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Mobil pegasus sign taken out of mothballs in Carthage October 2, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Preservation, Signs.
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A Mobil pegasus neon sign that had been in storage for more than 30 years has been removed from the mothballs, donated and reinstalled at a renovated Skelly Filling Station in Carthage, Missouri, reported the Carthage Press.

Jerry Perry, president and CEO of Grace Energy Corporation, gave a Mobil pegasus sign to Mark Jenny and local artist Larry Glaze to display at the renovated station. This same sign, which is four foot tall, six feet wide, weighing 6,000 pounds, marked the original Grace Mobil Station on Central Avenue in 1953. [...]

The sign hung at the station on Central (across from today’s Hometown Bank) until about 1965. Perry bought the gas company in 1980, and had kept the sign in storage many years. [...]

Glaze, who once worked at the Skelly station with Luther Gowin when gas was 23 cents a gallon, said the sign was cleaned easily. The neon tubes and motor for the once-rotating sign have been removed, but there are plans to install lights at the base of the pole to illuminate the historic icon.

The renovated station is at 1101 S. Grand Ave. (map here). The former Mobil station was in the 300 block of West Central Avenue, which is Route 66 in Carthage. An image of the original Mobil station is here.

According to the newspaper, the Skelly Filling Station now is a hot rod shop and meeting place owned by Mark Jenny. It was a cleaning business.

(Image of a Mobil pegasus at the Hackberry General Store in Arizona by mlhradio via Flickr)

County will seek grant for Sidewalk Highway October 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, Preservation.
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Ottawa County, Oklahoma, will apply for a $300,000 “Rails to Trails” grant to shore up and ultimately preserve the Route 66 section of the historic Ribbon Road, aka Sidewalk Highway, between Miami and Afton, Oklahoma, reported the Miami News-Record.

The article does a good job explaining the complex issues about preserving the 1922 Sidewalk Highway, which is so called because local highway officials at the time had only enough money to build it 9 feet wide. It served as Route 66 until 1937.

Then, as now, the main problem facing the county is lack of money.

A few points gleaned from the article:

  • County Commissioner Russel Earls said recent heavy rains washed out two portions of the road, requiring quick but temporary repairs. He said road crews grade the washouts and add gravel to halt further deterioration.
  • He estimated the cost of preserving the road includes grinding up the old asphalt inside the curbs and overlaying the pavement. He said with more funding, lanes could be built on either side. He said the original road still is structurally sound.
  • Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director Amanda Davis said talks with the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and the state about preservation plans — including closing the road to keep it from decaying further — have yielded nothing. She said the Sidewalk Highway is in the “top three” for tourism in the area.
  • Earls noted although some rural landowners are against the Rails to Trails idea,real-estate agents are all for it because homeowners having a trail nearby is an attractive selling point.

If Ottawa County applies for a rails-to-trails grant, it probably will have to be through federal channels. The state is Oklahoma is notoriously stingy about funding even basic maintenance for roads and bridges, as a highway engineer acknowledged during the historic Bird Creek Bridge debacle a few years ago.

Engineers also said ODOT had become “reactive, not preventative” with highway and bridge maintenance from 1985 to 2005 because state funding for the agency remained “flat.” That neglect from a 20-year lack of funds greatly shortened the life of bridges, including Bird Creek. Currently, about 400 bridges in the district that includes much of northeastern Oklahoma need repair.

Here’s a video I shot a few years ago of the Afton section of the highway:

(Image of the Sidewalk Highway in September 2013 by Jimmy Emerson via Flickr)

Historic landmark for sale in Missouri September 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Preservation.
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The turn-of-the-century Weeks Hardware Co. building on Route 66 in Carterville, Missouri, is listed for sale.

Ordinarily, I don’t publish stories about properties for sale on the Mother Road. But this one is an exception because of its historic nature and prominence in Carterville’s downtown.

According to Kathy Sidenstricker at Smith Midwest Real Estate, the Weeks building at 326 W. Main St. was built about 1900 to supply hardware for the region’s mines. During the 1920s, it became a “drive-in” hotel in which overnight guests could use a freight elevator to take their cars to the second floor.

