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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)

Ariston Cafe put up for sale October 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants.
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The landmark Ariston Cafe, located on old Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois, and owned by the same family for 90 years, has been put up for sale for $1.2 million.

The restaurant was listed on an online real-estate site here by Gary Niemeier of Landmark Realty in nearby Edwardsville, Illinois.

Ariston co-owner Nick Adam, reached by phone Sunday, confirmed the decision to put the restaurant up for sale came about six weeks ago, but not without “a lot of tears. It was an emotional decision.”

“It’s time to sit back,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 48 years. But it’s definitely bittersweet. It was a difficult decision to make. I’m hoping some Route 66 aficionado can take it over. We’ve met so many wonderful people over the years.”

Adam, 76, insisted his decision to put the restaurant on the block is not health-related. But he noted running a restaurant is “a very demanding business. It’s hard to raise a family with that.”

On a related note, Nick Adam said Paul Adam, a third-generation manager of the Ariston, is not interested in taking over because of the time demands. “He’s a stay-at-home dad when he’s not here,” he said. “He wants to try something different.”

The listing includes the restaurant’s old-school counter seats and wooden booths that have been lovingly maintained over the years. The restaurant seats 200 and, according to the listing, generates $1.3 million in annual sales.

The restaurant also is almost directly across the street from the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center.

The Ariston started before Route 66 existed, in Carlinville, Illinois, which wound up being on the original alignment of the Mother Road in that region. The Ariston moved to Litchfield in 1935, a few years after Route 66 was realigned there.

The Ariston was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 and was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1992.

(Hat tip to Peter Stork; images of the Ariston Cafe by Larry Myhre and John Hartnup via Flickr)

Stories sought about certain Albuquerque businesses October 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, History, Signs, Towns.
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Two authors are seeking stories about several long-gone businesses along Route 66 in Albuquerque that used Zeon Corporation-designed signs to attract customers, according to a story in the Albuquerque Journal.

University of New Mexico professors Ellen Babcock and Mark C. Childs are working on a book titled “The Zeon Files” that will be published UNM Press late next year.

Zeon Corp. also was known as Electrical Products of New Mexico, and drawings from that company will be included in the book.

The Journal reported:

“We have about 70 pieces of work that we’re finding the stories behind,” Babcock said. “This was an amazing time for sign productions and a lot of the businesses would up the ante with their eye-catching designs.” [...]

Babcock said that, in the early 1970s, the city moved in a different direction and changed the ordinance for sign heights.

“It kind of squashed the exuberance of it all,” she said. “But looking at the drawings, you can see all the hard work and detail that went into each sign.” [...]

“We’re hoping to draw the people out and get a conversation started about the signs,” she said. “It was an interesting time to drive down Central and see all of these signs. Now they are gone and we want to preserve the stories.”

Among the businesses the duo needs stories from are Star Florist, Roadrunner Coffee Shop, Bimbo’s Drive Inn, Paris Shoe Shop and Eddie’s Inferno Cocktail Lounge.

Several examples of the Zeon Corp.’s blueprints for the signs can be seen here.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque also had a story:

Childs can be contacted through mchilds(at)unm(dot)edu and Babcock at ebabcock(at)unm(dot)edu.

(Excerpted Zeon Corp. drawing of Eddie’s Inferno Cocktail Lounge sign via Friends of the Orphan Signs)

A semblance of the Route 66 Rendezvous October 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Towns, Vehicles.
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This video by AmericaJR.com at the recently completed Rendezvous Back to Route 66 car show at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, California, is illuminating.

In short, this year’s event — presented by the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce — is an effort to keep a smaller version of the Route 66 Rendezvous alive. The original Rendezvous once drew more than 600,000 people on a typical weekend, but it was canceled after the 2012 show in the wake of the City of San Bernardino’s bankruptcy and the gutting of the San Bernardino Convention and Tourism Bureau.

One takeaway from the video is attendees are itching to take their classic cars back to San Bernardino’s streets — and Route 66. But chamber president Judi Penman made it pretty clear that’s not going to happen soon for a variety of reasons.

In the wake of the Rendezvous’ cancellation, the nearby city of Ontario, California, has hosted the Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion. However, Ontario never was on Route 66, and the event sits a good distance away from the Mother Road. So appropriating the Route 66 name seems, at the least, disingenuous.

(Image from the 2012 Route 66 Rendezvous by Thom Trafford via Flickr)

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