jump to navigation

Woman documenting every building on Albuquerque’s Route 66 October 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Photographs.
Tags: , , ,
1 comment so far

An Italian woman who is a graduate student at the University of New Mexico is photographically documenting every building and landmark on Route 66 in Albuquerque, according to a story on the university’s news service.

Donatella Davanzo, a University of New Mexico graduate student, walks along some part of Route 66 in Albuquerque almost every day, photographing the buildings, the street and the fragments of history still visible along the roadside.

Officially she is the Route 66 Fellow for the Center for Southwest Research at the UNM Libraries. Her job is to photograph every building of every block of Route 66 through Albuquerque. She is capturing the route as it looks in 2013-14 to save the view for future generations.

She has already walked every block from Tramway to Atrisco along Central Ave. methodically working from the mountains to the valley and out onto the mesa. [...]

Walking along the route, she thinks Albuquerque’s part of Route 66 is unique. “In Albuquerque you can watch the architecture of Route 66. This is special because you have Pueblo style, Spanish style and Mexican style that creates a fascinating mix. This is a very special part of Route 66.” [...]

Davanzo is now photographing the north/south portion of Route 66. At one point in its history, it ran along 4th Street. She is currently working her way from downtown toward the northern end of Bernalillo County.

It’s quite a challenge, as Albuquerque’s Central Avenue (aka Route 66) alone is nearly 20 miles long. Her project undoubtedly will be important for future researchers of the road.

In an email, Davanzo said she has more than 7,500 images, and all of them will be uploaded to the university’s Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections sometime next year.

Until then, you can see samples of her work at this Flickr account.

(Image of El Don Motel sign in Albuquerque by Donatella Davanzo for UNM via Flickr)

Book review: “Father of Route 66: The Story of Cy Avery” October 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Highways, History, People.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

Some may assume Cyrus Avery became known as “The Father of Route 66″ simply because he was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time when the highway became designated and federally certified in 1926.

But as Susan Croce Kelly’s well-researched new biography shows, Avery’s involvement in Route 66’s birth and its rise to worldwide fame was anything but an accident. The book — the first solely devoted to him — lays out convincingly how Avery’s talent, his background, his drive and his confidence all were crucial to the Mother Road eventually becoming a legend.

One section of “Father of Route 66″ (288 pages, hardback, University of Oklahoma Press, e-book available) signals Avery’s crucial role to the road. Shortly after the founding of the U.S. 66 Highway Association — for which Avery became vice president and, later, president — Avery started calling the highway the “Main Street of America.” Advocates for U.S. 40 and the Roosevelt-Midland Trail also used the nickname, and the Lincoln Highway probably had it, too. But because of Avery’s persistence, the “Main Street of America” tag stuck to 66.

Outside of Tulsa, Cyrus Avery probably would have been little more than a footnote in history books if Route 66 hadn’t started its revival during the early 1990s. By that time, Avery had died almost 30 years before, and he said his proudest accomplishment was not Route 66, but shepherding the building of a 50-mile pipeline from the Spavinaw Creek to give Tulsa a much more reliable water supply. And despite Avery’s growing posthumous stature — including an elaborate statue on Route 66 in his honor — even the biggest Route 66 experts were unsure where Avery was buried until I tracked it down a few years ago.

Croce Kelly was an ideal author to tackle a book on Avery’s life, as she and photographer Quinta Scott published the essential “Route 66: The Highway and Its People” in 1990. Still, she had a challenge: By the time she announced the project, Avery had been dead for a half-century. Save for grandchildren and a few other folks, barely any people remembered Avery when he was alive.

Fortunately, the Oklahoma State University-Tulsa owned a substantial archive of Avery’s papers, and the man himself was so much in the public eye that plenty of material was found in the Tulsa World and other newspaper databases. Croce Kelly unearthed a lot of verified material about Avery and weaved it into the smooth and easy-reading narrative in “Father of Route 66.” In the occasions Croce Kelly speculates about what happened during a point Avery’s history, at least it’s well-informed speculation.

Avery was born in Stevensville, Pennsylvania, but in his early teens moved 1,200 miles to northeast Oklahoma in a covered wagon when his father sought new opportunities after a deep recession in 1873. (Croce Kelly argues convincingly that Avery’s arduous journey helped convince him early about the importance of good roads.) The family settled in a dilapidated former homestead of Confederate Army general and Cherokee Indian Stand Watie.

Avery earned a bachelor’s degree at a teachers college but soon found himself adept in buying and selling real estate in Oklahoma — especially in the Tulsa area. His real-estate business put him in touch with many influential people in the state and gave him a sense of what the region needed to thrive.

