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Longtime Route 66 museum curator Wanda Queenan dies August 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Businesses, Museums, People.
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Wanda Queenan, 91, longtime currator of the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, and co-owner of the now-closed Queenan’s Indian Trading Post on Route 66 on the edge of town, has died, according to her daughter.

Kiesau-Lee Funeral Home in Clinton, Oklahoma, is in charge of arrangements. I’ll post more information about the funeral as soon as I get it.

Wanda and her husband, Reese, built Queenan’s Indian Trading Post on Route 66 on Elk City’s west side in 1948. According to Michael Wallis’ book about Oklahoma, “Way Down Yonder in the Indian Nation”:

For many years the Queenans offered tourists a selection of Indian pottery, beadwork, jewelry, and rugs, and also sold supplies to Indians who lived in the region. Although her husband died in 1962, Wanda stayed on and kept the trading post open. But when the interstate came and the oil patch went sour, business at the trading post suffered. Wanda stopped buying and sold out her remaining stock.

“We didn’t get rich, but this trading post was something we really loved,” says Wanda. “It was great fun out her on Route 66.”

One of the survivors of the trading post — a 14-foot-tall kachina doll made of oil drums and scrap metal from a local Indian named Johnny Grayfish in 1962 and nicknamed Myrtle — was renovated and donated to the National Route 66 Museum in 1990, where it stands sentinel today.

 

Queenan became the museum’s curator about that time and was often seen greeting customers in the gift shop.

UPDATE: Funeral information. Worth reading, but here are some excerpts:

Funeral Services for Wanda Queenan, 91, Clinton resident will be held 10:00 Tuesday, August 26,2014 in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latte-Day-Saints, officiated by Bishop Dan Turner. Burial will follow in the Elk City Cemetery under the direction of the Kiesau-Lee funeral Home. [...]

Wanda never seemed to think she accomplished that much. She is only an icon of the Mother Road, friend of historian Michael Wallis who has written many books and filmed documentaries of Rt. 66 which have included Wanda, She is the character of Lizzie in Cars. John Lasseter Pixar Director has consulted Wanda for her views and life story on the Mother Road; look at the end of the credits, you’ll see her name there! If you Google her, there’s her picture. Look at the museum grounds you will see the two giant totem poles Myrtle and Yatahey (aka Don’t Shoot Me, I’ll Marry your daughter) that once stood proudly on the grounds of the trading post. They were purchased by the city of Elk City when the Route 66 museum was coming to fruition. Myrtle is an international celebrity along with Wanda who has been interviewed by International and National organizations extensively. [...]

Quote from JACK starring Robin Williams-
I don’t have very much time these days so I’ll make it quick. Like my life. You know, as we come to the end of this phase of our life, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future. Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.

(Hat tip to Michael Wallis; photos courtesy of Guy Randall, K. Latham and 66Postcards.com)

National Trust wants Painted Desert facility restored August 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Preservation.
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation is lobbying to preserve and restore the nearly 50-year-old Painted Desert Community Complex inside the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

The complex is the only building designed by acclaimed architect Richard Neutra in the National Park Service system. The building was brought a then-unusual Mid-Century Modern style to the park.

According to the Trust:

Sitting just steps from historic Route 66 and located inside one of Northern Arizona’s  most spectacular and scientifically significant natural landscapes, the Painted Desert Community Complex is an often overlooked Modern treasure. Noted Modern architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander carefully designed the collection of 36 steel, glass, and masonry buildings with flat roofs, low silhouettes, primary colors, and native plantings to harmonize with the stunning vistas that surround it. Neutra and Alexander’s bold design set a precedent for a new style of park architecture, which became known as “Park Service Modern.”

Today the Complex is one of the earliest and best examples of Modern architecture within the entire National Park system, and the only remaining example of a Neutra-designed building within the Park Service. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and is on its way to becoming a National Historic Landmark. [...]

Virtually all of the original buildings remain, and they continue to serve many of the same functions today. But a perennial lack of funding for repairs and maintenance, combined with the harsh desert climate and earlier inappropriate alterations, have taken a serious toll on these dramatic Modern buildings and landscapes.

In a blog post, the Trust explained why it’s championing the Painted Desert Community Complex:

In April 2014 the National Trust designated Painted Desert as one of its National Treasures to recognize its unique role in the history of our National Parks and to draw attention to the need for funding and technical assistance to restore it as a beautiful and practical Modern icon that complements the stunning natural landscape around it. National Trust staff, including members of the Preservation Green Lab, are working closely with the Park Service and Superintendent Brad Traver, and Arizona partners Modern Phoenix and the Arizona Preservation Foundation, to raise awareness of and support for this little-known Modern landmark. Drawing on the expertise of well-known restoration and sustainability consultants, the National Trust hopes to provide critical guidance for a model restoration that will return the Complex to its original appearance, integrate sustainable materials and systems (and hopefully achieve net zero energy consumption), and serve as an example for the treatment of Mission 66 resources throughout the Park Service. With this kind of strong, cooperative effort focused on preservation, the public can look forward to another 50 years of service from these irreplaceable assets, each a part of the century-long story of our national parks.

