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Boots Motel volunteer day set to mark Route 66’s birthday October 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
2 comments

NOTE: The date of the work day has been changed from Friday, Nov. 11, to Saturday, Nov. 12, in an effort to gain more participation.

The new owners of the Boots Motel in Carthage, Mo., have set Saturday, Nov. 12, as a volunteer day to help clean and read the Route 66 landmark for winter.

Nov. 11 marks the 85th anniversary of when Route 66 was certified as a U.S. highway.

The news release by the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce explains:

This very special event will be exclusive to the volunteers. The event will begin at 8 am with coffee, hot chocolate and donuts. At 9 am, volunteers will begin working, which will consist of basic cleaning, patching and caulking that will help protect the buildings against the coming winter. The media is also invited to attend.

At noon, lunch will be donated and provided by several local restaurants, along with coffee, hot chocolate and sodas. At 3 p.m. the work ends and the birthday party begins with a cake cutting and a “toast” to the Mother Road. In addition to the cake, ice cream and other refreshments will be provided.

Volunteers will receive a Certificate of Appreciation and a letter for future credit towards a stay at the motel or another gift of their choosing. They will also receive a free membership in the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce. Twenty-five volunteer applicants will be signed-up on a first-come basis, and will need to submit a basic registration form that may be downloaded at www.bootsmotel.com. Volunteers and event sponsors will also receive a free membership in the Route 66 Chamber which includes a free ad in the chamber’s website in return for their support of this volunteer event.

I think marking Route 66’s birthday by helping preserve one of its most historic motels is a terrific way to mark the occasion.

Two sisters purchased the motel a few weeks ago, and plan to restore it to its 1949 splendor.

A lulu of a loo October 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, People, Restaurants.
2 comments

Emily Priddy, aka Red Fork Hippie, is repainting a bathroom using scenes from Route 66 at the Brews & Bytes coffeehouse in downtown Sapulpa, Okla.

The Sapulpa Daily Herald published a story about her ongoing project today:

She told the owners she would paint the walls if the Reed’s could pay for her talent in brewed java.

Combining her two loves, meant that the Reed’s get some economical art and Priddy is able to express herself aesthetically and consume the brewed bean juice while doing so.

A win-win for everyone involved.

“I told Stevia I would work cheap. Art in exchange for coffee. But considering how much coffee I can suck down in the course of an evening I am not sure she is really getting a bargain,” Priddy said with a bit of whimsy.

Her paintings of primarily old classic roadway curiosities/landmarks from the golden age of Route 66, have been rendered somewhat purposely retro to resemble sepia toned photos from days gone by.

Photos of her artwork in the bathroom can be seen here, here, and here. You can see where she started from here. Disclosure: I am married to Emily.

Brews & Bytes can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

A closer look at Amboy October 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, History, Signs, Towns.
2 comments

This sprawling video by Carlos Garcia Aceves is about the Route 66 town of Amboy, Calif.; Juan Pollo restaurant chain proprietor and Amboy owner Albert Okura, and the Roy’s sign in Amboy.

Good nuggets about the history of Amboy are found in the first eight minutes. The middle part is an interview with Okura. The last part contains more history of Amboy and Roy’s.

It looks like a Kickstarter project will be launched soon on tp finish an Amboy book and documentary.

Book review: “Route 66 Sightings” October 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Photographs.
5 comments

The first time I leafed through the new photography book “Route 66 Sightings,” I encountered one large image that stopped me in my tracks:

It was Dawn Welch, owner of the Rock Cafe of Stroud, Okla., standing amid the ruins of her Route 66 restaurant after a fire gutted it in 2008. Her hands are up against her forehead as she gazes at the stone walls — the only things still standing after the blaze. Although the text says she was surveying the damage, the image conveys a gut punch of anguish.

For certain, “Route 66 Sightings” (hardbound, Ghost Town Press, 194 pages, $49.95) contains a lot of gorgeous pictures. But the book stands as more than that. The volume contains images from moments in time by co-authors Jerry McClanahan, Jim Ross, and Shellee Graham, each who have been exploring Route 66 for at least 20 years.

“Route 66 Sightings” eschewed the typical east-to-west format, or a laundry list of photos of the road’s icons.

Instead, the book serves as “a celebration of the magic and magnificence of a highway.”

“Our goal was not to simply add to the visual record, but to evoke the essence of a subject. […] We have tried to render not just sites, but insights.”

In essence, Ross, Graham and McClanahan have compiled their favorite photographs over the years, and are telling the stories behind them.

