I’ve driven a lot of Route 66 in Oklahoma since that’s where my family lives and where I grew up. I didn’t really have an appreciation for the history until I became a photographer in recent years. I was fortunate enough in some ways to visit home twice in 2016, one for my dad’s knee replacement surgery in March and the next time for my stepdad’s funeral in late October. I can’t say that either of these events was a pleasant experience but it did give me time to explore the countryside that, shockingly, I had never done much of before. I guess growing up there I didn’t think about those things i.e. exploring history within our own state and city limits. Don’t get me wrong I love history. My high school history teacher, Mr. Thomas, was someone that always made the topic interesting, curious and thought provoking. And for that I will always be thankful.
History has always been a fascinating subject for me. Whenever I visit a historic site, I try to imagine what it was like during that period of time to be there. It is almost like achieving some sort of enlightenment. Historic sites like this allow your mind and imagination to roam freely without consequence.
A Bit of Route 66 History
Established in 1926, Route 66, also known as the Main Street of America, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. The highway ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending in Santa Monica, California. The highway covered nearly 2,500 miles across the country and became iconic within American culture. Route 66 was a major artery for those who migrated west during the Depression era and Dust Bowl of the 1930s. For decades, people and towns earned decent money doing business with attractions along the route due to the growing popularity of the highway. However when the new Interstate Highway System Act was signed by Eisenhower in the 1950s, it marked the beginning of the decline of the highway. I’m so glad this piece of American culture still survives today, even though a lot of the original highway doesn’t.
The pictures in this series represent the cities of Depew, Oklahoma heading West to Arcadia, Oklahoma. Again this is only a subsection of the route, but does include a photo on an original stretch of Route 66 (as shown in the headline photo).
There wasn’t a lot to see in Depew, other than 5 cars parked on the downtown strip. This is representative of a town long forgotten once Route 66 began to decline.
Stroud has a couple of historic attractions that still sport signage from the 40s and 50s. The Rock Cafe opened in 1939 and still functions as a restaurant to this day. In its hey day, the café became a Greyhound bus stop, bringing many travelers into the successful restaurant and town of Stroud.
Davenport welcomes visitors with a beautiful mural painted on a masonry wall. Of note is the early bird diner (just opposite the welcome sign) located in a vintage service station which has many old vehicle license plates from Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.
Chandler is one of two Oklahoma cities settled by its own land run. In this section of Route 66, Chandler probably holds the most historic sites on the national registry. A large mural welcomes travelers into Chandler on the southwest part of town. It also houses the Route 66 Association headquarters in an old WPA era stone Armory.
Route 66 curves through the tiny town of Warwick, Ok, which is primarily known for the Seaba Engine Rebuilding Garage opened in 1921. It currently houses a motorcycle museum, which includes the actual motorbikes used in the Captain America: First Avenger movie in recent years.
Luther / Arcadia
Although I shouldn’t probably group two towns together the sights mentioned below are very close to one another that it makes for one section. This is a pretty iconic section of Route 66 as it is right outside Oklahoma City and features some pretty cool vintage looks.