas 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.

A 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 branding irons.

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.

The U.S. 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.

The 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.

The 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.

After 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.

Bussey 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.

Cazzell 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.

Borden’s 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 style.

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.

Hubbell 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 construction.

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
Prior 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 path.

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.

Business 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.

The Vega 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. It is currently not accepting overnight visitors.

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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 conditioning.

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 delivery.

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 tax.

During 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.

A new 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.

Glenrio’s 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.

It’s 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 and NM.

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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 architecture.

When 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 windows.

The Blue 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 Store."

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 in 1978.

The Richardson 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 Road.

During 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 identity.

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.

A revived 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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Santo Domingo Trading Post Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico

Route 66 aficionados may well know the name of Seligman from the town in Arizona that shares the name. They may not know, however, where the name comes from. The Seligmans were in fact well-known regional traders in the southwest even before the era of Route 66, and in 1922 they constructed an adobe trading post in the town of Domingo, adjacent to the Santa Fe Railroad and a small highway that four years later would become a short-lived alignment of Route 66. The two-story building, which features a curved parapet in the Mission Revival style, was constructed just to the north of an older trading post that dates to 1880; the new owners used this older structure as a warehouse. A small stucco residence with a narrow porch sits to the south of the 1880 building.

The Santo Domingo Trading Post, nearly destroyed by fire in 2001, has recently undergone more than a million dollars’ worth of renovation. NPS grants through the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program helped provide emergency stabilization measures in 2007, and a 2013 grant has helped to restore the historic façade painting. The front half of the interior of the 1922 building has been completely restored, including the replacement of damaged adobes, new wood flooring, new timber balconies and support posts, new glazing, wiring, plumbing, insulation, and so on.

Because of the fire and the resulting collapse of much of the 1880 warehouse, much of the colorful painted sign proclaiming the Trading Post as “The Most Interesting Spot in the Old West…Where Real Indians Trade” has been lost. The message of the sign reflects stereotyping and commodification of tribal culture that was common at roadside trading posts and curio shops during the early 20th century.

While the sign slogan was intended to attract tourists, the trading post also served as an important source of foodstuffs and finished goods for neighboring tribal residents of the Santo Domingo, or Kewa, Pueblo. While highway tourism brought significant revenue to the post, the re-routing of Route 66 to the east in 1932 reduced traffic, making trade with tribal residents critical to the business’s survival.

Survive it did; it operated continuously from its initial construction up until 1995, when Fred Thompson, who had owned it since 1946, passed away. Commonly featured in postcards and guidebooks, as well as a Life magazine article in 1943, the trading post, which also served as a gas station for many years, was a well-known stopping point. President John F. Kennedy purportedly visited in 1962. Today the Pueblo of Santo Domingo controls the property, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The bulk of the restoration has been funded by grants from the Economic Development Administration with the intention that the site will continue to be developed for job creation and economic development.

The Santo Domingo Trading Post sits at the juncture of Indian Service Routes 88 and 841, off NM 22, exit 259 on Interstate 25, about halfway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is adjacent to the Kewa station of New Mexico’s Rail Runner, a light rail system easily accessible from Santa Fe or Albuquerque. The building is currently closed to the public. Photography of the structure is permissible, but please do not take photos of other buildings, landscape, or individuals on Pueblo land without permission.

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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.

Upon 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.

Agriculture has 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 Pueblo.

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.

The National 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 its inhabitants.

The 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.

Luna 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.

Luna 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.

The Luna Lodge was listed on 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. In 2013, the Luna Lodge was rehabilitated by NewLife Homes. The $4.8 million project converted the hotel into 30 apartments for low- income individuals, many of whom have disabilities. In 2013, it won a national award for outstanding achievement in rehabilitation developments using the historic tax credit.

Luna Lodge is located at 9119 East Central Ave. in Albuquerque, NM, and is currently operating as a housing facility. 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.

Charles 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 percent.

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.

Wallace 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 in 1993.

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.

The 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 Center.

In 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.

Louis 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 corners.

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.

Years 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.

