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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)

 

Will Oscar Mayer buy the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle? July 31, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, History.
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Several media outlets in the St. Louis area reported the Oscar Mayer brand is interested in buying the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, which went up for sale earlier this month. However, at least one metro-east news website regarded the reports with skepticism.

The speculation was fueled by Oscar Mayer’s famous Wienermobile making an appearance at the Collinsville, Illinois, landmark this week after learning the water tower and adjoining warehouse property were for sale for $500,000.

Then the Riverfront Times, based in St. Louis, received a statement from the company Tuesday:

Oscar Mayer heard that the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle was for sale, so we just had to send out the Wienermobile to check it out. With six large hot dogs on wheels traveling across the country all year, we could use a worthy condiment.

The Consumerist website also got Oscar Mayer to confirm the company’s interest. A company rep said:

“The brand has been in touch with the bottle’s owner, and while they’re still in the early exploratory stage, both parties are very excited about the possibility.”

But the Metro Independent, one of the first outlets to report the landmark being for sale, labeled the Oscar Mayer interest as “premature”:

But Oscar Mayer is not ready to comment on their interest in the water tower and have not contacted the bottle’s owner, Bethel-Eckert Enterprises Inc. Larry Eckert, co-owner of Bethel-Eckert, said his only contact with any company representative was for permission to use an image of the Wienermobile with the catsup bottle in the background.

However, a media report surfaced Tuesday quoting a spokesperson saying both parties were excited about the possibility of a purchase. When contacted by The Metro Independent, a different Oscar Meyer spokesperson said the company would not comment further than the initial press release. The quote was later removed from the story.

It’s possible Oscar Mayer is negotiating with Bethel-Eckert, but with the somewhat-tardy instructions to keep statements on the lowdown until a deal is reached.

The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits near the site of a former Brooks Catsup factory. The 100,000-gallon water tower, painted to resemble a Brooks ketchup bottle, was built in 1949.

Brooks moved its operations to Indiana, but the big bottle remained. A preservation group restored it in 1995, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits about two miles south of the nearest alignment of Route 66 at Beltline Road in Collinsville. But it remains a popular side trip for Route 66 travelers.

(Image of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle by Erin and Lance Willett via Flickr)

Did Springfield, Missouri, miss the boat in promoting Route 66? July 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Restaurants, Towns.
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A few days ago, the Springfield News-Leader published a long, soul-searching piece titled “Selling 66″ that asks the question: Has Springfield, Missouri, done a good job promoting Route 66?

If you have to ask, you know the answer.

Springfield has realized its error and is trying new things to bring tourists, including the future Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park. And the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival seems to be growing fast.

The article is worth reading in full, including its cool photos. But here are a few newsworthy highlights and observations:

  • The Route 66 Economic Impact Study of 2011, as I predicted, opened a lot of eyes about how financially viable the Mother Road is. The conservative number of $132 million in annual tourism spending on Route 66 surprises a lot of people. Naturally, folks want a piece of that.
  • City Manager Greg Burris said not only tourists, but locals said Springfield wasn’t tapping its Route 66 potential.
  • Jackie and Larry Horton, tourists from Newcastle, England, said Missouri doesn’t promote the route as well as Oklahoma and other western states.
  • In a few weeks, an 18-foot-tall neon sign will be installed at the Convention and Visitor Bureau’s Route 66 center on St. Louis Street.
  • History Museum on the Square’s Route 66 show last year drew an “unprecedented” 10,000 visitors in six months. The museum is planning a permanent Route 66 exhibit after it finishes a $20 million renovation.
  • The number of visitors to the Route 66 Visitors Center doubled from 2012 to 2013 because officials added Route 66 signage.
  • Best Western Rail Haven owner Gordon Elliot plans to build a replica of the long-gone Red’s Giant Hamburg restaurant.

I suspect when the Route 66 roadside park and other such projects are finished, Springfield — and a lot of businesses there — will be very happy it took the trouble to do so.

(Image from the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven in Springfield, Mo., by the Missouri Department of Tourism via Flickr)

Will the Route 66 festival transform Kingman? July 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Motels, Museums, Restaurants, Towns.
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The Kingman Daily Miner newspaper posted an interesting article this week about Route 66′s growing economic influence and whether the upcoming International Route 66 Festival will transform the host town of Kingman, Arizona.

The article borrows heavily from the influential Route 66 Economic Impact Study and anecdotal evidence on how Route 66 affects other towns, including examples in Kingman itself.

The whole story is worth reading in full. But one angle that’s been overlooked is Kingman lacks a key Route 66 hub to attract significant crowds of tourists.

Here are several towns that thrive with Route 66 tourism because of a must-stop Route 66 hub, and a nearby town that often gets passed by because it doesn’t:

  • Stroud, Oklahoma, which has the Rock Cafe, vs. Bristow, Oklahoma.
  • Seligman, Arizona, which has Angel Delgadillo’s barbershop and the Snow Cap Drive-In, vs. Ash Fork, Arizona.
  • Pontiac, Illinois, which has the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, vs. Chenoa, Illinois.
  • Arcadia, Oklahoma, which has Pops and the Round Barn, vs. Luther, Oklahoma.
  • Tucumcari, New Mexico, which has the Blue Swallow Motel, vs. Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

That’s not to say that Kingman isn’t trying to set up a Route 66 hub. The Powerhouse Museum and Mr. D’z diner are worthwhile stops, but neither yet has the cachet of becoming indisputable destinations for Route 66 travelers.

