About Cuba Missouri
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 1,001 ft (305 m). Population 3,356 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Cuba is the largest city in Crawford County, but it is not the county seat (which is Steelville). It is located on Old Route 66, in the central Missouri Ozarks foothills. (Map of Cuba).
Historic Wagon Wheel Motel, Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri
History of Cuba
Central Missouri has been inhabited for over 10,000 years, since the last Ice Age ended. The historic people in this region were an Algonquin nation known as "Illinois" (deformed from the name they called themselves: "Illiniwek" which meant "men").
French trappers and explorers from Canada claimed the area for France in the 1680s, and named it after their ruler, King Louis XIV: "Louisiana". In 1763 France ceded the upper Louisiana to Spain and recovered it in 1800. But a cash-strapped Napoleon sold it to the U.S. in 1803. Part of Louisiana became the Missouri Territory (1812). It was admitted as a state in 1821.
In the 1830s, the Illinois, who were hunter-gatherers and squash, beans and corn farmers were relocated together with all the Natives that had lived east of the Mississippi to reservations in the Indian Territories (which later became the state of Oklahoma). But by then, there were already White settlers in the area: William Harrison had arrived in 1821. James B. Simpson settled on a flat grassland named after him: Simpson's Prairie in 1837. Crawford County, was organized in 1829 and named after U.S. Senator (Georgia) William H. Crawford, George M. Jamison (1818-1873), a native Kentuckian also lived in the area by 1840, half a mile from where Cuba would be founded in 1857 by M. H. Trask and William Ferguson who platted it in Simpson's prairie, along the railroad's future course . The Frisco Railroad reached Cuba in 1858 and the town became a farming community.
The Name: Cuba
The first post office was named Amanda (after Jamison's wife), but when the post office moved in 1860 to the new town, it was renamed Cuba perhaps due to the political feelings of those days which claimed for an annexation of the island due to its status as a Spanish colony (in 1898 the US won a war against Spain and annexed Cuba and Puerto Rico. Cuba later became independent, but Puerto Rico is still part of the US). However, according to the WPA it was named "by two former gold miners from California, who wished to perpetuate the memory of a holiday they had spent on the 'Isle of Cuba'."
From 1926 to 1969, while Route 66 went through Cuba, the travelers gave the local economy a boost, and motels, cafes and gas stations were built to cater to them. In 1969, Route 66 a full fledged divided highway bypassed the town.
Where to Lodge in Cuba, Missouri
Accommodation and hotels in town..
>> Book your hotel in Cuba
More Lodging near Cuba along Route 66
More motels and Hotels close to Cuba
Hotels, Westwards in Missouri
- 13 miles Saint James
- 23 miles Rolla
- 51 miles St. Robert
- 52 miles Waynesville
- 86 miles Lebanon
- 116 miles Marshfield
- 129 miles Strafford
- 138 miles Springfield MO
- 199 miles Carthage
- 217 miles Joplin
Heading West... Hotels & Motels in Kansas...
- 232 miles Baxter Springs
Further West... Hotels & Motels on Route 66 in Oklahoma...
Heading East in Missouri, more accommodation
- 18 miles Sullivan
- 34 miles Saint Clair
- 45 miles Villa Ridge
- 52 miles Pacific
- 60 miles Eureka
- 88 miles St. Louis
Hotels further East, in Illinois
>> Check out the RV campgrounds in Cuba
Weather in Cuba
Cuba has well marked seasons, which are the combination of humid continental and humid subtropical climates.
The winter (Jan), the average high is around 39°F (4°C) and the aveage low is a freezing 20°F (-7°C). The summer (Jul) average high is 89°F (32°C) with an average low of 68°F (20°C). Rainfall averages 44.5 in. (1.130 mm) yearly which ranges from 2.21 in (56 mm) in Jan. to 4.81 in (122.2 mm) in May. Snowfall is around 18.9 in. (48 cm), which falls from Dec. to Mar.
