Route 66 in the News

Never Say Die

2009-08-06 21:33:34

SELIGMAN, Ariz. - It’s known as the “Birthplace of Historic Route 66” not because the old Mother Road began here, but because, in 1987, the people of Seligman staunchly refused to let the great American Main Street in this small town die.

Congress was ready to pass legislation to decommission Route 66, thus ending any roadway in America from being marked with the famous Route sign. The residents of Seligman, led by Angel Delgadillo, formed the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona and fought to preserve the segment of the historic highway that ran through the center of their small town and won!

Today, all the old pavement in Arizona that was once Route 66 now bears the official title “Historic Route 66” and, thanks to the small town of Seligman, the longest uninterrupted stretch of Route 66 begins here.

For 160 wonderful nostalgic miles—from Seligman to Topock—travelers continue to cruise America’s Mother Road. Along the way, many scenic byways enhance the historic experience, even some newly erected “Burma Shave” signs.

In 1857, Lieutenant Edward Beale and his famous army camels first surveyed a route through the area. Twenty-five years later, the railroad arrived following this main route and adding a southbound spur toward Prescott. This spur earned the area the name Prescott Junction.

But, in 1886, the town was renamed in honor of Jesse Seligman, a man who invested much money to help build many of the railroads through this part of Arizona. The Fred Harvey Company came to town in 1905 and built Havasu Hotel, one of six Harvey Houses built in Arizona. The Cottage Hotel was built in 1912 to compete with the fancy and famous Havasu.

By 1938, Route 66 was paved from Chicago to Los Angeles and every car that made the journey passed through Seligman. Life magazine photographer, Andreas Feininger immortalized Seligman in his famous photo called “Route 66 Arizona.”

But 1978 saw the opening of Interstate 40 and Seligman, like every other small town bypassed by I-40, began a battle to survive.

Today, the good folks of Seligman are still fighting the good fight, trying to preserve a piece of Americana. They suffered defeat in 2008 when the Havasu Hotel—known for its fine food and accommodations for rail travelers of a different era—was demolished.

The renovation of the Cottage Hotel is the current focus of Seligman’s preservation efforts. The Historical Society is hoping to renovate the 97-year-old building and convert it to a museum and Route 66 Visitor Center. The goal for completion is 2012, in time for the hotel’s—and Arizona’s—100th Anniversary.

The Historical Society is raising funds through a tax deductible Buy-A-Brick program, used throughout the state by preservation groups. A brick in Seligman starts at $50 and you can have it inscribed with your name, your business’ name, your pet’s name or whatever you choose. Your brick will then be used along the side of a path or as part of a wall.

A little money from a lot of people helps historical societies raise needed funds to preserve our historic treasures. Without help, more buildings will realize the same fate as Fred Harvey’s Havasu Hotel, whose memory now endures only through books and photographs.

You can put a little piece of yourself into Arizona history by buying a brick. Go to seligmanhistory.com and click “Fundraising.” And if you’re not sure it’s worth it, get out and take a cruise down the 160 miles of America’s Mother Road. You’ll get your kicks.

~Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher, IOAnthem.com

 

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