Observations about the impending sale of the Lewis Motel in Vinita, Okla.:
1. The sale was handled in an underhanded manner. The owner didn’t bother to put the motel on the market once he shuttered it for several years. Once O’Reilly made the offer, that was it — no consideration of whether anyone else would want a vintage Route 66 property that’s in good condition — especially one right across the road from Clanton’s Cafe.
2. I find it ironic that O’Reilly Auto Parts, which is based in the Route 66 town of Springfield, Mo., is going to raze the motel. I refuse to believe that O’Reilly would be that ignorant of Route 66 and the importance of preservation.
So here’s what to do:
— Contact O’Reilly Auto Parts and let the company officials know how disappointed you are that the chain, which is based in a Route 66 town, is about to raze a historic Route 66 property. Make it uncomfortable for them. Urge O’Reilly to back out of the deal. You can e-mail chairman of the board David O’Reilly at [email protected] , CEO and co-president Greg Henslee at [email protected], and COO and co-president Tom McFall at [email protected].
O’Reilly’s Web site also has an e-mail contact form here; use the investor relations or store visits links.
— Contact the Vinita Chamber of Commerce and let them know how unhappy you are that Vinita, a town that touts its Route 66 history, stands by as the historic Lewis Motel is about to be demolished. The chamber can be e-mailed at [email protected]
— Vinita’s mayor is Joe Johnson; he can be e-mailed through his assistant at [email protected]. Urge the city to reject the demolition application for the motel.
— You can e-mail a letter to the editor at the Vinita Daily Journal at [email protected].
Letters to the editor and contact with the City Council in Carthage, Mo., helped scare off Walgreens when they were eying the historic Boots Motel for demolition a few years ago.
Keep your letters polite, and emphasize the importance of the Lewis Motel as a piece of history and a potential engine of economic growth.
We know that thousands of tourists travel Route 66 each year. We know that they come to see historic properties like the Lewis Motel — not modern auto-parts chains. We know that, contrary to the owner’s assertions, historic properties are economically viable in the hands of the right owners. (The Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, N.M., for instance, has been going strong since 1939 and shows no signs of slowing down.) We know that adaptive reuse projects have proven very successful in communities all along the road. And we know that the road is enjoying a huge surge in popularity at the moment, thanks to the recent release of Pixar’s Cars, which has dramatically increased awareness of Route 66.
You might mention some of these facts in your letter. Or you could discuss what the property means to you personally. Your letter does not need to be long or eloquent. It just needs to be clear: Destroying the Lewis Motel is a mistake that O’Reilly and Vinita cannot afford to make, and it is a mistake that can never be taken back. Route 66 can’t afford to lose its historic properties to short-sighted mistakes.