In 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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Pig and Calf Lunch Albuquerque , New Mexico

To the casual observer passing by on today’s Central Avenue in Albuquerque, the Pig and Calf Lunch could slip past without a second glance, branded as it is as a contemporary sandwich shop. But a closer look reveals more. Black and white ceramic tiles cover the surface, in stark contrast to the brick and stucco of neighboring businesses. The words “Pig and Calf,” partially obscured by age, adorn a black tile frieze; a stylized pig and calf sit silently to either side, a playful reminder of what was once offered inside. This is a building of times gone by.

A restaurant called The Pig Stand opened at 2106 E. Central Avenue in 1924. Whether or not it was affiliated with the Pig Stand chain out of Dallas is unclear. By 1926, it had a new owner, Charlie Ellis, and went by the name Pig and Calf Barbecue – “The Home of Barbecued Meats.” It seems still to have been known colloquially as the Pig Stand. Ellis opened what was alternately called Charlie’s Pig Stand #2 or the Pig and Calf Barbecue #2 on North 4th St. (which at the time was Route 66) in 1932, although this closed shortly before the current structure was built in 1935 on the site of the original Pig Stand at 2106 E. Central, opposite the University of New Mexico on what would become, two years later, the new alignment of Route 66.

Ellis kept his restaurant open during construction, moving the older building to the back of the lot, no doubt keeping his customers happy and his income flowing. The new building opened for business on May 14, 1935, to some fanfare. Perhaps the opening-night free beer (for men – ladies received flowers, and children candy) helped foster enthusiasm. Local businesses took out a number of advertisements in the local paper congratulating Ellis on the opening of his new Pig Stand, suggesting both he and the café enjoyed significant local prominence and goodwill.

The new structure was described as “attractively white-tiled inside and out,” with “private booths” and “horseshoe counter.” Ellis’s own ad in the Albuquerque Journal styled it “new – larger – very elaborate.” While one contemporary source referred to it as the Pig and Calf Lunch, this name, if used at all, did not last long, and the Pig Stand Café remained a top draw for locals as well as for travelers along the Mother Road. Ellis, obviously, was well aware of his plum location; postcards from the late 1930s advertise the Pig Stand as “Opposite the University on Route 66.”

By the mid-50s, though, the Pig Stand was closed, replaced for the better part of a decade by the University Café, and then by Campus Laundry and Cleaners. It remained a laundromat until taken over by the Pita Pit in 2006.

Like its neighbor just to the west, the Cottage Bakery, The Pig and Calf is a story of survival despite the absence of the long-term success of a single establishment. It stands today as a telling reminder of the ways roadside businesses could combine eye-catching design, modern amenities, and whimsical imagery to lure customers. Sadly, it is no longer “The Home of Barbecued Meats” – but it remains an evocative piece of Route 66’s architectural history.

The Pita Pit, at 2106 Central Ave. SE, in Albuquerque, NM, is open from 10 AM-3 AM Monday through Friday, from 11 AM-3 AM on Saturdays, and from 11 AM-12 AM on Sundays. It can be reached at 505-242-7482, or on the web at The building is wheelchair accessible.

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The Cottage Bakery Albuquerque, New Mexico

In 1937, as Route 66 shifted from a north-south alignment along Fourth Street through Albuquerque to its better-known east-west passage along Central Ave., the Cottage Bakery moved into its new location across from the University of New Mexico at 2000/2004 East Central Ave. Its proprietors, Herbert Weis and his brother-in-law, Prince Schroeder, had opened their Cottage Pure Food Shop in 1931 a few blocks to the east on Monte Vista Blvd. Weis and Schroeder had previously owned a bakery in Winslow, Arizona; at the height of the Great Depression, they headed east along the Mother Road, against the flow of displaced Dust Bowl migrants. It was not an easy time to start a new business, but they must have done something right, for within just a few years they were ready for a newer, bigger establishment right on Albuquerque’s – and America’s – main drag.

Playing on the name of the business, Weis and Schroeder’s new building featured a faux thatched cottage appearance, with playful “eyebrows” above each of the doors. Although understated compared to many similar roadside businesses whose buildings were their own advertisements, the Cottage Bakery was designed to quickly catch the eye of passing motorists, especially in a city that was already embracing a strong regionally-styled architecture rife with Pueblo-Spanish Revival motifs. Behind the small storefront retail shop (which was shared initially with the Spot Ice Cream Company) stood a more utilitarian structure that housed the bakers’ wholesale and production facilities. But it was the little cottage out front that stamped the business’s identity on the minds of the motoring public, locals and travelers alike.