Cuba is located in Missouri's "Tornado Alley" and Crawford County is struck by 7 tornados every year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Cuba
You can reach Cuba along historic Route 66 and Interstate I-44 that links it with Springfield, Tulsa and Oklahoma City in the west and with Sullivan, Eureka and St. Louis in the east. US 63 runs through Rolla to the west and US 50 passes through Villa Ridge to the east.
Map of Route 66 in Cuba
Map of Cuba and US Highway 66 in Missouri.
Pale Blue is the original 1926 to 1953 Route 66. Then from 1953 to 1969 it was the eastbound lanes of the Four-Lane Route 66 built.
Blue shows the 1953 to 1969 westbound lanes from Hofflins to Fanning past Cuba. After 1969 two new lanes were added and what is now I-44's roadbed replaced old US 66 bypassing it.
See Route 66's alignment in Missouri Map
Remove or restore State shading
Alignment of Route 66 in Missouri: Historic U.S. 66 through Cuba
Route 66 across Missouri
U.S. Route 66 in Missouri is a State Historic Scenic Byway in Missouri and this also includes Cuba and Crawford County. It is still pending Federal designation as a Byway.
Click on the following link and see our overview of Route 66 across the state of Missouri.
Below you will find full details on Old Route 66 in Cuba
Sights and Attractions in Cuba, Missouri
What to Do, Places to See
Where History Meets Art
Cuba and its Route 66 attractions
Cuba, the The murals in Mural City on Route 66 has its share of attractions: Hotels and Motels:
Southern Hotel, historic Hotel Cuba and the historic
Wagon Wheel Motel, Cafe and Gas Station.
Gas Stations: the Old Conoco Service Station and the Phillips 66 gas station; and Landmarks such as the Cuba City Jail (Calaboose), the 19 Drive-In Theater, Hayes Shoe Store and Bob’s Gasoline Alley.
Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Cuba
"Missouri, a guide to the "Show Me" state" a guide published by the WPA in 1941 tells us about its origin and its name, and that "...its business center [was] slowly abandoning a location near the railroad tracks for a new one on US 66". The 1946 book by Jack DeVere Rittenhouse however ("A Guide Book to Highway 66") mentions some of its motels and garages: "... garages: Souder's and Square Deal; hotels: New Central and Cuba; cabin courts: Wagon Wheel, Barnsall, Red Horse Tavern" he also added that it was an "important highway town".
Sights in Cuba
Begin your tour on the eastern side of town, where old Route 66 forks: Washington St. to the right and Main St. to the left. Take Washington to visit a Historic Motel, just past the Missouri Hick Barbeque a "modern" Route 66 landmark, which is located on the site of the former "The Annex Cafe", long since gone.
Wagon Wheel Motel, Cafe and Gas Station
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
901 E. Washington. Location map.
Still open and lodging guests (Read more at their website). It is pictured above at the top of this page. Robert and Margaret Martin bought the property in 1934 and had Leo Fiesenhan design the buildings. He used local sandstone for the Tudor style cabins: three, each with three units and garages. They have gabled roofs and arched doorways and offered "private tub or shower bath... gas heat; fans in summer; enclosed garages". The Wagon Wheel Cabins, as they were known then, opened in 1936.
As traffic grew the garages were converted into units and after WWII the Martins split the business and sold it. The Cafe and station was taken over by Sadie Mae Pratt. an John and Winifred Mathis bought the cabins in 1947 and renamed them "Wagon Wheel Motel" adding a laundry and another concrete lodging building with 4 units. The famous neon sign dates back to 1947, designed by John Mathis.
The old gas station and cafe are currently a gift shop (Connie's Shop) and motel office. Continue westwards along old Route 66, into the "Mural City":
The "Uptown Cuba Historic District" is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and the Missouri legislature designated Cuba as the Route 66 Mural City recognizing the merits of "Viva Cuba's Outdoor Mural Project" which guided by the advice provided by a renown Canadian muralist, Michelle Loughery helped outline this project and actually painted two of the twelve murals on Route 66 corridor; they tell Cuba's history from 1857 and its link to US 66. We will list them along your tour.