One of Avery’s gifts was his ability to relate to anyone. It was said he could converse just as amiably with an oil tycoon as with a blue-collar worker or a small child.

He also proved to be an engaging public speaker. The Commercial Club — a forerunner to the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce — quickly grasped his speechmaking skills and made Avery its primary public face. Avery also owned a farm on the edge of town where he often invited out-of-town guests for a meal and a few whiskeys to sell an idea or talk over how to improve Tulsa.

One of those passions on how to improve the city was to shore up its chronically muddy highways and streets. He proved to be an ideal advocate in the better-roads movement that was burgeoning nationwide. He brought the first split-log drags to Oklahoma in 1907 and paid several Tulsa County farmers $1 a mile to grade the roads after each rain. He directed the planting of sweet clover near the roads to better hold together the soil and reduce erosion; that clover still can be seen growing near Tulsa County’s rural roads.

During the early teens, he became a booster of the Ozark Trail — a predecessor of U.S. 66. Avery successfully lobbied in 1916 for a bond issue to build the 11th Street Bridge over the Arkansas River. The bridge later carried Route 66 and stands today. He advocated for the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916. Through it all, it seemed he attended dozens — perhaps hundreds — of meetings over the decades on how to improve roads in the nation and his adopted home base of Tulsa County.

During the 1920s, Avery overhauled the Oklahoma State Highway Department by eschewing cronyism and hiring qualified employees to improve roads. (He later was fired, but Avery had the last laugh when that governor was impeached and removed from office for incompetence.)

The irony about his “Father of Route 66″ tag was that infighting between states in early 1926 nearly sunk the landmark agreement that produced numbered federal highways. Kentucky officials quarreled over the placement of U.S. 60, which Avery wanted for his Chicago-to-Los Angeles highway. Aware a landmark roads agreement was in peril, Avery compromised and accepted U.S. 66 for his road instead. Avery might have made that decision pragmatically for the greater good, but one also suspects he saw the marketing potential for “66” was well.

Avery’s involvement in improving Tulsa wasn’t limited to roads. In addition to that water line, he shepherded the development of Tulsa International Airport and the enormous Mohawk Park. He served as president of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce for a time. Although he nearly was financially ruined by the Great Depression, he remained active in local boosterism well into his late 80s.

And Avery seemed like a genuinely good guy. He ran Red Cross relief efforts for thousands of homeless Greenwood residents after the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Avery also repeatedly was on the right side of history in clashes with the Ku Klux Klan, which ran much of the state at the time. Despite being offered a proposal from the Oklahoma Legislature that would have improved roads, he turned it down because the same bill would have prohibited black people from voting. Avery occasionally was accused of corruption, but those allegations never were credible. The only obvious direct benefit from his better-roads efforts was his building a gas station, motel and the Old English Inn cafe on a busy Admiral Place street in Tulsa, which later became Route 66.

Thanks to popular culture — Bobby Troup’s perennially covered “Route 66,” the “Route 66″ television drama and now Disney-Pixar’s “Cars” movie — and Route 66’s own colorful history, the Main Street of America has arguably become the world’s most famous highway. And, as “Father of Route 66″ shows, that highway was very fortunate to have Cyrus Avery as its early champion to lay the foundation of its rise.

Highly recommended.

Group seeks to restore old schoolhouse in Phelps October 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Preservation, Towns.
Tags: ,
add a comment

A nonprofit group is raising money to shore up and restore a long-abandoned, century-old Phelps School in the tiny Route 66 hamlet of Phelps, Missouri, reported the Joplin Globe.

According to the article, Phelps School was finished in 1889 until it and other one-room schools in the region were consolidated into the Miller School District during the 1950s. The school reportedly fell into disuse during the 1980s.

Washam said the community group’s first goal is to raise enough money to put a new roof on the schoolhouse, estimated to be around $8,700. That work has already begun, with cedar-colored asphalt shingles chosen instead of metal because of their resemblance to the original oak-shakes roof, he said.

“We want to restore it as much as possible to how it looked originally,” he said.

The group hopes to finish repairs to the exterior by next year and to the interior, including new heating and air conditioning units and a functional bathroom, within five years. Washam said it’s possible, after the restoration is complete, that the community group could submit the schoolhouse for consideration to the National Register of Historic Places.

The group held a cruise-in fundraiser at the school over the weekend.

Phelps School is located on the west end of the original 1920s pavement, which now serves as a north frontage road for Highway 96.

(An image of Phelps School by John Hagstrom via Flickr)

Roof of Richardson Store building collapses October 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, History.
Tags: , ,
2 comments

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)

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 650 other subscribers

  • Reference Books and Maps

















    Check out our other recommended books in our Shop page above.





  • Check us out on Facebook

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Spam Blocked