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The Diamonds, aka Tri-County Truck Stop

Tri-County Truck Stop, Villa Ridge, Missouri

When I was a little kid, the round-fronted facade of the Diamonds on Route 66 at Villa Ridge, Missouri intrigued me. When I decided to write a book on the architecture of the American roadside as built along U.S. Highway 66, the Diamonds, now the Tri-County Truck Stop, was the landmark that stood out in my mind. How grateful I was to find it still standing, as I drove 50 miles west of St. Louis to see if there were enough roadside buildings to even write a book on Route 66 architecture. That was 1980.

When I learned that that the Tri-County had an all-you-can eat Alaskan crab dinner every Friday night, I organized a group of friends to go. One brought along Susan Croce Kelly, who understood all my chatter about Route 66. Several, weeks later I invited her to work with me on a book on the old highway. Together, we produced Route 66: The Highway and its People from the University of Oklahoma Press. Susan wrote the text to the book, a text drawn from oral histories we did together, using the buildings to identify our informants. I would identify a building, we would go in and ask for the original owner. If it was not the person behind the counter, we learned we could find him or her some where nearby. We were careful to talk to people who had come to the roadside between 1926, when Congress passed the highway act that funded the federal highway system and 1956 when Congress passed the Interstate Highway Act that funded the roads that replace Route 66 and the other federal highways. These were the people who invented American roadside tourism. And, we were very lucky, because so many were still around to tell their stories.

Route 66 is the definitive book on the old highway, from its routing as the only diagonal federal highway to its replacement by the interstates.

The other day I drove past the Tri-County and found it shuttered, bordered up. New, fancier trucks stops have sprung up closer to the I-44-Missouri 100 interchange.

Below is the caption to the photograph at appears in Along Route 66, the book on the architecture from the University of Oklahoma Press.

The Diamonds, 1948-1973

Villa Ridge, Missouri

Spencer Groff housed the first Diamonds in a wooden building at the Y where U.S. 66 split from the Old State Road, picked up the Old Wire Road, and headed west. After it burned in 1948, he teamed up with Louis Eckelkamp to build a second Diamonds. While Eckelkamp lured families into the Gardenway Motel with a homey American Colonial architecture, Groff and Eckelkamp projected an aura efficiency to travelers and truckers with a Streamline Moderne architecture at the Diamonds. The great curved front of the beige brick restaurant overlooked the intersection of the Old State Road and the Old Wire Road. While families were welcome at the Diamonds, Groff and Eckelkamp isolated them from the truckers a separate dining room. They provided truckers with sleeping rooms and showers on the second floor. They directed civilians to the Gardenway

The Diamonds was one of the rare businesses to survive the coming of the interstates. When I-44 replaced 66 in 1973, Groff and Eckelkamp took their sign in the shape of a diamond, moved to the interchange at Gray Summit and built a motel and restaurant that catered to tourists. The Tri-County Truck Stop, which had lost its building to I-44 in Sullivan, twenty miles west of Villa Ridge, took over the building, and mounted a sign that stretched the length of the roof line.[Endnote #11] Photograph, 1980.

 

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