Welcome to Route 66, America’s Highway

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

This week, we start a fourteen-week series on America’s famed Route 66.

Each week we’ll feature a postcard view from the thousands of roadside diners and motels that used to line the “Mother Road.”

Our focus will be on towns featured in the 1946 Bobby Troup classic song “Route 66.” Nat King Cole recorded the song later that year and it was an instant hit and has been covered by a litany of musical artists from Chuck Berry to the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Our inaugural postcard view is this linen-style postcard showing the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago’s Grant Park, about a block away from Route 66’s starting point.

A small signpost that bears the number “1933” in downtown Chicago, near the intersection of Lake Shore Drive and Jackson, marks the starting point of what has become known as “The Mother Road,” or America’s Highway.

US Route 66 was originally commissioned in 1926 by the newly-formed Federal Highway Administration as part of a plan to offer the public a United States highway system from coast to coast.

Picking up as many stretches of existing road as possible, “Route 66” as it became later known, spans three time zones, crosses eight states and is 2,448 miles long, ending in Santa Monica, Calif., near the intersection of Olympic and Lincoln boulevards.

When it was originally commissioned, only 800-or-so miles of the roadway was paved. The roadway wasn’t paved end-to-end until 1937, which sparked entrepreneurial enterprises such as campgrounds, motor hotels and restaurants along the way.

The advent of the interstate highway system in the late 1950s signaled the beginning of the end for what we now know as “Roadside America” and highways such as Route 66.

Many of the “kitchy-themed” motor hotels and restaurants along U.S. highways across the country began to close due to lack of business. Very few remain today.

However, anyone with a keen eye for architecture can still spot the old motor courts and motels so popular in the early to mid 20th Century.
Linen postcards of the era, depicting views of roadside taverns, filling stations, motor courts and restaurants such as this, however, are in high demand by collectors who specialize in “Roadside America” genre cards.

Since The Northeast News is celebrating International Children’s Day this week, it’s a perfect summer for a road trip.

So gather those kids up and get the road trip games like “slug bug” or “count the cars” ready to go and follow us on over the next fourteen weeks as we explore America’s iconic Route 66 as shown in antique picture postcards.

We certainly hope you enjoy the ride.

 

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