For most of its life, the two halves of the cottage have housed separate businesses. The Cottage Bakery, although under varying ownership and sometimes different names, lasted at 2004 E. Central (the eastern side of the building) until 1960. The Spot, as it was known, lasted only a couple of years in the western half (2000 E. Central). It was followed in quick succession by a café, a pharmacy, and a flower shop before settling in as the Cottage Grill during the 1950s. Brennan’s Men’s Shop briefly united the two halves of the cottage during the mid-1960s. In 1966, the building was again divided, with 2004 hosting a pizzeria, and 2000 remaining vacant until the Psychedelic Flower Shop opened in 1968.

Pizza proved profitable, and various pizzerias remained in the eastern side of the building until 1984. The western half enjoyed no such stability. The Psychedelic Flower Shop was as fleeting as the Summer of Love, and it was not until 1980 that any business remained for more than a year or two, when a hair salon lasted into the mid-90s. 2004 continued to host restaurants, including Smitty’s Sausage and Suds, The Fajita Factory, and a burger joint called Smooch’s. LA Underground, a hip-hop culture store, moved into the west side of the building in 1997, and expanded after Smooch’s closed, once again joining together the two halves of the cottage. Meanwhile, the back part of the original bakery has housed a live theatre company since the early 1980s.

Unlike many historic buildings along Route 66, which survived as a result of stable businesses that continued to cater to travelers through the decades, the Cottage Bakery provides an alternate narrative, one of near-constant change. It’s all the more remarkable, then, that the humble little cottage remains.

The Cottage Bakery (currently LA Underground) is at 2000 Central Ave. SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is open from 11 AM-8 PM Monday-Saturday and 12 PM- 6 PM on Sundays. The entrance has a small step and is not wheelchair 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 automobile-oriented development.

After 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.

A 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.

The 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.

Revitalization efforts 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 1997.

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.

Built 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.

The 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.

In 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 2001.

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.

Maurice 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.

The 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 commercial doors.

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.

Maisel’s 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 505-242-6526.

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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.

The 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 chapter did.

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 horizon.

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 27, 1998.

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.

The 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 washouts.

The 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.

The 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 1699.

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 Pueblo 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.

Route 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.

Today, 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.

The 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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Acoma Curio Shop San Fidel, New Mexico

An abandoned building in a small, quiet town does not cry out tourist attraction to everyone, but behind the quiet façade of this humble building is a little known and important story of Lebanese immigration and mercantilism along historic Route 66.

Most likely built in 1916, in what was then called Ballejos, the Acoma Curio Shop is constructed of adobe bricks. But unlike so many other adobe buildings in the southwest, it also features a false front more common to mining boomtowns, making it a very rare blend of two distinct architectural styles. While such blending is common in roadside vernacular architecture, this particular combination is quite unusual, especially in New Mexico, and adds to the appeal of what is one of the few rural curio shops remaining along Route 66 in the state. A metal-roofed porch faces the highway, supported by four simple wooden posts. The north and west sides are neatly coated in white stucco, while the eastern wall is mostly of exposed adobes, showcasing the original construction.

Abdoo Fidel originally opened a small mercantile business in the building, which he likely designed and constructed himself. Fidel had immigrated to New Mexico from Lebanon, part of what was in sheer numbers a small contingent of Lebanese emigrants to the newly-founded state. However, given New Mexico’s low total population, the Lebanese community, approximately two hundred strong in 1920, was not insignificant, especially in the realm of trade. Fidel initially settled in nearby Seboyeta, where he stayed with Narciso Francis, Sr., probably the first Lebanese to come to the area. Following a common pattern in the American West, and one not restricted to Lebanese, Narciso was a “pioneer” emigrant who, once established, attracted several others, usually blood relatives or residents of the same home village, to join him.

Within the Lebanese community, competition was limited by an unwritten rule that allowed only one Lebanese-owned business per town. With the sparse population around Laguna and Acoma, this would have been doubly important. Thus, once he had acquired the means to do so, Fidel moved to Ballejos (now San Fidel) to open the small mercantile store in the town of about 100 souls. Within a few years he opened a larger adobe structure at the western edge of the town, which also served as his family’s primary residence. It is not known what business, if any, occupied the site of the small mercantile building during these years, but in any case it remained standing.

