Route 66 News

Boots Court, 66 Drive-In suffer hail damage

At least two Route 66 landmarks — the Boots Court motel and the 66 Drive-In theater — suffered extensive damage from a severe hailstorm early Sunday, mostly to their neon lighting.

KTTS radio showed a photo of hailstones at least 2 inches in diameter that fell in the Carthage area. The storm injured at least one person and caused widespread property damage.

Ron Hart of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce reported in a Facebook post the Boots Court lost about half of its new architectural neon because of the storm.

Some photos Hart emailed:

There are other photos, showing similar damage, that weren’t published.

He wrote:

I spent the day cleaning-up the mess, but it will be sometime until it has been replaced. The Boots owners had received a matching grant from the National Park service’s, Route 66 Corridor Grant Program, and had paid their matching share. Neon damage insurance was available, but would have seriously dinged the Boots owners… amount that would have slowed the restoration of the property, and their grant requires that the Neon must be made of glass tubing for at least 10 years, as LED is not considered ‘authentic’.

The Route 66 Chamber of Commerce’s, “Route 66 Cares” project, will be working on a fundraising means to help the owners repair the damage once the estimate is completed. Those who have seen the green Neon at night will understand why it must be replaced….it was truly awesome to say the least.

The 66 Drive-In sustained hail damage to most of its neon sign and its ticket booth, according to a Facebook post by the theater. A text from the theater owners said they will have to pay for the damages out of their own pocket.

The storm didn’t keep the theater from showing the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” films. In fact, the Sunday night screenings sold out.

The Boots Court was built in 1939 by Arthur Boots. Actor Clark Gable stayed there several times; he rested his head at room No. 6.

The Boots became the Boots Motel during the 1950s. The motel came close to being knocked down in the early 2000s when its ailing owner sold it to a local developer. Speculation ran rampant the motel would be razed for a Walgreens. But outcry from preservationists scared off developers.

The current owners bought the property in 2011 and reopened it to overnight guests in 2012 after months of renovations. They still are restoring the motel.

The 66 Drive-In opened in 1949. Virtually everything is still there now, including the neon marquee, playground, ticket booth, concession stand/projection booth and the 66-foot-tall screen. It became an auto-salvage yard during the mid-1980s, but the owners later restored the property and reopened it in 1998.

The 66 Drive-In was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. The 66 Drive-In changed owners just a few months ago.

UPDATE: A account has been set up for the Boots Court neon’s restoration. The goal is $4,000, which will be the approximate cost of the repairs.

4 thoughts on “Boots Court, 66 Drive-In suffer hail damage

  1. Gerald L. Krug

    Wow. This is a major failing by both the National Park Service and the owners of Boots Court. The National Park Service should not give grants to those who cannot afford insurance for the completed project. The owners of Boots Courts surely understood that the neon was a critical part of the identity of their business, yet they made a poor business decision to not insure against a plausible risk. They gambled with our money and lost. A fund raising campaign would be a double-dip for this business. No, thanks.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      FYI: The National Park Service grants had nothing to do with the neon lighting. They were for restoring the original roof. Insurance for the neon was immaterial to the grants.

    2. Bill Pearse

      Sorry for their loss, but, I agree, they should have been required to have adequate hazard insurance before our tax dollars were spent.

      Quotes from the article:

      “and their grant requires that the Neon must be made of glass tubing for at least 10 years, as LED is not considered ‘authentic’.”

      “Neon damage insurance was available, but would have seriously dinged the Boots owners”

  2. Pingback: Restoration of Boots Court architectural neon to begin soon - Route 66 News

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