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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)

World’s Largest Catsup Bottle up for sale July 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Preservation.
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The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, a landmark for decades in Collinsville, Illinois, has been put up for sale and faces a cloudy future, according to several St. Louis-area media outlets.

KPLR-TV posted this story today (the video isn’t embeddable). The Metro Independent, based in Collinsville, also had this report today:

Bethel-Eckert Enterprises Inc., owners of the warehouse below the 170-foot water tower, and the tower itself, are attempting to sale the icon voted as one of Time Magazine’s top 50 American roadside attractions in 2010.

Some lucky investor can buy the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle for $200,000, Larry Eckert, co-owner of Bethel-Eckert, said. He will throw in the warehouse and land for an additional $300,000, although he would prefer to sale it all together.

The newspaper said the owners quietly had the site for sale for some time and thought it had a buyer. However, that potential sale fell through.

The city of Collinsville was offered the site as a gift in 1995, and it turned it down. Bethel-Eckert isn’t willing to give it away again.

For obvious tourism reasons, the city wants to keep the landmark where it is. However, it doesn’t have much flexibility in making such a purchase. Instead, the city may look to helping sell it to a buyer who wants to preserve it.

The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits near the site of a former Brooks Catsup factory. The 100,000-gallon water tower, painted to resemble a Brooks ketchup bottle, was built in 1949.

Brooks eventually moved its operations to Indiana, but the big bottle remained. A local preservation group restored it in 1995, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle sits about two miles south of the nearest alignment of Route 66 at Beltline Road in Collinsville. But it remains a favorite side trip for Route 66 travelers.

(Hat tip: David Backlin; image of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle by Chuck Coker via Flickr)

The miracle of the Coleman Theatre’s restoration July 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Preservation, Theaters.
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The history and eventual revitalization of the historic Coleman Theatre in Miami, Oklahoma, is one of the most inspiring and interesting stories you’ll hear on Route 66.

It continues to amaze how a town of just 13,000 people with nominal funding could return an opulent theater back to its old glory.

And who better to tell about it than the theater’s executive director, Barbara Smith?

As Smith noted, the theater continues to host tours almost every day. And it continues to bring in music acts, dramatic productions and the occasional film. Go here for its schedule of upcoming events.

The documentary was produced by students at Macon State College in Macon, Georgia.

(Image of the Coleman Theater from 1929 by CharmaineZoe’s Marvelous Melange via Flickr)

Cowboy sign returns to Big Texan after one-month hiatus July 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Signs.
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The 90-foot-tall landmark cowboy sign at the Big Texan Steak Ranch returned Friday after being removed for about a month when a wind storm damaged it, reported the Amarillo Globe-News.

The newspaper reported about the saga of Bull, the name of the cowboy figure on the sign:

Strong winds in late June damaged the sign to the point where it would have been dangerous to leave it up. That surprised Bobby Lee, co-owner of the Big Texan.

“He’s survived two tornados, a plane, blizzards … wind, you name it, but that one got him,” he said. [...]

AAA Signs of Amarillo spent weeks refurbishing and repairing the old herdsman. The high wind took its toll on the old steel, so plans were made for strengthening the design, AAA manager Dale Bural said. Some cosmetic touch-ups were made, but workers did their best to keep Bull authentic, Bural said.

The restaurant initially thought the sign would be down only a week or two. But the repairs apparently were more complex than anticipated. Either way, Bull probably will be fine for a few more decades.

Bull dates to 1960, among the earliest days of the Big Texan when the restaurant was on Amarillo Boulevard, aka Route 66. At one point, Bull had neon lighting. The sign’s surface was extensively renovated about 10 years ago.

Bull and the restaurant moved during the early 1970s after Interstate 40 opened.

(Image of Bull the cowboy in 2011 at the Big Texan Steak Ranch by bernachoc via Flickr)

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:


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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)

Federal historic tax credit put on National Trust’s watch list June 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation.
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Each year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation releases its list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

No Route 66 property made the 2014 list. However, what made the watch list should be of interest to Route 66ers — and all preservationists in general. Take note of the last item (you can skip ahead to 2:22 of the video):

The National Trust explained why the federal historic tax credit made the watch list:

The federal historic tax credit was created to attract private sector investment to the rehabilitation of America’s historic buildings. It offers developers a tax credit if a rehabilitation project retains the building’s historic character. The result is new life for the nation’s historic mills, warehouses, theaters and more—resources that would continue to sit vacant and dilapidated if not for the credit.

Since being signed into law by President Reagan, the federal historic tax credit has attracted $109 billion to the rehabilitation of nearly 40,000 historic commercial buildings in the U.S., creating 2.4 million jobs and sparking downtown revitalization nationwide. Now, there is a proposal in Congress to eliminate it in the context of tax reform, jeopardizing the potential reuse of historic buildings like these throughout the country.

The National Trust provided a link where people can write their senators about the issue.

One justification for a tax credit for rehabbing historic properties comes straight from the Route 66 Economic Impact Report:

Compared to new construction and such stimulus favorites as investing in highways, historic preservation — such as historic preservation of Route 66 properties — is a reasonably comparable, if not superior, economic pump primer.

As an example, the report said the per-dollar economic impact of commercial historic preservation in Oklahoma surpasses that of the insurance, highway construction, home construction, data processing, and meat-packing sectors.

Keeping the federal historic tax credit should be nonpartisan issue. Almost everyone wants to keep historic properties preserved, and the tax credit provides a boost to entrepreneurs who will use historic buildings for their businesses.

In a recent example, Allan Affeldt’s purchase of Hotel Castaneda (pictured above) in Las Vegas, New Mexico, probably wouldn’t have happened without historic tax credits. Instead, the long-closed but indisputably historically significant hotel would have continued to sit and decay, as it has for decades.

And any lawmaker ought to ask the residents of Winslow, Arizona, whether Affeldt’s saving of La Posada helped the economy of the town.

Go to the link from the National Trust to take action.

(Image of Hotel Castaneda by Aidan Wakely-Mulroney via Flickr)

Neon restored on historic theater in downtown Los Angeles June 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Signs, Theaters.
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The marquee of the historic Globe Theatre in downtown Los Angeles was relighted during a ceremony Tuesday night.

It reportedly was the first time in 30 years that the marquee has glowed.

The theater is on 740 S. Broadway in downtown L.A., which served as the western terminus of Route 66 until it was stretched to Santa Monica.

Here’s a countdown from the relighting:

KABC-TV also filed this report:

The Globe Theatre was built in 1913 — more than a decade before Route 66. It is scheduled to reopen later this year. Owner Erik Choi is in the middle of a $5 million renovation.

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