As a Roman Catholic, Fidel fit well in to the cultural milieu of rural New Mexico, and quickly learned Spanish to better communicate with his neighbors and customers. It was only later, as Anglo migration to the area increased, that Fidel learned to speak English.

The highway through San Fidel became part of Route 66 when it was commissioned in 1926, and traffic increased significantly in the coming years. Perhaps sensing an opportunity to capture tourist dollars, Fidel began wholesaling local Native American crafts, and in 1937 moved this operation into the mercantile building, where he opened a retail business named the Acoma Curio Shop.

Unlike most curio shops in the southwest, which tended to feature a hodgepodge of crafts from different pueblos or cultures that were sometimes of dubious authenticity, Fidel dealt exclusively with local Acoma artists. These included several well-known individuals, such as Lucy Lewis and Mary Z. Chino. The former’s son, Alvin Concho Lewis, himself a well-known Acoma silversmith, was an employee of the shop for a time. World War II and its accompanying gasoline rationing curtailed travel along the highway, and the Curio Shop closed shortly after America’s entry into the conflict. Fidel refocused his attention on his larger mercantile store, leasing the Curio Shop to the Standard Oil Company, who operated it as a service station for several years. Since then, it has since gone multiple tenants. While the building has undergone minor alterations, it has maintained a high degree of its historic integrity. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

The Acoma Curio Shop is located at 1090 State Road 124, San Fidel, NM 87049, on historic Route 66 about 15 miles east of Grants. The building is currently not open to the public.

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Bowlin’s Old Crater Trading Post, Bluewater, New Mexico
Located 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.

A walk 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.

Before 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.

Bowlin’s 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.

In 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.

In 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.

Bowlin’s 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
Roy 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.

The 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 garage.

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.

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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.

The 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.

Navajo 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 Fauntleroy.

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.

Many 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.

The 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.

Route 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 in 1978.

Fort Wingate 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.

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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.

The 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 Gallup.

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.

Armand 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.

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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 Mexico.

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.

New 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.

In the 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.

The 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 alignment engineering.

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 local road.

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 feet.

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 malpais.

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.

Glenrico 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 Glenrio.

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.

Montoya to 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.

Cuervo to 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 Bridge.

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.

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.

Milan 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.

Iyanbito to 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
The 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.

The 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.

This 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 Desert Inn.

The 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.

One 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.

In 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.

Even 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
In the arid Arizona desert, the Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook still provides Route 66 aficionados the opportunity to “Sleep in a Wigwam!”

While 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.

Mr. 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.

Fifteen 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 place.

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.

With 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 hacienda.

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 better.

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 common.

Entrepreneur 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.

Harvey 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.

The 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 vistas.

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 Great Depression.

During 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.

Fortunately, 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
In 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.

The bridge 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
The 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 today.
U.S. 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.

At 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.

Military 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.

As 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.

The 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.

The 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 history.

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.

Events 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.

A lively 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.

With 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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, Valentine, Arizona
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.

Between 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 value.”

Forced 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.

For 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 closed.

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.

Surrounded 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 reformers.

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.

The 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
Kingman, 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 Arizona.

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.

Early businesses 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 socialize.

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.

With 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.

Route 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 applications.

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.

The 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 Center’s website 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.

The 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Oatman was 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 tourists.

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.

The 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
The 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.

Builders constructed 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.

Technologically, the 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.

In 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 until 1948, 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.

The 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 these foundations.

During 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.

Years 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.

Arizona, 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 Los Angeles.

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.

After World 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.

Although 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.

These 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.

Brannigan 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 Parks.

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.

The 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.

One 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.

Whether 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.

Though 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.

El Garces is at 950 Front St. in Needles, CA. It is currently not open to the public.

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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.

After 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.

The 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).

Originally 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 archways.

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.

The Harvey 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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Wigwam Village #7 San Bernardino, California

Few sites along Route 66 are as immediately recognizable as the teepee-shaped cabins of the Wigwam Villages. Depicted as the Cozy Cone Motel in the film Cars, there are actually two Wigwam Villages along the Mother Road. In fact, of seven such villages built around the country, only three remain today (two on Route 66): Wigwam Village #2, in Cave City, Kentucky, Wigwam Village #6 in Holbrook, Arizona, and Wigwam Village #7, in San Bernardino, California.

