Route 66 Timeline

Santa Monica Pier, California by Carol Highsmith.

Santa Monica Pier, California by Carol Highsmith.


Early 1920

Cyrus Avery

Cyrus Avery

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, Mt. Olive, Illinois by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Soulsby’s Station, Mt. Olive, Illinois by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

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.

Kimo Theatre, Albuquerque, New Mexico by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Kimo Theatre, Albuquerque, New Mexico by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

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


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.


Entering Kansas on Route 66 from Missouri

On the road into Galena after entering Kansas. Click for prints & products.

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.

Winery Museum in Rosati, Missouri by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Winery Museum in Rosati, Missouri by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


By the 1930s 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.

This 1932 Standard Oil Station now serves as a Route 66 Visitor's Center in Odell, Illinois, by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

This 1932 Standard Oil Station now serves as a Route 66 Visitor’s Center in Odell,  Illinois, by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


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.