It’s not out of the woods yet, but the long-moribund Route 66 town of Galena, Kan., is looking more prosperous these days.
The Joplin Globe newspaper, based in nearby Joplin, Mo., published a long story about the town’s comeback. The whole thing is worth reading, but I’ll highlight what has happened in Galena in recent years:
- A downtown streetscape with rustic light posts, planters with automatic waterers, and speakers that broadcast music for shoppers.
- The opening of the Streetcar Station Coffee Shop in downtown.
- The opening of the Xtreme Wingz & More restaurant in downtown.
- The soon-to-open Belleview Brewing on Sixth Street.
One of the big reasons for the town’s resurgence is Galena procured local, state and federal grants to fill the 800 shafts that dotted the town from its lead-mining days. A collapse of one of the shafts in downtown claimed a 100-year-old building a few years ago, and discouraged business owners from starting there.
Also, the City of Galena landed a new hospital, Premier Surgical Institute, which is increasing the number of visitors in town.
Finally, locals were determined to rejuvenate Galena’s downtown when they saw the number of tourists driving on old Route 66 every day.
“We started noticing 50 to 60 vehicles some days, or several tour buses, going through Galena,” Oglesby said. “And we said, ‘We’ve got to get them to stop.’”
It’s not mentioned in the story, but 4 Women on the Route — in a restored gas station that opened in 2006 in downtown — deserves a lot of credit for the Route 66 traffic. It is now called Cars on the Route — a nod to the Disney-Pixar “Cars” movies that were partially inspired by a rusty old boom truck that still sits on the property.