Like #2, #7 has the distinction of having been built by the creator of the Wigwam Village concept, Frank Redford. In 1933, Redford initially opened a teepee-style service station in Horse Cave, Kentucky, modeling his design after an ice cream stand he had seen in Long Beach, California. After numerous requests from customers, he expanded his operation with six tourist cabins in the same teepee motif. Redford disliked the word, “teepee,” however, and instead used the “wigwam” moniker. While wigwam and teepee architecture are very different from each other, this misnomer is indicative of the common stereotyping of tribal cultural by Euro-Americans during this time.

By 1937, Redford opened the larger Wigwam Village #2 in Cave City, patented his design, and over the next decade sold the plans to a handful of other entrepreneurs eager to take advantage of the kitsch and high visibility of Redford’s “wigwams.” While roadside architecture is usually noted for its vernacular styling and regional distinctiveness, especially on Route 66, the expansion of highway travel after the war also ushered in an era of increased homogeneity and the expansion of corporate-owned chains. Redford, perhaps, could have taken advantage of this process, but instead was quite cavalier in his attitudes toward collecting payment or royalties on his design, concentrating instead on running his own establishments as clean, wholesome, family- friendly lodging sites.

Redford sold his Kentucky properties to his friend Paul Young in 1944, and headed west after the war, like so many other Americans. In 1947, he began construction on #7, and the Wigwam Village opened for business in 1950. The Village initially consisted of a large wigwam office building and eleven cabins arranged in a semicircle surrounding a pleasant grassy area that featured a fire pit and picnic tables to encourage community and camaraderie among guests. As travel increased along the Mother Road and the San Bernardino Valley experienced booming growth, Redford added eight additional wigwams in a second semicircle behind the original eleven, bringing the total to nineteen units.

Each sleeping unit stands 32 feet tall, and is twenty feet across at the base, both slightly taller and narrower than the wigwams at #6 in Holbrook. An asphalt parking area separates the two rows of cabins. A small swimming pool sits in the middle of the grassy area behind the office wigwam. A third row of cabins was planned at some point, and the foundation of one remains near the northeast corner of the property, but these additional units were never completed.

Redford grew too ill to continue operating the property, and his old friend Paul Young once again took over the Village as he had done in Kentucky, although he died a few years later in 1961. Ensuing owners, for the most part, did not maintain the property sufficiently.

Fortunately, today the property is a shining example of a Route 66 survival and success story. The Patel family, immigrants from India who had operated a nearby motel since the mid-80s, purchased #7 in 2002. Despite its poor condition, the Patel family worked diligently to restore the property to its former glory. The property was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. Today you can still take the opportunity to “Sleep in a Wigwam” and add your own story to the history of the highway.

Wigwam Village #7, now the Wigwam Motel, is located at 2728 W. Foothill Blvd., Rialto/San Bernadino, CA. For information, visit the Wigwam Motel website or call 909-875-3005. The property is wheelchair accessible and pet friendly.

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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.

Inspired 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 Mayan motif.

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 country.

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 626-358-3231.

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Foothill Boulevard Milestone (Mile 11), Pasadena, California
That 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.

The 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
“Churrigueresque” 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 scrolled imposts.

Though 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.

These 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.

Construction 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.

The 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.

The 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.

After 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.

The 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
The 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.

The 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."

Designers 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.

Roof-top 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.

The 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.

The 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 show.

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.

The 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.

Arroyo Seco Parkway Los Angeles, California

A drive through the Arroyo Seco is a ride through history. Some call the Arroyo Seco Parkway the starting point for Los Angeles car culture. It was the first “freeway” in the West and an engineering marvel of its time. Add to that the distinction and imprint of historic Route 66 and you have the makings for the perfect adventure by car.

By 1920, Los Angeles was already under the spell of the automobile. Although well-developed interurban trolley lines were enabling the city’s sprawling character, the automobile was widely recognized as the future. Anyone caught in the 5 o’clock crush downtown would say the future had already arrived, as thousands of gridlocked cars kept the trolleys from running on time. Traffic congestion was a problem with which city planners were already engaged. And since the city was a nascent metropolis at the dawn of the automobile age, it was better positioned than any other city in the nation at that time to plan future development around the car.

