Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vintage Roadside says goodbye to Tulsa!

We had a fantastic time at the National Trust for Historic Preservation annual conference in Tulsa and wanted to say thank you to a few of the people who made it such a great week...we promise to include a few photos of Tulsa, too!

First and foremost we'd like to thank Susan Neumann--a smart, organized, encouraging sort of person with a great sense of humor. We couldn't ask for a better person at the Trust to work with. Nord, thank you for allowing us to spread the word about Vintage Roadside and the National Trust for Historic Preservation on Good Day Tulsa. Kelly now knows where her hands should be if she wants to appear relaxed on TV! And for helping us through our first-ever panel--thanks, Dolores. Charlotte and Farin--after meeting you two it's easy to see why the Exhibit Hall was such a success. We can't wait for Nashville! And another thank you to James for coming by and listening to the story of how Preservation Magazine started us down the road to Vintage Roadside. David Brown, thank you for stopping by - it was great to meet you after hearing so many nice things about you.

To everyone who came by our booth and to our panel - meeting so many of you made this event one we'll never forget. We really appreciate the opportunity we had to talk with you all. It was wonderful to hear about the work each of you do and we look forward to hearing more about your projects.

To our booth neighbor, Ed: "Go Buffalo!"

A couple more people we'd like to thank are Ron Warnick of Route 66 News and Stacey Bayles of A1A Eastern Oklahoma. Ron, it was a pleasure to finally meet you. And Stacey, thank you for kindly providing us with a copy of Tulsa's Art DecoGuide - an invaluable guide to Tulsa's beautiful art deco buildings published by the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture. You'll see we put it to good use in the photos below.

Although we'd never been to Tulsa before, we're looking forward to the next chance to go back. From the work of Tulsa's Main Street Program to the lasagna at Dalesandro's, Tulsa is definitely a place worth visiting again.

Finally, a few images from around Tulsa to give you a glimpse of the city's great architecture.

The beautiful neon sign at Cain's Ballroom.

Vintage Roadside's booth at the conference.

The Boston Avenue Church.

Another look at the Boston Avenue Church.

Phoenix Cleaners. One of the many streamline gems around town.

"Cottage" style Phillips 66 station.

Tulsa Union Depot.

Will Rogers High School.

Downtown Deco detail.

More downtown Deco.

The Mayo Motor Inn parking structure. One of our favorite streamline buildings downtown.

No visit to Tulsa is complete without a drive out to Catoosa
to see the Blue Whale :-)

For those following along on our road trip home to Portland, we're headed to Dodge City, Kansas before hooking a left to Pueblo, Colorado. Westward, ho!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Portland, Oregon to Tulsa, Oklahoma - Day 6

Six days, over 2,300 miles, more than 50 preservation highlights - welcome to Tulsa! It's been an incredible trip, the weather was perfect, and we hope you enjoyed traveling along with us. We also wanted to say thank you to everyone along the road working for preservation in their community. From motels to gas stations to neon signs - your work is vitally important and tremendously appreciated. And to all the people we've met along the way, we hope we'll meet up again.

We reached Tulsa a little late this evening, so rather than try and fit the city in tonight we'll be posting Tulsa highlight throughout the week. We'll be covering our travels around town as well as our time at the National Trust annual conference - it's going to be a great week! Also, if you enjoyed riding along with us you can tune in again for Road Trip Part II on the 27th as we make our way back to Portland, Oregon. And if you have a favorite stretch of two-lane road between Tulsa and Portland that you think we should try, let us know!

Now, on to highlighting preservation success stories between Vega, Texas and Stroud, Oklahoma followed by a random batch of just plain good stuff.

One of our favorite stops on the trip, the Magnolia Gas Station was restored by the City of Vega, Texas with help from a Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program grant. Although our photo doesn't do it justice, the detail both inside and out is impressive. The Magnolia Station now serves as a Route 66 interpretive stop along the Route's older alignment in Vega and is well worth the stop.

Opened in 1939, the Sixth Street Chevron Station in Amarillo looks as sharp as the day it was built after restoration by a private owner with help from a Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program Grant.

