Sunday, April 12, 2009

From Portland to Palm Springs along Highway 99 - Day 1

And we're off and running with Vintage Roadside's latest preservation-themed road trip blog!

This time we're traveling from Portland, Oregon to the California Preservation Foundation's annual conference in Palm Springs, California...where rumor has it the weather is a touch warmer than Portland's current balmy 51 degrees.

The plan for this trip is to travel along as much of historic Highway 99 as we can find (with occasional detours along the way) highlighting preservation organizations, preservation projects, neon signs, roadside architecture, fiberglass statues, and mom and pop eateries - just about anything that's stood the test of time and in turn made the road a little more interesting.

Why the focus on Highway 99? As the West's main north-south highway from 1926 to 1964, there are a lot of great stories to be discovered and remnants of the highway's glory days to be photographed. One of the resources we found most helpful in our quest is a wonderful series of books by Jill Livingston titled, "That Ribbon of Highway." If you enjoy our blog and want to dig even deeper into the history of Highway 99, we highly recommend it.

Now, onto the road:

This morning got off to a late start, but we manged to cover roughly 335 miles, ending the day at the site of a purported bigfoot crossing in Mt. Shasta. Luckily the Woodsman Lodge, recently renovated and rustically charming, was right next door so we're definitely ending the day on a high note.

We have lots of preservation stops planned for tomorrow, so for this first leg of the trip, let's take a look back at some of the great neon signs we found today. At the end of the blog, we'll wrap things up with a quick preservation stop in Yreka.

With its huge red arrow and intact neon, the Marco Polo Motel along Highway 99 in Albany, Oregon definitely caught our eye. For those thinking of a career change, please note that the motel is currently advertised for sale.


Another great sign along 99 in Goshen, Oregon advertises what was once the Hill Top Motel. The motel is now rented out as apartments so we're fortunate that the owners of the property have elected to keep the sign in place. The sign is largely hidden behind trees, but you can still catch a glimpse from the road if you travel at 1940s speed.


Roseburg offered up this gem of a sign above the Anderson Place Market. Although no longer lit, the charming gentleman with a wide smile once had an animated neon arm...must have been wonderful to see in action.


We came across this well-cared for Rexall sign above a pharmacy in Canyonville, Oregon. Although a quiet town, it's worth swinging off I-5 for a quick drive along this short section of 99.


We're always on the hunt for interesting animal mascots so we laughed out loud when we came across this sign in Grants Pass. The poor little guy on top of Bunny's Motel looks like he's suffered some sort of mortal injury, but he still keeps smiling. The motel appears to no longer serve overnight guests.


This next sign may look a little familiar. It seems that the Yreka Motel may have gone in on a package deal with the Marco Polo in Albany, Oregon when it came time to order letters for their sign. While the Marco Polo went with a swoopy arrow the Yreka Motel opted for a sputnik made from galvanized pipe. We're awarding bonus points to the Yreka for the yellow backlit plastic at the bottom.


Following that great introduction to Yreka, you won't want to miss their outstanding welcome arch.

Just over the California border, Yreka became a boomtown after gold was discovered in 1851. Although not dating back as far as that, the welcome arch made it's first appearance in 1917.

Taken down during a road widening project in the 1930s that transformed the Pacific Highway into US 99, the arch languished in storage until 1976 when a successful push for restoration led by the the community's Soroptomists resulted in a rededication of the sign in 1977. For a great read about the story of the arch, try this article written by Claudia East on her blog, Yreka History.


The Yreka Carnegie Library is our first stop at a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preservation note: The National Register of Historic Places is essentially a list of cultural resources (districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects) that have gone through a nomination process and been deemed to be of historic importance to America and worthy of preservation.

Administered by the National Park Service, the National Register of Historic Places was created under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.


Yreka is also lucky to have an entire section of their city designated a Historic District by the National Register. Just west of Main Street (formerly Hwy 99), Yreka's historic district can be found from 102 to 402 West Miner Street and 122 to 419 3rd Street. We definitely recommend spending some time walking the district.


With the light fading, we headed down the road to Weed, crossing our fingers that we would find one of our favorite neon signs lit along a short stretch of Hwy 99 we'd driven on a day trip last year. Lucky us, the Hi-Lo Motel was shining away.


That wraps up today's post. Tomorrow starts off with a tour through Dunsmuir's historic district, a stop at the Cave Springs Resort (the site of a 1920s auto camp), a visit to Redding, part of the National Trust's Main Street program, and Red Bluff's State Theatre, recipient of a 2001 Art Deco Society of California Preservation Award...stay tuned!

9 comments:

Rick said...

Great Post- love the font on the Anderson Market sign, great sky on the Yreka arch and you even got a bunny in there for Easter! I look forward to following along the rest of your journey!

Citroendork said...

What an Awesome 1st day! and 335miles to boot!
How do you find the time? Great signs Can't wait for more!

moz said...

I love the Yreka sputnik, I want one for my house!

Jen said...

Fantastic! Have a great time! Jen

Pfeiffer Photos said...

Good work, guys--that's a long drive and just the right stopping place for the night! The signs are great, of course, and I didn't know about the historic district of Yreka last time I was there ('96ish) so thanks for the info!

Steve said...

I grew up in Nor-Cal. Wave for me as you drive through. Drive safely and Haley and I look forward to some awesome vicarious adventures!

Vintage Roadside said...

Rick - Thank you! We appreciate you following along. Maybe we swaying you to a trip out our way!

Austin - Thanks! Just a couple more days and we'll see you guys in Palm Springs!

moz - It would be the perfect compliment to any decor! It would also look great mounted on your roof.

Jen - Thank you! We're having a great time. Thanks for stopping by.

Tina - It's a great little town. Lots of art deco architecture and some fun signs. Stop by next time you pass that way!

Steve - Will do! We've just yelled out from our motel in Stockton that "Steve says hello!" Thanks for riding along with us.

Frater said...

Day 1 looked like a lot of fun. Looking forward to reading the rest.

(This is mhictire - Geoff Foley - on twitter)

Vintage Roadside said...

Frater - Thanks for stopping by! We appreciate you taking a look at the blog. I hope you've been enjoying the road trip.