Route 66 News

Video summarizes “Route 66: The Road Ahead” conference

A few days ago, the World Monuments Fund uploaded this eight-minute video that summarizes the “Route 66: The Road Ahead” conference that took place in November at a hotel near Disney’s Cars Land in California.

You’ll probably see a few familiar faces from Route 66, including Dawn Welch at the Rock Cafe, Kevin Mueller at the Blue Swallow Motel, Allan Affeldt at La Posada, Bill Thomas of the Palms Grill Cafe, and Kaisa Barthuli of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. The video also touts the Route 66 Economic Impact Study, as it should.

Alas, you’ll also see a few things that are no more, including Bill Shea, who died in December, and the Bell gas station in Tulsa, which was demolished (but the sign saved) in March 2013.

Route 66: The Road Ahead from World Monuments Fund on Vimeo.

(Image of brick Route 66 near Auburn, Ill., by Jim Grey via Flickr)

3 thoughts on “Video summarizes “Route 66: The Road Ahead” conference

  1. Marie from CuriousTraveler66

    Well, this is very interesting … and it makes me wonder who was there representing Chicago, if anyone. There’s an unspoken assumption in most conversations about Route 66 that somehow the ‘real’ part of it isn’t anywhere near Chicago, and the route doesn’t really start until you get south of I-80 and Joliet — even though Route 66 wouldn’t exist without Chicago (no disrespect to Oklahoma and Cyrus Avery, but it’s just a fact: Route 66 had to start in Chicago because of what the city was and is: a transportation hub for the entire Midwest). Without Chicago, there’s no rationale for Route 66: maybe there would have been a different all-weather route to L.A. or maybe none at all; it might have started in St. Louis or Kansas City — and if Kansas City, it could have bypassed Oklahoma entirely. Route 66 is what it is in part because one end is in Chicago. Period.

    There is another assumption about Route 66, and that is that most of what was on the route in the cities has long been replaced with newer buildings, therefore there’s not much to see in urban areas. Ironically, at the eastern terminus in downtown Chicago, this is NOT the case: so much of Jackson Boulevard (the original 1926 path) between Michigan Avenue and Union Station/Lou Mitchell’s is exactly what a traveler would have seen in November 1926 when the route opened for business. It hasn’t changed; it’s only been renovated and preserved and is still in use. Even more than half of the additions to the Art Institute that we know and love today were already there in 1926. Those skyscrapers along Jackson and on either side along Michigan Avenue are largely the originals from 1926 or earlier, with a few exceptions (like the Chicago Board of Trade) that were built in the 1930s. If you want to know what drivers on Route 66 in November 1926 saw on the road, all you have to do is stand on the Jackson Drive bridge next to the Art Institute and look west: it’s still there. Just ignore the Sears Tower in the background, and you’re good. And yet, how many people who come to travel down Route 66 go **right past all that** and blindly head down Adams Street to Ogden Avenue in Cicero or Berwyn before they even begin to pay attention?? Wow, they’re missing an awful lot by doing that.

    The third unspoken assumption about Route 66 is that there’s nothing pertaining to the route in Chicago that needs preserving. Not true, and this is why I hope someone from Chicago was at this meeting. Maybe Rahm Emanuel isn’t hip to this yet, but there are others in Chicago who should be, whether from the city’s department of tourism, or the park district, or the history museum, or organizations promoting Illinois tourism, such as Enjoy Illinois or the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway authority. And I hope that someone spoke up for Chicago, because Route 66 is not all Southwestern desert or all rural, and real Americans also lived and continue to live in urban and suburban areas, even along Route 66 (you’d never know that from films like Baghdad Cafe or Cars). In fact, that’s a major difference between then and now: most Americans live in metropolitan areas today, and that reality was already in place during the 1920s. It’s a trend that has merely accelerated since then and shows no sign of stopping, unfortunately for rural residents and farmers.

    The streets and roads that made up Route 66 in metro Chicago were just as important for local migration from neighborhood to neighborhood as they were the means of leaving town for the open road. Moreover, the open road wasn’t that far past the city limits in 1926. By the time you left Lyons, you were out in farm country, and much of that area remained farmland until after World War II.

    I’ve often thought of the area between Chicago and Joliet as the most overlooked part of Route 66. Nobody ever overlooks L.A., but they often manage to skip past greater Chicago in a hurry. I sure hope that wasn’t the case at the World Munuments Fund meeting. That would have been a great shame.

  2. Brenda St. Clair

    AlAll the more reason to come to the next Crossroads Conference being held Halloween weekend 2015 in Edwardsville, IL And bring folks from Chicago too!

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