The National Park Service, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s cost-share grant awards. The cost-share grant program provides grant assistance for eligible historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative, and educational projects. Grants are offered through an annual, competitive grant cycle. Since 2001, 139 projects have been awarded $2.1 million with $3.4 million in cost-share match, totaling $5.5 million in public-private investment toward the revitalization of the Route 66 corridor. 

To learn more about these projects and other past grant awards, search our grants database.

The 2017 grant awards go to:

 

ILLINOIS

Tropics Restaurant - Lincoln, IL

Tropics Neon Sign Restoration Project
Location: Lincoln, Illinois
Applicant: Logan County Tourism Bureau
NPS Grant: $17,000             Cost-Share Match: $28,500
 

The Tropics restaurant was opened in 1950 by Vince Schwenoha in Lincoln, Illinois. Vince served in Hawaii during his WWII tour of duty, which was the inspiration for the name of his new business. The site included a large, signature neon sign that quickly became the symbol of the restaurant and a Route 66 landmark. In 1955 Lew Johnson became manager of the Tropics. Under the leadership of Lew and his wife, Bev, it operated successfully as a family-run business for the next five decades, attracting customers from far and wide. In 2016, the Tropics was inducted into the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame. After sitting vacant for ten years, the property was purchased for the construction of a new restaurant. While the building could not be saved, a public/private partnership was put in place between the City of Lincoln, the Logan County Tourism Bureau, and the Johnson Family to preserve and restore the iconic Tropics neon sign.

The Tropics sign will be restored to operating condition to honor the history of the site. Included in the project design is a plan to interpret the story of the Tropics so visitors can learn about the history of the restaurant and its relationship to Route 66.

 

MISSOURI

Campbell 66 Express

Trucking on Route 66 in Missouri Oral History Project
Location: Route 66 through Missouri
Applicant: Missouri State University Libraries
NPS Grant: $5,105               Cost-Share Match: $5,697
 

When people think of Route 66, they often think of neon signs, road trips and tourist traps. However, the road was integral to American history in many other ways, such as the powerful rise of the trucking industry and its impact on commerce and transportation. The Campbell 66 Express — including its iconic image of Snortin’ Norton – has its origins in Missouri and is a prime example. This project will capture first-person experiences and stories about the trucking industry before they’re lost. Oral histories have a proven track record of expanding and enriching the historical record and documentary evidence of Route 66. 

The Missouri State University Libraries, in partnership with Ozarks Alive, will conduct twenty oral history interviews with individuals involved in the trucking industry along the Route 66 Corridor in Missouri from 1926 to 1985. Both audio and video will be recorded and preserved, with metadata and transcriptions created for each interview. The final results will be uploaded to the Internet and made freely available to researchers and members of the general public. This project will complement other oral history collections held by Missouri State University, other Research Route 66 institutions, and the Route 66 Association of Missouri.

 

Wilder's Restaurant - Joplin, MOWilder’s Neon Sign Restoration Project
Location: Joplin, MO
Applicant: Private Owners
NPS Grant: $24,000             Cost-Share Match: $24,000
 

In 1936, Verne Wilder opened “Wilder’s Buffet” on Main Street in Joplin, Missouri. The restaurant quickly became a thriving hot spot serving fine and exotic foods such as rattle snake and Rocky Mountain Oysters. Located just off of Route 66, the restaurant also served as a tourist information hub for the Ozarks Playground Association, an organization that promoted tourism throughout the region. During WWII, the restaurant was popular with servicemen stationed at nearby Camp Crowder, and by 1950 the seating capacity of the restaurant had expanded to 750. It was during this time that the name changed to “Wilder’s Restaurant” and was open 365 days a year offering fine dining and cocktails, an exotic food and candy counter, a gambling hall, and a tourism information center. While operations and seating have since scaled down, the restaurant remains open for business today.

By 1950 Wilder’s had installed two flashy neon signs to match its reputation. One of these signs was a large animated rooftop sign built specifically to attract the attention of Route 66 travelers. The rooftop sign reportedly “lit up the sky”, but has been inoperable for over 20 years. The grant project will restore the sign to its brilliant, authentic, animated appearance enhancing the neon landscape of Joplin’s Main Street and Route 66.

