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St. Louis cemetery named to National Historic Register August 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, People.
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Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, which dates to 1849, was listed to the National Register of Historic Places effective July 3, according to an email a few days ago from the National Park Service.

Ironically, the cemetery contains several gravesites or mausoleums — including the Louis Sullivan-designed Wainwright Tomb — that already were listed on the National Register. But the cemetery itself wasn’t placed on the Register until now.

Bellefontaine, at 4947 W. Florissant Ave., is on the “City 66″ alignment that carried Route 66 from 1939 to 1974.

The 314-acre cemetery contains more than 87,000 graves, including Louisiana Purchase explorer William Clark, Anheuser-Busch brewery founder Adolphus Busch, Eads Bridge architect James Eads, U.S. senator Thomas Hart Benton, and Beat writer William S. Burroughs.

It remains an active, nonprofit and nondenominational cemetery, with about 100 burials a year, and still has about 100 acres of land available.

To tell you how historically significant Bellfontaine is, Findagrave.com lists almost 400 famous burials on its database.

Bellefontaine Cemetery often holds tours, hosts weddings at its chapel, and has a website that’s useful and contains a lot of information.

(Image of Bellefontaine Cemetery by Christina Rutz via Flickr)

National Trust wants Painted Desert facility restored August 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Preservation.
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation is lobbying to preserve and restore the nearly 50-year-old Painted Desert Community Complex inside the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

The complex is the only building designed by acclaimed architect Richard Neutra in the National Park Service system. The building was brought a then-unusual Mid-Century Modern style to the park.

According to the Trust:

Sitting just steps from historic Route 66 and located inside one of Northern Arizona’s  most spectacular and scientifically significant natural landscapes, the Painted Desert Community Complex is an often overlooked Modern treasure. Noted Modern architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander carefully designed the collection of 36 steel, glass, and masonry buildings with flat roofs, low silhouettes, primary colors, and native plantings to harmonize with the stunning vistas that surround it. Neutra and Alexander’s bold design set a precedent for a new style of park architecture, which became known as “Park Service Modern.”

Today the Complex is one of the earliest and best examples of Modern architecture within the entire National Park system, and the only remaining example of a Neutra-designed building within the Park Service. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and is on its way to becoming a National Historic Landmark. [...]

Virtually all of the original buildings remain, and they continue to serve many of the same functions today. But a perennial lack of funding for repairs and maintenance, combined with the harsh desert climate and earlier inappropriate alterations, have taken a serious toll on these dramatic Modern buildings and landscapes.

In a blog post, the Trust explained why it’s championing the Painted Desert Community Complex:

In April 2014 the National Trust designated Painted Desert as one of its National Treasures to recognize its unique role in the history of our National Parks and to draw attention to the need for funding and technical assistance to restore it as a beautiful and practical Modern icon that complements the stunning natural landscape around it. National Trust staff, including members of the Preservation Green Lab, are working closely with the Park Service and Superintendent Brad Traver, and Arizona partners Modern Phoenix and the Arizona Preservation Foundation, to raise awareness of and support for this little-known Modern landmark. Drawing on the expertise of well-known restoration and sustainability consultants, the National Trust hopes to provide critical guidance for a model restoration that will return the Complex to its original appearance, integrate sustainable materials and systems (and hopefully achieve net zero energy consumption), and serve as an example for the treatment of Mission 66 resources throughout the Park Service. With this kind of strong, cooperative effort focused on preservation, the public can look forward to another 50 years of service from these irreplaceable assets, each a part of the century-long story of our national parks.

The Trust has listed ways to help the complex, including donating to its campaign, signing a petition to encourage its restoration, and following it on social media. More photos of the complex may be seen here.

(Image of the Painted Desert Community Complex by Petrified Forest via Flickr)

Questions for Clint Eastwood and his Tucumcari time August 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Television, Towns.
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David Stevens, editor of the Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune in New Mexico, in a column said he had a few questions for potential interview subjects about long-ago local issues. Stevens’ wish list had some urgency because all the people “are getting old,” he said.

One of those interview subjects would be actor Clint Eastwood, who spent time in the Route 66 town of Tucumcari, New Mexico,  to film the television show “Rawhide.”

  • I want to know about Tucumcari in 1959 when he lived there six weeks filming “Rawhide.”
  • I want to have lunch with him at Del’s and ask if the food was better then or now.
  • I want to know what he thought about Route 66 in those days, if he even had a thought about that historic highway we’d all like to revisit, complete with its neon lights and hotel rooms with garages attached.
  • I’d like to know if he remembers hearing about the 13-year-old Quay County boy walking into his parents’ bedroom that summer and shooting them with a deer rifle. Gordon Ellis’ father died a few days later.
  • And I want to know how actress Kipp Hamilton ended up hospitalized for two days after accidentally stabbing herself in the foot with a knife while filming.

