U.S. Route 66 in Missouri

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This article is about the section of U.S. Route 66 in Missouri. For the entire length of the highway, see U.S. Route 66.

US 66 (historic).svg

U.S. Route 66
Will Rogers Highway
Route information
Maintained by MoDOT
Existed: 1926 – 1985
Major junctions
West end: US-66 to Galena, Kansas
 
East end: US 66 at the Mississippi River to Illinois
Highway system

Missouri Highways
Supplemental

US 65 Route 66

U.S. Route 66 (US 66, Route 66) is a former east–west United States Numbered Highway, running from Santa Monica, California to Chicago, Illinois. In Missouri, the highway ran from downtown St. Louis at the Mississippi River to the Kansas state line west of Joplin. The highway was originally Route 14 from St. Louis to Joplin and Route 1F from Joplin to Kansas. It underwent two major realignments (in the St. Louis and Joplin areas) and several lesser realignments in the cities of St. Louis, Springfield, and Joplin. Current highways covering several miles of the former highway include Route 100, Route 366, Route 266, Route 96, and Route 66. Interstate 44 (I-44) approximates much of US 66 between St. Louis and Springfield.

Missouri was the first state to erect a historic marker on US 66.[1] It is located at Kearney Street and Glenstone Avenue in northeast Springfield.[2][3] A new marker, designating the highway as a National Scenic Byway, was erected May 5, 2006. The historic alignment in Missouri is marked based on the route in 1935.

History[edit]

In 1922, US 66 was originally Route 14, connecting St. Louis and Joplin. In 1926, it was designated a national highway, US 66.

The route between St. Louis and Springfield is an old road. It had traditionally been a Native American trail, known as the "Osage Indian Trail". By the early-to-mid-19th century, settlers laid a telegraph line along the road (it continued south from Springfield to Fort Smith, Arkansas). It then was called the "Wire Road", and later the "Old Wire Road" after the telegraph line came down.

The highway subsequently became part of the Ozark Trail.

After the completion of I-44, Seventh Street west of Duenweg (which had been US 166) became US 66 continuing from Galena, Kansas through Joplin and Duquesne to Duenweg. At Joplin, US 66 continued down what would later be Route 96 to Halltown. With the completion of I-44, US 66 was aligned on I-44 from Halltown to St. Louis, except for the St. Louis area itself, where it continued on Chippewa Street/Watson Road (Route 366) and Gravois Road (Route 30).

When I-55 in Illinois was completed in 1979, US 66 was truncated to east of Duenweg.

Route[edit]

US 66 in Joplin[edit]

An old segment of highway (named Route 66 Boulevard), splits off from modern Route 66 in Galena, Kansas (where it followed North Main Street to Front Street) and enters Missouri to the north of the current highway.

Due to the mining history of Joplin, the realignment of US 66 in Joplin was partially for traffic and partially because of cave-ins of mines built under the highway. It zig-zagged through the city, following Seventh Street (now Route 66), Main Avenue, Broadway, St. Louis Avenue, Euclid Avenue, Utica Street, Florida Avenue, Zora Street, and Rangeline Road,

Later, US 66 went straight east from the Kansas state line on Seventh and then north on Rangeline.

Joplin to Springfield[edit]

A 1949 drive-in cinema entertained viewers before the 1953 arrival of local TV stations to Joplin-Springfield

Near Carthage, US 66 winded through various county roads and the city streets of Carterville and Webb City. In Carthage, a small segment of US 66 once ran concurrently with US 71 on what is now Route 571.

I-44 enters from the southwest at Halltown, somewhere away from US 66. The reason for this was the already completed Will Rogers Turnpike in Oklahoma, which that state wished to become part of US 96 (also known as Old Route 66). Unlike US 66, I-44 bypasses Kansas entirely, entering Missouri directly from Oklahoma. In order to complete the hookup, I-44 took over for US 166 from the Oklahoma state line southwest of Joplin to Miller. Do not go on I-44 because you can go on Route 66 (now Route 96) from Webb City to Springfield.

Approaching Springfield, US 66 followed Routes 266 and Route 96.

US 66 in Springfield[edit]

The alignment through Springfield includes Chestnut Expressway, College Street, St. Louis Street, Glenstone Avenue, and Kearney Street. In this city, US 66 was concurrent with US 65 for several miles, and also served as the original western terminus of US 60, which does not intersect with US 66 in Missouri anymore. Bypass US 66 followed Kearney Street on the north side of Springfield to West Bypass. Later, this would become the main alignment of US 66.

Springfield boasted the only double-bannered highway—Alternate Business US 66.

Among the sites along Route 66 in Springfield are the Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Mosque and the site of Red's Giant Hamburg, which was the first ever drive-thru restaurant in the world.

Springfield to St. Louis[edit]

Missouri S&T Stonehenge, next to Historic Route 66.

At Philipsburg, I-44 was built some distances away from US 66 and passed through Marshfield, which was the birthplace of astronomer Edwin Hubble.

US 66 entered the Ozark Mountains. At Rolla, about halfway from Springfield to Phillipsburg, US 66 intersected with US 63 (Bishop Avenue) and passed by the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The university's half-scale model of Stonehenge is located next to the highway at the curve.