A little research reveals that mining magnate Amos A. Cass was a partner and director of Weeks Hardware Co. He died in 1915.

Weeks Hardware later became the Morton Booth Co., a cabinet maker that’s now based in nearby Webb City.

The three-story structure lists for $159,900, with more than 19,000 square feet of space.

One side of the building’s ground floor is covered with unfortunate green siding and its interior is nothing to write home about. But the photos provided by Sidenstricker show amazing-looking wood floors and architectural details on the upper floors, as you’ll see below.

This, in short, is a real gem that awaits rediscovery and renewal. The contact information is here.

Part of downtown East St. Louis added to National Register September 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Towns.
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The Downtown East St. Louis Historic District in East St. Louis, Illinois, was added to the National Register of Historic Places effective Sept. 17, according to an email a few days ago from the National Park Service.

The district comprises of two blocks of Collinsville Avenue, a block and a half of Missouri Avenue and the south side of one block of St. Louis Avenue. Missouri Avenue served as Route 66 in the city during the 1950s, when the highway was rerouted to the 1951 Veterans Bridge, now known as the Martin Luther King Bridge, that connects St. Louis. And Collinsville Avenue was part of old U.S. 40, aka the National Road.

According to the nomination papers, the district has 35 buildings, and 25 are “contributing resources,” or historic. Two properties — the Spivey Building and Majestic Theatre — already were on the National Register. Many buildings in particular on Collinsville Avenue date from 1900 to the mid-1930s.

St. Louis Public Radio earlier in the month posted a story about the district’s imminent inclusion to the National Register. It talked to Michael Allen, director of the Preservation Research Office, which the city hired to map out the historic district:

City leaders became interested in preserving the buildings when the Illinois legislature created a special historic tax credit for river edge cities of up to 25 percent of redevelopment costs, Allen said. That state tax credit could also be paired with a federal historic tax credit.

Allen said city leaders hoped the tax credits could be used to revitalize East St. Louis. Once the region’s second major downtown area, the city was eclipsed by development in other areas, including Clayton.

“Almost all of downtown has been torn down. … It’s surrounded sadly by nothing,” Allen said. “But this little area is cohesive, coherent and full of a great sense of history… It has all the bones needed for economic revitalization. It’s really remarkably intact.”

Because the tax credits expire in 2016, Allen and the city already are pitching the district to developers.

Allen hopes that effort comes in the form of a “building-by-building, slow and careful redevelopment” in the same vein as done in certain St. Louis neighborhoods, such as the Central West End and Grand Center.

“Neighborhoods started out with vacant buildings and one or two key developers taking on key projects, attracting another developer next door,” he said. “This approach while incremental is really what’s been missing in East St. Louis.”

East St. Louis has seen a flurry of activity in recent months with the National Register. The Melvin Price Federal Building and courthouse was added in August, and the Union Trust Bank Co. building in May.

(Image of downtown East St. Louis by Sean Marshall via Flickr)

Webb City wants to restore historic gas station September 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Preservation.
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29c Webb City MO - Daugherty Street Gas Station

The city of Webb City, Missouri, is seeking to land a grant to restore a historic gas station in its downtown, reported the Joplin Globe.

The station, which once sold Sinclair and Tydol gas, was built in the 1920s and designed to look like a replica of a nearby post office and serve those vehicles.

The U.S. Filling Station, located at 223 W. Daugherty St. across from the post office, was deeded to the city about a year ago without restrictions by the Patten family trust, said Mayor John Biggs. It was the family’s hope that the city could have it restored. [...]

Erin Turner, economic and community development coordinator for the city, said the initial estimate to restore the station is about $62,000. But since downtown Webb City was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the contractor has to be certified for historic preservation, which could push the cost higher.

The grant would pay for 60 percent of the project and the city would be responsible for the remaining 40 percent.

