known as the "City of Natural Lakes,” is called thus due the many
natural lakes and streams of the area. Situated where the Great
Plains rise up to meet the Rocky Mountains, lies this startling oasis,
amid the red mesas of the flat lands.
in 1865, the town began as nothing more than a large Spanish Rancho,
and was called Aqua Negro Chiquita. Sometime around 1890, it
took a new name honoring a chapel built by Don Celso Baco who named it
for his wife and Saint Rose of Lima, the first canonized Saint of the
Guadalupe County was created by the territorial
legislature in 1891 with Puerto de Luna as the county seat.
remained a minor community until the
Rock Island & Pacific Railroad steamed into town in 1901, then became
an important transportation hub of the area. Just two
years later, Santa Rosa
became the Guadalupe County seat.
was completed through Santa Rosa
in 1930, transportation services again increased in the city. During the days of early
after travelers had tired of the long, hot, dusty miles,
became known as a welcome and well-known oasis in the desert.
Travelers arrived in Santa Rosa
to eat, rest, and perform car repairs, if necessary, at the many
motels, cafes and service stations that lined the highway.
The old road ran into town past the
81-foot-deep Blue Hole and Park Lake, a motorist campground and source
of water during the Depression. Scenes in Rudolfo Anaya's
award-winning novel, Bless Me, and John Steinbeck's, Grapes
of Wrath, took place on Route 66
at the Pecos River Bridge.
In 1935 Phillip Craig and Floyd Shaw built
the Club Café with the smiling, satisfied face of the Fat Man. For more than fifty years, thousands of hungry
travelers would stop to enjoy a tasty home cooked meal. The logo
of the Fat Man soon became synonymous with Route 66
in Santa Rosa.
1940, when Steinbeck’s epic novel, Grapes of Wrath, was made into a
movie, director John Ford used Santa Rosa
for the memorable train scene, where Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) watches a
freight train steam over the Pecos River railroad bridge, into the sunset.
1972, I-40 opened through Santa Rosa,
and though the city remained a busy off-ramp, many of the vintage Route 66
businesses began to die. However, others continued to serve the
exiting travelers of I-40, including the Club Café that survived for
almost another twenty years. Finally, it too, served its last meal
in 1991. The Club Cafe stood vacant and soon fell into disrepair
with the passing of the years.
Joseph and Christina
Campos, who own Joseph’s Bar and Grill down the road on Route 66,
purchased the building with plans to reopen the Club Café. Unfortunately, the building was too far-gone to resurrect,
and in October of 2015 the building was demolished. However,
they did resurrect the Fat Man, bringing him home to Joseph’s Bar and
Grill, saving the famous "Fat Man" icon.
Today, there are plenty
of signs of the good ole’ days of Route 66
through Santa Rosa. Look for "billboards” painted on huge roadside boulders
and the still-grinning faces of Fat Man billboards before you enter the
town. A particularly scenic stretch of Route 66
parallels Interstate 40 and can be accessed from the three exits east of
the city. Once you enter Santa Rosa,
you can see the Comet Drive In, Silver Moon, Sun and Sand, and the La Loma
Motel. If you’re traveling at night, the neon lights will thrill
your Route 66
sensibilities. While in Santa Rosa, another "must stop” is the Santa
Rosa Auto Museum.