Opened in 1922 as an indoor swimming pool the legend of the Nat began in 1926 when the pool was covered and the building converted to a dance hall. For the next 40 years, an incredible range of musicians traveled Route 66 to perform at the Nat: Guy Lombardo, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Ozzie Nelson, Rudy Vallee, Bob Wills, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and the King himself, Elvis.

Closing as a public dance hall in the 1960s, the Nat has recently been awarded a Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program grant to add a sprinkler system, allowing it to reopen as a public music venue and continue its tradition as one of the most storied dance halls in the country. The Nat is on the National Register of Historic Places and a Texas Historical Landmark.

Spooky note: The Nat is reported to be haunted with ghosts still enjoying one of the finest maple dance floors in the Southwest.

The restoration of the Paramount Theatre sign is an incredible story. 33 1/2 feet tall and decorated with 847 light bulbs, the Paramount Theatre sign was removed from its original location in the 1970s. In 2006, the sign was not only returned to its original location at 9th and Polk, it was completely restored with funds from the Amarillo Historical Preservation Foundation, Center City of Amarillo, the Amarillo National Bank, the Sybil Harrington Trust, and monies raised through a brilliant "Buy a Bulb" campaign. We had a chance to speak with Wes Reeves, past president of the Amarillo Historic Preservation Foundation and current board member of Center City of Amarillo, about the project. He left us amazed at his perseverance and excited about the future of preservation in Amarillo. Here's a great article about the Paramount Theatre project from the monthly publication of the Texas Main Street Program, "Spotlight on...Amarillo."

Thanks to Krista Gebbia, Executive Director of Preservation Texas, for helping us track down preservation people and projects along our road trip route!

Built in the 1940s, the Streamline Moderne Triangle Motel narrowly escaped demolition in 2006 through the efforts of Alan McNeil, Wes Reeves, the Texas Historical Commission, and concerned community members. With a demolition moratorium granted, stabilization of the property has begun, made possible by monies received from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, community fundraising, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Fort Worth, TX.

The McLean Phillips 66 Station, beautifully restored by the Texas Old Route 66 Association.

A jaw dropper, we spent quite a bit of time ogling the Art Deco Tower Conoco Station and U-drop Inn Cafe in Shamrock, Texas, restored by the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce with help from a fedaral grant administered by the Texas Department of Transportation

U Drop Inn Cafe Detail_Shamrock, Texas

Built in 1929, this former cafe, soda shop, and pharmacy is now home to the Roger Miller Museum. If you happen to be in Erick, Oklahoma next Saturday (Oct 25th) you'll be just in time for the 6th Annual Roger Miller Music and Arts Festival! Restored in part with a Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program grant.

Lucille's Roadhouse, east of Weatherford, Oklahoma. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a great example of an early "over the drive" design. You'll find a touching monument to Lucille Hamons here, erected by the Oklahoma Route 66 Association.

Here's a great example of preservation in action: following a devastating fire in May 2008 which destroyed all but the Rock Cafe's exterior walls, the National Trust's Southwest Office and the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program responded immediately to cafe owner Dawn Welch's request for help. The National Trust's Southwest Office provided monies from their Intervention Fund to pay for an engineer to inspect the damaged building and act as an advisor to the preservation architect on structural challenges. The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program also allocated monies to help Dawn begin rebuilding.

Here's a great article published in the Southwest Office's Summer 2008 newsletter, "Saving an Historic Icon on Route 66."

Fun fact: the Rock Cafe was built from rock quarried during the construction of Route 66 through Stroud, Oklahoma in 1939.

Thanks to Wendy Ossoinig of the National Trust Southwest Office for spending some time talking preservation with us!

Here's a sampling of a few of the things we saw along the way. It's possible we might have a bit of a thing for signs!

