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Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program announces 2014 grants July 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, History, Motels, Signs.
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The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program on Thursday announced five cost-share grants totaling $77,000 for 2014, including one for an endangered bridge in Oklahoma.

Here are the recipients:

Rock Creek Bridge, Sapulpa, Oklahoma ($5,013 National Park Service grant, $5,013 match by recipient)– The bridge carried traffic on Route 66 from 1926 until 1952. The bridge, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been closed to traffic in recent years. Ongoing repairs and interventions by the City of Sapulpa will help it meet recommendations by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation so the bridge can be reopened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Skylark Motel neon tower rehabilitation, St. Clair, Missouri  ($22,300 NPS, $22,300 match) –The motel, which opened in 1952, is marked by a two-story, Art Deco tower that sported multicolored neon lights behind glass blocks. The VFW that now owns the property is working with the Route 66 Association of Missouri’s Neon Heritage Preservation Committee to restore the tower.

L Motel rehabilitation, Flagstaff, Arizona ($9,800 NPS, $46,063 match) – The grant will aid with the new owners’ ongoing rehabilitation of the motel, including heating and air conditioning systems. The L Motel has operated continuously along Route 66 since 1949.

American Indians and Route 66 materials, New Mexico ($24,900 NPS, $29,651 match) – The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association will develop educational and travel materials for the public that will include information about the tribes along Route 66 and their cultural heritage; significant tribal sites along the route; historical impacts of Route 66 on tribes; and the impact of tribal culture on Route 66.

Route 66 oral history project, Springfield, Missouri ($15,000 NPS, $33,880 match) – The Missouri State University Libraries will undertake a project to save for posterity many under-told stories of the Ozarks, including African-American experiences of Route 66. It will collect at least 20 oral-history interviews, which will be digitized and made available online.

The cost-share grant program provides assistance for historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative, and educational projects. Since 2001, 119 projects have awarded a total of $1.7 million, with $2.9 million in cost-share match, totaling $4.6 million in public and private investment for Route 66.

(Image of the Rock Creek Bridge by carterse 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)

Fire destroys Tucumcari hotel July 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Weather.
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A Hampton Inn hotel in the Route 66 town of Tucumcari, New Mexico, was destroyed after fire swept through its roof and top floors Wednesday, reported the Quay County Sun and other news outlets.

Nearly 30 overnight guests were evacuated with no injuries, reported the newspaper, and were moved to nearby hotels. It’s believed a lightning strike on the roof of the hotel’s southwest corner caused the blaze.

Meanwhile, volunteers helped the hotel’s guests find clothes, shoes and phones to contact family members.

Owner Nitin Bhakta, who said the hotel was a total loss, said the hotel’s fire-alarm system failed, even though it had been tested recently. It’s likely, however, the lightning strike fried the system’s electronics.

We’ve long advocated for Route 66 tourists to stay in mom-and-pop motels. However, Hampton Inns about a decade ago helped with a few restoration projects on Route 66 and sponsored a Route 66 Caravan in 2002. So, if you want a chain hotel on the Mother Road, that’s one that merits a look.

As for Tucumcari, I suspect what’s Hampton Inn’s loss is several independent motel owners’ gain. The Blue Swallow Motel, Motel Safari and Historic Route 66 Motel all get high marks from travelers and will do nicely for Hampton Inn guests who had booked reservations. And the Roadrunner Lodge will open any day now.

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:

Joplin motor court will be restored July 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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A historic motel along an alignment of Route 66 in Joplin, Missouri, will be refurbished and reopened as a tourist court again, according to Joplin Globe columnist Wally Kennedy.

The Westport Lodge (shown above during the 1950s) at North Main Street and Fountain Road, which was on an alternate Route 66 alignment from 1934 to 1945, contains 10 cabins. The motor court itself was built about 1947.

It looked like it was destined for a close encounter with a bulldozer, but now it’s getting a makeover thanks to John Tullis, with Home Pro.

“We decided to take on this little project and keep it in the community a little longer,” he said. “It’s part of a rare breed these days.”

Tullis said he intends to operate it as a tourist court again.

“We’re bringing it up to speed. It has not seen much attention in 50 to 60 years. We’re giving it a full makeover,” he said.

Ron Hart of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce told the newspaper it is the oldest surviving motor court in Joplin.

Here’s the Google Street View image from May 2013 of the motor court:


View Larger Map

Hart and Boots Motel co-owner Debye Harvey lobbied Tullis to keep and renovate the motor lodge.

(Hat tip to Ron Hart; photos courtesy of him)

Replica of historic hotel lobby re-created in Oklahoma Route 66 Museum June 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, History, Motels, Museums.
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As if you don’t have enough good reasons to visit the marvelous Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Celina Hawkins of the Odessa American in Texas explains why there’s another:

On Thursday, relatives and many others gathered inside the Route 66 Museum as the newest exhibit – an exact replica of the lobby of the Calmez (Cowl-mez) Hotel – was unveiled. About 15 years ago, I was fortunate to see the lobby, albeit dilapidated, but I imagined that in 1929, when my great grandfather Claude Calmes (Cowl-mees) opened the hotel, that it was quite grand. With marble floors and ornate accoutrements – it must have been beautiful indeed. [...]

He and his partner Elmer Crabbe pushed to get approval from the city and the chamber to build a 6-story hotel and eventually got their blessing in 1928. The hotel, which cost $500,000 opened in 1929 only weeks after the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. Claude’s vision was to open a hotel that could be a rest stop without too much extravagance to the booming community and to Route 66.

I don’t think I’d say the place was without extravagance. It had a palatial entrance with marble floors. There was a café and a bar downstairs and one on the main floor. There was also a mezzanine where folks could gather for coffee. Then upstairs, there was a lounge, where I could almost hear the echo of big band music playing as I squinted in the darkness to make out the room. There was apparently a stage and bar stools attached to the floor surrounded the bar, upholstered in red. The hotel, was lovingly called the Grande Old Lady by Clinton’s historic preservation crowd.

According to the Clinton Daily News, the exhibit contains an original Calmez Hotel neon sign and other memorabilia. The sign required about two years and $1,500 in restoration work.

The Calmez Hotel exhibit will be at the museum through December.

The Calmez was closed during the 1980s. It was condemned in 2000 and torn down — but not without much debate from Clinton residents who wanted it saved. And Hawkins’ mother managed to save a few bricks from the building before the wrecking ball came.

(Image of the Calmez Motel courtesy of 66Postcards.com)

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