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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.


The Riviera Roadhouse

Riviera Roadhouse, Gardner, Illinois

Riviera Roadhouse, 1926


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.


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

World Monuments Fund

Pop Hicks, Clinton, Oklahoma

Pop Hicks, Clinton, Oklahoma

The World Monuments Fund posts watch list of places in the built environment that are endangered from neglect. The Los Angeles Times suggested that Route 66 should be nominated as such a site.

Pop Hicks, a classic Route 66 restaurant in Clinton, Oklahoma, is long gone. It burned to the ground in 1999. The owner could not afford fire insurance and could not rebuild the business. This is a form of neglect.

The great Coral Courts is gone, razed because it was falling apart in spite of its renown on Route 66.

Coral Court Motel, St. Louis

Coral Court Motel, St. Louis

The Coral Court was on the National Register of Historic Places, but that didn’t save. The bottom line is economics, and not even those of us who have traveled 66 for years stay in these old motels.

The Shamrock, Sullivan, Missouri

The Shamrock, Sullivan, Missouri

It would be nice if places like the Shamrock could be turned into successful Bed and Breakfasts. The Shamrock already has a dining room.

Gardenway Motel, Grey Summit, Missouri

Gardenway Motel, Grey Summit, Missouri

The Gardenway is still in business, but few know, unless you have read Along Route 66, that it was named after Henry Shaw’s Gardenway, an attempt to plant Missouri trees along the highway between St. Louis and Grey Summit.

Trails End Motel, Springfield, Missouri

Trails End Motel, Springfield, Missouri

The Trails End is to Springfield as the Coral Court was to St. Louis. It is a classic architecture, practiced only in the Springfield area.

Route 66, Halltown, Missouri

Route 66, Halltown, Missouri

Ten years ago Halltown, and intact road town, was thriving as an antique center west of Springfield.

There are others. What is left out there? Could Route 66 be a viable World Monument site? I am open to suggestions.

Solar Energy in the Mojave Desert,

Dry Wash, Mojave Desert

Dry Wash, Mojave Desert

Interior secretary Ken Salazar describes his agency as the “real department of energy.” He is in charge of the vast expanses of public lands in the western United States, lands that energy producers want to exploit for their natural resources, oil, coal, natural gas, and now wind and solar.

Which brings us to the Mojave Desert, sunny and windy, and much of it owned by U.S.

There is a five year backlog of applications for 158 solar projects on 1.8 million acres of public land, which could power 29 million homes. Half the projects would be built in the Mojave Desert, where some of the land is pristine, and some not.

The White House wants to streamline the application process and create 50,000 green jobs by 2011.

Roy's Motel, Amboy, California

Roy's Motel, Amboy, California

Pacific Gas and Electric is planning a solar farm near Roy’s Motel, a classic Route 66 business and a classic Route 66 story

Buster Burris was the wrecker king of Route 66 in the Mojave. He arrived in Amboy from Texas in 1938 and went to work for Roy Crowe at his gas and service station, driving Roy’s wrecker. Buster took over the business, and added a cafe in 1945 for feed people who waited for Roy to fix their cars. Three years later he added the little cabins to bed them down while they waited for Roy to fix their cars.

Roy's Motel, Amboy, California

Roy's Motel, Amboy, California

Roy’s grew into a small city out in the desert, even though drinking water was hauled in by the Sante Fe Railroad and stored on a siding.

Because the highway is there, because the railroad is there, because Roy’s is there, Pacific Gas and Electric claims the land is no longer pristine, and a solar farm near Roy’s will not damage the environment and be far enough away from Route 66 to not spoil the view from the road.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and David Myers of the Wildlands Conservancy feel it is way to easy to use public land for energy production and that the planned solar projects will be way too big. Myers calls it the industrialization of the desert. Feinstein wants to establish the Mother Road National Monument on 800,000 acres of the land that would connect the Mojave National Preserve to the north with the Joshua Tree National Park to the south and the Colorado River to the east. And she wants to prevent the construction of solar farms on the land.

Lester Dill and Stanley Marsh

They are two Route 66 characters who, today, are better known for the artifacts they left on the roadside than for who they are.

Barn in Oklahoma

Meramec Caverns Barn in Oklahoma

Lester Dill owned and operated Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Missouri. And he promoted his cave with signs painted on barns all along Route 66 and throughout the Midwest. He painted his first barn on the Ohio Turnpike in the thirties: See Meramec  Caverns, U.S. 66, MO.

Meramec Caverns Sign, Missouri

Meramec Caverns Sign, Missouri

Travelers saw the first barn, then the second barn. With each sighting the anticipation became intense. Children clamoured to see the cave. Parents caved when they got to Stanton. And, in the days before air conditioned cars, it was a steady 58 degrees in the cave, a place to cool off from the summer heat.