Cuba, known as Route 66 Mural City, has and other art and sculpture throughout the town and along the Route 66 corridor.[4] Its restaurants are often a "must stop" for Route 66 travelers. The Crawford County Courthouse even has a Route 66 exhibit.[5]

A major grape growing area between St. James and Sullivan includes many wineries. The highway passed near Meramec Caverns in Stanton, which was formerly a famous stop.

US 66 in the St. Louis area[edit]

The original route through St. Louis diverges from the later alignment at Gray Summit. It turned east on Route 100 (Manchester Road), north on Florissant Street, east on Salisbury Street and then entered Illinois from the McKinley Bridge in St. Louis.

The first major re-alignment of US 66 involved the construction of Watson Road (now Route 366). The road was realigned down Watson Road and Chippewa Street. I-44 was built down Watson Road for several miles west of Sunset Hills. With this realignment, US 66 crossed the Mississippi on MacArthur Bridge. The older highway passes through downtown Pacific in a scenic area under steep bluffs.

Bypass US 66 was routed over the Mississippi on the north side of St. Louis via the Chain of Rocks Bridge. This alignment is now an outer road of I-270 from Watson Road north on the US 61 and US 67 concurrency (Lindbergh Boulevard) to the river.

At other times, US 66 crossed the Mississippi on the Martin Luther King Bridge and on the Poplar Street Bridge.

Major intersections[edit]

Distances listed are based on the later (7th street) alignment between Galena, Kansas and Joplin, Missouri and on the (pre-bypass) Watson Road alignment through St Louis.

County Location Mile[6] km Destinations Notes
Jasper   0 0 US-66 west – Kansas
Joplin 6 10 Route 43
Carthage 26 42 US 71 / Route 571
Greene Springfield 86 138 US 65
Laclede Lebanon 135 217 Route 5
Phelps Rolla 194 312 US 63
St. James 203 327 Route 68
Crawford Cuba 216 348 Route 19
Franklin Sullivan 234 377 Route 185
Saint Clair 250 402 Route 47
St. Louis St. Louis 287 462 US 50 east / US 61 / US 67
  301 484 US 66 east – Illinois
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Structures[edit]

The log Red Cedar Inn in Pacific served travellers until 2007

Historic sites on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places include the 66 Drive-In (an outdoor cinema built in Carthage in 1949 when the then-closest television station, Tulsa's newly built KOTV, was hopelessly out-of-range)[7] the 1903 Romanesque Revival Pulaski County Courthouse in Waynesville (which now houses a museum)[8] and the Spanish Colonial Revival Gillioz Theatre in Springfield (which exhibited both cinema and live theatre from its 1926 opening, closed in 1970 and was restored in 2006).[9]

Restaurants[edit]

The Red Cedar Inn, a log cabin restaurant opened in 1933 (and closed in 2005), was built by James and Bill Smith in Pacific. Both owners were former bootleggers who established lawful taverns at the end of Prohibition.[10]

The Big Chief Restaurant in Wildwood opened in 1928 as the Big Chief Hotel, a roadside tourist cabin court with 62 rooms (each constructed as an individual cabin with its own garage) and an on-site restaurant, dance hall, Conoco filling station, playground and general store. The cabins, which served as housing for Weldon Spring Ordnance Works workers during World War II, were later demolished; the restaurant, closed in 1949, was restored in the 1990s and reopened.[11]

Camps, motor courts, and motels[edit]

The 1936 Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba and the 1945 Rock Fountain Court in Springfield [12] are tourist courts which were constructed as groups of cabins, built with local Ozark sandstone. This "tourist court" design pre-dates the motel format, common in the 1950s, of constructing multiple rooms as one long building with direct access to individual rooms from the car park.

While the Rock Fountain Court is currently not a tourist motel (due to long-term residential use), the Wagon Wheel has undergone a recent restoration and is currently the longest continuously operating motel on US 66. Its restaurant is now a souvenir shop and its filling station is no longer operational, but it continues to offer lodging to US 66 travellers more than seventy-five years later.[13]

In 2012, the first five rooms in a Boots Court Motel historic restoration in Carthage re-opened to travellers. Not yet listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1939 streamline moderne Boots Court originally touted "a radio in every room" long before the 1949 opening of the 66 Drive-In cinema and the 1953 sign-on of the first local Joplin-Springfield television stations.[14]

Fate has been less kind to other Route 66 lodgings. The streamline moderne Coral Court Motel in Marlborough (an inner St. Louis suburb) was demolished in 1995, its 8.5 acre site sold for over a million dollars for suburban residential development, while John's Modern Cabins in Newburg, abandoned since the 1970s, have been allowed to slowly deteriorate beyond repair.

Bridges[edit]

The Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge - J421 was built in 1931 when US 66 was rerouted to pass through Times Beach, a working-class resort established in 1925 and abandoned in 1983 due to dioxin contamination. The site is now part of Route 66 State Park. Bypassed in 1956, the bridge has deteriorated and is no longer passable.[15]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

U.S. Route 66
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Kansas
Missouri Next state:
Illinois