The Circus Room. Amarillo, Texas

Grain Towers. Conway, Texas

Large ball of barbwire. Mclean, Texas

Beef Burger. Amarillo, Texas

Del Rancho Restaurant. Clinton, Oklahoma

Brown Rexall Drugs. Mclean, Texas

Cowboy Motel. Amarillo, Texas

66 Bowl. Warr Acres, Oklahoma

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Portland, Oregon to Tulsa, Oklahoma - Day 5

Howdy, Folks! We've hitched up the Vintage Roadside wagon in Amarillo, Texas for the night after a fun day along the New Mexico stretch of Route 66.

We decided early this morning that we would deem today "Neon Sign Saturday" and thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the gems New Mexico has to offer.

Neon signs and road trips go hand in hand, but it's not easy (or inexpensive) to keep these important pieces of our roadside history in working condition. We thought we'd take this opportunity to share a batch of New Mexico signs that have all benefited from grants intended to ensure that these works of art will continue to shine.

Each of the signs featured in the batch below have been repaired and restored with the help of grant monies from one or more of the following preservation organizations: the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Division, the New Mexico Route 66 Association, and the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.

We timed our visit to the Blue Swallow to arrive as the sign was being lit for the night. We thought the two photos showed what an impact a neon sign can make for a business.

Blue Swallow_Tucumcari, NM - Before

Blue Swallow_Tucumcari, NM - After

Westward Ho_Albuquerque, NM

Roto-Sphere_Moriarty, NM

Grants Cafe_Grants, NM

El Rancho Hotel_Gallup, NM

Nob Hill Motel_Albuquerque, NM

Premier Motel_Albuquerque, NM

El Rey Theatre_Albuquerque, NM

Aztec Motel_Albuquerque, NM

Here are a few more photos from the road that illustrate the creativity and artistry of neon sign design. The heyday of roadside signs was a time when every business owner could express their unique vision in neon. Neon signs were also a way for businesses to distinguish themselves from the place across the street offering the very same service. While we were always told not to judge a book by its cover, the sign maker was hoping we would do that very thing after seeing these neon works of art. We'll admit to visiting many businesses simply because they still have their original neon signs.

El Vado Motel_Albuquerque, NM

West Theatre_Grants, NM

Virgie's_Gallup, NM

Blue Spruce Lodge_Gallup, NM

A few miscellaneous photos from the road:

West of Tucumcari
In addition to signage, it's hard not to stop every mile or two as the sun sets on any road trip. We've found that the "golden hour" pretty much means we'll need an extra hour to get where we're going.

Our Vintage Roadside mascot and the amazing Roto-Sphere.

The "Cowboy" version of the Muffler Man Family. The 1960s era creation of International Fiberglass. International Fiberglass also created the 4 figures in the A & W Burger Family: Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Teen Burger, and Baby Burger.

We'll see you again tomorrow night as we end the day in Tulsa. Then it's on to the conference!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Portland, Oregon to Tulsa, Oklahoma - Day 4

Welcome to day four of the Vintage Roadside Tulsa road trip. It's been great having you all along for the ride!

We discovered today that the wildlife along Route 66 can be tricky, but we've picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and gathered another bonanza of roadside stops and preservation stories.

We began our day in Williams, one of the accredited member cities in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street program.

What is Main Street you ask? You're going to love this one!

Developed in the 1970s by the National Trust, the Main Street program is an innovative approach to revitalizing older, traditional business districts through economic development in the context of historic preservation.

Main Street emphasizes how an architecturally interesting, pedestrian friendly, locally owned business district supported by the community is sound economics. Makes sense to us!

When we were researching the Main Street program and its effect along Route 66, we contacted Donna Eastman, one of the driving forces behind the vitality of downtown Williams. Donna is the CEO of the Williams Chamber of Commerce, the director of the Main Street program, and a member of the board of the Arizona Route 66 Association.

Acting as a an education resource for historic preservation, the Williams Main Street program has emphasized the value of retaining and restoring downtown buildings and the economic advantages of seeing the historic downtown business district as a destination for travelers. We were thrilled to hear that due to the momentum for historic preservation that has built around Main Street, the city of Williams has now hired a full time employee just to focus on and manage the program. Well done, Williams!

Two of the many preservation stories in Williams are the Grand Canyon Hotel and the En Pinado Hotel.

