The National Park Service, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2021 cost-share grant awards. The program provides grant assistance for eligible historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative, and educational projects related to historic Route 66. Since 2001, 158 projects have been awarded $2.37 million with $3.69 million in cost-share match, totaling $6.06 million in public-private investment toward the revitalization and commemoration of the Route 66 corridor.

The 2021 grant awards go to:

Imperial Motel Sign Restoration
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Applicant: Private Owner
NPS Grant: $24,675               Cost-Share Match: $24,675

By the late 1950’s, vacation culture was booming in America’s post-World War II environment. Coupled with the rapid growth of the Interstate System and National Parks, the demand for motel rooms grew, and the hotel industry went on a nation-wide building spree. Noting the success of tract housing designed by southern California architects Palmer & Krisel (P&K), in 1959, Imperial 400 Motels commissioned them to design a prototype motel and the rights to use this design on four other sites. The design concept proved so popular that Imperial immediately launched a franchise campaign and began building motels with virtually the same design all across the United States. While local architects were hired to adapt the design to fit individual site conditions, the essence of the P&K design remained the same, with the trademark butterfly roof found over the registration/manager’s quarters building. The franchise adopted a logo featuring a thrifty Scotsman in a kilt with the slogan “Aye, royal accommodations at thrifty rates.” Imperial projected that they would build 179 franchised motels across the U.S. by the end of 1964 and boasted that they had opened a new location every ten days. However, they expanded too quickly and in 1965, Imperial 400 went bankrupt. Many of the motels still exist under a different name and survive relatively unchanged. The Imperial Motel in Albuquerque has been unchanged since it was built in 1964, and the sign is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Place. Grant funds will assist with restoring the sign to its historic appearance and operating condition as part of a larger redevelopment project.

Shamrock Court Restoration
Location: Sullivan, Missouri
Applicant: Private Owner
NPS Grant: $30,000             Cost-Share Match: $30,000

The Shamrock Court in Sullivan, Missouri was built in 1947-1948, and has been owned and operated by one family for much of its 73 years on Route 66. With very few alterations, the motel retains most of its original design and appearance, including native stone construction known as the “giraffe rock” style, which is n unique to the Ozarks region. During its construction, stonemason artisans incorporated sunbursts, flowers and diamond patterns into the stone design, which added a unique, whimsical touch still present today. With its high pitch dormers, shingled roofs, native stone facades, and distinctive horseshoe-shaped configuration, the motel retains a very high degree of historic integrity. Since the passing of its owners 13 years ago, the property has sat vacant and undergone significant deterioration. With demolition on the horizon, a new owner has stepped in to rescue and stabilize the buildings, with plans to bring the Shamrock Court back to life as a functioning motel. Grant funds will assist with nominating the property to the National Register of Historic Places, and stabilizing the building through restoration of the subfloors, dormers, roof, gutters, HVAC system, electrical system, and plumbing system.

Road Runner’s Retreat Sign Restoration Planning
Location: Chambless, California
Applicant: Private Owner
NPS Grant: $5,386              Cost-Share Match: $5,386

The Road Runner’s Retreat is located on National Trails Highway/Route 66 in the small town of Chambless in the Mojave Desert of California. The property was first developed in 1961 and soon after sold to the Dotson family. The Dotson’s had previously owned and operated Duke’s Western Wear in Montclair, California, and with their expert marketing skills were able to amplify this unique, desert location. This included DJ radio broadcasts held live from the parking lot, a signature white statuary horse and the construction of the iconic Road Runner’s Retreat neon sign in 1965. The business included a googie-style gas station, auto repair shop with a tow truck service and a cafe. There was also housing for workers, trailers, cabins, and a small, shared laundry room. The business prospered until the unforgettable day in 1972 when I-40 opened. Duke Dotson Jr. remembers, “It was just like the movie “Cars”. One day we had brisk business and the diner was full. The next day it was like someone shut off the tap of a water faucet. There were no more travelers on the road. Overnight we were put out of business.” The Dotson’s sold the property ca. 1973 to the Murphy family. Today, it remains a popular stopping place for photo opportunities, and has been used as a movie set by the film industry. The grandson of the Murphy’s together with the Dotson family are actively envisioning a new future for the property. The first phase will be to restore the neon sign, which features a large metal road runner. Historically the neon legs on the bird were lit in sequence to appear as if the road runner was running. Grant funds will assist with preparation of planning and design documents as part of the larger effort to restore the sign to operating condition.

