Growing-up in Joplin, MO., I had many opportunities to visit the town of Carthage, about 20 miles to our north-east. At that time, Carthage was known as “the Crossroads of America” because of the two major highways that intersected it, Highway 71 running north and south, and Route 66, east to west.
My high school basketball and football teams often traveled to compete with the Carthage High School, and afterwards, we would all pay a visit to the Boots Drive-In on Garrison Street. The Route 66 Drive-In theater was a bit of a drive for us Joplin kids, as we already had the Tri-State, the Crest and the Webb City Drive-In movies, and sadly they are all gone today.
Many years later, I began to learn about Joplin’s Route 66 history, and about all the places that fed, fueled and lodged the travelers that passed through our communities, and today, precious few remain as reminders of times gone by. And this story is also being told in nearly every community that once claimed a Route 66 heritage.
In Carthage, the once popular and famous Boots Motel has become a low-rent weekly rooming house. Purchased a few years ago, and intended to be “flipped” for more money by a local contractor, the economy has kept the property in limbo.
I my opinion, the property has been sitting used and abused for too long now. Word is that the owner is now anxious to be rid of the Motel, as is his bank that holds the note. This could be a good thing if someone jumps in and makes an offer, or it could be a bad thing if another non-preservation minded developer scoops it up first.
I believe that Jim Hunter, the Pro 100 realtor who represents the seller, is a preservation minded person who would personally like to see the motel restored and re-opened to the public, and has expressed his willingness to help with any effort to acquire and preserve the Motel property. At my request, he will be talking to the bank holding the mortgage, local civic groups and possible benefactors, and others whose support will be needed. He will also arrange for an inspector to look at the buildings and report on any potential big problems. Next comes an appraisal that I have been told could lower the value by nearly half of the selling price. With some support behind me, I hope that the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce could possibly be able to get the property for around $150 thousand. This includes the “owner’s” house.
I am probably the least likely person to be doing this. My wife and I are surviving on our Social Security and a little side work, and I have spent a lot of time and money on building the Chamber in the process, but I do have a passion for saving this Route 66 icon because I know how quickly it can disappear if no one steps-up to get the ball rolling.
My background work has been in tourism marketing, sales, public relations, advertising and promotions….all no longer in much demand due to the economy, but sorely needed by businesses on the Mother Road. I also attended O.S.U. majoring in Construction Technology. Best of all, my wife and I have been full-time RV’ing for the past 9 years, so we could move onto the property and get to work right away on preventive maintenance and grant applications. Since I was born and raised in Joplin and have a strong family history in the area, that should help keep me from being labeled an “outsider”.
Back to the big gorilla sitting in the room, the economy. Times have been hard for Route 66 businesses these past few years, so I don’t plan on tapping them for donations. I believe the Carthage community will participate as they stand to reap the benefits, and they certainly need to learn more about the diamond-in-the-rough they have in the Boots Motel and in the Route 66 corridor that kept their town alive during the great depression.
What I could use from 66′rs will be cards, letters and e-mails of support for the preservation of the Boots Motel, no matter who purchases it. My proposal will be the very first to be submitted since the property went on the market several years ago. I hope that it will make a statement that the friends of Route 66 care for it’s history, and will do anything they can to preserve it.
An outline on the Boots Project may be found at the Chamber’s website, www.visit66.com, with a link on the Homepage. There is also a “Save the Boots Motel” Facebook page for progress updates. Thanks.
Ron Hart -Director
Route 66 Chamber of Commerce
417-385-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org