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Galena's Treasure

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When one leaves Joplin, Missouri heading west on the new spur of Route 66 just past the Kansas/Missouri state line you will see a small sign for Old Route 66 - Next Right. Make that right turn, you won't be sorry. This is a two mile strip of original Route 66 that leads to Galena on the old alignment of the Mother Road. Once, long ago there were gas stations, motor courts and road houses along here. Now those establishments are only memories. But you will see what looks like an old gas station. It is now a small road house in its own right serving beverages to the dusty traveler. I just had to get a picture of the old pumps! While clicking away the owner came out. He was pleased that I found his establishment so photogenic. He chuckled when he told me the truth. This was never a gas station at all. The owner, a fan of Route 66, fashioned the front of his business to look like a vintage service station though. He did one heck of a job I think!

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Galena 1898 Galena, Kansas was named for the ore it produced, "Galena Lead." The town got its start in 1873 from the lead mines and this mining tradition continued until 1973. During the turn of the Twentieth Century, Galena was one of the most prosperous towns west of New York City. In its golden, or should I say "leaden" period it had a population of nearly 30,000 people. During World War II, the tri-state area (Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma) became a major producer of zinc and lead ores. Route 66 came through Galena and added to the prosperity of this Queen City of Kansas. In the 1970s when the mines played out and the Interstate bypassed Galena the town fell upon hard times.
        
Compare the 1898 photo of Galena's main street (above left) with the 2003 photo I took (right). That's the same building 105 years later! Through the years Galena shrank from a town with a population of over 30,000 people to a town of less than 4000 residents. The main street, old Route 66, is quiet now but it sure is worth exploring; its nostalgic neglect is captivating. You will find ghosts here and they will speak to you if only you stop awhile, close your eyes and use your imagination. Maybe you'll hear the faint music of honky-tonks, the muffled laughter of miners, and the lonely sound of a forgotten horn that faded to a whisper more than half a century ago. Yes, there are ghosts in Galena, you just need to pause a moment and reflect on those other times.

Galena 2003

       
A trip down the main street today offers many photo opportunities. If you look closely though you will see the faded glory of a once boom town peeking through. What's left of the downtown district shows promise of a rebirth. I noticed some new businesses that had opened up. This is a good sign because Galena has the history, the architecture, and the friendly people to bring the visitor back off the Interstate and return to the small town charm of this truly American city.
          

Galena Architecture

Wouldn't this building on the left make a great ice cream parlor?

How about the beautiful detail (right) still evident on some of the historic buildings along Route 66 in Galena?

Ornate Building

        

Galena Bank Tile Work

While I was exploring Route 66 in Galena I found its past glory everywhere. This is a town that time has forgotten, living with its memories of the past. Like this weathered and exposed tile work from a long ago Galena bank basking in the June sunshine in what now is a vacant lot.

Ghost Bank

        
Galena Ghost Signs

Galena Ghost Signs

Faded billboards or "Ghost Signs" can still be seen on the sides of the brick buildings in Galena. These are windows to the past glory of this mining town on Route 66. I think Galena has the most Ghost Signs I've seen yet on Route 66.

 

Photographs taken September 2002 and June 2003

Click on an area or city of Route 66 on the map below to take a cyber tour of that section of the  Mother Road

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NAVIGATION NOTE: Buckle up and hold on to your mouse! These pages are arranged like the map above, from the western state border to the eastern state border. I have set up this site as if you were traveling from EAST to WEST, much like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. You can click on the Route 66 shields to "travel" the Mother Road in either direction though. Or you can select any shield below to take you to that specific state.

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