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The Ostermann Station in Peach Springs, Arizona has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places

Osterman’s Shell Station, 1932

Peach Springs

Oscar Ostermann's Gas Station in Peach Springs

The Hualapai Indians nominated the Peach Springs Shell Station for the National Register of Historic Places and were accepted in 2009. Recently, it was placed on the register. The Hualapai Indian tribe owns the station these days and plans to restore it and start pumping gas again. They received a great from the National Park Service to do so. However,  Oscar Ostermann built the gas station in 1932, not his brother John in 1927. At the same time Oscar built the new gas station, he built the Peach Springs Auto Court next door.

Beatrice Boyd, whose husband, Frank, worked for Oscar and who purchased the Peach Springs Auto Court from Oscar in 1938, told me the story:

From Along Route 66:

“Swedish sailor John Osterman wanted to captain his own ship. In 1914 he set sail around the world, as was required by the Swedish Merchant Marine, but on a German ship. His ship was interned at Santa Rosalia, Mexico on the Baja Peninsula at the beginning of World War I. He jumped ship, ferried across the Gulf of California, made his way to Nogales, crossed the border into Arizona, and followed the railroad north to Phoenix where he went to work in a dairy. He hated the work. When the dairy shipped its cows, and John north, to summer pastures near Flagstaff, he took off and hopped a train to San Francisco with the intention of going back to sea. The railroad cops threw him off at Peach Springs where the largest body of water was a dry wash.

“He stayed, worked on a ranch, became a citizen, and was drafted when the United States went to war. After World War I, he returned to Peach Springs, opened a small gas station, and quickly developed a reputation for honest work. He would tow a car day or night. He stocked Ford parts, particularly springs–six were delivered daily from Los Angeles for folks who busted theirs on the rough road. He persuaded his brother, Oscar, to join him, sold him the gas station in 1925, and moved to Kingman. A year later the highway department designated the road in front of the gas station U.S. Highway 66, and then moved it a block north six year later. Oscar needed a new building: he built a jagged Alamo.

“He poured a two-story concrete frame, four bays wide, and filled it with concrete block, formed to look like quarried stone. By 1920 the reinforced concrete frame had come into general use in large industrial buildings–flour mills and factories, but it was unusual to see one on such a small scale.[Endnote #25] He housed his office and work room in the west half of the building and the garage in the east half. He provided a second-story sleeping room for the help behind the stepped facade over the garage. He finished it with a wide, spreading canopy that covered the pumps.” Photograph, 1998.

In  1998 when I was making a trip along Route 66 for my book, Along Route 66, I checked into the station to get permission from the Hualapai to drive across their lands and down into the Grand Canyon.

Along the road down into the Grand Canyon

It was a rugged, but worthwhile drive. Peach Springs received its name after farmers established peach orchards in the bottom of the canyon.

Here is a list of other Historic Sites on Route 66.

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The Satillite Cafe and John Glenn’s First Orbit of the Earth

Satellite Cafe, Photograph, 1981

Loren and Norma Alloway and her husband, owners of the grocery in Sleeper, a small town off F Road north of Route 66, celebrated John Glenn’s orbit of the earth on February 20, 1962 by opening the Satellite Cafe at the junction of F Road and U.S. 66 in Laclede County, Missouri.

Satellite Cafe

In 1965 they built a simple concrete block building, set a large sign in the shape of a cross that encouraged travelers on 66 to stop and EAT. They set a rocket on the roadside that no one could miss.

The Alloways operated the cafe and service station  24 hours a day for 14 years, hiring older women who knew how to cook to run the kitchen. At this link you will find an image of the Satellite in its heyday.

Alloway Grocery, Sleeper

Sleeper is an unincorporated village in Laclede County. The Atlantic and Pacific (Frisco) Railroad went through Sleeper as early as 1874. Then it became a station on the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. In 1889 it was a town with two general stores,  a blacksmith shop, and a railroad section shack. It was named for Mr. Sleeper, the construction gang foreman who laid the tracks. At first it was called Sleeper’s Switch, for the spur that connected the mainline to a coal chute.

More recently two trains on the BNSF collided in Sleeper. Read the article. It’s very funny.

No Wait for a Blood Test to Get Married in Miami, Oklahoma

Drive Route 66 into Miami, Oklahoma and you will find the roadside franchised into oblivion: all those fast food joints and little in the way of memories of Route 66. That was not the case when I started documenting the roadside in 1979.

In 1979, as now, there was no requirement for a blood test. No requirement for a blood test meant no wait. There was no residency requirement for a license. No residency requirement meant folks from southwestern Missouri and southeastern Kansas could get married on the spur of the moment.

CherokeeMiami

The Cherokee Motel had a wedding parlor for folks from out of town. Get married at the Cherokee and check in for the night. The Cherokee is gone, but Lavern’s Marriage Parlor is very much still in business.

Laverne's Marriage Parlor

Off the beaten track, if you consider Route 66 the beaten track, Lavern Harris opened a Marriage Parlor on B Street in 1954 , right across the street from the courthouse. Pop into the courthouse, get your license, pop over to Lavern’s Marriage Parlor, get married. It all took less than an hour. Even now it all takes less than an hour.

Lavern had a preacher on call. She still offers a preacher’s service for $60.  And for a few dollars more the flowers, the garter, and the sign for the back of your car. Check out her website.

The Boots Motel–Carthage, Missouri

Boot's Motel

A month ago I got an email from Pricilla Bledsaw of Decatur, Illinois about the Boot’s Motel in Carthage. She and her sister had put in a bid to buy the motel and fix it up.

