Route 66 Timeline

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Route 66

Early 1920

Cyrus Avery, highway commissioner of Tulsa Oklahoma leads an effort to link Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California through his hometown of Tulsa.


Cyrus Avery spends most of the year working with an appointed committee to stitch together hundreds of existing roads into the new system.


November 11, 1926 – Route 66 was officially commissioned for the Chicago-to-Los Angeles on to include 2,448 miles of road. With that designation came its acknowledgment as one of the nation’s principal east-west arteries. By the end of the year only 800 miles of Route 66 were paved.

Soulsby’s Station opens in Mt. Olive, Illinois.

The Old Log Cabin Restaurant opens for business in Pontiac, Illinois.


The National Highway System was formed. People from eight states established a Route 66 Highway Association to expedite the building of the highway. The theme name, “Main Street of America,” was adopted. Phillips 66 gasoline appropriates the magic numbers and logo as new gas stations sprout up along the highway.

Route 66 signs are posted in Illinois.

February 4, 1927 – The U.S. 66 Highway Association was formed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the road’s lifetime name, “The Main Street of America,” was born.

September 19, 1927 – The popular Kimo Theatre opens on Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Gardner Riviera

The Riviera in Gardner, IL, 2004. Click for prints, downloads and products.

The Riviera Roadhouse is established in Gardner, Illinois.

Dixie’s Trucker’s Home established in McLean, Illinois.

The last piece of Route 66 is finally completed through Missouri, between Rolla and Lebanon, the most difficult piece in the Show Me State.

March 4, 1928 – The “First Annual International -Trans-Continental Foot Race,” or the “Bunion Derby” as it came to be known, starts in Los Angeles. The race covered the entire length of Route 66 to Chicago, and then went on to Madison Square Garden in New York. The race, and the first prize of $25,000, is won by Andy Payne, a 20 year-old from Claremore, Oklahoma – a Route 66 town and the stomping ground of Will Rogers. He covers 3,422.3 miles in 84 days, with an actual running time of 573 hours, 4 minutes and 34 seconds.


By this time Illinois boasted approximately 7,500 miles of paved roads, including all of its portion of U.S. Highway 66. A Texaco road report published that same year noted the route was fully concreted in Kansas, 66% paved in Missouri, and 25% improved in Oklahoma. In contrast, the 1,200 mile western stretch (with the exception of California’s metropolitan areas) never saw a cement mixer. Until the height of the Great Depression, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and the desert communities of southeast California collectively totaled only 64.1 miles of surfaced highway along Route 66.

Chicago is becoming a dangerous place, especially in the suburb of Cicero, which Route 66 runs through and Al Capone makes his headquarters.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is established in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Old Mill Restaurant opens for business in Lincoln, Illinois, first called the Blue Mill.

The Ariston Café opens for business at its new location on Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois.

July 29, 1929 – Taking 2 ½ years to build at a cost of some $2.5 million, the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, Missouri opens to traffic. It closed in 1968.


By the 1930’s more than 250,000 vines were producing grapes along Route 66 near Rosati, Missouri.


January 5, 1931 – Missouri was the third state to completely pave its portion of Route 66, following Illinois and Kansas. The last mile of original Route 66 is paved in Phelps County just east of the Pulaski County line near Arlington. The work crew tosses coins into the wet cement to celebrate the completion.


Odell Standard Oil Station established in Odell, Illinois. It was closed in 1975, but still stands as a museum today.

Carr Phillips 66 Service Station established in Cuba, Missouri.


The Totem Pole Trading Post is established in Rolla, Missouri.

Until 1933 the responsibility to improve existing highways fell almost exclusively to the individual states. The more assertive and financially prepared states met the challenge. Initial improvements cost state agencies an estimated $22,000 per mile.

The U.S. Government puts thousands of unemployed male youths from virtually every state to work as laborers on road gangs to pave the final stretches of Route 66.

Route 66 Postcard Color Book

Route 66 Postcard Color Book, available at Legends General Store.


The Wagon Wheel Motel established in Cuba, Missouri.

February, 1934 – The first Steak n Shake Drive-In is established in Normal, Illinois.


Meramec Caverns opens for tourists near Stanton, Missouri. Soon, barns and billboards dot the west and Route 66 enticing visitors.

The Route 66 Cafe, which was first called the Belevidere Cafe, is established in Litchfield, Illinois.

June 17, 1935 – Route 66 is extended from downtown Los Angeles to its famous termination point overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California.

June 17, 1935 – On the same date, 66 was rerouted over the Chain of Rocks Bridge in north St. Louis, Missouri.


The Mar Theatre opens in Wilmington, Illinois.

The Pig Hip Restaurant is established in Broadwell, Illinois. It closed in 1992, but, then was open as a museum until it was destroyed by fire in March, 2007.

The Normal Theater opens in Normal, Illinois.

September 26, 1937 – The “route” that Route 66 followed changed over the years, particularly in New Mexico, where its original winding 506 miles were shortened to 399 miles. On this date it was officially rerouted directly west from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque, New Mexico, bypassing Santa Fe.


By mid-year, paving is completed on the last unpaved section of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica in Oldham County, Texas between Adrian and Glenrio.


John Steinbeck publishes The Grapes of Wrath, dubbing Route 66 “The Mother Road, the road of flight.”

Route 66 Postcards1940

Steinbeck’s classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath is made into a film which served to immortalize Route 66 in the American consciousness.

An old coffee and donut shop for railroad crews becomes the Eat-Rite Diner in St. Louis, Missouri.


The famous Coral Court Motel opens in Marlbourough, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. It closed in 1993, and sadly, was demolished in 1995.

December 8, 1941 – The United States enters World War II.


As a result of the war, automobile production ceased, gasoline rationing began, and tires became scarce — all of which affected Route 66. Massive creation of war industry jobs, mostly in California, brought another wave of migrating people across Route 66. The highway was important for military traffic, transporting troops, supplies, and equipment. The road was not adequate for the traffic it carried, and the difficulty of maintaining the road grew throughout the war.


World War II ends and Americans begin traveling for leisure which was primarily an unknown past time previously.

The Gardenway Motel is established in Villa Ridge, Missouri.

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