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Original sign re-installed at Boots Motel April 30, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation, Signs.
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Workers from the Wilhite Signs delivered and installed a replica of the original Boots Court sign at the historic Boots Motel in Carthage, Mo.

Wilhite was the sign company that installed the original Boots Court sign when the Route 66 motel was built in 1939. The sign and its color scheme later was changed to Boots Motel.

According to a Facebook post from the motel:

Now, the new owners are restoring this Mother Road icon back to the 1949 era…both inside and out! The recent pitch roof is also gone and the Art Deco-Modern style of architecture that was popular in the 30’s is back again. Five rooms in the rear 1946 addition have been restored and work is beginning on the remaining eight rooms in http://route66news.com/wp-admin/post-new.php#category-allthe original structure.

The neon is next and a re-lighting event is coming soon!

More photos from the sign installation:

(Photos courtesy of Debye Harvey)

Was the wrong developer chosen for De Anza? April 30, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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A guest column in the Monday edition of the Albuquerque Journal suggests the redevelopment of the historic De Anza Motor Lodge stalled  because a city agency overruled an independent panel’s recommendation for the property.

John Bloomfield said the city should have followed the recommendation to hire NewLife Homes to rejuvenate the Route 66 property. NewLife guided the rebirth of the Luna Lodge into low-income housing and recently started renovating the Sundowner Motel for a similar reuse. Both motels are on Route 66.

Meanwhile, current De Anza developer Rob Dickson has seen multiple delays, including one that may endanger the entire project. A previous developer for De Anza bailed after several years of little activity.

Bloomfield wrote:

The De Anza would have been developed by now if the recommendation from the independent selection panel, tasked with reviewing and ranking developer proposals, had not been overturned by the Albuquerque Development Commission. [...]

The independent selection panel ranked nonprofit developer NewLife Homes first, with the highest score. The lowest score went to the developer who was recommended by the Albuquerque Development Commission. Given the issues and delays this particular developer had with prior city-funded projects, it is not surprising that the De Anza continues to sit idle.

Projects like the De Anza have had a history of for-profit developers promising, but not delivering, and going back to the city for more funds.

This begs a question: Why did the Development Commission ignore the panel’s findings and choose a lesser applicant to renovate De Anza?

Zuni trader and Indian art collector Charles G. Wallace built De Anza in 1939. The long-vacant motel, at 4301 Central NE, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

(Image of De Anza Motor Lodge by Debora Drower, via Flickr)

Route 66 exhibit opens at Springfield, Mo., museum April 29, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Highways, History, Museums.
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A new exhibit about a local history of Route 66 – “Woodruff’s Dream: The Mother Road Through Springfield” — opened over the weekend at the History Museum on the Square in downtown Springfield, Mo.

It speaks a lot for the exhibit when Tonya Pike, a local who’s very well-versed about Route 66, said it made a favorable impression on her. She said in an email:

It was a very nice opening and honestly, I wasn’t the biggest supporter of this display.  But even I was impressed with all the things they had on display and the thoroughness they’ve done showcasing the businesses along Route 66 in Springfield through the years. [...]

Two special treats — an entire room devoted to Campbell’s 66 Trucking and a special video done by Springfieldian Lou Whitney about eating at Red’s … and filmed entirely at Red’s.  Somehow I think Red & Julia would be proud and honored it’s playing non-stop in the display area devoted to diners.  They were very special people to me.  And yes, lots of reprints from “Show Me 66″ and the Route 66 Magazine, and lots of references to Skip Curtis’ books.

There is also one photo of a painting of the Square, circa mid-50’s,  The exhibit also features the paintings of Jerry Rice, a local artist who has done a series of of paintings of Springfield, all circa mid-50’s to early 60’s … and many featuring the cars of local car enthusiasts.  My dad’s ’56 Fury is in the painting showing the Sky Ranch Drive Inn, which was at College and Kansas, on Route 66 and is in the Diners exhibit area.

Pike also emailed several photos from the exhibit, including the Rice painting and the Campbell display.

“Woodruff’s Dream” will remain on display through Aug. 31.

UPDATE 5/5/2013: The Springfield News-Leader today posted a long article about the  exhibit and Springfield’s history with Route 66.