The Boot’s had gone the way of many of the best motels that somehow manage to survive along Route 66: It housed people, who live on the margins, by the month.

The Boot’s is a classic streamline moderne building on the lines of the, now departed Coral Courts in St. Louis.  I do hope the sisters remove the faux-gable roof and keep the nice black glass insets on the rounded corners of the office. The Boots had all the modern amenities–tile showers, radiant heat in the floor, air conditioning, and garages.

Boot's Motel: The Landscaping

In 1981, when I made this photograph, Rachel Asplin was maintaining the neatly trimmed trees and hedges between the garages that was so in keeping with the architecture of the building. The entrances must have been from the garages.

To start the sisters will rent the rooms in the rear for office space and use their earnings to rehab the rest for travelers. The Boot’s is a natural for a Route 66 Bed and Breakfast.

The only drawback is Carthage is off the beaten track for all but the most devoted 66 travelers, but from the daily friend requests I get on my Facebook page, there are plenty of them out there.

I wish the Pricilla and her sister good luck.

The Riviera Roadhouse

Riviera Roadhouse, Gardner, Illinois

Riviera Roadhouse, 1926

Gardner

I am late to this reporting. On June 8, 2010 the Riviera Road House in Gardner, Illinios burned to the ground.

In 1996 Burt Parkinson, the newspaper editor in Gardner, told me the little of what I know about the Riviera:

In 1926 Jim Girot quit the coal mine in South Wilmington, and opened the Riviera, a roadhouse, on U.S. 66 two miles north of Gardner. It was rumored that Jim offered gambling at the Riviera. Actually, Jim offered a little bit of everything: a little bit of gambling, a little bit of booze, and a little bit of prostitution. He cobbled it together from a little bit of everything: part of a church, part of a school, part of a tin store, and part of the payroll office from the mine where he had dug coal. The final assemblage was several typical Illinois buildings patched together, similar to the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century houses that lined the streets of towns served by 66 in Illinois.

The Riviera went through several owners after Jim Girot. When Bob and Peggy Kraft decided to quit in 2008, that wasn’t the end of the Riviera, but it was the beginning of the end.

Bob Keller leased the building from the Krafts and fought with the fire officials in Gardner over fire safety in the building and fought with the Illinois Route 66 Association over access to the old streetcar diner behind the Riviera. Even without all the fights, restaurant work is hard work and Keller finally backed out of his lease with the Krafts and left the restaurant empty.

However, the Riviera lives on. It  has its own Facebook page. Willem Bor has photographs of his model of the Riviera on his Facebook page.

 

Bill’s Station Phelps, Missouri

Bill's Station, Phelps, Missouri

Thirty years ago, when I was first exploring the idea of writing a book on U.S. Highway 66, I made this photograph of Bill’s Station in Phelps, Missouri. The old station sits on one of those sections of the road, which at the time, could be considered a Route 66 museum. Between Springfield and Carthage I-44 had completely abandoned U.S. 66, stripping away the economic viability of the business in between.

When I wrote Along Route 66, I learned what I could about Bill’s Station. And all I could learn was Bill’s last name: Bill Tiller.  He built this little building, finished it in stucco, and added a wooden lean-to at the rear. Bill may have had a canopy over service area which may have met a bad end. The little mansard roof supported by steel poles must have been added to the front later. A few steps to the east he built a small, wooden garage. And the stucco building to the rear may have been a small motel.

Bill's Station, 2010

Rich Dinkela, who had been documenting what is left of the roadside buildings, posted this image, along with my image on my facebook page. Bill’s Station is well on its way to disintegrating.

Rich’s image brings to mind Alan Weisman’s great book, The World without Us, in which he examines what is happening in built places we humans have abandoned. What he wants to understand is what would happen if humans no longer roamed the earth. Nature, he concludes, would take it all back. This is what is happening to Bill’s Station.

I suspect what is happening to Bill’s is happening to many of the wood frame and stucco buildings that line this section of the old highway. Nature–wind, rain, and vegetation–is taking them back, bit by little bit.

The Blvd. in Duarte

The Blvd Cafe, Duarte, California

I did not realize that when I started this blog that I would be marking the passing to the architectural landmarks along Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles, landmarks I spent 20 years documenting. But as my husband said a year ago as we drove through Miami, Oklahoma, where Route 66 has been franchised into oblivion: “Someday soon all that will be left of Route 66 are your photographs.”

An article in the Thanksgiving Day issue of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reintroduced me to Susie Tomasian.

Susie and her husband Tommy came to Foothill Boulevard and opened the BLVD in 1946, at a time when many ex-GIs were opening businesses along this American highway and others and at a time when Americans were traveling for fun. The BLVD was a place where you could pull in, have a burger at the service counter in the open-air lean, and get on your way. Or, if you wanted something at tad more elegant, you could sit down in the restaurant in the little stucco house that serviced as the back wall of the lean-to.

When Susan Croce Kelly and I were interviewing people, along Foothill for Route 66: The Highway and Its People in June 1982, we pulled up to the BLVD and were lucky enough to find Susie behind the counter. By 1998, when I returned to Duarte to work on Along Route 66: The Architecture of America’s Highway, many of the small businesses Susan and I found in 1982 had given way to franchises and strip malls and the occasional big box store with a massive parking lot. I don’t remember if the BLVD had survived or not, but I do remember Susie and her burgers and her genuine warmth.

Susie Tomasian, The BLVD, 1982