Read the full story about Lester and his cave and his barns in Route 66: The Highway and its People, Photographs by Quinta Scott, Text by Susan Croce Kelly. Its available at the Along Route 66 Bookstore.

Lester Dill had a public face, a familiar character on late night television.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Stanley Marsh is not. No barns announce the Cadillac Ranch, a sculpture just west of Amarillo, more on I-40 than U.S. 66. There is no anticipation. If you don’t look north from I-40, you just might miss it. But travelers somehow get to the side road, clamour over the fence, and risk picking up chiggers in the grassy field where ten Cadillacs are planted nose down in the soil.

Cadillac Ranch Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch Amarillo, Texas

The ranch is a work in progress. Graffiti artists change it weekly. Every photograph of it is different. When I made photographs of it, it was not nearly as colorful as it is today.

Route 66 Landscape, Grant Park, Chicago

Grant Park, at Jackson and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Grant Park, at Jackson and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

When Chicago, founded in 1833, incorporated Fort Dearborn into its townsite six year later, it designated the land east of Michigan Avenue public land. In 1844 the city name the old fort, Lake Park. Eight years later the city built a causeway just off shore, creating a lagoon between the beach and the roadway, which turned in to stagnant water. The city filled the lagoon with debris from the Chicago fire in 1871 and in 1896 extended the park into the lake with landfill. It became Grant Park in 1901.

Route 66 and the Landscape It Crosses–Chicago, Part I

Route 66 begins on the edge of Lake Michigan at the foot of Jackson Avenue

Route 66 begins on the edge of Lake Michigan at the foot of Jackson Avenue

I have conducted oral history interviews with the people who invented Route 66 and published the first book, Route 66: the Highway and its People, on the old highway in 1988.

I have documented the architecture along the roadside, conducted more interviews, and published a book on the architecture generated by the old road, Along Route 66: the Architecture of America’s Highway. The University of Oklahoma Press published both books.

Now, I am thinking about the landscape the road crosses between Chicago and L.A and how it was formed.

So in the next few weeks I will dig through my files and find images of the Route 66 landscape, some in color some in black and white and publish a little information about it.

Chain of Rocks Bridge Turns 80

The Bend in the Chain of Rocks Bridge

The Bend in the Chain of Rocks Bridge

Two projects came together on the Chain of Rocks Bridge. I first crossed this eccentric bridge in the 1960s on a return trip from Peoria, Illinois. My father, always intent on broadening my horizons, drove me across this bridge at the northern edge of St. Louis. I returned to it many times before it was closed in the 1980s. We celebrated its 80th birthday last week.

I began learning the history of the bridge in the 1980s when I was working on Route 66, The Highway and its People, Photographs by Quinta Scott; Text by Susan Croce Kelly. I told the story of the bridge in Along Route 66, the Architecture of American’s Highway:

“In 1929 John R. Scott and Tom J. Scott, brothers, completed four miles of roadway from Mitchell to the east bank of the Mississippi where they had constructed a most eccentric toll bridge. It was narrow, only twenty feet wide. It had a right turn in the middle, and a remarkable view of the Chain of Rocks, a major obstruction to shipping in the Mississippi, and of the little castles which housed the pumps for the St. Louis waterworks.

The Scott brothers and a group of investors began planning the Chain of Rocks bridge in 1924, two years before U.S. 66 was designated. They wanted to provide a way into St. Louis that by-passed Granite City, Madison, and Venice and cut eight to ten miles off the trip between Chicago and St. Louis. A bridge at the northern extreme of St. Louis would do that.

They started construction on the Missouri side before they had found the bedrock anchor for the pier on the Illinois bank. They never did, at least not in the place they needed it for a straight bridge. So, the Scott’s engineers poked around along the Illinois shore until they found bedrock 200 yards up stream, and built a 22 degree left/right turn into the bridge.

When the Scotts opened the bridge on July 20, 1929, Missouri and Illinois failed to mark it on their official maps. After the initial publicity, traffic dwindled and so did income from tolls. The bridge went into foreclosure. The Scotts reorganized, laid an additional 600 feet of road from the west end of the bridge to connect with Lindbergh Boulevard which became the 66 by-pass around St. Louis, and renewed their efforts to encourage drivers to use the bridge. Discouraged, they sold the bridge to the City of Madison, Illinois in 1939 which turned it into a “Golden Goose” until the Interstate-270 bridge replaced the narrow, two lane bridge with the right angle in the middle where two trucks, going in opposite directions, could not pass.”

Baxter L. Brown was the engineer that designed the bridge. The Union Bridge and Construction Co. of New York and the American Bridge Co. were the builders.

It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

Confluence Greenway and Trail Net have leased the bridge from the City of Madison and have gone a long way to restoring the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge and the wetlands and islands that surround its Illinois approach. On a pleasant summer day, it is a good place to walk or bike.