The Main Street Of America, Then And Now: Photos Of U.S. Route 66

When U.S. Route 66 opened on November 11, 1926, it changed America. One of the original highways in the country, Route 66 gave Americans the opportunity to travel West, and escape the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. From the time it was created, the highway brought American cities along the route to life. From Chicago to California, business popped up along Route 66 and could barely keep up with demand, as tourists traveled the country by road.

Then, in 1985, the famed Route 66 became America’s past time. Interstate 40 was established, not only diverting traffic away from the highway as a more convenient route but replacing some of the rural sections entirely. To add insult to injury, Officials of the American State Highway and Transportation Association officially decommissioned Route 66. Some businesses survived, but most are abandoned. See what the community of Carthage, Missouri did to keep Route 66 alive in their town.

Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico

Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Fifteen years after Route 66 was built, the Blue Swallow Motel opened its doors. The 12-unit motel, which also has a cafe, is one of the longest operating motels on Route 66 in New Mexico. Signs boasting “TV” and “100% Refrigerated Air” lured drivers in.

In 1958, Floyd Redman purchased the property as an engagement gift to his wife Lillian. Although vacancy increased as more traffic diverted to Interstate 40, Lillian remained in love with the property. She managed the motel for 40 years, continuing on after he husband’s death. When she eventually sold the motel, she purchased a house nearby, and would often visit until her death in 1999.