October 4, 2018

THE BIRTHPLACE OF Route 66: SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI

The birthplace of Route 66 is said to be in Springfield, Missouri. The “Mother Road” began in the 1920s as Americans moved west. Construction work on a 17-mile long, 20 foot wide concrete road, later Route 66, was national front page news in 1929! A mere five months later, “Black Friday” and the stock market crash changed America forever.

Route 66 Best Western
The Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Motel on Route 66 in Springfield, Mo.

By 1931, the winding, two-lane Highway 66 was called, “The Main Street of America.” The road’s completion was cause for a huge celebration in Rolla, Missouri. That year, Highway 66 ran from Chicago to St. Louis and extended in and out of Rolla, Missouri to Lebanon, Missouri and into Springfield’s city square.

 

Lobby of the Route 66 Rail Haven Motel Springfield, Missouri

The Route 66 Rail Haven Motel

Stu spent the night in the 75- year old Route 66 Rail Haven Motel in Springfield! It was the most elegant of all motels in Springfield when built at the junction of U.S. Highways 66, 65, 166 and 60 and is on the National List of Historic Places.

As built, the motel had individual sandstone cottages; each with a little front porch and an attached heated garage! Nieces and nephews of the original owner remember riding on the running boards of guests’ cars to direct them to their cottage! A hot water heater in each garage thawed out cars in the winter so they were ready to start. In later years, the garages were converted to rooms. Each unit rented for $4.75 a night for double occupancy.

Dining area at Route 66 Rail Haven Motel Springfield, Missouri

 

Post WWII, Americans started traveling more on vacations. The newspaper, The Ozark Mountaineer said: 

“The nation had in 1953 a total of 50,536 year-round motels. California led with 7,330. Missouri ranked 12th with 1,191 motels; (this was an increase of 50% in two years).”

 

THE Route 66 RAIL HAVEN MOTEL TODAY

By the 1990s, the Rail Haven was in disrepair. In 1994, Gordon Elliott (a CPA) from Springfield heard the motel was for sale and bought it. The huge renovation of the historic motel began.

The motel is L-shaped and was enlarged in 1957. The complex includes two Nine- Unit Motel Buildings, a 16-Unit Motel building (1950), Original Laundry (1950), Office (1953), three Multiple Unit Motel buildings (1938, c. 1957), The Thirty-Unit Motel building (1957), Swimming Pool and Pool House (1958) and Three-Unit Motel building (c. 1957).

 

Route 66 Rail Haven Motel Springfield, Missouri

Mr. Elliott saved an American treasure. According to the book, Route 66 Rail Haven: An Offspring of the “Mother Road” by Reta Spears-Stewart, it is rumored that Elvis Presley’s mother stayed there the night Elvis appeared in Springfield in 1955. Movie star Loretta Young also stayed at the motel as did Marilyn Monroe!

Stu’s room was decorated just like it was in the 1950s but had today’s conveniences. The bathroom even had a black and white checkered floor.  Historic photos cover the walls.

The lobby and dining room are also decorated as in the 1950s. An old black dial phone and 1950s cars out front add to the atmosphere.

People from all over the country make reservations to stay at the Route 66 Rail Haven Motel. In fact, at a recent high school reunion, a classmate told Stu that her sister and brother in-law stayed at the Rail Haven for their honeymoon in August of 1958 and celebrated their 60th anniversary this year!

Get yourself to the Route 66 Rail Haven Motel on old Route 66 for a nostalgic stay in the Ozark of Missouri!

 

Route 66 Rail Haven Motel

203 South Glenstone Avenue, Springfield, Missouri 65802

1-417-866-1963

written by Barb Bradley - Posted in Blog