According to a 2010 story in Route 66 News, Tucumcari was used as a base for five episodes of the TV western. According to an excerpt from a Quay County Sun article at the time:

Actors and technicians arrived in Tucumcari on Aug. 10, 1959, for six weeks of work, the Tucumcari Daily News reported.

The show’s stars included Eastwood, Eric Fleming and Sheb Wooley. Guest stars also popped in and out of town for brief appearances.

The paper reported scenes were filmed at three Quay County ranches. The cast and crew, about 65 in all, were seen regularly around town and became regular patrons at Del’s Restaurant.

Eastwood is 84 years old and has gained considerable acclaim — and Academy Awards — as a director in recent decades. His mother lived to 97, so perhaps her son isn’t at death’s door (in fact, he directed another film this spring). But Stevens’ point is made — the urgency for having these questions answered is clear.

Perhaps Eastwood or one of his assistants will read this and be happy to oblige at least two curious journalists.

(An image from “Rawhide” by Peter Renshaw via Flickr)

Kickstarter fundraiser launched to restore sign August 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Signs.
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The new owners of Cindy’s Eagle Rock Restaurant in Los Angeles have begun a Kickstarter campaign to preserve the historic diner’s vintage sign, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Monique King and Paul Rosenbluh bought the restaurant and reopened it in April. And, so far, they seem to be good stewards:

They’ve kept the original booths, wallpaper and countertops inside, from when the diner opened in 1948, but King says the sign outside is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the mid-century landmark.

“We felt like the luckiest people in the whole universe when we got it,” King said. “It’s a beautiful sign, it’s vintage, original and there is just something so important about preserving it and taking it away from being just a big pigeon roost.”

King and Rosenbluh started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $16,250 they say is needed to restore the sign. The two are hoping to fix the rusted metal, attach a new neon “open” sign, structurally reinforce the sign and replace the sign’s letters.

King reiterated the restaurant is keeping the sign, but it simply doesn’t have the money now to do it properly. If enough people help out, the owners will hire a sign preservationist to do it up right.

Here’s the campaign, with all the goodies detailed:

(Hat tip to Scott Piotrowski; image of the Cindy’s sign by Howard F. via Flickr)

New statues coming to Route 66 in Illinois August 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, History.
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A series of new statues and wayside kiosks will be erected in nine towns along Route 66 in Illinois, according to a news release.

The Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway project was paid for by grants from National Scenic Byway Program and the Illinois Office of Tourism. The new kiosks and statues add to the 31 wayside exhibits and 14 “experience hubs” already up on the Mother Road.

Two-dimensional iron structures, called “shadow statues,” show a scene from Route 66. They are:

  • Godley: Miner and Mule – An interpretation of strip-mining coal operations in Braidwood, Coal City, Carbon Hill, Diamond, and Godley until the mid-1970s.
  • Elwood: Rosie the Riveter – A symbol of the female worker during World War II at the Elwood Arsenal factory.
  • Pontiac: Motorcycle Police – At the historic Illinois State Police headquarters building, the statue tells of the early days of the Illinois State Police motorcycle patrol (pictured above).
  • McLean: Dixie Gas Attendant – It interprets Illinois’ oldest truck stop, Dixie Truckers Home, that opened in 1928. It also features the McLean railroad depot.
  • Elkhart: Shirley Temple – It tells the story of actress Shirley Temple’s visit to the House by the Side of the Road Cafe in 1938.
  • Sherman: Wayside Park – It depicts a picnic during Route 66′s heyday at one of its surviving wayside parks.
  • Gillespie: Miner – Another coal-mining town, it proved crucial to the development of labor unions.
  • Benld: Coliseum Ballroom Dancers – The biggest dance floor between Chicago and St. Louis attracted large crowds, many of them top-name performers. The Coliseum burned down in 2011.
  • Staunton: Illinois Traction System – Electrified railways connected travelers before Route 66 became a major highway. The rail lines were phased out by the mid-1950s.

(Image of the Motorcycle Police statue that will be at the historic Illinois State Police headquarters on Route 66 in Pontiac, Illinois)

“Return to Route 66″ August 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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A reader tipped me off about Kingman, Arizona, resident Chris Commisso, who wrote this song and shot the video on the Mother Road in Kingman.

It seems to be a mix of jazz, hip-hop and 1960s lounge. I like it a lot.

Commisso has his own YouTube channel here. His official website is here.

Los Angeles and Woody Guthrie August 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Music, Towns.
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Folk singer Woody Guthrie‘s many links to Route 66 have been long documented.

However, this excellent clip by filmmaker Aric Allen shows that Los Angeles played a crucial role in Guthrie’s road to fame in 1937.

Amazingly, many of the places where Guthrie hung around in L.A. still exist, as this film shows.

(Image of Woody Guthrie by James Ratcliffe via Flickr)

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