For instance, a 1992 image of the long-gone Shawford Motel in Santa Rosa, N.M., is backlit by a gorgeous sunset. McClanahan explains that sunsets were particularly vivid that year because of volcanic ash in the atmosphere spewed by Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

Many of the photos in the book are illuminated by the orange light of a setting sun, or the  glow of neon lighting (one such example of the latter is the lights of the historic Steak ‘n’ Shake in Springfield, Mo., being reflected by a wet street).

Most of the photos are printed in color, but a few of Graham’s images show up in black-and-white — including a striking infrared look at the Wagon Wheel Motel’s neon sign and a nearby evergreen tree in Cuba, Mo.

Another striking image is the rare sight of Oatman Road in western Arizona dusted by snow.

The chapters Gone and Used To Be are devoted to Route 66 landmarks that have disappeared or are decaying into the earth (such as the forlorn Painted Desert Trading Post).

But it’s encouraging to see so many pages devoted to chapters titled Against The Odds, Rescued, and New Kids on the Block. Those portions of the book show the old Mother Road’s got a lot of life left in her.

“Route 66 Sightings” also shows characters of the road, some deceased and some alive. Featured are Lillian Redman of the Blue Swallow Motel, Snow Cap Drive-In proprietor Juan Delgadillo, Soulsby Station owner Russell Soulsby, Lucille “Mother of the Mother Road” Hamons, Gardner Chronicle owner Bart Parkinson, Afton Station co-owner Laurel Kane, Ron “Tattoo Man” Jones, Gay Parita Sinclair Station owner Gary Turner, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch owner Rich Henry, and 66-to-Cali owner Dan Rice.

Make sure you see the final two pages of the book. One serves as a simple tribute to longtime Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire. The second sees Ross, McClanahan, and Graham re-creating The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album cover, except it’s Route 66 style.

“Route 66 Sightings” doesn’t follow a strict itinerary. Instead, it’s like spontaneously jumping into the car, ignoring the guidebooks, and seeing what surprises lurk around the bend. Because of that, the book ranges from poignant to just plain fun.

Highly recommended.

(Note: POPS in Arcadia, Okla., will host a book-signing by the authors from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.)

A tour of the Campbell Hotel October 25, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, History, Motels, Preservation.
5 comments

Recently, the owners of the Campbell Hotel along Route 66 in Tulsa offered me and Emily (aka Redforkhippie) a tour of the historic building. Last week, we took them up on their offer.

We had toured the hotel in May during the Tulsa’s annual Designer Showcase. However, that was when the hotel was dolled up to impossible extremes. We wanted to see the Campbell after it opened for business in mid-July.

Max Campbell built the hotel in 1927 as the Casa Loma Hotel with a 36 guest rooms on its second floor and a variety of businesses on the ground floor. Group M Investment in Tulsa purchased the building in 2008 and undertook a painstaking restoration. The building, now with 26 guest rooms, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s the main lobby of the motel from its south entrance. That’s one of the hotel’s owners, Barbara Casey, chatting with the desk clerk. Aaron Meek (not pictured), a co-owner and a contractor who oversaw much of the building’s restoration, also accompanied us.

This is a close-up of one of the chandeliers. Take note of the original tin ceiling:

These comfy-looking chairs and sofas sit near the front desk.

Casey and Meek told us the hotel is completely up to modern codes, but they were fond of repurposing old things, such as these double doors near the elevator.

This bathroom near the front desk, for example, contains photos of Tulsa’s Art Deco buildings.

On the east side of the building’s first floor is the SpaMax spa that will open Nov. 8. Here’s where you can get manicures, pedicures, massages, and the like.

We also thought the spa’s lighting fixtures were ultra-cool.

Next to the spa is a gift shop.

One of the gifts for sale is a Campbell Hotel monogrammed bathrobe, made of soft rayon fashioned from bamboo.

The shop, as expected, offers a few Route 66 items:

On the second floor, the first of the many uniquely themed rooms that Casey and Meek showed us was the Leon Russell Room.

The internationally acclaimed songwriter and performer was born in Lawton, Okla., but grew up in and lived for many years in Tulsa. This painting of him is a prominent part of the room.

These shimmering decorative pillows feature lyrics from his most famous tune, “A Song for You”:

The Leon Russell Room’s bathroom also contains framed sheet music on the walls …

… and a poster from when a Tulsa street was dedicated in Russell’s honor last year:

This is the room’s bathtub. It should be noted that many of the tubs, such as this, are originals to the hotel. So is the tile.

We especially liked the light fixtures in the room, which added a near-psychedelic quality:

Before heading into the next themed room, we noted that the hallways had an old-school atmosphere about them.

