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Replica of historic hotel lobby re-created in Oklahoma Route 66 Museum June 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, History, Motels, Museums.
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As if you don’t have enough good reasons to visit the marvelous Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Celina Hawkins of the Odessa American in Texas explains why there’s another:

On Thursday, relatives and many others gathered inside the Route 66 Museum as the newest exhibit – an exact replica of the lobby of the Calmez (Cowl-mez) Hotel – was unveiled. About 15 years ago, I was fortunate to see the lobby, albeit dilapidated, but I imagined that in 1929, when my great grandfather Claude Calmes (Cowl-mees) opened the hotel, that it was quite grand. With marble floors and ornate accoutrements – it must have been beautiful indeed. [...]

He and his partner Elmer Crabbe pushed to get approval from the city and the chamber to build a 6-story hotel and eventually got their blessing in 1928. The hotel, which cost $500,000 opened in 1929 only weeks after the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. Claude’s vision was to open a hotel that could be a rest stop without too much extravagance to the booming community and to Route 66.

I don’t think I’d say the place was without extravagance. It had a palatial entrance with marble floors. There was a café and a bar downstairs and one on the main floor. There was also a mezzanine where folks could gather for coffee. Then upstairs, there was a lounge, where I could almost hear the echo of big band music playing as I squinted in the darkness to make out the room. There was apparently a stage and bar stools attached to the floor surrounded the bar, upholstered in red. The hotel, was lovingly called the Grande Old Lady by Clinton’s historic preservation crowd.

According to the Clinton Daily News, the exhibit contains an original Calmez Hotel neon sign and other memorabilia. The sign required about two years and $1,500 in restoration work.

The Calmez Hotel exhibit will be at the museum through December.

The Calmez was closed during the 1980s. It was condemned in 2000 and torn down — but not without much debate from Clinton residents who wanted it saved. And Hawkins’ mother managed to save a few bricks from the building before the wrecking ball came.

(Image of the Calmez Motel courtesy of 66Postcards.com)

A visit to the Midpoint Cafe June 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Restaurants, Television.
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KVII-TV reporter Larry Lemmons, based in Amarillo, traveled west on Route 66 to check out what was happening at the historic Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas.

This television segment was more in-depth than I anticipated, and it captures the atmosphere of the restaurant as well as anything.

Dennis Purschwitz and his wife Donna bought the Midpoint from longtime owner Fran Houser a little more than two years ago. The restaurant has remained essentially the same — much to the relief of longtime diners. But Purschwitz made a number of improvements to the midpoint sign across the road, which signifies the midpoint of Route 66.

(Image of the Midpoint Cafe’s interior by Drriss & Marrionn via Flickr)

A history of Bama Pies June 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Food, History, Restaurants.
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If you drive through Route 66 in Tulsa, you’ll probably notice a big beige building on the north side of 11th Street with the name Bama Pies.

It is part of The Bama Companies. This well-produced video by the company shows how it expanded from its mom-and-pop roots to becoming a multinational corporation.

Even if you’re a longtime Tulsa resident, I learned quite a few new things about Bama, and you probably will, too.

A History of the Bama Companies from Bama Companies on Vimeo.

It also shows how the growth of Bama is intertwined with another formerly mom-and-pop operation that became a corporate behemoth — McDonald’s.

(An image of one of Bama’s signs by Miles Smith via Flickr)

Federal historic tax credit put on National Trust’s watch list June 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation.
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Each year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation releases its list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

No Route 66 property made the 2014 list. However, what made the watch list should be of interest to Route 66ers — and all preservationists in general. Take note of the last item (you can skip ahead to 2:22 of the video):

The National Trust explained why the federal historic tax credit made the watch list:

The federal historic tax credit was created to attract private sector investment to the rehabilitation of America’s historic buildings. It offers developers a tax credit if a rehabilitation project retains the building’s historic character. The result is new life for the nation’s historic mills, warehouses, theaters and more—resources that would continue to sit vacant and dilapidated if not for the credit.

Since being signed into law by President Reagan, the federal historic tax credit has attracted $109 billion to the rehabilitation of nearly 40,000 historic commercial buildings in the U.S., creating 2.4 million jobs and sparking downtown revitalization nationwide. Now, there is a proposal in Congress to eliminate it in the context of tax reform, jeopardizing the potential reuse of historic buildings like these throughout the country.

The National Trust provided a link where people can write their senators about the issue.

One justification for a tax credit for rehabbing historic properties comes straight from the Route 66 Economic Impact Report:

Compared to new construction and such stimulus favorites as investing in highways, historic preservation — such as historic preservation of Route 66 properties — is a reasonably comparable, if not superior, economic pump primer.

As an example, the report said the per-dollar economic impact of commercial historic preservation in Oklahoma surpasses that of the insurance, highway construction, home construction, data processing, and meat-packing sectors.

Keeping the federal historic tax credit should be nonpartisan issue. Almost everyone wants to keep historic properties preserved, and the tax credit provides a boost to entrepreneurs who will use historic buildings for their businesses.

In a recent example, Allan Affeldt’s purchase of Hotel Castaneda (pictured above) in Las Vegas, New Mexico, probably wouldn’t have happened without historic tax credits. Instead, the long-closed but indisputably historically significant hotel would have continued to sit and decay, as it has for decades.

And any lawmaker ought to ask the residents of Winslow, Arizona, whether Affeldt’s saving of La Posada helped the economy of the town.

Go to the link from the National Trust to take action.

(Image of Hotel Castaneda by Aidan Wakely-Mulroney via Flickr)

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