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Missouri Route 66

Historic Carthage,
Missouri

Missouri Route 66

 

Carthage Courthouse

Carthage, Missouri is a distinctive old Route 66 town. There's a lot of the old Mother Road left here too. Originally Carthage was founded in 1842. During the Civil War guerrilla rebels attacked the town and burned the courthouse. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise because the rebuilt courthouse is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen in my opinion. As Route 66 winds its way towards Carthage the tower of this imposing structure can be seen from miles away. The downtown district around the courthouse is a picturesque plaza filled with small shops, antiques and art galleries. In many ways it will take you back one hundred years to the splendid age when Carthage had more millionaires than any other town in America at the time because of the lead and zinc mines. Today their mansions and Victorian homes offer us a glimpse of the wonder of those times.
   
Carthage was also involved in the marble industry around the turn of the last century. The Missouri State Capitol, U.S. Capitol and White House are faced with marble that came from the Carthage area. According to Jack Rittenhouse the famous Carthage Marble is the only true gray marble found in the United States. Another claim to fame that Carthage can be proud of is that it was also girlhood home to Belle Starr, the famous albeit notorious "Bandit Queen." Before the Civil War she spent her younger years at her father’s hotel that once was located on the north side of Carthage’s court house square. As you can see, there’s a lot of history in Carthage. Yes indeed, Carthage is a fun town to explore! Carthage Downtown
  

The Famous Boots Motel

Famous Boots Motel Route 66 winds its way through Carthage about a block from the Town Square. Along its corridor stands the famous Boots Motel, a classic example of Streamline Modern Architecture, one of the last left along Route 66. Arthur Boots established the Boots Motel in 1939 "At the Crossroads of America." For its time it was indeed thoroughly modern with a radio in every room, tile showers, floor furnace with thermostat control, air conditioner and garage. It is said that Clark Gable even stayed here once.
  
In 1946 just across the street from the Boots Motel Arthur Boots built a drive-in that offered fountain service and "Breakfast at any hour!" The drive-in thrived throughout the 1950s along Route 66 but declined after the Interstate bypassed Carthage. The drive-in closed in 1971 but the building was preserved. Today it is a bank, but if you look closely you can still see the telltale lines of a classic diner hidden underneath the stucco finish. Unfortunately the Boots Motel may not fare as well. The property is for sale and it may be endangered; it could easily become one more casualty of "modern progress." Carthage Bank
    
The future of the Boots Motel is uncertain, we can only hope that the new owners will respect the historical significance of this classic motor court and the history of Route 66 that has happened within its walls. It would be a shame to lose this survivor of the Mother Road to shortsighted development.

 

66 Drive-In Carthage is also home to one of the few surviving drive-in theaters left in America. During the hey-day of Route 66 there were countless drive-ins in operation along the old highway. I still have found memories of many a magical summer evening spent at the drive-in with my family. That was a special time in my life. I feel very bad that I can't pass those times on to my children. The drive-in has become a thing of the past, one more icon of simpler times that has given way to our new high-tech fast paced life in America today. Except in Carthage, Missouri thanks to the efforts of the Goodman family. Mark and Dixie Goodman looked around one day and noticed something from their childhood was missing from the new generic American landscape. The drive-in movie theaters had all but disappeared.
     
They decided to do something about this sorry state of affairs so they bought the old 66 Drive-In in Carthage. Through their efforts and a lot of hard work they brought this old icon back to life. The 66 Drive-In is the last of the drive-ins to bear the Route 66 name. Today people from as far away as Chicago make the drive to Carthage to enjoy those hot summer nights with their family at the 66 Drive-In. Mega-thanks go out to the Goodman family, for indeed it is a family affair. Mark runs the projector and Dixie runs the snack bar along with their children Maegan and Austin.

 

Route 66 West of Carthage

The Mother Road from Carthage to Carterville is one of the prettiest sections of Route 66 that can be found today. Tommy Pike, President of the Missouri Route 66 Association, guided me through this stretch of the road. When he asked me what I thought of the drive all I could respond was "Picture Calendar Country!"

Route 66 through this part of Missouri is quiet today. It is more like a park than a once major U.S. Highway. "Picture Calendar Country" was the only term that came to my mind as I drove along this wonderous stretch of the Mother Road!

Route 66 West of Carthage

 

Carterville

   
Carterville Route 66 Route 66 goes through the mining town of Carterville just east of Web City. This once prosperous mining town began its decline after W.W. I. Carterville was platted in 1875 and named for one of the men who laid out the town. Its fortunes were tied to the mining industry like Webb City but unlike Webb City it didn’t fare too well after the decline. Apparently Route 66 didn’t help the town much either for according to Jack Rittenhouse the town in 1946 was "almost a ghost town, with its boarded-up stores, empty buildings, and general air of desolation."

 

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

Travel Cyber Route 66 in Missouri

Go West on Route 66

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.

Go East on Route 66

Joplin, Missouri

To Halltown

 

Select the Route 66 State to Visit

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