Volunteers, including members of the Route 66 Co-op, this week finished the final stage of preserving the long-closed Painted Desert Trading Post in eastern Arizona.
This week primarily concentrated on small repairs, installing interpretative panels inside the trading post that explains its history, and re-creating the lettering on the outside to resemble what it looked like when Dotch Windsor operated it in the 1940s and ’50s.
It took about three years, hundreds of hours of labor and tens of thousands of dollars — including a $20,000 cost-share grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program — to shore up the structure from near-collapse to something that will last for many more years and enthrall visitors who make the lonely journey down old Route 66 to see it.
A video from the work being done earlier in the week:
Many more details can be found on the Facebook page of the Route 66 Painted Desert Trading Post group.
Mike Ward, one of the members of the Route 66 Co-op, wrote Thursday on the “bittersweet” completion of the project:
Back in April 2018, following the purchase of the property that included the Painted Desert Trading Post, a group of three members of the newly formed Route 66 Co-op made a visit to the trading post to try and come up with a plan to save the old dilapidated, abandoned building from literally falling down. Years of neglect, compounded by Arizona weather and wind, damage from livestock, and even a little vandalism had turned a once-working business into a shell of broken concrete, rotting wood, crumbling drywall and rusting metal.
Today, September 23, 2021, the project to save what has become known as the PDTP was completed. The final part of the project was the lettering on three sides of the building to replicate, as much as humanly possible, what it looked like some 60+ years ago. We did this by using only one old real photo postcard, a colorized photograph, a few scenes from a home movie, and an old match cover. Many doubts were raised during this rescue as to whether we would ever pull it off but here it is. Building skills were not among the major capabilities of the majority of the Co-op members and the fantastic group of volunteers who have assisted from day one. Yet, perseverance, dedication and a good amount of stubbornness allowed us to get to this point.I want to thank the many roadies and interested people from all over the world who have followed us in this quest, and especially for their amazing generosity and monetary support. Whether purchasing one of the t-shirts we had made for the various phases, the donations left by people visiting the PDTP, or the gifts of money and support that allowed us to keep going with construction.
The question has been asked many times, “What are you going to do with the trading post once the rescue is completed”. For many reasons which I don’t have time to go into here, the PDTP will never be a functioning business again. But that doesn’t the trading post won’t ever come back to life. Thoughts are being tossed around to have events at the trading post to involve more of the public into its future. That won’t happen immediately but keep in touch for updates. Tomorrow will be the final day of this work session. All we have left to do is clean up and pack up tools and materials used for this session. When I and the other members drive away from the building I can bet we will all look in the rearview mirror and with a touch of pride and maybe a tear or two know that we have done something that will live on in the annals of Route 66 for decades and generations to come.I thank you all.
Windsor and his first wife, Alberta, opened the Painted Desert Trading Post along Route 66 during the early 1940s. Even along the Mother Road, it was a remote outpost with no electricity or telephone service. Only gravity pumps dispensed fuel.
It closed by the late 1950s after being bypassed by a new alignment of Route 66. The Painted Desert Trading Post, located several miles from Interstate 40, remains inaccessible except for a locked gate. Those who wish to visit the trading post via Pinta Road can use these new instructions to unlock the road’s main gate.
(Image of the renovated Painted Desert Trading Post by Mike Ward via Facebook)