 

TEXAS

Tommy's Cafe - Adrian, TX

Texas Route 66 Historic Property Online Database
Location: Route 66 through Texas
Applicant: Texas Historical Commission
NPS Grant: $13,532              Cost-Share Match: $18,668
 

Historic property inventories play a critical role in the preservation of Route 66. The reports, forms, maps, and photographs generated from these surveys are irreplaceable for local/state/tribal governments, property owners, researchers and others who can use this information to prioritize preservation needs, resources, and efforts.

In 2002, The Texas Historical Commission completed a survey of historic Route 66 properties through Texas. The current project will expand on that work by using those materials to add to its interactive educational Historic Texas Highways webpages. The project will also include a re-survey and update of the 2002 historic property inventory. The Texas Route 66 webpages will make the survey information more accessible and engaging to the public by highlighting Route 66 buildings and history, and encouraging preservation and heritage tourism along the route.

 

CALIFORNIA

Arroyo Seco Parkway - Los Angeles, CAOnline Educational Guide to Route 66 in California
Location: Route 66 through California
Applicant: California Historic Route 66 Association
NPS Grant: $6,000               Cost-Share Match: $6,484
 

Historically, Route 66 travelers coming from the east were often wayfarers seeking a fresh start in a new land. For many, California was that new land, brimful of promise and rumors of plenty. The road played a role in the dramatic transformation of the American West from a rural frontier to a pace-setting metropolitan region and tourist destination, and portions of the route continue to convey a sense of time and place of an earlier era of highway travel prior to the construction of the Interstate Highways.

To educate people about Route 66 in California, the California Historic Route 66 Association will create a comprehensive online educational resource. In partnership with the Bureau of Land Management the association recently completed a Corridor Management Plan for portions of California Route 66, which will serve as a basis of content for the site. The site will include a map and information about the communities along the route, National Register-listed sites and other historic landmarks, and points of interest including the 127 timber bridges through the Mojave Desert. The site will serve as a permanent archive and provide a forum for public outreach and action across the California route. The goal is to encourage participation in preservation and promotion of the road and to increase heritage tourism, and community and economic development.

 

NATIONAL ROUTE 66

Suwanee Overpass - Correo, NMRoute 66 Bridge Assessment and Prioritization Project
Location: Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica
Applicant: The University of Texas at El Paso
NPS Grant: $7,550                Cost-Share Match: $24,784
 

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, there is a need for over $123 billion dollars in investment to bring the nations bridges up to a reasonable standard. The bridges that carry traffic along Route 66 are no exception. In fact, the age and intrinsic historic value of these structures can sometimes confound the issue, making bridge preservation a more significant challenge.

However, this funding shortfall also provides an opportunity to take a holistic, long-term view of bridge management that includes both safety and preservation perspectives.

Through this project, researchers from the Department of Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso will develop and implement a framework to prioritize bridges for preservation along the national length of Route 66. The key challenge is developing a way to consider both historical preservation and engineering decision-making on a level playing field. The result of the effort will be a readily accessible tool to leverage and support preservation efforts in the eight states through which Route 66 passes. In the long-term, this information can help advocates and decision-makers identify opportunities to strategically prioritize historic preservation equally among the more common, safety-focused projects.

 

Women on the Mother RoadThe Women on the Mother Road: Documentary Film
Location: Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica
Applicant: Cinefemme
NPS Grant: $25,000              Cost-Share Match: $25,000
 

The Women On The Mother Road: Documentary Film will explore the vibrant and culturally significant Route 66 corridor from Chicago to Santa Monica from the diverse voices and perspectives of women. Women’s voices tell compelling stories of courage, overcoming injustices and ultimately displaying a resilience that offer much for audiences to reflect upon today. Connecting personal narratives to place creates new meaning that invites audiences and potential travelers to go on their own Route 66 journeys with a deeper understanding and context in mind.

Building upon oral histories collected during an earlier phase of the project (www.route66women.com), this phase will collect additional stories and weave them together into a coherent narrative that tells the story of Route 66 from a female perspective. A rough cut, full-hour long documentary intended for broadcast on PBS stations across the country will be produced. The full-length oral histories collected during the project will also be made available to libraries and archives along the Route 66 Corridor as a valuable contribution to public history.