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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.

Future of Shea’s Route 66 Museum likely won’t be known until next year October 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Museums, Preservation.
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What’s in store for the closed Shea’s Route 66 Museum in Springfield, Illinois, likely won’t be known until sometime early next year, reported the State Journal-Register newspaper.

The museum, long operated by former gas-station operator and gas memorabilia collector Bill Shea, closed except for appointments in late 2012 after Shea became too frail and was moved into a nursing home. Shea died at age 91 about a year later.

Bill Shea Jr. told the newspaper he now has station in his name after five months in probate court. Now that’s settled, the younger Shea said he’ll discuss the future of the property.

Nearing age 66, O’Shea Jr. said he plans to discuss the future of his father’s museum with his three adult children before making a decision. He added that there have been off-and-on discussions with city and local tourism officials about the future of one of Springfield’s biggest Route 66 tourism draws.

He said he would like to see Shea’s Route 66 Museum preserved but that he would not be part of day-to-day operations.

“I worked heavy equipment for 40 years and would go there after work,” Shea said. “It’s time to let them (his children) have it, or if they don’t want it, maybe sell it.”

Springfield had long discussed having a Route 66 visitors center at the Bel-Aire Motel, but backed away from the potential deal because of lack of money. Perhaps there’s another opportunity at Shea’s.

Bill Shea Sr. started his career in the filling-station business shortly after leaving the military in 1946 — which included being part of a harrowing D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach. He owned Marathon and Texaco stations in Springfield. Shea was old enough to remember when Route 66 in Springfield was paved with bricks.

Later, Shea converted a Marathon station on Route 66 into a museum of gas-station memorabilia. It included a 1920s gas station he moved from Middletown, Illinois. Shea greeted thousands of Route 66 travelers from dozens of countries at his museum.

Shea was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1993. Dec. 30, 2011, was declared Bill Shea Day in Springfield in honor of his 90th birthday.

(Image of Shea’s by Sandor Weisz via Flickr)

Roof of Richardson Store building collapses October 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, History.
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The roof and awning for the long-closed Richardson Store on Route 66 in Montoya, New Mexico, collapsed in recent weeks, reported an officer with the New Mexico Route 66 Association.

Andy House, president of the association, reports that the collapses probably occurred in August or September, after heavy rains in the region.

Here is an image of the store in June, before the collapse:

And here is what it looks like now:

House wrote in an email:

Unknown also is what disposition will be for it, but most likely it isn’t fit for a restoration, as it has sat closed and deteriorating for several decades now.

It’s also unknown if the owner as yet even knows about the collapse, but I do know a great many Route 66 cruisers stopped there for a photo op, and it’s not too cool a stop now.

The red sandstone store was built in the mid- to late 1920s by G.W. Richardson, an experienced storekeeper from Missouri, although he had a wooden-built store there as early as 1908. The store was set up to supply materials to ranchers, railroad workers and, later, highway construction laborers.

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.”

The store eventually was abandoned — according to one source, the mid-1970s — after the construction of Interstate 40 during the late 1950s. Richardson Store was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

It’s been a rough summer for parts of Route 66 in the Southwest. First, flooding tore up roadway and bridges in the Mojave Desert. And now this.

(Images courtesy of Andy House)

British photographer to open Route 66 show October 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, Photographs, Road trips.
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If you’re a reader who lives in the United Kingdom (and my host reports there is a substantial number) and are itching to experience Route 66, an upcoming photography exhibition might whet your appetite even more.

Martin Smith, a British fine-arts photographer, will open a show Tuesday at the Hertford Theatre in Hertford, England, featuring images from his trip on Route 66 last year.

The show opens Oct. 21 and ends Nov. 15. Hertford less than an hour north of London.

More about the show:

Route 66 once epitomised the American dream. The route took in eight states and 2500 miles as it linked Chicago in the east to Los Angeles in the west. Christened the “Mother Road” it has legendary status in popular music and film.

As interstate highways became established the road fell into decay as the towns it linked were bypassed. But today the spirit of Route 66 lives on. The people and places encountered along the journey make this the greatest road trip of them all.

Through a series of captivating images photographed over ten years Martin Smith has documented Route 66 during several journeys covering its length and breadth. A series of these images depicting the road, its old diners, gas stations and restored neon signs will be shown in this exhibition in Hertford, 20 miles north of London.

Martin will be available at selected times to meet visitors and discuss the stories behind the exhibits.

Those selected times where the photographer will be around are from 6:45 pm to 9:15 p.m. Oct. 24 (before a Fairport Convention concert at the theater), from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 5 and from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 13.

The theater’s hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday except for performance days, when hours are extended to 7:45 p.m.

If you can’t make it to the show, you can see many of Smith’s Route 66 photographs here.

(Images courtesy of Martin Smith)

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