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A visit to Amarillo’s Sixth Street District October 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Restaurants.
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This video produced by TourTexas.com features Tucker Yeldell — described as “a lost prospector, reluctant farmer and early Texas Panhandle settler” — touring some of his favorite spots on Route 66 in Amarillo.

Most of the tour is devoted to the city’s historic Sixth Street District, which is a terrific menagerie of antique shops, restaurants, bars and art galleries.

(Image of Sixth Street shops in Amarillo by Steve Herrera via Flickr)

Former owner of Club Cafe dies October 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, People, Restaurants.
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Ron Chavez, 78, a former owner of the long-closed Club Cafe in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, who later became noted as a writer and poet, died Oct. 15 in Albuquerque, reported the Taos News.

His daughter, Sonia Valdez, told the newspaper he died of complications from diabetes and a stroke. The family declined to give details about his services or burial.

The newspaper provided some background on Chavez’s early days:

Chávez was born June 18, 1936 in the valley of Puerto de Luna on the banks of the Pecos River near Santa Rosa in southern New Mexico.

“When I was 6 years old I traveled Route 66 to California straight out of my village of Puerto de Luna in 1942 when my father went to work in the shipyards building warships. There, I befriended the owner of the corner grocery store who charmed me with his stories of how he had fought with (Emiliano) Zapata in Mexico. I am captivated with Zapata to this day,” Chávez said in an article published in Tempo (September 2013).

In Santa Rosa he was the owner of the famous Route 66 Club Café. During that time, Chávez and his café enjoyed fame in major media, which included books, television, magazines and newspapers, according to an online bio. He was known as the “Route 66 Storyteller.”

Chavez owned the Club Cafe for nearly 20 years after he saved it from closing during the 1970s, according to an archived article in the Chicago Tribune. Club Cafe was known since 1935 for its sourdough biscuits, New Mexican cuisine and its trademark “smiling Fat Man” logo on signs and billboards.

The restaurant closed in 1992, with Chavez mostly blaming it on the opening of a McDonald’s up the road. After fitful and unsuccessful attempts to reopen the eatery, the remnants of Club Cafe and its signs were slated to be demolished this year.

Chavez eventually found himself reciting and writing poetry in Taos in both English and Spanish. Many of his stories and poems were collected in two books — “Winds of Wildfire” and “Time of Triumph” (my review of the latter here) — and were published in numerous magazines.

Here’s a video from 2011 of his poem-recital style:

Chavez said he often was inspired by delving into New Mexico’s centuries-old cultures of its Native American and Hispanic residents.

(Image of Ron Chavez in 2007 by santiagosintaos via Flickr)

A visit to Cuba Fest October 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, People.
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Frank Kocevar, the former co-owner of Historic Seligman Sundries, took his video camera to Cuba Fest this month in Cuba, Missouri, and chatted to a few folks there.

There might be a few folks you recognize.

In case you missed it, Kocevar and his wife Lynn recently sold Historic Seligman Sundries in Seligman, Arizona, to a couple from nearby Flagstaff, Arizona. Frank had said at the time he wanted to do a little more traveling on the Mother Road, and it appears he’s doing so.

Railroad confirms it’s removing deck from MacArthur Bridge October 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Railroad.
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This was reported 10 months ago, but the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis confirmed through a KPLR-TV report this week it is removing the automobile deck from the historic MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis.

The railroad told the TV station the deck was a risk to rail traffic.

“Trespassers, ya know, you don’t want them having access to the truss,” Eric Fields of the Terminal Railroad Association said. “And if you could do some damage to the truss, you interrupt navigation. You interrupt rail traffic. It was a concern on a national scale.”

Readers here already know this is happening, because Rich Dinkela reported it in December. Here’s a video he produced that explains the history of the bridge:

And this part of the station’s story is interesting in the disconnect:

Patti Saunders was among a number of Route 66 fans from across the country who contacted Fox 2 about the demolition of the deck.

“With all the efforts to bring Route 66 back to life, I would have thought more consideration would have been given to the historical value of this bridge,” she said.

But with security concerns, combined with bad location, the owners say it’s future as an automotive crossing has long since passed.

“The interstate connections just aren’t there,” Fields said. “The Poplar Street bridge has better connections. The” Stan the Man” span has better connections. Ead’s Bridge was restored. This was never going to be a vital road use again.”

