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Federal Advisory Group Sees Success In Oklahoma

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Preservation Strong Along Route 66

Federal Advisory Group Sees Success in Oklahoma

 

 

OKLAHOMA CITY, Nov. 11 -- For John Dunning, a wiry man with round

glasses and a graying beard, the Owl Courts on Oklahoma City's Route

66 is a special place.

 

"I loved this property since I was young, and dreamed about it all my

life," said Dunning to the assembled members of the Route 66 Corridor

Preservation Advisory Council, who met for two days in this city to

discuss the state of the road.

 

The 1940s stone-built motel, cafe and gas station looked doomed three

years ago. To most, the corner property harbored a haven of vice.

"Nobody had a clue about its history," said Dunning.

 

Hearing it was up for auction, he bid on the property, feeling even

more motivated after competing bidders said they only wanted to

demolish it. With luck, "dang it, I did get it," remembers Dunning.

 

The first few months, Dunning dealt with his inherited tenants who

were indeed "selling drugs, selling girls."

 

Then one morning, he gathered a truck and some friends and awoke his

last unwanted guest, driving him and his possessions across town to a

new home. "And that was my last tenant," said Dunning.

 

The National Park Service recently provided him a $10,000 cost-share

grant to fix the motel's roof. But when work started, Dunning noticed

the walls were out of whack and parts of the foundation were in trouble.

 

The project soon morphed into an archaeological investigation, as he

yanked away layers upon layers of building material.

 

Poking around the site, Jim Conkle, an advisory council member and

chairman of the Route 66 Preservation Foundation, asked how soon he

could make a reservation.

 

Dunning laughed and reminded the group that its restoration is a

long-term project.

 

Although he's not sure he and his friends can get every part of the

project done alone, "Whatever we do is positive," Dunning said as the

sun set over his rambling dream.

 

Big Signs

 

Earlier, the advisory council toured the Tower Theatre, a 1937 movie

palace whose exuberant neon sign was bashed in by a truck. A $15,000

NPS cost-share grant will go toward fixing and restoring the sign.

 

Scott Fife, a partner in the Uptown Development Group that manages the

theater, said the "first order of business is to fix the sign," which

can be seen for a mile each direction from the theater.

 

But at the sight of four garbage cans brimming with rainwater in the

theater's auditorium, Fife quickly qualified: "followed by the next

order of business, fixing the roof."

 

The Uptown Development Group, a partnership of Oklahoma City residents

Terri Sadler-Goad, Matt Goad, Marty Dillon and Fife, hope the sign

will be up and shining again, becoming a "calling card for the area,"

within a few months.

 

Other NPS cost-share work in Oklahoma includes a plan to rehabilitate

the 1931 Vickery Phillips 66 Station in Tulsa for use by a car rental

business.

 

Motels Threatened

 

Despite success stories in Oklahoma, mom-and-pop motels up and down

Route 66 are increasingly threatened. Pressure from accelerating

property values, soaring insurance rates, and a push for higher

density redevelopment encourages mom-and-pop owners to sell.

 

This summer, the City of Albuquerque approved demolition of the motel

portion of the National Register-listed Horn Oil Lodge, in spite of a

loud outcry from Route 66 preservationists and a neighborhood association.

 

Even the iconic El Vado Motel, a National Register-listed and

Albuquerque-designated property known throughout the Route 66 world,

is on the edge, as its owner recently applied for its demolition.

 

To meet the problem, the advisory council plans to elevate the

discussion of motel preservation to a national level.

 

Money Available

 

The National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program

awarded seven cost-share grant awards in 2006. Each grant represents

an important new partnership that expands upon the growing

revitalization and understanding of the Route 66 corridor.

 

Grants awarded in 2006 include The Palms Grill Cafe in Atlanta, Ill.;

Walter's Market in St. Louis; a gas station in Baxter Springs, Kansas;

Joe and Aggie's Cafe in Holbrooke, Ariz.; the Winslow, Ariz.

Historical Society Archives; along with the two Oklahoma City projects

and the Vickery Phillips 66 Station in Tulsa.

 

###

 

For information:

 

http://www.cr.nps.gov/rt66/index.htm

www.cr.nps.gov/rt66/news/FACA.htm

 

posted by drivetheost.com

KSJWM

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