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Joplin buys old Route 66 garage November 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Towns.
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The city of Joplin, Missouri, recently bought a long-abandoned 1920s garage building that it plans to convert into a Route 66 attraction — most likely a visitors center, reported the Joplin Globe.

Patrick Tuttle,  director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the newspaper the city had purchased the garage at 1109 Broadway (also known as Langston Hughes) and adjoining properties for $18,500 with motel-tax funds. A researcher determined the garage was an auto repair shop as far back as 1920.

Here’s a Google Street View image of the building:

Plans for the property are vague, mostly because it requires a lot of TLC:

Plans in the near term call for the lots to be cleared and cleaned of rubble and brush. A parking area could be established. There is a concrete floor where the office once stood that could be cleaned, repaired and converted into a sitting area for visitors, perhaps with a flower garden area planted at one side.

A concrete block wall on the side of the garage could become a canvas for a mural or a backdrop for artwork of some kind related to Route 66.

“We just have to explore our options,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle signaled that Joplin felt the need to up its game with Route 66 tourism, and cited the example of nearby Kansas.

“People travel Route 66 and they just fly through Joplin. They don’t have a lot of reasons to stop, other than food and gas. We want to give them more reasons to do so,” Tuttle said. “The more they stop in town, the more likely they are to hit our shops, hit our restaurants, hit our hotels, spend more time.

“You look at Cherokee County over in Kansas, 13 miles, the shortest distance (of the highway) of any through eight states, and they have several gift shops, several attractions. You look at Jasper County, there’s one visitor center and one gift shop, and we’ve got 50 miles of Route 66.”

Baxter Springs theater nominated to National Register November 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Theaters, Towns.
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The Ritz Theater, a former movie house on Route 66 in Baxter Springs, Kansas, has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, according to a news release from the Kansas Historical Society.

The building is at 1145 N. Military Ave. (aka Route 66). The theater’s inclusion is all but assured, because the National Register rarely rejects a nomination from a state agency.

The nomination summary:

The Ritz Theatre opened in 1926 in a converted two-story commercial building along Route 66 in downtown Baxter Springs. The building had previously housed John M. Cooper’s Dry Goods and Clothing Store, which opened in the 1880s, and the upper floor had served as a gathering space for various social organizations. Under the guidance of Joplin architect T.E. Martinie, the building was converted to a theater in 1926 and officially opened on April 30, showing The Ancient Highway, distributed by Paramount Pictures. A packed house heard music from Mrs. Roy Brooks, an organist at the Victory Theatre in Rogers, Arkansas. The popularity of drive-in theaters throughout the tri-state area likely contributed to the closing of the theater in the mid-1950s. The building then functioned as the Blue Castle Restaurant from 1957 to 1980. At the time of nomination, the building is being renovated to reflect its former use as a theater.

According to Cinema Treasures, the Ritz held 488 seats with one screen.

According to the nomination papers, Ronald and Judy Puckett bought the building in 2007 with the intention of restoring it as a theater. A number of photos by the Kansas Historical Society shows the work that’s been done on the building in recent years.

Route 66 — a jobs creator November 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Museums, Towns.
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During a formal introduction Wednesday of the logo for the new Route 66 Visitors Center in Bloomington, Illinois — which we already reported months ago — local officials revealed some eyebrow-raising statistics about the economic value of the Mother Road.

Bloomington, which long seemed indifferent to Route 66 for years, suddenly has embraced it. And this excerpt in the Bloomington Pantagraph’s report partly explains why (boldface is my emphasis):

By the third year of operation, Koos said the tourism center is expected to bring $6 million in new revenue to the county and could create an estimated 100 jobs by bringing 20,000 people into the center of the city.

“I think this center is a huge catalyst for economic development,” said Bloomington Alderman Karen Schmidt, who was acting as mayor pro tem in Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner’s absence.

Jen Hoselze, director of the Illinois Office of Tourism, said travelers spent $352.8 million in McLean County last year.

As I predicted, the Route 66 Economic Impact Study from 2012 — including the revelation the road generated $127 million in tourism spending annually — was going to change the way many cities viewed the route. Money talks — in a big way.

As for the seemingly incongruous logo of Abraham Lincoln cruising 66 in a car, you had this take from a local official:

“He loved humor, enjoyment and a good time,” Koos said. “He’d be happy to be remembered in such ways.”

The state Office of Tourism already created a “mini Abe” for commercials promoting Illinois and recently started working on “big Abe” commercials with hopes of capturing attention in Asian countries where such characters are often idolized.

The Illinois Office of Tourism awarded a $249,000 grant for the project. Bloomington hopes to have the visitors center open by spring.

Cuba adds five sites to National Historic Register November 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation, Towns.
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The town of Cuba, Missouri, recently had big news to announce — five sites were added in one week to the National Register of Historic Places, including two on Route 66.

Cuba’s new additions to the National Register were revealed in an email from the National Park Service on Thursday. The National Register listings were effective Oct. 29.

