Guide

9 Places on Route 66 That Tell the Full American Story

Route 66 has gained international fame and recognition as the ultimate American road trip. While Route 66 may be best known for its quirky roadside architecture, vintage motels, trading posts, and gas stations, its 2400+ miles include a microcosm of American diversity, as exemplified by the sites below. As Route 66 prepares for its Centennial celebration in 2026, the National Trust for Historic Preservation will be working to shine a spotlight on places like these that help to tell the Mother Road's full story.

  1. Photo By: Google Street View

    Quinn Chapel (Brooklyn, Illinois)

    Quinn Chapel is one of the few remaining historic structures in the tiny town of Brooklyn, Illinois, which began in the 1820s as a settlement of African Americans escaping slavery. It became the nation’s first community incorporated by African Americans in1873. The town is located just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis and near one of the original alignments of Route 66. A local historical society is leading archeological, preservation, and education efforts, including restoration of the Chapel.

  2. Photo By: Paul Sableman via Wikimedia CC By 2.0

    Little Bosnia Neighborhood (St. Louis, Missouri)

    Route 66 in St. Louis passes through several ethnically diverse communities. In the 19th century German immigrants settled in the Bevo Mill neighborhood, named after a restaurant and beer hall opened by August Busch in 1917. The neighborhood features a windmill that was landmark for travelers along Route 66. In the 1990s the neighborhood became a center for Bosnian refugees escaping conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Today the area is a thriving district of small businesses and restaurants, including many that serve goulash, tarhana, and other Balkan fare.

  3. Photo By: Danny Charles

    East Galena Historic District (Galena, Kansas)

    In the early days of Route 66, travelers entering eastern Kansas passed through an eerie landscape of smelters, mills, and tailing piles associated with the region’s extensive lead and zinc mining industry. Once known as “Hell’s Half Acre,” this area was the site of an important episode in labor history. On June 28, 1935, hundreds of striking workers clashed with replacements, overturned vehicles, and blocked traffic—thought to be the only closure of Route 66 during its operation as a federal highway. Today this district contains an intact section of the original 1926 alignment, including a distinctive curving concrete bridge.

  4. Photo By: Chantry Sipress-Banks

    Donnay Building (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

    Rescued from impending demolition in 2017, this quirky structure was home to one of Oklahoma City’s oldest gay bars, the legendary Hi-Lo Club, as well as a number of other Oklahoma City legacy businesses. The building was built in stages by a World War I veteran in the late '40s and early '50s, and stands on a 1950s alignment of Route 66. While the building is now in the hands of a preservation-minded developer, the unconventional nature of the building’s construction makes a rehabilitation that meets building codes a challenge, and the Hi-Lo Club was recently closed.

  5. Photo By: Chantry-Sipress-Banks

    Asian District, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    As interstates were constructed to replace Route 66 in the 1970s and 80s, the availability of commercial space along Route 66 attracted recent immigrants. For example, following the fall of Saigon in 1975, Vietnamese refugees fled to the United States and many found a new home in Oklahoma City. They created an Asian District along Route 66 also known as “Little Saigon” offering Asian restaurants, shopping, and cultural opportunities.

  6. Photo By: Milburn-Price Culture Museum

    Hardware Store (Vega, Texas)

    This building was built as a hardware store in 1928, and up until it closed a few years ago, it was known as the oldest continually operating hardware store on Route 66. The building has reopened as a new addition to the Milburn-Price Culture Museum which is located next door, offering a range of exhibits about Oldham County.

  7. Photo By: Roger Holden

    Whiting Brothers Gas Station (Moriarity, New Mexico)

    Sal Lucero has long been part of the Whiting Brothers gas station on Route 66. He was a longtime employee of the gas station which was operating by Whiting Brothers from 1954 to 1985. When the station was put up for sale after Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, Sal and his wife Inez bought the station and have been operating it ever since. While gas is no longer sold, auto repair services are still offered, and it is the only operating Whiting Brothers station with the original signs.

  8. Photo By: Kevin Davidson

    Osterman Gas Station (Peach Springs, Arizona)

    Originally built in the 1920s and privately owned by John Osterman, this now vacant gas station is currently owned by the Hualapai Tribe. Rehabilitation efforts had been underway for several years when a microburst in late 2021 tore the roof off the building. This setback is hampering the efforts of the Hualapai to rehabilitate the site as a visitor center, tribal interpretive center and store. Without emergency stabilization this Route 66 landmark could be in danger of collapse.

  9. Photo By: Google Street View

    Mitla Café (San Bernardino, California).

    Lucia Rodriguez opened the Mitla Café in 1937 as a lunch counter serving travelers on Route 66. The café quickly became popular with local residents, including immigrants from Mexico who were restricted to living in the surrounding neighborhood of west San Bernadino. The café was frequented by Cesar Chavez and other civil rights leaders and continues to serve as a family-owned community gathering place.

Amy Webb is a senior field director and Jim Lindberg is senior policy director in the Preservation Services & Outreach Department of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Join us for PastForward Online 2022, the historic preservation event of the year. Registration is open!

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