Turner said some longtime Webb City residents and business owners have already offered to help cover the city’s share if it receives the grant. A Patten family heir has pledged $5,000, Biggs said, and David Perry, president of Cardinal Scale Manufacturing, has pledged $25,000.

Two of the council members wanted the property sold instead, but the five other councilors voted down the motion. The property had been used rented for 10 months by a man who was restoring cars.

This Google Street View image from May 2013 shows the station looking considerably nicer:

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The station sits about a block north of a 1930s Broadway alignment of Route 66.

It would be the second historic gas station Webb City will have restored. The Webb City Route 66 Information Center is housed in a vintage gas station that was renovated and reopened in 2010.

(Hat tip to Ron Hart; 2009 image of the Daugherty Street gas station by John Hagstrom via Flickr)

Southwest Missouri county will dedicate three historic sites September 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Events, Motels, Preservation, Signs.
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The Greene County Historic Sites Board on Saturday will dedicate three locations west of Springfield, Missouri, along Route 66 as historic sites, reported the Springfield News-Leader.

One of the ceremonies will include a lightning ceremony for a restored neon sign at a former tourist cabin complex.

The sites are:

  • Barnes Town & Country, 8240 W. Highway 266, formerly known as the Barnes General Store.
  • Main Street Feeds, 8270 W. Highway 266, formerly known as Barnes Feed Mill.
  • R&S Memorial Decorations, 9323 W. Highway 266, formerly known as Graystone Heights Modern Cabins, built in 1935. The ceremony will include a lighting ceremony for the restoration of the cabins’ original sign between 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday. You can see an image of the restored sign here.

Other historic sites along Route 66 in that area are Bennett one-room school, Clearwater Angus Farm, Yeakley Chapel, and the ghost town of Plano.

R&S owners John and Alexa Schweke, who are restoring at least two of the cabins, said they were inspired by the movie “Cars”:

In fact, seeing that movie is what got him started thinking about the importance of his property’s history, including the demise of little businesses like Graystone Heights after interstates replaced Route 66.

“It didn’t really hit me and hit my heart until I saw that movie,” he said.

Two years ago, the Schwekes joined the Route 66 Association and got the ball rolling for their property’s designation as a Greene County Historic Landmark and for restoration of the original sign.

All of those sites are within a short drive of each other, on a nice stretch of old 66 that veers away from the interstate and provides a glimpse of the past.

UPDATE 9/15/2014: Swa Frantzen, owner of the first Route 66 site on the Internet, happened to be traveling in the region that weekend and snapped this photo of the restored Graystone Heights Modern Cabins sign:

(Image of Greystone Heights Modern Cabins courtesy of 66Postcards.com)

Old gas station will be converted into a barbershop September 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Gas stations, Preservation.
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A reputed former Sinclair gas station in Springfield, Missouri, soon will reopen as a barbershop and waxing studio later this fall, reported the News-Leader newspaper.

The station is just a few hundred feet south of the College Street alignment of Route 66.

Dacy and Ryan Mulcahy agreed to buy the station at 640 W. Walnut St. from Jeff Schrag, founder and owner of the nearby Mother’s Brewing Co., which took its name from one of Route 66’s nickname, the Mother Road. Here’s a Google Street View image of the station:

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More details from the newspaper:

Rogue Barber Co. will feature classic barber techniques like straight razor shaving by Ryan, a licensed barber who studied at Academy of Hair Design. The business will also include a waxing salon run by Dacy, a photographer and licensed aesthetician and massage therapist. They may later add a cosmetologist, she said, for women’s cuts. [...]

The Mulcahys initially looked for space in the heart of downtown. A friend suggested they check out the old filling station, Dacy said. With renewed interest in Route 66, one block over, and location, “we got a feel for the direction my husband wanted to go with the decor and the vibe of the building. We are super happy it all worked out,” Dacy said.

Plans include selling Route 66 items and a line of personal products, perhaps a soap made with Mother’s beer.

The Mulcahys plan to keep the building’s vintage look, as shown by an artist’s rendering of the renovated station.

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