Built in 1891, the restoration of the Grand Canyon has made a major impact on the look of downtown Williams.

The En Pinado hotel is another beautiful old hotel currently undergoing restoration. New owners Dennis and Pam Dreher plan to restore the circa. 1905 hotel for use as commercial property (downstairs) and apartments upstairs.

On the way out of Flagstaff sits the Twin Arrows. A legend along Route 66, this once popular roadside stop was built in the 1940s on land leased from the Arizona State Land Department. The Twin Arrows once offered travelers gas, gifts, and food from a classic Valentine diner. Now, after years of deterioration, vandalism, and despair about the state of the iconic Twin Arrows sign, we have some fantastic news!

Just before our trip, we spoke with Sharlene Fouser, Coordinator for the Historic Route 66 Scenic Byways Program.

Sharlene let us know that the Hopi Tribe, owner of the Twin Arrows buildings and sign, has recently moved ahead with plans to seek funds from the National Trust for a preservation assessment and restoration plan for the Twin Arrows. The Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona and the National Park Service's Route 66 Corridor Program are assisting with this effort.

If you'd like to learn more about the Historic Route 66 Scenic Byways Program you can click here. We're big fans of this program which was established in 1992 and to date has awarded over $3,000,000 to Route 66 Scenic Byway projects.

After Flagstaff, we stopped in Winslow to visit the La Posada Hotel, one of the great preservation stories along Route 66. Opened in 1930, closed in 1957, purchased in 1997 and subsequently restored by Allen Affeldt and his wife Tina Mion, La Posada is one of 84 Harvey Houses built by Fred Harvey to serve travelers on the Santa Fe Railway.

La Posada is also one of 21 projects designed for Fred Havey by Mary Colter from 1901 - 1948 and reported to be the one she considered her masterpiece.

Check out this great Preservation magazine article if you'd like to learn more about Harvey Houses.

We're happy to share some good news about the Highway Diner, located across the street from La Posada. The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has just awarded the owner of the Highway Diner a grant for development of a preservation plan and emergency stabilization. We're hoping to swing by for a hamburger the next time we're in town!

Fun fact: the Highway is a Valentine Diner Model Nifty-Nine, a nine stool diner model made in the early 1950s.

We've just started digging into the story of another historic building in Winslow (a faint sign across the front reads " Babbitt Brother Mercantile"), but thought we'd go ahead and share the photo.

Holbrook is home to a couple of the most well-known mom and pop businesses along Route 66. The Wigwam Motel and Joe & Aggie's Cafe.

The Wigwam Motel, one of 7 built between 1933 and 1950, is still run by the family who built the motel in 1950.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wigwam has received grants from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program which allowed them to restore their neon sign, repair concrete walls, and rehab plumbing.

The Wigwam is a great example of the imaginative architecture that flourished during the golden age of roadside travel. The Wigwam still captures the imagination and is an irreplaceable piece of Route 66 history.

Although tempted by a number of restaurants along the way, we had waited to eat until we reached Holbrook knowing we had to have a meal at Joe & Aggie's Cafe.

We don't often take pictures of our dinner, but the burritos we ordered were too good not to share. And yes, they were as delicious as they look! If you're lucky, you'll stop by on a day when Christopher Olthouse is serving. He has a definite knack for making newcomers feel at home.

Joe & Aggie's opened for business in 1943 and is still owned and operated by the original family. At the end of our meal, we were lucky enough to meet second generation owners Alice & Stanley Gallegos along with their son, Steven. Some of the fun stories they shared highlighted a Joe & Aggie's credit in the Pixar movie "Cars", a booth used as a photo shoot for Glamour magazine, and a group from Ireland who fly over every two years for a motorcycle tour of Route 66 and a guaranteed stop at Joe & Aggie's. We even picked up some great bowling tips from Alice (so watch out Austin and Marci, we're ready for a Rollerdog showdown!)

On a preservation note, Joe & Aggie's Cafe received a grant in 2006 from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program for roof repairs.

See you tomorrow in New Mexico & Texas!