The road that once was the main east-west thoroughfare for travelers now offers scenic tour through America’s past. Many traces of the Mother Road are still visible here along Kearney Street, Glenstone Avenue, St. Louis Street, College Street and Chestnut Expressway.
If you begin your tour at 2939 E. Kearney Street at the Lurvey Stone Court Cabins (north side of Kearney) and travel west, you will see the best of what’s left of Route 66 in Springfield.
2939 E. KEARNEY STREET
In Springfield, there are many traces Route 66 still available for the traveler to visit. Starting in the 1920s, motor courts were available on almost every corner of Kearney Street and Glenstone Avenue. Many have been razed, but one that still stands is Lurvey's Court Stone Cabins at 2939 E. Kearney Street (old Route 66) near Springfield's eastern city limits.
While long out of business, these handsome sandstone cottages had two units in each building and are located on the north side of Kearney.
In 1928, motel owners Burt and Irene Lurvey moved their cabins a short distance into Springfield from Strafford. Kearney Street was still under construction. There were originally 12 units in six buildings. In the 1970s, the cabins were converted to rentals.
The cabins currently belong to Jean and Joan Lurvey, Burt and Irene's twin daughters.
2829 E. KEARNEY STREET
About one block west of the Lurvey cabins at 2829 E. Kearney Street is the Holiday Drive-in Theater, which opened in the late 1960s. The drive-in had a single screen, traditional pole speakers and capacity for 529 cars.
Drive-in theaters were promoted as "the answer to the family's night out," but their real market came from youth who for a few hours could escape parental supervision.
This drive-in operated well into the 1990s, but ever-increasing taxes on large tracts of land made drive-ins less and less profitable. Plus, new interstate highways made suburban living more practical and thus the land more attractive to developers. This drive-in was demolished in March 2005, but the land is yet to be developed. However, the Holiday Drive-in sign still partially stands.
2000 E. KEARNEY STREET
Rest Haven with its large neon sign is located at 2000 E. Kearney. Opening in 1947, it was one of the first motor courts that westbound travelers on Route 66 encountered. In the 1950s, there was a Phillips 66 gas station in front of the motor court. The motel has kept up with the times. Note the amenities listed on the sign photographed in 2014 that lists WiFi and HBO. Try to return to the Rest Haven in the evening so you can see the neon sign lit up.
203 S. GLENSTONE AVENUE
The Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven at 203 S. Glenstone began as eight sandstone cottages built in 1938 in an apple orchard. Now, the former motor court is a top-rated Best Western hotel where guests can enjoy a piece of historic Route 66 America without sacrificing modern-day comforts.
Although extensively remodeled with clean comfortable rooms, free WiFi/Internet, cable TV, outdoor pool and pavilion, a 24-hour front desk and complimentary hot breakfast, the Rail Haven has retained its vintage look with a 1950s-themed lobby, old gas pumps and signs and 1955 and 1956 Ford automobiles paying homage to its link to Route 66. Elvis Presley once stayed in the Rail Haven in the 1950s. One room is decorated from that time period and is dedicated to the iconic singer.
Today, thousands of foreign visitors seek out the hotel for a genuine experience of staying in a historic Route 66 motor court. Often home to classic car clubs, it is not unusual to see old restored cars parked in front of the hotel.
1158 E. ST. LOUIS STREET
About seven blocks west of the Rail Haven (still on Route 66) at the southwest corner of St. Louis Street and National Avenue you can enjoy a classic example of early fast food chains in a 1950s-style restaurant. Serving satisfied customers since 1962, this particular Steak-n-Shake is one of the few left with its original tile floor, stainless steel counter and kitchen cookline visible to customers.
815 E. ST. LOUIS STREET
Continuing west on the north side of the street at 815 E. St. Louis is the Route 66 Visitor Center. Parking is available in the garage for a fee, or free parking is available on the north side of St. Louis Street a few feet west of the building. Stop in, visit about Springfield's stretch of Route 66 and pick up brochures and maps.
700 E. ST. LOUIS STREET
A few blocks west of the Visitors Center at 700 E. St. Louis Street is the Kentwood Arms Hotel. Built in 1926 by entrepreneur and local developer John T. Woodruff (one of the fathers of Route 66) this impressive hotel was advertised as a clean, restful and attractive environment within a block of the business and theater center of Springfield to serve discriminating travelers. It was a grand hotel in its day. Famous visitors include President Harry S Truman, Pat Nixon, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx and Jeanette McDonald.
With more than 100 units, it had a rooftop terrace garden. The famous Crystal Dining Room was used for banquets, dances and public meetings. In 1984, the Kentwood Arms was sold to Missouri State University to be used for student housing. It is now called Kentwood Dormitory.
601 E. ST. LOUIS STREET
A half block west and across the street from the Kentwood Arms Hotel at the corner of St. Louis Street and Kimbrough Avenue is the Shrine Mosque. Built in the early 1920s and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, this building of Arabesque design is owned by the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (now called Shriners International) and best known for the Shriners hospitals for children.
Elvis Presley performed at the Shrine in 1956. As one of Springfield's most recognizable buildings, the five-story structure serves as a center for special events and concerts.
331 PARK CENTRAL EAST
Continuing west just a couple of blocks at the corner of St. Louis Street and Jefferson Avenue is the office building John T. Woodruff built in 1910. The 10-story building was Springfield's first "skyscraper." In addition to offices, the building included two elevators, a drug store, a pool hall, a barber shop and a coffee shop. Now called "SkyEleven," the building has been remodeled into high-end loft apartments, offices and a restaurant on the first floor.