  • George B. Hamilton house, 401 E. Washington St. (Route 66)
  • John Manson Munro house, 305 W. Washington St. (Route 66)
  • Cuba City Jail, Prairie and 300 block of South Main streets
  • Cuba Lodge No. 312 A.F. and A.M., 201 N. Smith St.
  • Hotel Cuba, 600 E. Main St.

More about each one:

George B. Hamilton house (map here) — Built about 1896 in a Queen Anne style, it was owned by a wealthy Cuba businessman and remains one of the biggest houses in Cuba. Hamilton ran several businesses, including a farm-equipment dealership, a gravel pit, an oil business and a silent-movie theater.

John Manson Munro house (map) — The Victorian-designed house was built about 1880 by a local businessman and former two-term mayor. The house was closed for 30 years after his death in 1941.

Cuba City Jail (map) — The concrete block structure was built in 1908. It remained in use as a jail as late as 1954 and serves as a museum today. The interior features a guard space with a desk and wood burning stove and a rear cell with two hanging iron bunks connected by an iron door.

Cuba Lodge No. 312 A.F. and A.M. (map) — Construction on the stone lodge for Masons finished about 1940. The interior also contains its original layout and much of its woodwork. The construction is attributed to local mason David R. Sharp. It continues to serve as a Masonic lodge.

Hotel Cuba (map) — Also known as the Palace Hotel, the red brick structure was finished about 1915. It originally was built to face the railroad tracks, then added an entrance in the late 1920s to face the U.S. 66 and attract travelers. It operated as a hotel until the mid-1970s. The structure now is used as apartments.

(Images and information via the Missouri Department of Natural Resources)

City of Pacific may buy scenic lookout November 7, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Preservation, Towns.
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The City of Pacific, Missouri, moved to enter into a contract to buy the Lookout on Jensen’s Point off Route 66, reported the Washington Missourian.

The owner, Wayne Winchester, has set a price of $300,000 for the iconic stone structure of the lookout, 2 1/2 acres and a nearby parking lot. The city hopes to secure most or all of the money through a St. Louis County Municipal Parks grant. The plan ultimately would be to fold the site into Pacific’s parks and recreation department.

Six organizations — including Great Rivers Greenway, Shaw Nature Preserve and Ozark Trail Association — have publicly lauded the city’s planned purchase and have pledged other support as well.

The city should know by early 2015 whether it gets the grant.

According to another story by the Missourian, Jensen’s Point was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The landmark eventually was named after Lars Peter Jensen, the first manager of Shaw’s Garden, aka Missouri Botanical Garden, and president of the Henry Shaw Gardenway Association that designed to beautify Route 66 in that region.

(Old images of Jensen’s Point in Pacific, Missouri, courtesy of 66Postcards.com and Illinois Digital Archives)

Albuquerque adopts Route 66 Action Plan November 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Businesses, Preservation, Signs, Towns.
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The Albuquerque City Council unanimously ratified Mayor Richard Berry’s Route 66 Action Plan for a 15-mile stretch of Central Avenue in the city, reported the Associated Press and other media outlets.

The plan comes with infrastructure improvements, tourism additions and historical preservation, among other things.

You can read a summary of the plan here, but here are the highlights:

  • A so-called “digital backbone” that better attracts high-tech businesses.
  • Transportation improvements that are safer and better for bicycles, cars, buses and pedestrians.
  • Improvements of the city’s bus system.
  • More signs from Interstate 40 to guide travelers to Route 66 and its historic sites and attractions.
  • Streetscape improvements.
  • More opportunities for public art.
  • New neon signs and preservation of the existing ones.
  • Preservation and redevelopment of historic Route 66 buildings.
  • Facade improvements to existing buildings.
  • Filling in gaps on Central Avenue with new development.
  • Encourage business development.
  • Increase residential development.
  • Better branding of Route 66.
  • A new website touting Route 66 in Albuquerque.
  • Building visitors centers and interpretive sites.
  • Special events and festivals.

Keep in mind this is a “long-range” plan — it will take years to have all these things come together. And with an initial budget outlay of $150,000, it will take years to come to fruition.

The complete plan is here. However, be warned — it’s 122 pages of an Acrobat document.

(Image of Route 66 in Albuquerque by OpenThreads via Flickr)

Los Angeles station gives major time to Route 66 November 5, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Motels, Restaurants, Road trips, Television, Towns.
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KABC, the major affiliate of ABC in Los Angeles, in recent days gave a lot of time examining Route 66 in the region in its “Eye on L.A.” show.

Here is the San Bernardino to San Gabriel Valley segment:

Monrovia to South Pasadena:

The Arroyo Seco to downtown segment:

West Hollywood to the end of the trail:

You can read the online versions of the stories here.

It’s my understanding that Kumar Patel at the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino lobbied the station for months to do a story about Route 66 in the Los Angeles area. Apparently someone listened.

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