The tag line in promotion for the Hiway House Motel chain was “Sleep Is Our Business.” It appeared in brochures and on the motels distinctive signage that cast a neon glow on Route 66 in Albuquerque, Arcadia in California, Tulsa, Flagstaff, and Holbrook. For a brief moment in time the chain that was established in 1956 vied with another pioneer in the industry, Holiday Inn.
The first hotel opened in Phoenix, Arizona. The idea was the brain child of Del Webb, a construction tycoon that is today best known for the Sun West retirement communities that are peppered throughout the southwest. He was hoping to improve upon the Ramada Inn model, another pioneering chain. Webb had been an initial investor.
Only one motel remains intact with its original signage. Located in the 3200 block of Central Avenue, Route 66 in Albuquerque, the distinctive sign is a favored photo op for Route 66 enthusiasts visiting the Nob Hill district in that city.
Route 66 is no mere highway. And even though it is the most popular highway in America, it is more than the nations longest theme park. It is a linear museum where vestiges from more than a century of development on the Main Streets of America are preserved. The Hiway House Motel with its original signage and fascinating back story is but one example.
Next door to the venerable old motel on Central Avenue is Kelly’s Brew Pub. The popular restaurant and tap room is housed in another time capsule, the Jones Motor Company built in 1939. Ralph Jones was a prominent businessman in Albuquerque and a member of the chamber of commerce. As president of the U.S. Highway 66 Association he recognized the value of a modern, state of the art dealership and repair facility at a prominent location on the eastern edge of the city.
Designed by architect Tom Danahay the facility with brilliant white stucco and distinctive tower adorned by a neon Ford sign stood out prominently. In 1957, a new Jones Motor Company was built and the old facility was used by a variety of companies before it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, and its renovation as Kelly’s Brew Pub in 2000.
Surprises such as this are found all along Route 66. The Kentwood Hall Dormitory at Missouri State University has a fascinating history that is linked directly to the creation of U.S. 66. John Woodruff was the first president of the U.S. Highway 66 Association. On April 30, 1926, in Woodruff’s office in the Woodruff Building, Cyrus Avery and associates met to negotiate assignment of numbers to the newly created US highway system. One of these highways was U.S. 66.
In the same year Woodruff built the Kentwood Arms Hotel, now the dormitory. The Hotel, Garage, Service Station & AAA Directory published in 1927 described the property as a “100 room hotel with private bath or in connection. European plans $2 – $4 single, $3 – $6 double. Main dining room and grill with la carte and table d’hote service. In the heart of the city with three acres of lawn shaded by giant forest trees. 18 hole golf course, roof garden and concerts.”
Route 66, highway. Route 66, the ultimate road trip adventure. Route 66, America’s longest small town. Route 66, America’s most fascinating museum.