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Voice of America’s report on the Autry Museum’s Route 66 exhibit August 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Museums.
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The Voice of America posted this well-done report about the “Route 66: The Road and the Romance” exhibit at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.

The exhibit at the museum runs through Jan. 4.

(Image courtesy of the Autry National Center)

Tulsa reviewing proposal for Route 66 museum August 4, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Museums.
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The city of Tulsa is reviewing the lone proposal for a long-planned Route 66 museum and commercial complex at Southwest Boulevard (aka Route 66) and Riverside Drive, reported the Tulsa World.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett, during a splashy news conference at another Route 66 site in the city, announced in October the city would request proposals for the site, which would be called The Route 66 Experience.

So it’s been nine months since the request, and the city is still reviewing it. However, City Planning Director Dawn Warrick told the newspaper that length of time isn’t unusual for a public-private project of its size and complexity.

The development could have restaurants, retail space and even a hotel but must include space for a Route 66 interpretive center, officials said.

The city would retain ownership of the property and lease it to the developer. [...]

The city plans to spend $6.5 million for the project, including $1.5 million in Vision 2025 funds and $5 million in third-penny sales tax revenue.

Tulsa businesswoman Sharon King Davis, who was among a group of local businesses and professionals who advised the city on the proposal, said the lone submission is “fabulous.”

Tulsa has long desired to have an anchor Route 66 attraction because such travelers frequently bypass the city on the interstates.

The museum complex was part of the Vision 2025 sales-tax package passed by voters in 2003. The city eventually decided to ask for a public-private development because of the municipality’s tight budgets in recent years.

(An artist’s rendering of Tulsa’s Route 66 museum, circa 2003, via Vision 2025)

A promotional video for Kansas Route 66 August 3, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Gas stations, Museums, Restaurants, Towns.
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Check out this well-made, three-minute video for Kansas Route 66, made for Kansas Byways.

Route 66 MASTER from Gizmo Pictures on Vimeo.

The segment was produced by Gizmo Pictures, a film and video production company in Topeka, Kansas.

(A scene from downtown Baxter Springs, Kansas, by Aaron Sumner via Flickr)

Bloomington lands a grant for new visitors center August 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Museums.
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As expected, the Illinois Office of Tourism officially pledged Wednesday to give Bloomington a $249,000 grant to help build a new visitors center downtown, according to WJBC radio. The museum will prominently feature Route 66 in its exhibits.

Illinois Tourism director Jen Hoelzel said the grant coincides with the office’s effort to bring more international tourists to Illinois. Hoelzel said international visitors talk about Route 66 “all the time.”

According to a news release from the McLean County Museum of History, the new visitors center will be called Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66: The Bloomington/Normal Visitors Center.

It will be located in the ground floor (basement) of the Museum. This 1,200 sq. ft. center has been designed to attract to downtown Bloomington the more than 40,000 people a year who come to Illinois to drive on Historic Route 66, including weekend travelers and thousands of European and Asian vacationers.

Here they will learn from and compare the experiences of Lincoln in his travels with those of automobilists during the golden days of Route 66. The exhibits will tell stories about dining, lodging, and travel.

Accompanying the exhibits will be a reception desk, an expanded Museum store, videos, and digital kiosks with tourist information. We expect to attract 20,000 people by our third year of operation; of those, we anticipate 5,000 will visit the Museum, thus significantly increasing the Museum’s earned income though sales and admissions.

The logo for the museum, reflecting the Route 66 and Lincoln links, is shown above.

The radio station reported:

Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Crystal said the new visitors center will help the Twin Cities benefit from international tourists.

“All of the visits that we are getting internationally, we want to get our share of that,” Howard said. “Up to this time, I don’t think we have. We need to pull them off the interstate and have them to stop in Bloomington-Normal. That is our goal.”

Hoelzle said Bloomington has the type of attractions international visitors want to see.

“There are two great brands in international tourism – Route 66 and Abraham Lincoln,” Hoelzel said. “They’re all right here in Bloomington.”

The visitors center is scheduled to open by spring.

In another report by WYZZ-TV, Bloomington is looking to a town to the north — Pontiac, Illinois — for its inspiration for drawing Route 66 tourists.

Count me as skeptical on Bloomington drawing 50,000 tourists a year at its visitors center anytime soon. Pontiac has had a full decade to cultivate a stream of visitors, and officials there say it didn’t happen overnight.

Pontiac also holds a sizable advantage with small-town hospitality — such as the mayor personally greeting tourists — that Bloomington will be hard-pressed to duplicate. Pontiac’s friendly attitude has won a lot of acclaim and repeat visitors over the years.

I praise Bloomington for hopping on the Route 66 bandwagon. But, as with another latecomer in Springfield, Missouri, it’s going to find it will have a lot of catching-up to do. Drawing those tourists is going to require tenacity and patience.

Front Street Garage in Galena will be renovated July 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Museums, Preservation.
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The long-closed Front Street Garage in Galena, Kansas, has a new roadie owner, and his long-term plans are renovating it into a Ford Model A museum, according to KODE-TV.

The garage, also known as the Bradshaw Garage, is directly across the street, aka Route 66, from Cars on the Route — known as the home of the original inspiration to Mater in the Disney-Pixar “Cars” movie — and Galena’s Haunted Bordello. Here’s what the garage looks like today.

The new owner is Ed Klein, best-known as proprietor of the Route 66 World website. He said the building was constructed in 1896. He said a roadtrip stop at Cars on the Route with friend Bill Conron ultimately led to his purchase of the building:

“Bill and I sat at Cars on the Route, eating a hamburger and having a beer outside on the patio and noticed something strange happening. Tourist would pull up and literally jump out of their cars, take a picture of the (Tow Tater) tow truck at Cars on the Route, turn around 180 degrees and snap a few pictures of the old Front Street Garage building, jump back into their cars and drive off. Bill turned to me and said ‘if they were taking these many photos of an old boarded up building, how do you think they would react to it all restored?’”

After seeing all this activity with the tourist, Klein contacted Mike Hughes, the owner of the building and set up a meeting. After almost a year later of the initial contact, Klein had to wait for a few code compliance issues to be resolved and after negotiations were settled, a deal was finally drawn up. [...]

Plans are to restore the building to the way it looked back in 1941 using a photo from the Galena Mining and Historical Museum for reference. The front façade will be closely reproduced to exactly the way the photograph shows of the building and he has other plans for the north and south facing walls.

Klein said the restoration would be a “10 to 15 year project.”

He also has helped with several Route 66 preservation projects over the years, including restoration of the 66 Motel sign in Needles, California.

(Vintage image of the Front Street Garage courtesy of 66Postcards.com)

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)

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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