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Historic boarding house reopens in Atlanta, Ill. April 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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After months of renovations, a boarding house that operated during the late 1940s near downtown Atlanta, Ill., has reopened as a lodging facility again.

An open house recently was hosted for the Colaw Rooming House at 204 NW Vine St., about a block and a half off historic Route 66.

From the news release about rooming house:

Located just two blocks from Rt. 66 in Atlanta, Illinois, The Colaw Rooming House offers three bedrooms, two full baths, a charming living room with fireplace, dining room, curved front porch, and a delightful yellow & red 1940s kitchen.

To further enhance your step back in time, lodging at The Colaw Rooming House includes a complimentary breakfast at The Palms Grill Café – Atlanta’s fully restored, circa 1935 small town diner.

Not a typical bed and breakfast, The Colaw Rooming House recreates the experience of overnighting along Route 66 in a private residence, before the widespread advent of motels. Back in the 1940s, the Colaw House let rooms out on a longer-term basis, primarily to local, single teachers who worked in Atlanta. It now provides a unique experience that lets visitors travel the Mother Road as it was “back in the day.”

Rates are $150 for the first room and $75 for each room after that. Reservations can be made by phone at 217-671-1219 or by email at thecolawroominghouse(at)yahoo(dot)com. The Colaw has a website, but many parts of it are still under construction.

Here is a slideshow of the Colaw House:

Developers tour El Vado Motel April 18, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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The city of Albuquerque finally is pushing hard to have developers do something with the historic but long-closed El Vado Motel.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque filed this report about developers touring the property this week:

A few weeks ago, the city released a request for proposals from developers. The deadline for submission is July 3.

The hope is someone will redevelop it into a boutique-type motel, with the rest for housing. The city will pick a developer by August, with construction targeted to begin in 2015. NewLife Homes, which has converted several historic Route 66 motels in Albuquerque into housing, reported is interested in the property.

Irish immigrant Daniel Murphy opened El Vado Auto Court Motel on Route 66 in 1937. It’s cited as one of New Mexico’s best examples of pre-World War II motels. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

El Vado closed in 2005 when new owner Richard Gonzales wanted to raze it for luxury townhouses. The city seized the property a few years later after a long fight to save it. Worldwide outcry from the Route 66 community was instrumental in saving the structure.

The near-loss that was El Vado convinced me eminent domain ought to be used to seize threatened protect properties that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Eminent domain often is cussed and discussed in many circles, but I suspect opposition to its use in such a context would be considerably blunted.

(Image of El Vado Motel by Pam Morris via Flickr)

World’s Largest Covered Wagon repaired April 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Preservation, Weather.
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The World’s Largest Covered Wagon, aka the Railsplitter Covered Wagon, in Lincoln, Ill., has been repaired in time for tourism season after a severe windstorm damaged it in January.

The Bloomington Pantagraph reported:

“It was a challenge, and because it is in the Guinness Book of World Records, we had to make sure that we rebuilt it exactly as it was,” said Matthews Construction owner Brad Matthews, whose company completed the repair work.

“We called them a few times just to ensure we didn’t do anything differently that might jeopardize that, but we have it back exactly the way it needs to be.”

The Pantagraph also posted several photos of the wagon being fixed.

The job, which was completed Friday, also was helped by good weather in recent weeks. David Bentley, who built the structure in 2001, was a consultant on the rebuild.

Gusts of 50 mph collapsed the wheels on one side of the wagon and ripped off the canvas the night of Jan. 26. (Strangely enough, the Abraham Lincoln statue remained seated on the wagon the entire time.)

Insurance covered most of the repair cost, with a $500 grant from the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Association covering the deductible.

The wagon once was along Route 66 in Divernon, Ill. Geoff Ladd, former executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau in Logan County, Ill., led the way in having the wagon purchased and moved to Lincoln in 2007. It sits in front of Route 66 at 1750 Fifth St. at the Best Western Lincoln Inn.

The wagon weighs 10,000 pounds and measures 40 feet long and 24 feet tall. The fiberglass statue of Abraham Lincoln, seated in the front, weighs 350 pounds and is 12 feet tall.

(Image of the World’s Largest Covered Wagon by yooperann via Flickr)

La Posada owner wants to buy another historic Las Vegas hotel April 15, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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Amid the hubbub of La Posada Hotel co-owner Alan Affeldt recently buying the historic Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M., one thing that’s been often overlooked is he wants to buy the historic Plaza Hotel in town, too.

Following up on an editorial Sunday in the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, I found this excerpt in a recent edition of the Las Vegas Optic newspaper:

Affeldt, the man who purchased and restored the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Ariz., has made it clear that he wants to purchase the Plaza Hotel too. Indeed, when the purchase agreement on the Castañeda was announced in February, Affeldt said he would move forward on that deal only if the purchase of the Plaza was looking favorable.

On Thursday, Affeldt told the Optic that he has met with the New Mexico Finance Authority board and the president of the bank, both of whom have an ownership interest in the Plaza, and they have agreed, in principle, that they want to sell it. The Plaza went into receivership in 2012.

“For us it’s kind of a leap of faith that everything is going to work out with the Plaza,” Affeldt said, explaining that acquiring that hotel is critical for his Castañeda plans.

