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Billionaire Warren Buffett dines at historic Albuquerque steakhouse March 31, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants, Television.
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Warren Buffett, the billionaire principal owner of Berkshire Hathaway, recently had a meal with cast members of “Breaking Bad” at the 40-year-old Monte Carlo Steakhouse and Liquor Store.

The restaurant is on Central Avenue (aka Route 66) on the city’s west side.

KOB-TV filed this story:

Because New Mexico has become a popular site for television and movie productions, celebrity sightings are common in Albuquerque. But Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, probably holds more net worth than all of those celebrities put together.

How reopening a restaurant boosted a Route 66 town March 30, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Towns.

This fascinating video by Illinois Tourism shows how reopening the historic Palms Grill Cafe improved the coffers of the Route 66 town of Atlanta, Ill.

And the town didn’t benefit just financially.

That 43 percent increase in sales-tax revenue should get a lot of people’s attention.

New owner of Crystal City Shopping Center revealed March 29, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses.
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The new owner of the long-moribund Crystal City Shopping Center in southwest Tulsa is the same one who tried to negotiate a deal for months, but wound up buying it for much less money at an auction.

A new story by the Urban Tulsa alternative newspaper gave the details about the Route 66 property’s new overseer:

While a Route 66 sign emblazons the side of one building, elsewhere there is a large “For Lease” banner. At the approximately 111,000-square-foot property, located near Southwest Boulevard and S. 33rd West Avenue, most store windows are now empty.

That could change with new ownership, however. Florida-based Monticello Acquisitions, LLC, purchased the property in a late February auction for “a little bit less than $500,000,” said Dean Lewis, a senior associate with real estate brokerage firm NAI Petrous, though he added that the deal was not expected to be finalized until late March.

Bill Smith was publicly linked to an attempt to buy the property in 2012. Lewis said Smith in the principal of Monticello Acquisitions.

A business partner of Smith’s, Brenda Morrow, said in a phone interview that plans call for bringing businesses back to the retail center.

Coincidentally, I spoke with Danny Overton at NAI Global about the same time Urban Tulsa’s story went to print. He said Smith was prepared to buy the property after months of talks, until the family of owner Buck Myers decided to put it up for auction instead. Myers’ heirs had hoped to get nearly $1 million for Crystal City Shopping Center at auction; they ended up with less than half that. And Smith wound up paying millions of dollars less than anticipated.

Overton said he hoped to lure a grocery chain, Sav-A-Lot, in the shopping center. Overton also said he wants to land “destination locations” there.

By all accounts, Crystal City Shopping Center declined steadily under Myers’ ownership. According to the article, Crystal City had 85 percent occupancy when Myers bought the property 15 years ago. It now is well under 50 percent, with many boarded-up windows in vacant storefronts.

The ownership change should occur about the time the Crystal City Carnival begins next week.

Remnants of Bell gas station are demolished, but sign is saved March 28, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Signs.

The deteriorating remains of the long-closed Bell gas station along Southwest Boulevard (aka Route 66) in southwest Tulsa were razed Wednesday.

However, the rusty Bell sign was salvaged the day before the bulldozer arrived, and plans are to eventually restore and re-install it at the nearby Route 66 Village.

Roy Heim, associated with the Route 66 Village, sent an email about the Bell station on Thursday:

We continue to lose places of the past along Route 66, but thanks to Greg Burkett, owner of American Demolition & Site Services, LLC of Tulsa, we captured the sign.  Greg carefully rigged and lowered the sign onto a trailer for the Route 66 Village so it could be saved for restoration and display at some point. Mike Massey of the Route 66 Village negotiated the deal with Greg Burkett.

Theses photos by Pete Zarria from 2011 show what the Bell gas station looked like, before the wrecking ball arrived. Even with the building’s basic structure being shored up only by nearby trees and the Bell sign being pitted with rust, it still made for an interesting photo opportunity:


Information about the history of the station is scant. A photo of the station from 1950 could be seen in the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s archives (photo has been cropped):

And an elderly woman who talked to a reporter from The Oklahoman newspaper in 2007 provided her memories of the station and the neighborhood:

Longtime residents like Esther Murray, 80, fondly recall the Route 66 era, and remember how the highway through Red Fork once thrived with restaurants, motels, gas stations, shops and even an amusement park.

“I remember how the kids loved to go to Bell’s Gas Station,” Murray said. “It was so cool, getting that Orange Crush for a nickel out of this big ice box.”

The property had been for sale for years. At last check, the asking price was $70,000.

The razing of the station saddened me and other west-side Tulsans. It was one of the few historic landmarks left on Route 66 in that part of town. However, I’m glad someone took the trouble to save the station’s most recognizable piece.

(Photos courtesy of Emily Priddy, Pete Zarria, and Roy Heim)

Boots Motel begins removal of gabled roof March 27, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation.
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Workers on Tuesday began removing a gabled roof from the Boots Motel in Carthage, Mo., so its owners could return the Route 66 landmark to its original flat roof, reported the Carthage Press.

