It would be quite easy for someone that travels Route 66 to develop the impression it is a magic elixir for the restoration or transformation of a community. After all towns like Cuba, Pontiac, Seligman, Williams, and Tucumcari seem to be blossoming.
|Connie Echols and her sister, Riva, have transformedthe historic Wagon Wheel Motel into a true treasure.|
Yes, the resurgent interest in Route 66 can be a tremendous catalyst for transforming a community into a destination for travelers. In turn this will make it a place people want to live and to open businesses. But Route 66 is only one component. You also need people like Jane Reed and Connie Echols in Cuba or the iconic Angel in Seligman. You also need a community that has a sense of being special. Route 66 is a long string of dusty and tarnished towns that languish in the shadow of their neighbors. The same number of travelers pass through Ash Fork as Seligman. But how many people stop in Ash Fork or make it a destination in spite of the fact it has a more colorful history than nearby Seligman and a wide array of fascinating vestiges that serve as milestones in that history? Until quite recently my adopted hometown of Kingman was more Ashfork than Seligman. The city was immortalized in the Route 66 anthem penned by Bobby Troup, has a number of Hollywood and racing connections, served as a key component in the creation of the arsenal of democracy during World War II, and it sits dead center in one of the most scenic and longest uninterrupted portions of old U.S. 66. Still, it was a pit stop, a place to stop on the way to somewhere. Well, I am quite happy to report that after years of false starts the transformation has begun in earnest. In the current issue of 66 The Mother Road (click on cover image to open), local real estate agent and community activist Steve Wagner succinctly presents a case for Kingman being an overlooked destination for visitors as well as for folks looking for a place to make a fresh start. This presentation is, however, only a small part of the story. All along the Route 66 corridor in Kingman it is becoming evident that there is an awakening to what has been made possible by the resurgent interest in Route 66 as well as just how unique this city with the stunning skyline is. By the spring of 2013, I am confident that visitors will be slowing down and doing more than filling the tank or resting a weary head. Sam Frisher is breathing new life into the El Trovatore Motel and for the first time in more than a half century the neon again glows bright under the desert sky. He is also offering visitors an opportunity to discover the wonders of Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman that are often overlooked, and the colorful ghost towns in the surrounding mountains, with day tour packages. His neighbor to the north, Dennis, maintains the time capsule Hill Top Motel. Now, a third historic lodging option is about to become available as an extensive renovation of the Brunswick Hotel is underway with the owner envisioning a restaurant, bar, courtyard garden, bakery, coffee shop, and micro brewery. This Saturday the owner is hosting an open house. He will also be interviewing people interested in opening a business in the building or that would like the job as manager. Yesterday, the first in a series of murals created by acclaimed artist Sandy Rusinko, and funded through the Kingman Visitor Center, that will present the illusion of peering into a busy garage circa 1930 was installed in the west wall of the historic Old Trails Garage. This innovative project utilizes the original window openings from 1915 and shadow box inserts crafted through donated labor provided by Kevin Morgan of Axiom Remodeling, the company in charge of the Brunswick Hotel renovation, and old materials from that project to present a vintage look. The remaining shadow box inserts are ready for installation with the only hurdle being the fund raising for the rest of the murals, $400.00 each. If your interested in contributing to the transformation of Route 66, contact Kevin Morgan at 928-279-0230.In the photo at right, Robbie Wright of Axiom Remodeling, and Elmer Graves, garage owner display the first mural before installation. As a side note, Elmer went to work in this garage at age eight, he is a World War II veteran. This is stage one of the beautification programs mural project. Stage two will be to create mural board window covers for empty buildings in the down town historic district along Route 66 and on Beale Street one block north. I am pleased and honored to announce that last evening arrangements to use the lobby of the Brunswick Hotel as an official Hinckley gallery were finalized. In addition, permission was given to use the property when I meet with travel groups. So, if you would like to add an interesting stop to next years tour or travels please let me know as this old building has some fascinating stories that need to be shared. Next year will be the fourth season for Chillin’ on Beale, an informal, no registration, low key evening of fun that is held on the third Saturday night of each month, April through October, on Neale Street just one block north of Route 66. Cars, music, friends yet met, cars and motorcycles, and good food are just part of the lure that attracts people from as far away as Las Vegas and Flagstaff. These are just a few of the exciting developments taking place in Kingman. There are also a few of the reasons that the city is tossing their hat in the ring for consideration as a venue for the International Route 66 Festival in 2014.