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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)

New Mexico Route 66 Museum now has regular hours June 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Museums, Towns.
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The New Mexico Route 66 Museum in Tucumcari has been operating with regular hours for about two weeks.

Hours on weekdays are from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. And it plans to soon add Saturday hours as well.

According to the museum’s website:

The New Mexico Route 66 Museum will offer a unique look into New Mexico’s Route 66 heritage, as well as offer a wide range of representation, from Glenrio to Gallup and everywhere in between. From Route 66′s beginnings in New Mexico with the Ozark Trails system to today’s Historic Route 66, we will offer a unique perspective of the Mother Road’s history in our great state “The Land of Enchantment”.

We are currently adding to our first opening exhibits, which include: Michael Campanelli’s Route 66 Photo Exhibit with over 166 photos of Route all on one wall, Diner with Rock-Ola Juke Box, Vintage Gas Pumps, Porcelain Signs, Memorabilia, 1931 Ford Model A, 1937 Studebaker President, Mercury Montclair, 1963 Ford Galaxie 500, Dodge Super Bee and much more…

The museum is at the Tucumcari Convention Center property at 1500 West Highway 66, west of the center of town.

New Mexico Route 66 Museum - exterior

The museum had held a couple of “soft” openings, plus during special occasions. But it’s the first time it’s had regular hours.

And although Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois each boast several museums devoted to Route 66, this museum is the first such one in New Mexico.

The museum is accepting sponsorships, which you can buy here.

UPDATE: The Quay County Sun, based in Tucumcari, posted an article about the museum’s regular hours.

Museum board member Bob Beaulieu told the newspaper, however, that it was looking for a more permanent location:

“We’re looking for a bigger building,” he said, and he hopes to find a location that could accommodate 40,000 square feet of museum space.

The museum board is currently hoping to receive a 501(c)(3) designation, which will make donations to the museum tax free.“That should unleash dollars for us in a really big way,” Caldwell said.

(Photos courtesy of the museum)

Pigeon Museum in Oklahoma City holding grand opening June 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Animals, Art, History, Museums.
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Signal Corps pigeon memorabilia

A new museum aimed at Route 66 travelers and other tourists is holding a grand opening Saturday in Oklahoma City — the American Pigeon Museum and Library.

The Oklahoman newspaper produced this video about it:

The newspaper said:

The museum and library will contain numerous photographs, paintings, trophies, artifacts, collectables and much more memorabilia. [...]

Visitors during the two-day event will even be able to see and hold these special looking birds that they never knew were actually pigeons.

“The fancy birds look totally different than what their perception is of the bird,” Monteiro said pointing out examples on a painting behind her containing at least 100 unique breeds.

The museum is just off Interstate 44 (aka Route 66) in Oklahoma City (map here).

(Image of memorabilia at the American Pigeon Museum by Sheila Scarborough via Flickr)

Illinois Route 66 Museum marks 10th anniversary Saturday June 3, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Museums, Towns.
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It’s hard to believe, but the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac already is marking its 10th anniversary Saturday.

According to a news release from Pontiac Tourism:

To commemorate this milestone, the museum will hold a special open house on that day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be free refreshments and other special offerings during the celebration. All visitors to the museum during the open house will be invited to register for some Route 66-related door prizes.

According to Jim Jones, the museum’s tour director, “The Route 66 museum has been through an amazing evolution. It started as just an idea brought to the City of Pontiac by Pontiac’s first tourism director, Betty Estes, and is now known throughout the world for the quality and quantity of its displays.”

Prior to 2004, the Illinois Route 66 Museum was a hallway at the Dixie Truck stop in McLean, Illinois. There were a few photos, but not much more. When Betty Estes learned the Route 66 Association of Illinois were considering a new home to tell the story of historic Route 66, she sat down with Pontiac city officials and proposed the city offer the Association the then unused old 1900 Pontiac Fire House. After a short while, Pontiac’s offer was accepted by the Association and subsequently, the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum opened.

A bit of background: Illinois Route 66 aficionados felt compelled to move the small Route 66 museum from the Dixie Truckers Home after it went bankrupt in 2001 and a former operator barely escaped prison time for not paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel taxes. Rhode Island-based Phoenix Management Group bought out the Dixie Truckers Home in 2003. Before that sad saga, the Dixie had been locally owned and operated on Route 66 since 1928.

At the time, the move caused a bit of consternation among a few Route 66 fans who hated to see the break in tradition from McLean and wondered whether Pontiac would be good caretakers. But there’s little doubt now the move was profoundly beneficial for overall. Pontiac consistently is praised by Route 66 travelers for its hospitality and attractions.

And, yes, Estes deserves a ton of credit for her faith and foresight. She died a few years ago, but not before seeing the museum taking flight and becoming the major attraction in Pontiac.

According to the news release, the museum has hosted more than 80,000 travelers from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. And the museum sparked a big downtown revival — the Pontiac-Oakland Auto Museum and the International Walldog Sign Art Museum moved a few years after the Route 66 museum arrived.

(Image of the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac by Nicholas Kaeser via Flickr)

Bloomington moves forward on Route 66 tourism center May 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Museums.
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Even though it doesn’t have all the money needed for the project, the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington, Illinois, is taking bids on building a tourism center that will highlight Route 66, reported the Bloomington Pantagraph.

The project would turn the south lawn of the museum square into a plaza pointing visitors to the ground floor of the Museum, where visitors would be greeted by a trained staff member, a gift shop, videos, kids play area and an interactive exhibit, said Museum Executive Director Greg Koos. The Tilbury Flash plane that now occupies that space would be moved.

Koos said the museum applied for a $249,000 tourism grant through the Illinois Office of Tourism, and the rest of the project will be funded primarily through the Bloomington-Normal Area Visitors and Convention Bureau. The state’s tourism office said Tuesday the museum’s grant application was recommended for funding but the grant has not yet been “executed.” [...]

Koos said the museum would have a better idea of when it could open the visitor center after bids come in, but he’s hoping the project could be complete within a 90-day time frame. Bids are due June 17.

The museum’s director cited the nearby towns of Atlanta and Pontiac that have capitalized on Route 66 tourism, and said the Bloomington-Normal area had failed to do so.

The museum is on 200 N. Main St., which is about a block west of northbound U.S. 51 (aka eastbound Route 66) and two blocks east of southbound 51 (westbound 66).

(Image of the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington, Illinois, by Paul Sableman via Flickr)

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