The Trust has listed ways to help the complex, including donating to its campaign, signing a petition to encourage its restoration, and following it on social media. More photos of the complex may be seen here.

(Image of the Painted Desert Community Complex by Petrified Forest via Flickr)

New statues coming to Route 66 in Illinois August 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, History.
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A series of new statues and wayside kiosks will be erected in nine towns along Route 66 in Illinois, according to a news release.

The Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway project was paid for by grants from National Scenic Byway Program and the Illinois Office of Tourism. The new kiosks and statues add to the 31 wayside exhibits and 14 “experience hubs” already up on the Mother Road.

Two-dimensional iron structures, called “shadow statues,” show a scene from Route 66. They are:

  • Godley: Miner and Mule – An interpretation of strip-mining coal operations in Braidwood, Coal City, Carbon Hill, Diamond, and Godley until the mid-1970s.
  • Elwood: Rosie the Riveter – A symbol of the female worker during World War II at the Elwood Arsenal factory.
  • Pontiac: Motorcycle Police – At the historic Illinois State Police headquarters building, the statue tells of the early days of the Illinois State Police motorcycle patrol (pictured above).
  • McLean: Dixie Gas Attendant – It interprets Illinois’ oldest truck stop, Dixie Truckers Home, that opened in 1928. It also features the McLean railroad depot.
  • Elkhart: Shirley Temple – It tells the story of actress Shirley Temple’s visit to the House by the Side of the Road Cafe in 1938.
  • Sherman: Wayside Park – It depicts a picnic during Route 66′s heyday at one of its surviving wayside parks.
  • Gillespie: Miner – Another coal-mining town, it proved crucial to the development of labor unions.
  • Benld: Coliseum Ballroom Dancers – The biggest dance floor between Chicago and St. Louis attracted large crowds, many of them top-name performers. The Coliseum burned down in 2011.
  • Staunton: Illinois Traction System – Electrified railways connected travelers before Route 66 became a major highway. The rail lines were phased out by the mid-1950s.

(Image of the Motorcycle Police statue that will be at the historic Illinois State Police headquarters on Route 66 in Pontiac, Illinois)

Albuquerque asks for proposals for De Anza Motel August 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Motels, Preservation.
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The City of Albuquerque recently requested proposals to redevelop the historic De Anza Motor Lodge after two plans fell flat in recent years. However, one prominent business group is recommending a partial teardown of the motel.

A group of Albuquerque business owners put together a list of recommendations of what it would like to see on the site, reported Albuquerque Business First. The newspaper quoted O’Niell’s Irish Pub owner Robert Munro, president of Nob Hill Main Street.

“We’ve spent time studying the site and looking at the figures for what would be the best and highest use,” Munro told Business First. “What happens at this site is a bellwether for the future of East Nob Hill.”

Main Street’s recommendations are for a mixed-use development that includes restaurants, 48 hotel rooms, 41 apartments and a Route 66 museum.

Munro said the city’s RFP aligns well with his group’s recommendations. “We’re sensitive to its historic significance as was the city. We both felt like retaining the Central [Avenue] frontage was important and both felt it was important to save the murals,” Munro said. The RFP provides a potential $400,000 financial incentive for keeping historic murals accessible.

The Albuquerque Journal also elaborated on the $9.9 million proposal:

[T]he property’s three buildings fronting on Central and a basement with murals by a Zuni artist would be preserved and renovated.

While the city’s RFP doesn’t get into details on what happens to the rest of the property, the hypothetical plan calls for tearing the rest down and replacing it with a 45-room hotel and 41 apartments, both in three-story buildings. The hotel and apartment would share a clubhouse, fitness center and swimming pool.

The hotel and apartments would be built atop “subterranean” or partially underground parking structures.

And, according to KOAT in Albuquerque, the city is offering $400,000 in incentives to anyone who redevelops the property.

The motel is on the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register of Cultural Properties, so demolishing even a part of it would carry significant hurdles. However, at least one report says even a full redevelopment of De Anza would carry only a “marginal” profit margin. So a partial demolition may be a best-case scenario for the property. De Anza has seen two developers in recent years walk away from renovating the historic property.

The deadline for proposal submissions is January.

De Anza is at 4301 Central Ave. S.D. Hambaugh, a tourist court operator from Tucson, Arizona; and C.G. Wallace, a trader for the Zuni Indian tribe, built De Anza Motor Lodge in 1939. It closed during the 1990s. De Anza received some recent notoriety when it was included in a scene in the acclaimed “Breaking Bad” television drama.

(Image of De Anza sign by Boortz47 via Flickr)

Traveling Route 66 exhibit planned for Europe August 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Highways, History.
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Three men are planning an unprecedented traveling Route 66 exhibit that will be taken around Europe — which is a hotbed of enthusiasm for the Mother Road.

The men planning the exhibit are Jim Farber, who helped shepherd the current “Route 66: The Road and the Romance” exhibit at the Autry National Museum at Los Angeles; Stephen White, who has curated several international photo exhibitions; and Jonathan Spaulding, who recently oversaw the design and collection for the Brisco Museum in San Antonio.

