Approaching Kansas From Joplin on Missouri Highway 66, you will see the sign to the right, about a half mile before the county line. Staying on the 4 lane highway, you will be on the Route 66 from 1961 on, but turning off on Old Route 66 Boulevard, you will find the older route, paved and in use before its designation as part of the original Route 66 pm November 11, 1926.
The first interesting site in Kansas is the Eagle-Picher plant, across the railroad tracks on the right. This smelter operated from around 1912 until the late 1970s. It processed the locally mined galena ore and produced lead, zinc and silver.
Continuing on Route 66, through an area once known locally as "Hells Half Acre," you will cross over the 215 feet long, 1923 viaduct pictured in the rearview mirror at the top of this page and approach the old Galena business district from the north. You will find three interesting old buildings at the intersection with Main Street. The one in the next photo will be on your right and has been restored since this picture was taken.
The old KanOtex service station to your left has been purchased by the same people and is already being restored by Cars on the Route. On the day that the old gas station was visited, air conditioning had just been installed and they intended to open a snack bar and gift shop within a few months. The 1951 International boom truck next to the station inspired the "Tow Mater" character in the movie Cars.
The buildings of Galena helped inspire the fictional community of Route 66 Radiator Springs, also in Cars. Southeast Kansas also contributed the Ghost Lights mentioned in the movie and in the short movie Mater & the Ghostlight on the Cars' DVD.
Turning left with Route 66, which is now also Main Street, you will continue to pass interesting old buildings. Many appear abandoned, as Galena has shrunk from a peak population of 30,000 people, to just over 3,000 today. But this stretch of Route 66 is experiencing a revival and some of these lovely old buildings are being restored and put to new uses.
Route 66 in Kansas
LL-6/10 copyright 2007-2014 by Keith Stokes