July 18, 2018

Resurrection on Route 66: Photographing Restored Roadside Landmarks

Route 66 (a National Treasure of the National Trust) slices through eight states and over 300 different communities as it winds its way west from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. Since 1926, Route 66 has allowed travelers to see America in all of its different configurations: sprawling cities, humble hamlets, ghost towns and sweeping natural landscapes.

As I traveled the historic highway with the National Trust to help gather public support to designate it a National Historic Trail, I also saw these places in varying states of repair: abandoned, struggling, improving, and sometimes resurrected.

Route 66 was the primary east to west corridor in the 1950s and ‘60s. Mom-and-pop businesses, small town economies, and roadside attractions depended on steady highway traffic as their lifeblood. As interstates replaced federal highways as the main mode of cross-country travel, businesses along Route 66 suffered. Some even closed for good, but my favorite sites I saw along Route 66 were the places that have been lovingly restored and have managed to find a new use on the Route 66 of today.

One of the first of these sites I came across while traveling with my Polaroid Snap Touch instant digital camera was Ambler’s Texaco Station in Dwight, Illinois (pop. 4260). Originally (and obviously) a former service station, Ambler’s now operates as a Route 66 visitor center after having served travelers for 66 years. In the short time we stopped by to meet the volunteers who help keep it alive, we met visitors from all over the U.S. and ... Norway.

Vertical photo of Route 66, Polaroid picture in picture.

photo by: David Kafer

Polaroid in a photo of the iconic Route 66.

To read the rest of this story, head to our Route 66 road trip partners at Polaroid. Want to help us designate Route 66 a National Historic Trail? Sign the petition.

Note: Polaroid is a sponsor of the National Trust's Route 66 National Treasure campaign.

By: Michael Ryan

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