Co-owners Deb Harvey and her sister, Priscilla Bledsaw, and manager Deborah “Debbie Dee” Real were all smiles Tuesday morning when Brothers Construction rolled in to start removing the gabled roof in order to re-install the flat roof. Harvey estimated the “Raze the Roof” project would take about three weeks until it was finished. […]

“Bye bye roof,” Harvey said, watching from the ground with a camera in hand. “Nobody’s going to miss you.” […]

In celebration of the completed roof and as a Boots Court Motel sign re-lighting party, an event will be held in late April or early May. By then, the motel will be able to enjoy its first full tourism season.

Returning the motel to its flat roof would make it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and thus make it eligible for more historic grants.

Last year, the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program awarded the motel a matching grant of $12,000 to help remove the gabled roof — built in the late 1970s — and restore the flat roof. The motel faced a deadline of late April to remove the roof, or it would have to forfeit the money.

A Raze the Roof volunteer project was schedule for the weekend of March 23-24, but the owners canceled the event because of bad weather.

UPDATE 3/28/2013: Ron Hart at the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce sent these photos from the first day of the roof removal:

UPDATE 3/30/2013: KOAM-TV posted this story about the work being done:

KOAM TV 7 Joplin and Pittsburg

New Gold Dome owner backs off from demolition efforts March 26, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Preservation.
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The new owner of the Gold Dome in Oklahoma City has halted efforts to demolish the historic structure along Route 66, reported The Oklahoman newspaper on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, David Box filed a demolition permit for the geodesic dome structure. When he bought it last fall for $800,000, he pledged to preserve it.

When the city rejected his demolition permit, Box said he would pay someone to remove just the golden-colored roof. But that’s been coolly received by the city as well.

Now, it appears Box has experienced another change of heart:

Box said Monday he has heard concerns and criticism of those who want to save the Gold Dome, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I really like the building,” Box said. “I’d like to save it. But I feel as if I’m boxed in, I’m in a corner. I’m looking to the city or citizens to help. I bought it at a sheriff’s auction. I was the only bidder. It probably wasn’t as well thought out as it should have been.” […]

“I’m just looking at all options,” Box explained. “The goal is to save the dome if I can, or find a partner to make it happen.” […]

“I don’t want it on my tombstone that I tore down the Gold Dome,” Box said. “But the taxpayers paid $1 million to fix it up. The bank sought to get rid of it. Irene Lam couldn’t make it work. So instead of complaining, let’s do something.”

Box also told The Architect’s Newspaper Blog he would pay someone $100,000 to take the building off his hands.

An op-ed piece by Richard Mize on Saturday in The Oklahoman suggested that The Flaming Lips, an internationally prominent rock band with roots in Oklahoma City, take over:

Calling Wayne Coyne and friends. The Gold Dome is weird enough — ah, eccentric — on the outside. Considering what y’all did with the Womb art gallery off downtown, imagine what a touch of The Flaming Lips could do with the inside of the Gold Dome. Or maybe just lend your Lips to the cause.

The idea of The Flaming Lips owning the Gold Dome is an inspired one. But it remains to be seen whether Coyne & Co. hold an interest — or enough money — to refurbish it.

The Gold Dome was bank building, built in 1958. It sits at Northwest 23rd Street and North Classen Boulevard, both sections of Route 66.

(Photo of the Gold Dome by QuesterMark, via Flickr)

Pontiac repair garage marks 50th year March 24, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, People.
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Gray’s Garage in Pontiac, Ill., a member of the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame, marked its 50th year in business on Friday, according to the Pontiac Daily Leader newspaper.

Roger and Betty Gray opened the garage March 23, 1963, in a lot where Big R is now located, at the intersection of routes 66 and 116. The lot came with a building and a junkyard, which they weren’t all that interested in.

“It was a junkyard with a garage and we put up a new building. We worked on anything and everything, especially Volkswagens, which we stocked a lot of parts for, and trucks, because nobody else around here wanted to work on trucks or Volkswagens,” Roger Gray said.

This part of the story made me smile:

They can add that memory to others, like all the stranded motorists they have helped, clothed, fed and housed until the bad weather passed or they got new transportation. They’ve also done other memorable pro bono work, like when Roger and his grandson, Kevin, took a trip to Springfield to tow the Bob Waldmire bus to the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac.

“I had people ask why we would do this for free and I told them it was simple. If everyone in this town that wanted it to grow would do one little thing, this town would change and it would grow. I look at it now and look at all the stores and different ways people are making money. Before, all the stores were closed and there were empty buildings. So that’s what started it – people started helping,” Betty Gray said.

Gray’s Garage is no longer on old 66 — it moved near the intersection of Interstate 55 and Illinois Highway 23. But three of their children work in the garage, ensuring that Gray’s will remain a family business indefinitely.

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