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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:


View Larger Map

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.

Summer in St. Louis July 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Restaurants, Sports, Towns.
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A friend on Facebook posted this a few days ago, and it certainly will make former residents of the Gateway City homesick. If nothing else, maybe it’ll encourage a few Route 66 travelers to hang around the city for a few days.

Here is St. Louis from Grain Inc. on Vimeo.

The exceptional video was created by Grain Inc. of St. Louis. Whoever paid them got their money’s worth.

(Image of the St. Louis Arch by princesskoko via Flickr)

Film footage of two Route 66 landmarks during the 1980s July 7, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Motels.
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The Facebook page of the Dutch Route 66 Association recently uncovered some footage from the 1980s of two Route 66 landmarks.

One is John’s Modern Cabins, which had been abandoned for about 15 years and was already declining when the footage was shot. It was located east of Arlington, Missouri.

We’d managed to uncover quite a bit of history — including a homicide — about John’s Modern Cabins, which was published in a story in the summer 2001 issue of Route 66 Magazine (back issues may be ordered here). A more concise history may be found here.

The second piece of 1980s footage is from Ella’s Frontier in Joseph City, Arizona, not long after it closed. According to the person who posted the video, Ella Blackwell owned the place until she died in 1984. More about Ella’s Frontier can be found in this history piece here.

Both videos came from the recordpickers account on YouTube. He or she has some other vintage footage you might find of interest.

(Image of John’s Modern Cabins sign by Larry Myhre via Flickr)

NBC Nightly News airs segment about Route 66 July 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Motels, People, Restaurants, Television.
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NBC Nightly News aired a two-minute segment about Route 66 on Tuesday night.

If you missed it, you can check it out below, or hit the above link if the embedding doesn’t work. It painted a very flattering picture of the old road.

The segment by correspondent Harry Smith features a stretch of Route 66 in western Arizona and California. You’ll see Cool Springs Camp, Topock 66 Resort and Spa, Roy’s and a few other places.

And Wigwam Motel operator Kumar Patel has turned out to be quite an ambassador for the Mother Road.

Here’s a bonus video, posted online:

A history of Cadillac Ranch July 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, History, People, Vehicles.
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On Sunday, the Amarillo Globe-News published a well-researched story about the history of the Cadillac Ranch art installation just off Route 66.

Cadillac Ranch marked its 40th anniversary June 21 — four days after owner Stanley Marsh 3 died at age 76.

The story provides behind-the-scenes details about how Cadillac Ranch came about. I urge you to read the story in its entirety. A few highlights:

— The Ant Farm art collective, which came up with the idea, didn’t strictly have Amarillo on its radar. It compiled a list of millionaires who might be receptive to having the art installation on their land, and Marsh was on the list.

— Ant Farm member Hudson Marquez drew up Cadillac Ranch after seeing the book “The Look of Cars” in a bar near San Francisco. One section of the book dealt with the rise and fall of tail fins as a part of car design.

— Marquez and fellow Ant Farm members Chip Lord and Doug Michaels were paid $2,000 for the artwork and given a $3,000 budget to procure materials, including Cadillacs bought mostly from junkyards in the Texas Panhandle.

— The hard earth allowed the cars to keep the correct angle once they were lowered into the ground. A British artist working for Marsh on another project, whose name apparently is lost to history, proved vital in installing Cadillac Ranch.

— The newspaper estimated if Cadillac Ranch was visited by only 70 people a day, it would have totaled more than 1 million visitors. It’s safe to say the number is probably two to three times that.

— The Globe News published a letter from Marsh to the Ant Farm that posed questions about the project. One excerpt:

If we put the Cadillac Ranch on Highway 66, near my airport, would the bodies of the Cadillacs lean toward the highway? (south) or would they lean toward the prairie? (north). That’s an important consideration. Also, I’m worried about putting it overlooking the highway because I’m afraid some Ladybird-Johnson kind of ecology freak would claim that it was junk and not art and make me fence it off, so perhaps we would have to read the regulations concerning junk car lots in Amarillo, in Potter County, in Texas and on U.S. Interstates, and place it far enough back so that it would conform. Of course, it might be better fenced off from view.

After Marsh’s death last month, it was learned Cadillac Ranch was placed in a trust and that the installation would remain unchanged. That was doubtlessly done to protect Cadillac Ranch from a slew of lawsuits that allege Marsh committed sex acts with teenage boys in his Amarillo office.

Ordinarily, Cadillac Ranch would become eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by 2024 — its 50th anniversary. But in 1997 Marsh moved Cadillac Ranch one mile from its original spot to escape Amarillo’s sprawl. That move damages its chances for National Register status, and likely would delay it to 2047.

(Sunrise image of Cadillac Ranch by Lotus Carroll via Flickr)

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