An NPR commentary about the “Route 66″ TV show April 28, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Radio, Television.
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In 2003, Larry Cohen delivered this commentary about the 1960s television drama, “Route 66,” on WRVO-FM, a National Public Radio station in New York state.

Cohen said he was inspired to do the piece after talking to the officers of Route 66 organizations.

On a related note, you can read about my chat with “Route 66″ star George Maharis from 2007.

Geoff Ladd resigns from Logan County Tourism April 25, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, People, Preservation.
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Geoff Ladd, director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County in Lincoln, Ill., resigned his post Wednesday so he could pursue “new employment opportunities,” according to the Lincoln Courier.

Ladd oversaw the bureau when the county saw a 30 percent increase in hotel tax revenue and helped draw the World’s Largest Covered Wagon from Divernon to Lincoln.

But what likely will be Ladd’s most lasting accomplishment is saving the long-neglected The Mill restaurant on Route 66 from the wrecking ball. The Mill has been mostly restored, and eventually will be converted into a tourism center.

Ladd said he would continue to serve on the Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County, keep working on The Mill, and live in the Lincoln area.

The full text of Ladd’s resignation letter can be read here.

Tourism board member Tim Keller told the Courier he was shocked by Ladd’s departure, but acknowledged city politics may have led to it.

Keller said with the recent news of the City of Lincoln wanting to take control over the bureau it played a role in his departure.

“I think it had an affect on Geoff and I didn’t expect this to happen,” said Keller.

If Keller’s speculation why Ladd resigned is true, apparently the City of Lincoln didn’t learn an important lesson — leave effective and talented people alone.

Palms Grill Cafe will close for six days to transition to new operators April 25, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants.
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The Palms Grill Cafe in downtown Atlanta, Ill., will close from April 30 to May 5 to allow for a transition for the restaurant’s new operators, the Atlanta Public Library Board said in a news release.

The board recently selected J-R Culinary Partners as the restaurant’s new managers. The lease for the previous manager was not renewed, as the board was dissatisfied with the Route 66 restaurant’s hours.

From the news release:

The Grill will reopen on Monday, May 6th. Its new days and hours of operation will be expanded, so you’ll now be able to enjoy its historic atmosphere and great food seven days a week, from 7am until 9pm daily. [...]

In addition to maintaining The Grill’s traditional diner menu, including grilled Spam and fried baloney, J-R Culinary Partners will introduce a new set of daily blue plate specials, plus an array of new baked goods, including Ronda’s delicious homemade cinnamon rolls.  The front of The Grill will keep its period 1935 look, while the backroom will feature a circa 1940s supper-club atmosphere, with tablecloths, candles, and an upscale menu of such items as Steaks, Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Grilled Halibut, Welsh Rarebit, and weekend dinner specials including Catfish, Prime Rib, and Oven-Fried Chicken.

The Palms Grill, which opened in 1934, closed in the late 1960s. The restaurant was restored in 2009, and quickly became a must-stop for Route 66 travelers.

Evicted dinosaur coming to Route 66 in Arizona April 25, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Art, Attractions, Businesses.
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A huge dinosaur statue that was evicted from a Southern California neighborhood over a zoning dispute is being moved to Route 66 at Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona.

The 40-foot-long apatosaurus was installed at the Zoomars petting zoo in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. However, city officials nixed the statue. According to the Los Angeles Times:

The city sided with historical advocates who saw the dinosaur as an eyesore, cheapening the neighborhood’s real history, and others who just saw him as a nuisance.

Carolyn Franks, the zoo’s owner, has had to find a new home for the statue dubbed Juan the Capistrano Dinosaur.

Homeowners throughout Southern California have offered to put him in their yards, and a college professor wanted him on campus. But, ultimately, Franks settled on Grand Canyon Caverns, a tourist attraction in Peach Springs, Ariz., right on Route 66.

“I feel like a mom placing her baby,” said Franks, who drove out to the speck of a desert town before deciding it would be a good home for him. “I feel that dinosaur has brought a lot of joy to the zoo. I just want to share it with more people. I just want to put it in a good place.”

Grand Canyon Caverns, in addition to its motel, restaurant and canyon tours, also is home to a dinosaur of its own. But the new one is much more impressive. And it reportedly will be installed near the highway.

(Hat tip to Jim Conkle; image of the dinosaur at San Juan Capistrano, Calif., by Trader Chris, via Flickr)

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