Threatt Filling Station Restoration
Location: Luther, Oklahoma
Applicant: Threatt Filling Station Foundation
NPS Grant: $20,872              Cost-Share Match: $20,872

The Threatt Filling Station was constructed circa 1915 by Allen Threatt Sr. The Threatt family homesteaded in the present-day Luther, Oklahoma area when it was opened to United States settlement in 1889. The Threatt family earned a living raising crops and quarrying native sandstone from their land, which was used in the station’s construction. The Threatt Filling Station sold Conoco and other products through the station’s service life. A grocery store was added in 1935, providing produce and staples for locals who didn’t want to drive to the city for small grocery items, foreshadowing the modern convenience store. In 1937, a small cafe was added, making the station a local gathering spot and a well-known safe haven for Black travelers. Motorists could get fuel, food, and park their vehicles on the property to sleep for the night. Dances were held on weekends. People came from Oklahoma City and other areas to dance in the field, where tables were set up to serve barbeque, beer, and soda pop. The Threatt Filling Station served locals and travelers along U.S. Route 66 through the Roaring ’20s, the Great Depression, the War Years, and the Post-War Boom, finally closing in the 1970s. The Threatt station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the 11 Most Endangered Places in America in 2021. Grant funds will assist with a new roof for the filling station, as part of a larger project to restore the property for use as a museum and destination site.

Music and Entertainment Project on Missouri Route 66
Location: Route 66 in Missouri
Applicant: Missouri State University, Duane G. Meyer Library
NPS Grant: $7,484             Cost-Share Match: $15,011

Southwest Missouri has a long musical tradition and with it entertainment venues that naturally developed along Route 66. Some of these venues were grand entertainment palaces with elaborate architectural statements, such as the Gillioz Theater and the Shrine Mosque in Springfield. The Jewell Theater, also in Springfield, was repurposed in the post-war Fifties as the home of the Ozark Jubilee, the most successful country and western variety show to be broadcast live nationally on a weekly basis for nearly six years. Other venues were more modest, such as dance halls, juke joints, bars, and even truck stops that regularly offered live musical entertainment. This project will focus on musical venues to offer a broad look of the community memory fostered by Route 66. While local residents enjoyed and benefited from these musical entertainment venues, so did Route 66 travelers and of course the musicians themselves. In a Greater Springfield oral history interview, Irv Logan, grandson of Alberta Ellis (owner of Alberta’s Hotel), remembered entertainers traveling through the region in the segregated environment that created the Chitlin Circuit, many who stayed at Alberta’s Hotel. The project will aid current and future generations in understanding the importance and impact of these musical entertainment venues and the connection to American culture. Grant funds will support researchers to identify and research venues, and record a minimum of 12 oral history interviews in the greater Springfield, Missouri area. The oral histories will be made available online to the general public, free of charge through the Missouri State University Libraries online Collection Guide. (Photo: Nelson Tavern, Lebanon, MO. Courtesy Lyle Johnson.)

Route 66 Women Multi-Episode Documentary Film
Location: Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica
Applicant: The Road Ahead Route 66 Partnership, Assertion Films
NPS Grant: $15,000               Cost-Share Match: $37,000

“Route 66 Women: The Untold Story of the Mother Road” is a documentary film series that explores America’s most iconic highway from the perspectives of the women who have shaped, lived and worked along it for almost 100 years. Examining the history of Route 66 through a feminine lens brings Women’s History in the American West to the forefront and sheds brings new understanding to the moniker “Mother Road”. The Route 66 era encapsulates some of the most important changes in women’s lives in the last century, as they became increasingly more active in business, political and social realms outside of their families. In addition, the canon of women associated with Route 66 has focused primarily on white women entrepreneurs. In fact, Route 66 passes through over 25 tribal lands, and there have always been vibrant African American, Asian American and Latino communities along its trajectory, in which women were a driving force behind successful businesses and community development. Grant funds will support the final steps required to complete the film series to bring it to a wide audience through national broadcast by public television stations and international distribution. (Photos: [L] Monrovia, California. Courtesy Councilmember Larry Spicer, [R] Helen Hardin, Margarete Bagshaw, Pablita Velarde by RC Gorman, 1979. Courtesy Dan McGuinness and the Golden Dawn Gallery, Santa Fe NM.)