Fields clearly is thinking of the bridge as a modern-day commuter link between the metro-east and St. Louis, while Route 66 tourists are thinking it can be used for tourism reasons, either as a sparsely used automobile path or a bicycle/pedestrian trail, such as the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

It should be noted that for decades, the bridge has been fenced off in East St. Louis and small part of the roadway deck removed in the middle.

At least nothing will happen to the bridge itself in the foreseeable future. It reportedly carries 30 to 40 trains daily and more than 100 million tons of cargo annually.

The MacArthur Bridge opened to traffic in 1917, back when it was called the St. Louis Municipal Bridge or Free Bridge. It was renamed for Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1942. It was one of several bridges that carried Route 66 over the Mississippi River.

(Image of the MacArthur Bridge in 2011 by cmh2315fl via Flickr)

Nonprofit challenges El Vado redevelopment plan October 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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A nonprofit group that has experienced success in rehabbing vintage Route 66 motels in Albuquerque is appealing the city’s selection of another group that wants to redevelop the historic El Vado Motel, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

According to the newspaper:

Albuquerque-based nonprofit NewLife Homes, which finished second in the selection process to eventual winner Palindrome Communities, is seeking City Council action to either reopen the proposal process for the El Vado site or cast aside the Palindrome proposal in favor of its own.

NewLife’s letter of appeal, dated Oct. 3, criticizes Palindrome’s selection on a number of grounds ranging from the quality of the redevelopment design to the fairness of the selection process. [...]

In the letter of appeal, NewLife Executive Director John Bloomfield alleges the Palindrome proposal, which calls for a mix of fairly specific uses and 60 apartments, was too cluttered, lacked good traffic flow and parking, and likely would not meet historic preservation standards.

In addition, Bloomfield says there is evidence that the selection process was “not fair and open.”

The NewLife redevelopment proposal calls for 70 apartments and 16,000 square feet of commercial and common space on the 2.7-acre site, which includes a neighboring property called the Casa Grande site.

The city says it made “a very careful decision” in picking Palindrome Communities over NewLife.

The interesting part is NewLife owns a lot of credibility in such projects, so its criticisms in this case probably shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. It successfully rehabilitated the Sundowner Motel and the Luna Lodge, both on Route 66 in Albuquerque, into housing for low-income or special-needs residents. So it will be interesting to see how this wrinkle works out.

Palindrome’s $15.9 million proposal calls for a community food court, an amphitheater, a boutique motel and a small events center on the El Vado part of the site. The adjoining Casa Grande part of the site will include 60 units of workforce housing. Groundbreaking is planned for 2016.

Regardless, it’s encouraging to see El Vado has what appears to be two developers motivated to do something interesting with the property that preserves it as well. At the least, El Vado has a backup plan.

Irish immigrant Daniel Murphy opened El Vado Auto Court Motel on Route 66 in 1937. It’s cited as one of the best examples of pre-World War II motels in New Mexico. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

El Vado closed in 2005 after new owner Richard Gonzales said he wanted to bulldoze it for luxury townhouses. The city seized the property a few years later after a long fight to save it.

(Image of El Vado Motel sign by Tadson Bussey via Flickr)

Fire destroys old A&W building in Carthage October 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Restaurants.
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A former A&W Restaurant near Route 66 in Carthage, Missouri, was destroyed by fire late Friday during the city’s annual Maple Leaf Festival.

After the A&W closed at that location, it became Hartman’s Mercantile, a secondhand store.

KODE-TV has a report about the fire:

The building was at 502 S. Garrison Ave., which is about a block south of where Route 66 turns from Garrison onto Oak Street.

According to A&W’s website, the restaurant’s signature root beer was created in 1919, and the first restaurant went up in 1924.

(Hat tip to Ron Hart)

East Route 66 gateway in Tulsa nearly done October 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Towns.
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The City of Tulsa began construction of its Route 66 gateway on the east side of the city earlier in the month.

Fewer than 10 days later, city planner Dennis Whitaker sent along these photos.

And longtime Route 66 afiscionado Brad Nickson put together this video of a drive-by of the gateway.

Tulsa Route 66 Gateway from Brad Nickson on Vimeo.

The east gateway is on on the north side of 11th Street (aka Route 66), just east of Interstate 44.

Crews now will start on the west gateway on Southwest Boulevard (aka Route 66) across from the Crystal City shopping center. That will require about a week of work.

Those are among the last Route 66 projects of Vision 2025 sales tax, approved in 2003. The last item will by the Route 66 Experience museum at the banks of the Arkansas River. The museum is planned as a public-private effort by the city and the Route 66 Alliance. The alliance will have to raise millions of dollars to cover its portion of the construction.

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