Farber said in an email the exhibit is in its “very preliminary” stages of planning, but he remained confident it will happen. No timetable was given.

Here is the news release for the planned exhibit:

Every year thousands of Europeans, and visitors from nations around the globe, visit the United States in order to experience a journey along America’s most famous highway, Route 66 — the historic Mother Road, the Main Street of America. Yet there has never been a major international museum exhibition devoted to the rich cultural history of this iconic highway and the role it has played in inspiring some of the world’s greatest literature, painting, photography and popular culture, as well as the pioneering architecture of the gasoline station, the motor court and the neon sign. “Route 66: Song of the Open Road” is a proposal designed to bring that experience to a global audience for the first time in all its unique dimensions.

Among the expected contributors to an international touring exhibition are the famous artist, Ed Ruscha, Pixar, producers of the animated feature, “Cars,” Google, and the Route 66 Alliance, as well as a number of important collectors and institutions with holdings of Route 66 material. A checklist is in preparation. While much of the emphasis will be on the art inspired by the highway, there will also be a selection of artifacts that will create a balance between culture and aesthetics.

Design strategies may create sensory environments that bring the experience of the road to life. Paintings, photographs, music, film, literary manuscripts, clothing, and ephemera will mingle with large-scale elements such as neon signs, classic cars, and gas pumps, all important elements of the life of the road. A central concept of the exhibition is to combine the high and the low, the common and the rare, in a democratic journey through one of the world’s most important cultural touchstones.

Support is strong among potential lenders. Sponsors are actively being sought, as is a major European or international institution to host what should be one of the most iconic American exhibitions to tour overseas in recent years.

For additional information contact Stephen White at fotodazela(at)gmail(dot)com.

If the exhibit comes together and proves popular across the pond, it could prove to have a huge impact on Route 66 tourism by bringing a new batch of travelers on the road.

Red Oak II now offering overnight stays July 31, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Motels, People, Railroad.
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Red Oak II, a vivid re-creation of a now-vanished town by folk artist Lowell Davis, recently started offering overnight stays in cabins reclaimed from a former Route 66 motel in Duquesne, Missouri, reported the Joplin Globe in a feature story about Davis and his complex near Carthage, Missouri.

Also, a former mayor who resides at Red Oak II plans to install a small railroad depot at the complex.

And Jim Woestman, the former mayor of Carthage who built a home at what Davis calls “the back” of Red Oak II in which to retire. Davis has a “small project” in progress with Woestman: A train station.

“We have everything else but a train station,” Davis said. “We figured we needed one.”

Woestman also moved in the duplex cabins that once formed the Star Motel and Trailer Court at Newman and Duquesne roads in Duquesne, which he opened to vacationers for the first time earlier this month.

Neither the article nor the Red Oak II website contained more details about the cabins. However, a post July 23 on the Facebook page of Red Fork II said overnight stays were available and to call 417-237-0808 for more information.

We reported in March 2013 about Red Oak II moving the Star Motel cabins, including this photo. The cabins are 1920s-style duplexes that actually were built in the 1970s.

On a side note, the Globe article mentions Red Oak II was inspired by the small town of Red Oak on Route 66 northeast of Carthage. However, I’ve found no records of a town by that name in any reference materials about Route 66.

However, the small settlement of Red Oak may be found on State Highway YY and County Road 2032 in rural La Russell, Missouri. It is essentially a ghost town, but it does have a few remaining houses and a church, which you can see in this Google Street View image:


View Larger Map

The old Red Oak sits about 2.8 miles north of Highway 96, which is old Route 66 in that part of Missouri.

(Hat tip: Ron Hart)

 

Bob Waldmire art featured at Harley-Davidson Museum exhibit July 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, Motorcycles, People, Photographs, Vehicles.
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The artwork of Bob Waldmire, the famed and beloved Route 66 artist who died of cancer in 2009, is featured in a current show at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

“The American Road,” which began June 14, “takes visitors on a journey highlighting the evolution of the quintessential American road trip from its early beginnings in 1930 to what it has come to represent in pop culture today,” according to a news release. It features photographs, film footage, slide shows and travel memorabilia.

Waldmire’s artwork is prominently featured Gallery 3 of the show, which displays a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu that was custom-painted by him. I’m pretty sure that’s vehicle is owned by Dave Jostes of Rochester, Illinois, who has showed up with the car to several Waldmire-related events.

Waldmire’s spiral notebooks and sketches — including some of the earliest of his career — also will be displayed.

Waldmire’s legendary 1972 Volkswagen minibus still can be seen at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, along with a schoolbus he converted into living quarters for a time. And his intricate artwork can be bought here and at souvenir shops on the Mother Road. Waldmire also served as the indirect inspiration to the Fillmore VW minibus character in the Disney-Pixar “Cars” films.

The photography of Jeff Kunkle, co-founder of Vintage Roadside, also is featured in the gallery.

“The American Road” will run at the museum until Sept. 1.

(Images courtesy of Harley-Davidson Museum; hat tip to Ace Jackalope)

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