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Replica of historic hotel lobby re-created in Oklahoma Route 66 Museum June 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, History, Motels, Museums.
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As if you don’t have enough good reasons to visit the marvelous Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Celina Hawkins of the Odessa American in Texas explains why there’s another:

On Thursday, relatives and many others gathered inside the Route 66 Museum as the newest exhibit – an exact replica of the lobby of the Calmez (Cowl-mez) Hotel – was unveiled. About 15 years ago, I was fortunate to see the lobby, albeit dilapidated, but I imagined that in 1929, when my great grandfather Claude Calmes (Cowl-mees) opened the hotel, that it was quite grand. With marble floors and ornate accoutrements – it must have been beautiful indeed. […]

He and his partner Elmer Crabbe pushed to get approval from the city and the chamber to build a 6-story hotel and eventually got their blessing in 1928. The hotel, which cost $500,000 opened in 1929 only weeks after the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. Claude’s vision was to open a hotel that could be a rest stop without too much extravagance to the booming community and to Route 66.

I don’t think I’d say the place was without extravagance. It had a palatial entrance with marble floors. There was a café and a bar downstairs and one on the main floor. There was also a mezzanine where folks could gather for coffee. Then upstairs, there was a lounge, where I could almost hear the echo of big band music playing as I squinted in the darkness to make out the room. There was apparently a stage and bar stools attached to the floor surrounded the bar, upholstered in red. The hotel, was lovingly called the Grande Old Lady by Clinton’s historic preservation crowd.

According to the Clinton Daily News, the exhibit contains an original Calmez Hotel neon sign and other memorabilia. The sign required about two years and $1,500 in restoration work.

The Calmez Hotel exhibit will be at the museum through December.

The Calmez was closed during the 1980s. It was condemned in 2000 and torn down — but not without much debate from Clinton residents who wanted it saved. And Hawkins’ mother managed to save a few bricks from the building before the wrecking ball came.

(Image of the Calmez Motel courtesy of 66Postcards.com)

A visit to the Midpoint Cafe June 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Restaurants, Television.
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KVII-TV reporter Larry Lemmons, based in Amarillo, traveled west on Route 66 to check out what was happening at the historic Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas.

This television segment was more in-depth than I anticipated, and it captures the atmosphere of the restaurant as well as anything.

Dennis Purschwitz and his wife Donna bought the Midpoint from longtime owner Fran Houser a little more than two years ago. The restaurant has remained essentially the same — much to the relief of longtime diners. But Purschwitz made a number of improvements to the midpoint sign across the road, which signifies the midpoint of Route 66.

(Image of the Midpoint Cafe’s interior by Drriss & Marrionn via Flickr)

A history of Bama Pies June 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Food, History, Restaurants.
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If you drive through Route 66 in Tulsa, you’ll probably notice a big beige building on the north side of 11th Street with the name Bama Pies.

It is part of The Bama Companies. This well-produced video by the company shows how it expanded from its mom-and-pop roots to becoming a multinational corporation.

Even if you’re a longtime Tulsa resident, I learned quite a few new things about Bama, and you probably will, too.

A History of the Bama Companies from Bama Companies on Vimeo.

It also shows how the growth of Bama is intertwined with another formerly mom-and-pop operation that became a corporate behemoth — McDonald’s.

(An image of one of Bama’s signs by Miles Smith via Flickr)

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)

Route 66 Wedding Chapel in Tucumcari opens next week June 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses.
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The long-planned Route 66 Wedding Chapel in Tucumcari, New Mexico, will open Tuesday, and it already has weddings booked, reported the Quay County Sun newspaper.

The chapel will be in the Mother Road Old Time Photos business, run by Leigh and Rhys Williams, at 824 E. Route 66 across the road from the historic Blue Swallow Motel. We’d reported on the Williamses’ plans for the chapel back in March.

The newspaper had some details on the wedding packages:

The couple plans to have the ability to assemble the elements of a wedding with only days or even hours to plan it, including flowers, wedding cakes and officiating clergy, Williams said. Eager couples, she said will have a choice of three standard packages with options to customize the service.

Williams said the options start with the “Just the Two of Us” package, that includes a quick service, a 5-by-7-inch photo and farewell bubbles as the newlyweds leave the altar. That will cost $66.

The “Getting Hitched on Route 66” package adds complimentary champagne, a half-hour service for $166, and the “Kicks on 66” option allows a one-hour service, along with the champagne, the photo and farewell bubbles.

The Williamses also said they’d be willing to accommodate couples for other custom options with 24 to 48 hours of notice. They said they think they’ll draw customers because of the novelty of getting married on Route 66.

The chapel has a Facebook page here.

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.

Springfield tunnel once was part of a brewery June 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Food, History, Restaurants, Towns.
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Last week, workers clearing land for the future site of a Route 66-themed park on College Street in Springfield, Missouri, found a series of underground rooms that probably were at least a century old.

This week, media outlets — including the Springfield News-Leader — found the tunnel once was part of the Springfield Brewing Co.

A 1969 report from Springfield Plateau Grotto, which explores caves in southwest Missouri, provided the details:

“The first cellar was 37 feet long, 16 feet wide and 10 feet high, constructed of laid Burlington stone in the classic arched form typical of brewery cellars in such places as Hermann, Missouri and the brewery caves of St. Louis,” the report reads. […]

“Two ventilation shafts penetrated the ceiling of the second cellar; these were filled with trash, including what appeared to be an ancient stove or safe. The other shaft had been used to dispose of large quantities of soda bottle caps, among other debris,” the report reads. “The trash had been in the cellars for many years as shown by the almost complete oxidation of metal containers. These were almost entirely rust, though the ancient labels of some of the cans could still be read.”

And KSPR-TV in Springfield provided some details about the long-gone brewery:

German immigrant Sebastian Dingeldein moved to Springfield in 1876. He signed a ten-year lease on Springfield’s only brewery, and later bought it. He owned the company for almost 15 years. In that time, he more than doubled its production selling beer throughout Southwest Missouri and Northern Arkansas.

Jason Dingeldein, Sebastian’s great-great grandson, says, “A hundred years ago he would have been a well known member of the community, and, it’s just amazing to think that we have that connection.”

According to the Brewery History Society journal, the first brewery — which later became Springfield Brewing Co. — was established in 1872. For a time, Dingeldein’s company was called Southwest Brewery. The brewery eventually closed in 1911.

After that, there was no beer brewing in Springfield until the beginning of the microbrewing era in the 1990s. That includes Mother’s Brewing Co., which is right on Route 66, and the resurrected Springfield Brewing Co., which is at another location from the original.

The city hasn’t decided what to do about the tunnels, but a Public Works Department spokeswoman said its historical nature is a good fit with the Route 66 park and some sort of marker is likely.

(Image of the Springfield Brewing Co. via City of Springfield)

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