It did so only gradually, however. Various regional plans, beginning as early as 1907, called for first an overarching grid of Parisian-style boulevards, then a network of landscaped parkways, and finally, as the Second World War approached, a region-wide system of limited-access highways that, for better or worse, became a model for the rest of the nation and indeed the world.

The first link in this system would be a 6.2-mile stretch of highway called the Arroyo Seco Parkway, which straddled the design line between parkway and freeway. It ran primarily along the water course of the Arroyo Seco, a tributary of the Los Angeles River that snaked southward from the San Gabriel Mountains north of Pasadena’s Rose Bowl through the Arroyo Seco canyon and into downtown Los Angeles.

Upon its completion in 1940, it was designated an alignment of Route 66 becoming the first stretch of the Mother Road to run over a modern, limited-access highway in the nation. If the spread of the freeway concept, eventually embodied by the national Interstate Highway System, spelled the beginning of the end for Route 66, the Arroyo Seco Parkway still stands as a remarkable piece of urban transportation history and holds a unique place in the story of Route 66.

The final form of the Arroyo Seco Parkway proved to be a hybrid of the scenic parkway aesthetic and the then-developing idea of a high-speed, limited-access freeway. Grade-separated overcrossings for existing streets, combined with on- and off-ramps (woefully short by modern standards) placed it squarely in the freeway camp. But the fact that it was heavily landscaped with native plants, and that it ran through dedicated parkland for much of the route in Los Angeles, including going through Elysian Park near downtown via a series of four tunnels, gave it much of the character of a parkway. These are the only known tunnels along the entire route of Route 66. To the contemporary observer, it feels much more like a parkway, despite many compromises to the landscaping for safety purposes over the years.

As you travel the route, pay particular attention to the many bridges under which the Parkway passes, including the graceful 750-foot long steel historic Santa Fe’s Arroyo Seco Railroad Bridge (now the Metro Gold line) that spans across the entire Arroyo Seco and passes 100 feet overhead. Most of these bridges maintain their historical integrity, and their varied construction styles present a very different design aesthetic than more contemporary freeway architecture. This is even more the case for the four Figueroa Street tunnels that carry northbound traffic through Elysian Park. The Art Deco design of the tunnels marks them unmistakably as from another era, and you will immediately recognize them from countless film and television productions. There is a gateway sign welcoming a northbound traveler to South Pasadena constructed of arroyo stones taken from the watercourse that fits the region’s importance to the Arts & Crafts Movement.

Travel along Route 66 during World War II, which the U.S. entered just a year after the Parkway was competed, was light, and the bulk of the traffic along the new alignment would have been local. But as travel boomed after the war and the Route 66 experience began to grab the national imagination ever more tightly, those who sojourned along it to the Pacific experienced the Arroyo Seco Parkway as a shining new example of the future of highway travel in America. Speed and convenience, the driving forces behind the automobile’s rise earlier in the century, were now reflected in highway design. If this had the ultimate effect, as many would argue, of disconnecting highways from their local context, few stretches of road can make you feel more rooted in a place than does the Arroyo Seco Parkway.

The Arroyo Seco Parkway (California State Route 110) runs northeasterly from the Four-Level Interchange with U.S. 101 just outside downtown Los Angeles (mile post 23.69) to East Glenarm Street in Pasadena (mile post 31.89). It is a National Civil Engineering Landmark, a National Scenic Byway, and the first of just two California Historic Parkways (the other being S.R. 163 through Balboa Park in San Diego). In 2011, the Parkway and associated features were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Arroyo Seco Parkway Historic District. Also of interest is N. Figueroa Street, which parallels much of the Parkway just to the west. Figueroa carried the previous alignment of Route 66 beginning in 1931, and after completion of the Parkway was Alternate 66. This is the main street of downtown Highland Park (a district of Los Angeles) with destinations associated with Route 66 to visit and explore. Traveling both today provides telling views of two different historical experiences along the Mother Road in Los Angeles and the Arroyo Seco region of Southern California. Return to top

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.

Broadway 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.

Perhaps the 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.

The 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.

The 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 its website.  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.