logoShort History of Historic Route 66

Short History of Historic Route 66

There was a last minute name change, renumbering our highway from 60 to the mythical number 66.
U.S. Highway 66 (aka Route 66) was born along with most other U.S. Highways on November 11th, 1926. Route 66 connected the harbor cities of Chicago and Los Angeles. It was 2448 miles (almost 4000 km) long at the time. No new roads were created for this purpose. A collection of existing roads was used and indicated on maps and signs under the new name. At the time Route 66 was commissioned, only portions of the road were paved. It was still quite the adventure to travel it.
Throughout its active life as a commissioned route, Route 66 was upgraded, straightened and paved, bypassing town centers that couldn’t handle the ever increasing traffic. While signs and maps would direct travelers to the newest version of the road, the older version w ould still remain, sometimes as a local road, sometimes abandoned for all practical purposes. Today we call these different versions “alignments”.
The 1930s
A lot of farming families headed west on Route 66 to California to escape the Dust Bowl that landed a lot of farming ground unusable.
Route 66 is extended from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, the emphasis switching from transporting goods to transporting people for more leisurely purposes.
Route 66 is finally paved end-to-end.
The Arroyo Seco Freeway, the first urban section of limited access divided highway was completed between Pasadena and Los Angeles in California and it was carrying Route 66 traffic.
The military used Route 66 extensively to move equipment across the country in their fight against Germany and Japan.
President Eisenhower had seen the German Autobahn system during and after WWII and created the Interstate system, which would eventually surpass Route 66 as a road for those needing to cover the vast distances involved.
The last Route 66 town to be bypassed by the Interstate was Williams, AZ.
Route 66 was officially decommissioned over its entire length on June 27th, 1985.
Route 66, however, wouldn’t die and actually became a destination in itself over the years. A large part of that is due to the efforts of various groups that try to preserve and protect Route 66 for future generations to enjoy. The pioneering role in this was for Angel Delgadillo – a barber in Seligman, AZ - who created the first modern Route 66 Association to promote his town to the tourists.