Affeldt explained modernizing Castaneda — basically adding bathrooms to every room — would give it only 20 guest rooms and wouldn’t be economically viable by itself. So Affeldt wants to buy the nearby Plaza Hotel to generate more revenue. Because the bank wants to unload the Plaza, Affeldt undoubtedly will get it at a bargain price.

The Castaneda Hotel sits about a mile from the Plaza Hotel.

The Plaza Hotel, deemed “The Belle of the Southwest,” was built in 1882. It underwent a $1 million renovation in 1982, and in 2009 bought the next-door Charles Ifeld Building for more guest rooms, a ballroom and meeting areas. The hotel is home to the popular Landmark Grill, and has hosted everyone from western star Tom Mix to scenes in the Oscar-winning film “No Country for Old Men.”

Las Vegas sits a few miles from old Route 66, but has become a popular side trip for travelers on the Mother Road’s Santa Fe Loop.

(Image of the Plaza Hotel by Enrique A. Sanabria via Flickr)

Rehab of Devil’s Elbow Bridge progresses April 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation.
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The rehabilitation of the historic Devil’s Elbow Bridge on old Route 66 in Devil’s Elbow is proceeding smoothly and will reopen to traffic by August at the latest, according to a report in the Rolla Daily News.

The newspaper included a photo of the work being done on the bridge. It added:

According to the HAER Bridge Inventory, a list of historic bridges in Missouri, the Devil’s Elbow Bridge may be eligible for a place on the National Register of Historic Places. It is believed to be one of the earliest examples of Missouri State Highway Department long-span truss design still in existence.

Additionally, Newkirk noted it is also one of only two remaining bridges in the state containing a curve. The second is the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, which was recently converted to a pedestrian bridge. Wiles added that it is the only curved bridge on the original Route 66 still open to traffic. [...]

The framing of the new deck is in place and half of the decking concrete has been poured with the remaining half expected to be poured by mid to late April. Once the remaining portion of the deck has been poured, the bridge will be painted and additional structural work will be completed.

Local officials are using a variety of funding for the $1.3 million project, including from the Missouri Department of Transportation, Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Development, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and Pulaski County. And officials ensured the work would keep up the bridge’s historic look.

The truss bridge, built in 1923, is nearly 600 feet long. Local officials knew of the historical and tourism importance of the bridge, and spent years trying to secure funds to repair it. It sits near the popular Elbow Inn restaurant and bar on the Big Piney River.

(A 1931 image of the Devil’s Elbow Bridge by Chuck Coker via Flickr)

Route 66 added to Oklahoma’s endangered places list April 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Preservation.
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Preservation Oklahoma unveiled its annual Endangered Places in Oklahoma list on Tuesday night, and Route 66 was included among them.

David Pettyjohn, executive director for the group, explained why in an Enid News and Eagle report:

“When we look at Route 66, it’s not just the road. It’s the structures along the road. It’s the restaurants, neon signs, and, obviously, the original road as well. It’s more the Route 66 experience,” he said.

According to Preservation Oklahoma, endangered places are “properties and sites which have special historic or architectural significance to our state, but which are in danger of being lost, due to neglect, poor maintenance, obsolescence or other causes.”

Others that made the list:

As an article in the Tulsa World pointed out, making the list isn’t the end of the world. A number of properties that once were on Preservation Oklahoma’s watch list have been fully restored, including the Meadow Gold neon sign on 11th Street (aka Route 66) and the Mayo Hotel, both in Tulsa.

(Image of original Portland cement Route 66 in western Oklahoma by Jim Grey via Flickr)

La Posada owner completes purchase of Hotel Castaneda April 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation, Railroad.
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As expected, Allan Affeldt, co-owner of historic La Posada in Winslow, Ariz., on Monday closed on his purchase of the long-closed Hotel Castaneda, aka La Castaneda, in Las Vegas, N.M.

Affeldt said in a Facebook post:

Purchased Fred Harvey’s 1898 Hotel Castaneda today.

It closed as a hotel in 1948 so we have one week to get it safe and clean for Governor Martinez’ visit on the 14th at noon.

To have New Mexico’s governor visit barely a week after you buy a long-decaying property tells you how momentous the occasion is. People have prayed, probably for decades, that someone would buy and restore the property, and Affeldt practically is the best person to do so.

Las Vegas sits a few miles from old Route 66, but has become a common side trip for travelers exploring the 1926-37 alignment of the road that looped to Santa Fe.

Affeldt saved La Posada, built in 1929, after he bought the long-closed property in the 1990s and restored it.

Also on Monday, a post on La Posada’s Facebook page also contained intriguing, semi-related news:

There is a sad story behind this picture. This is all that remains of The Havasu Harvey House that was torn down in Seligman (Ariz.) in 2008 by the railroad. The Havasu was a rare prairie style Harvey House and it had a sturdy red tile roof. These are the tiles that were salvaged from that roof. We hope to use these tiles when restoring other historic building. Today we received our first shipment. We will receive 125 pallets of these historic tiles over the next few days.

It wouldn’t surprise me if some of those tiles will be used at the Hotel Castaneda as well.

The Havasu in Seligman was torn down despite efforts of local preservationists, including Arizona Historic Route 66 Association founder Angel Delgadillo.

(Image of La Castaneda in Las Vegas, N.M., by Perry Nelson via Flickr)

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