325 PARK CENTRAL EAST
Just around the corner from the Woodruff Building is the Gillioz Theatre. Route 66 runs right in front of this beautiful building. Constructed in a Spanish Colonial Revival design, the Gillioz opened Oct. 11, 1926 to great fanfare. The builder, M.E. Gillioz, who regularly built bridges, constructed the theatre with steel and concrete, using wood for only the handrails, doors and door frames. The original cost of the building was $300,000. Renovation costs totaled approximately $1.9 million. Before renovations began in the 1990s, the theatre closed its doors in 1980. The theater was originally a transition theater, with a pipe organ for silent movies and a stage for live performances, such as vaudeville acts. A sound system was installed in 1928 with the advent of talkies.
The Gillioz hosted the premieres of three movies:
- 1938 January 14: "Swing Your Lady" with Humphrey Bogart and Penny Singleton
- 1952 June 6: "The Winning Team" with Ronald Reagan
- 1952 July 4: "She's Working Her Way Through College," also starring Ronald Reagan.
Elvis Presley passed an afternoon watching a movie at the Gillioz after performing sound checks for an evening show at the nearby Shrine Mosque.
The Gillioz is now operated by the Springfield Landmarks Preservation Trust. Restoration began in 1990, and was completed in 2006. The lobby and auditorium were restored to the original 1926 appearance. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Eighty years after first opening its doors, the Gillioz had its grand reopening in October 2006 and now serves primarily as a concert venue.
PARK CENTRAL SQUARE
Due west from the Gillioz is Park Central Square. As you enter the square on its east side, you'll see the plaque commemorating Springfield as the official birthplace of Route 66. It was dedicated on the 66th anniversary of the highway. On the northeast corner of the square is the historic Fox Theatre, now part of the History Museum on the Square to the west. The southwest corner of the square holds a historic marker near the spot where the famous Wild Bill Hickok/Dave Tutt Wild West gunfight took place in 1865.
157 PARK CENTRAL SQUARE
History Museum on the Square is a private, not-for-profit organization that began in 1975 as a Bicentennial project. The space for the History Museum office was in Historic City Hall and was provided by the City of Springfield. But we have now moved our offices near our new museum space on Springfield's historic Park Central Square. Our new business office is located in the beautiful Holland Building in Suite 404 (4th floor.) As a not-for-profit organization, we continue to raise the necessary program and operating funds through admissions, gift shop sales, special events, memberships, donations and grants. Our current exhibit location is part of our exciting museum expansion space at the museum's historic Park Central Square location, 157 Park Central Square.
Admission: Adults - $5, Children - $3
409 W MCDANIEL STREET
Exit Park Central Square on the west side on to College Street (still Route 66) and drive about a block and half until you see a small brown and tan brick and stone building on the left. It sets back from the street and is surrounded by a parking garage and lofts.
Built in 1891 to be used as the city’s jail, the Old Calaboose is now a Springfield Police Department substation and museum. As the oldest existing structure owned by the city, the Calaboose is on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit "Springfield Police Museum" on Facebook or call (417) 864-1810 for hours.
701 W. COLLEGE STREET
Bud Perry began his tire and wheel business on Route 66 in 1958 at the Corner of College and Grant at 701 W. College. His business was one of the first in Springfield to distribute custom wheels and continues to provide quality service today.
As the 2013 Birthplace of Route 66 Festival, Bud was the recipient of the John T. Woodruff Award, which recognizes Springfieldians’ contributions to Route 66. Bud welcomes visitors to his shop and you are welcome to take photos of the fantastic murals on his building.
1031 W. COLLEGE STREET
About six blocks west of Bud's Tire & Wheel at 1031 W. College Street is this unique store offering antiques, collectibles, postcards and Route 66 clothing and souvenirs.
1200 BLOCK, W. COLLEGE STREET
A couple of blocks west on the south side of College Street attached to the wall is a series of folk-style art mosaics paying homage to Route 66. The idea for the mural came from Stan and Carol Adam. The mosaic was brought to life by local artist Christine Schilling, who worked with dozens of young artists on the pieces. Dedicated in 2001, it was made possible by the support of many generous donors.
1200 BLOCK, W. COLLEGE STREET
Across the street from the mosaic wall is the park dedicated to honoring Springfield's stretch of Route 66. When complete, the park will include a filling station replica with visitor information, a motor court sign replica, restrooms and a history plaza. The first phase of the park was dedicated Aug. 8 2014 with a ribbon cutting, party and cruise-in to the park during the 2014 Birthplace of Route 66 Festival.
Included in the ceremony was the dedication of the replica of the Red's Giant Hamburg sign. Red's was a burger joint on West Chestnut Expressway in Springfield and was the first drive-through restaurant in the United Stations. It closed in 1984.
1622 W. COLLEGE STREET
Continue west on College Street across Kansas Expressway and you'll get the chance to stop in for an all-American breakfast or lunch at the College Street Café, an unassuming little diner that has served Springfield since the 1970s.
1624 W. COLLEGE STREET
Come see 67 classic cars owned by Springfield's Guy Mace, including two Rolls Royces, the 1926 Hudson used in the movie "The Grapes of Wrath," a 1955 BMW and a 1967 golden-beige Healey. The collection also features eight Jaguars built between 1954 and 1974, the Zombie Protection Truck from "Resident Evil," a one-cylinder 1907 REO, a Gotham Cruiser and many other unique vehicles.
2400 W. COLLEGE STREET
Just a little over a half mile west of the College Street Café you will come to Rock Fountain Court. Although built in 1945, Rock Fountain Court appears today much as it did when it opened. It is one of the most intact examples of a native stone cottage court anywhere in Missouri on Route 66.
Faced with split native stone, the cottages appear to be in good condition and are now used as residential units.
The property has been purchased by one of Springfield's outstanding supporters of Route 66 with the plan to bring the court back as it looked in its heyday.