Route 66 in the News

Route 66 History and Architecture Strikes a Chord

2012-02-08 13:17:34

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Cyrus Avery was a Tulsa oilman who advocated for the construction of a roadway that would run from Chicago to Los Angeles. Largely as a result of his and others’ tireless efforts, in 1926 Route 66 was officially opened.

That road would play an important role in American culture, and was celebrated in music, film and in a popular show in the early years of television. Books and articles have been written about Route 66 and its impact on American life, and to many, including Oklahomans who were fleeing the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, it was a roadway that they hoped would lead them to a better life.

Author Tom Snyder has recently written a new book about what author John Steinbeck called the “mother road” that is titled “Route 66, a Travelers Guide and Roadside Companion.”

Snyder concludes the remnants of that highway that are still in place in Oklahoma are among the most interesting to be found on the entire route, and recommends to his readers that they travel the whole length of it from the Kansas border to where it crosses into the Lone Star State.

He asserts that “Oklahoma is the soul of Route 66.” The author references the large number of barbeque joints that are on or in close proximity to Oklahoma’s part of that highway, and wonders if it was ever known as “Rib 66” as a result. Several years ago, the Oklahoma Highway Department put up signs that denote where Route 66 ran through the state, and that makes travelling its path much easier.

Most of that roadway that went through the eastern part of the state has been preserved, Snyder tells us.

He speaks fondly of Tulsa, where he reports that great architecture is visible during the day and bright colors light the evening sky when traveling on that roadway. There is a monument to Cyrus Avery on 11th Street in Tulsa, and the author believes that it is worth a stop to learn about Avery and his vision that led to the creation of Route 66.

There is also a bronze titled “East meets West” in place there that pays tribute to Avery. Many of the structures that were in place on that part of the highway are still standing, and some of them have been placed on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s List of Historic Buildings, and are still in use as restaurants and stores.

Snyder laments the fact that not much of the “old Route 66 feeling” is found in Edmond, but writes that “Edmond is a university town that has a lovely campus.”

In the Oklahoma City Mid-City area, the route ran through part of Northeast 23rd Street, and Snyder is pleased by the fact that the Tower Theater at 425 N.E. 23rd has been renovated and its marquee is still in place. On Classen Boulevard adjacent to 23rd Street stands the Townley’s Dairy milk bottle atop a small store that now sells Vietnamese food, and the author praises it as a “classic in commercial architecture” and assets that it is “one of the most striking images on Route 66.”

He also urges his readers to take the time to journey to the Classen Curve, which he sees as “a new look for Oklahoma City,” and to sample the good food and shopping that is available there. He believes that the Classen Curve is an example of the new and innovative structures that are being put in place fairly close to what had been Route 66.

And while Route 66 began as a roadway, it is now a destination in itself, Snyder rightfully concludes.

~William F. O'Brien,


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