|By David Pittman, Amarillo Globe-News,
TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 3, 2007 - Workers removed 70 tons of trash from the Triangle Motel's grounds.
The new owners of 7954 E. Amarillo Blvd. didn't realize the motel had sidewalks until they removed a layer of dirt from the grounds.
Why would anybody care about an otherwise falling apart, 60-year-old motel? Owner Alan McNeil is just trying to save a dying Route 66 landmark from demolition.
Today, many structures that made the road what it was -- the diners, family-owned service stations, barbecue joints -- have fallen apart.
With efforts to fix up these architectural landmarks scarce, time has become the road's worst enemy.
The nonprofit National Historic Route 66 Federation in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., estimates at least 3,000 motels along the route are in various states of repair or disrepair.
Thirteen motels line the 2-mile stretch of Amarillo Boulevard between Nelson and Columbine streets. Route 66 used to run through the present-day Boulevard before the highway was decommissioned years ago.
Once a pit-stop along the Mother Road, many Amarillo Boulevard motels have been turned into extended stay motels or efficiency apartments. Others promote their color cable TV.
Route 66 debuted in 1926 and instantly became a slice of Americana.
The road was a playground for millions of Americans looking to roam in the 1950s and '60s.
With Interstate 40 came the Holiday Inns, chain gas stations and drive-throughs popping up almost overnight. Neon and quirky were on the outs. Pre-fab and fast were in.
By 1984, the interstate had bypassed the last bit of 66 in Arizona, ending America's romance with the iconic highway.
The handful of motels that survived fight a stigma they are no-tell motels, offering no-frills accommodations.
"Motels are such a part of our recent history that it's often hard for people to view them as historically significant," said Kaisa Barthuli, with the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in Santa Fe, N.M.
The Woods Inn at 4600 E. Amarillo Blvd. in Amarillo is a microcosm of the struggles old Route 66 motels have faced.
The motel was converted to an apartment complex long ago. A worn-out yellow sign tells of its "newly" remodeled apartments.
The owner of Palo Duro Motel at 2820 E. Amarillo Blvd. said the Amarillo Boulevard motels change ownership every three to five years.
Several stops on the Boulevard advertise rooms at $22 a night.
Shamrock is a town of 1,800 that bills itself to tourists as an old Route 66 stop.
Six motels line 12th Street in the tiny town, but a couple have closed in recent years as more victims to the Interstate 40 convenience.
McNeil bought the Triangle Motel last year, a week before the Amarillo City Commission planned to condemn the rundown motel that was built in 1945. The previous owner, Ramona Price, only used the place for personal storage since 1977.
The city gave McNeil a year to show substantial improvement in the property that has roof damage, water damage, mold debris and other deterioration.
The deadline expires the middle of this month.
"It's been an uphill battle all the way," said Pat Kenney, self-proclaimed vice president of the trash heap.
Wes Reeves, president of Amarillo Historical Preservation Foundation, said there sadly aren't many financial resources locally to help preserve Route 66 landmarks.
One of the few things keeping old buildings in Amarillo from being demolished is having approval from the Amarillo Board of Review for Landmarks and Historic Districts.
"It's definitely a historic asset, and we need to do everything we can to retain some of the historic flavor of the street," Reeves said of Route 66's Triangle Motel. "It represents a unique time in history and especially Amarillo's history. I think it would be foolish of us to let it slip away without doing everything we can to preserve it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
ROUTE 66 FACTS
U.S. Highway 66 stretched nearly 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles.
It ran through eight states, with Oklahoma logging the most miles. The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926. With that designation came its acknowledgment as one of the nation's principal east-west arteries.
The highway was reported as "continuously paved" in 1938.
Bobby Troup, former pianist with the Tommy Dorsey band, penned a lyrical road map in which the words, "get your kicks on Route 66" became a catch phrase for countless motorists.
The federal government decommissioned the highway over a period of years after a collection of interstate highways were built in the wake of passing the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. The last stretch of highway disappeared from maps in 1984.
Source: The National Historic Route 66 Federation
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