This doesn’t mean Kingman should quit trying, either. Tulsa, for example, lacks a big destination for Route 66 travelers, but that doesn’t mean still-new Woody Guthrie Center or the long-planned Route 66 museum won’t eventually become one. In the case of Kingman, perhaps something else — such in its historic downtown — will eventually develop into a big attraction.

The point of this post is folks in Kingman shouldn’t get too excited over the effect of one little festival. If Kingman becomes transformed, it will be because of its entrepreneurs or historic preservationists over a period of years, not because of a four-day event.

(Image of the Kingman Club sign in Kingman, Arizona, by Tom Roche via Flickr)

World’s Largest Catsup Bottle up for sale July 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Preservation.
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The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, a landmark for decades in Collinsville, Illinois, has been put up for sale and faces a cloudy future, according to several St. Louis-area media outlets.

KPLR-TV posted this story today (the video isn’t embeddable). The Metro Independent, based in Collinsville, also had this report today:

Bethel-Eckert Enterprises Inc., owners of the warehouse below the 170-foot water tower, and the tower itself, are attempting to sale the icon voted as one of Time Magazine’s top 50 American roadside attractions in 2010.

Some lucky investor can buy the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle for $200,000, Larry Eckert, co-owner of Bethel-Eckert, said. He will throw in the warehouse and land for an additional $300,000, although he would prefer to sale it all together.

The newspaper said the owners quietly had the site for sale for some time and thought it had a buyer. However, that potential sale fell through.

The city of Collinsville was offered the site as a gift in 1995, and it turned it down. Bethel-Eckert isn’t willing to give it away again.

For obvious tourism reasons, the city wants to keep the landmark where it is. However, it doesn’t have much flexibility in making such a purchase. Instead, the city may look to helping sell it to a buyer who wants to preserve it.

The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits near the site of a former Brooks Catsup factory. The 100,000-gallon water tower, painted to resemble a Brooks ketchup bottle, was built in 1949.

Brooks eventually moved its operations to Indiana, but the big bottle remained. A local preservation group restored it in 1995, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits about two miles south of the nearest alignment of Route 66 at Beltline Road in Collinsville. But it remains a favorite side trip for Route 66 travelers.

(Hat tip: David Backlin; image of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle by Chuck Coker via Flickr)

Road to Our Lady of the Highways Shrine will close for repairs this fall July 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Highways, History, Religion.
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A badly deteriorated section of Interstate 55 west frontage road between Farmersville and Raymond in Illinois — best known as a section of Route 66 that passes in front of the historic Our Lady of the Highways Shrine — will be closed for repairs for several weeks starting in late September, according a story in The Journal-News in Hillsboro.

The newspaper said residents collected more than 1,000 signatures in petitions that urged the Illinois Department of Transportation to fix the road. I have little doubt the Route 66 tourism angle proved crucial in persuading the agency.

The Facebook page for the shrine this spring posted a photo of a tire damaged by the road. It also posted this message on April 7:

Due to poor maintenance by IDOT, it is not recommended that tourists take Historic 66 from Farmersville through Litchfield which includes the location of the Shrine. Many tires have been destroyed as well as rims. The deterioration is a hardship for those of us who live in the area but we’d hate to see your trip ruined.

We ask that you complain to IDOT as well as sign a petition which is available at the bars and gas stations in Farmersville. We hope that a thorough and complete resurfacing will be done but until then the West Frontage Road/US 66 is dangerous.

The Journal-News reported that resurfacing of the road will begin in late September, closing it for about three weeks. 

A few purists might mourn the covering up of old pavement in the area, but a road so decayed that Route 66 travelers can’t reliably use isn’t any good, either.

The Litchfield Deanery’s Catholic Youth Council raised money for the shrine in 1958, and the statue was dedicated Oct. 25, 1959, at the edge of Francis Marten’s farm. The marble statue of the Virgin Mary was imported from Italy; area youths built the wooden alcove, a brick base, a cobblestone walkway and lights around the statue. Total cost at the time was $900.

Francis Marten died in 2002, but family members continue to keep up the site.

(Hat tip to Peter Stork; image of Our Lady of the Highways Shrine by alan berning via Flickr)

Proposed landfill irks residents north of Riverton July 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions.
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Some people north of Riverton, Kansas, are opposing the Galena’s acquisition of 40 acres that may be turned into a landfill, according to an article in the Joplin Globe.

At least one foe tried to play the tourism card:

As a member of the Sierra Club and a former member of the Pittsburg tourism board, Jackson said she’s concerned the proposed landfill would pollute Spring River, as well as deter tourists from visiting the area.

The distance from Highway 69A, also known as the Frontier Military Historic Byway, to the proposed site is 16 feet, she said.

“I also measured how far it is from Route 66,” Jackson said, adding it was less than two miles.

According to Google Street View, the area is here:


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Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby pointed out the proposed site needs an engineering study, plus approval by the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment, before it can proceed. That’s 18 to 24 months away. He also said such a site would reduce landfill costs for county residents; trash currently has to be hauled to Lamar, Missouri — a distance of about 50 miles.

Concerns about possible river pollution, an alleged lack of public input on the project, and it possibly affecting the quality of life of nearby residents seem legitimate and should be considered.

But implying the landfill would hurt tourism on Route 66 is ludicrous. The distance of the site from the Mother Road is far enough that travelers never would be aware of it unless a resident mentions it. It simply wouldn’t be visible to Route 66 travelers. In this case, two miles is as good as a hundred.

Using Route 66 tourism as a cudgel to oppose every little development, without considering whether such tourists could care or even see it, seems misguided and ignorant.

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