The lighting fixtures provided some of the old vibe …

… so did the transoms above the doors.

But much of the old feel came from the charmingly creaky wooden floors, which are original but took much sanding and refinishing. Many of the rooms contain the old-forest pine flooring as well.

Next was the Route 66 Room.

This room contains a lot of decor inspired by the Mother Road.

This is the Lunar Eclipse Room, because of its high-contrast colors. It also happens to be compliant to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Another striking room is the Gilcrease Room, inspired by American Indian art and furnishings.

The Gilcrease Room also boasts this view of downtown Tulsa, looking west:

Here is the Tulsa Gardens Room:

The Renaissance Room, also known as the honeymoon suite, is in a part of the building that has a raised cupola roof. As a result, the ceilings are very tall.

This is the TU Room, or University of Tulsa.

Sooners fans can also use a University of Oklahoma Room, too:

The Equestrian Room, naturally, takes on a horse theme:

One of the last guest rooms we saw was the Bama Suite, named after the Bama Companies down the street. Bama supplies restaurants all over with pies and biscuits. Bama started in the early 1920s in Tulsa, a few years before Max Campbell built his hotel.

The second floor also contains this meeting room:

Take a close look at the walls. That is the original color scheme. Unlike other rooms in the Campbell Hotel, it didn’t need new drywall or new paint because dozens of old doors were stacked in the room.

The doors served as an obstruction that kept vandals from damaging the walls. So this multicolored appearance you see is the same as when the hotel was built.

During the tour, Casey and Meek regaled us with stories about the things they found during the renovation — old newspapers, military dogtags, unused condoms still in their metal casings.

Meek even found old wallboard where a pay phone once hung — with four-digit phone numbers scribbled on the plaster. Meek took down that wall and has it stored for safekeeping.

Finally, on the ground floor is the events center, which can be rented for parties and business conferences.

The Campbell Hotel still has parts of its east and west ends on the ground floor waiting to be developed. Meek and Casey say a sandwich and/or pizza restaurant will probably be built on the east end, and a diner on the west.

“We want the Metro Diner,” Casey said, referring to the 1950s-themed restaurant on Route 66 that was torn down a few years ago to make way for a University of Tulsa expansion. Casey even owns the Internet domain name for the Metro Diner.

Meek is much less committed to a strict re-creation of the Metro. “I want it to be as cool as the Metro Diner, but not the same,” he said.

It was obvious that the ultimate design of the diner remains unsettled, and is probably at least a year or two away from being built.

All told, we toured the hotel for nearly 2 1/2 hours. And there’s more we didn’t see, because several guest rooms were being used that night.

My take: It’s one of the best preservation and restoration projects I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of great ones on Route 66 in the past decade. The hotel oozes a nostalgic feel, which is ideal for Route 66 travelers. And the uniqueness of each room scores a lot of creativity points. Best of all, the Campbell Hotel didn’t skimp on modern-day amenities, including high-def televisions and Wi-Fi (list of amenities is here).

The closest hotel I can think of that compares to the Campbell Hotel is La Posada in Winslow, Ariz. And that’s high praise indeed.

Santa Fe motel will be converted into low-income housing October 24, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
3 comments

The historic Stage Coach Motor Inn along Cerrillos Road (aka Route 66) in Santa Fe, N.M., soon will be converted into a lower-income housing complex, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The Housing Trust of Santa Fe will begin renovating the motel in January.

Plans call for revamping the inn’s three buildings into 15 studios apartments and constructing 44 new one-, two- and three-bedroom units. A small casita on the site will also be redone and available to rent.

Community gardens, walking paths, a play area and open space have been mapped out for the 4.5 acre site. The community space will offer computers, a kitchen and room for child care and after-school programs.

Eventually, the Housing Trust hopes to also build a separate day-care center on the property.

Eco-friendly features are designed to earn the project platinum LEED status. […]

Residents must earn no more than 60 percent of the area’s average median income, now about $52,000 in Santa Fe. Units will rent from between $300 to nearly $1,000 a month.

The trust is paying $1.5 million for the property. The market value is $2.25 million, but the motel’s owner is donating the difference. All told, the entire project will cost about $12 million, which will be paid with housing tax credits and funding from funding from Santa Fe’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Community Development Block Grant, New Mexico Housing Trust Fund, and New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority.

This is yet another example of a historic property being adapted to another use. If the market can no longer make a vintage motel viable, then it should be converted to some other business use instead of being torn down.

A photo of the Stage Coach can be seen here.

UPDATE 12/9/2011: The Albuquerque Journal posted a story about the groundbreaking for the project.

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