Mural on Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri, the "Mural City"
Just 0.2 mi ahead to your left, is Shelly's Cafe, but to your right is a Mural
501 E Washington St.
Shows the moment Wilburn Vaughn took a photo of actress Bette Davis (1908 - 1989) winner of two "Best Actress" Oscar awards, and her husband during their Nov. 1948 visit to Cuba.
Shelly's Route 66 Cafe
402 E. Washington on the SW corner with S Lawrence St.
At one time it was Cuba Dairy Cream, and now is Shelly's Route 66 Cafe. A classic eating spot in Cuba, it is pictured below. Visit their Facebook.
Shelly's Route 66 Cafe, Cuba, MO. www.yelp.com
1940s postcard, Southern Hotel, Cuba, MO. www.picclick.ca
Continue down S Lawrence St. to E Main St. turn left to N. Clay where you can seet Two classic Route 66 Hotels:
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
509 East Main - NW corner of N Clay)
Hotel Cuba was built in 1915 (It was named "Palace Hotel") to cater to those traveling by train to Cuba it therefore was located across the road from the railway station. When Route 66 was aligned behind the hotel along Washington St. in 1926, the hotel moved its main entrance to face it. (Location map).
601 E. Main - NE corner of N Clay (Location map).
Across the street (N. Clay St.) from Hotel Cuba -it is pictured above. It was where Bette Davis stayed when she visited town in 1948 (that visit appears on the Bette Davis mural).
Return to Route 66 and see the mural on the SW corner of A St. and E Washington:
298 E Washington St.
Al West Sr. was Cuba's mayor from 1946 to 1958, he modernized the city and attracted industrial investments, creating jobs.
Continue west to the main intersection in Cuba: Franklin and Washington. Here you can take a small detour: Take a left along S Franklin St. go through the underpass and visit the old Jail (0.3 mi.):
The Cuba City Jail or Calaboose
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Cuba Jail, 1908 Dr. Marylin Stewart
SW corner of Prairie St. and Main St. (Map with directions).
This is a one-story rectangular building made of concrete blocks built in 1908. It has the words "Cuba - Jail - 1908" on it. It has an iron door and was in use until 1954.
Retrace your steps to Franklin and Route 66, here on the SW corner is an iconic Cottage style Phillips 66 filling station:
Phillips 66 Gas station
106 W. Washington on the SW corner of Hwy. 19 (Franklin) and Route 66.
Built by Paul T. Carr in 1932 who ran it until his death in 1964. The service station is a typical cottage style 1930s service station. It had two separate pump bays, with three pumps each, facing Route 66 and MO-19 respectively. In 1968 Bill Wallis bought it by then it sold Mobile branded gasoline, he also made it the first office of his Wallis Oil Co. (which now has 600 employees).
View of the Phillips 66 Gas station in Cuba Missouri. The Mural panels are on the far left.
See what it looked like in the 1960s: 1960s photo.
On the Service Station, facing Franklin St.
There are three panels which cover the former garage doors, with murals on its S Franklin St. facade portraying Bill Wallis and the 75th anniversary of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
One block north along N Franklin St., is a mural:
SW corner of W. Spencer Ave and N. Franklin St.
The mural depicts the river (Meramec, Huzzah and Courtois rivers), for fishing, having fun and also used for transportation.
Go back to the crossing of US 66 and MO-19, and continue west along W Washington St. To your right, is another mural:
E Washington, NW corner of N. Madison St.
Famous Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, had to make an emergency landing in Cuba in 1928. She repaired her Avro airplane and continued her flight. She disappeared while flying around the world alone, in the Pacific Ocean and was never seen again.
Two blocks ahead, to your left is the Old Conoco Service Station:
Old Conoco Service Station
306 W. Washington St.
Now it is a custom upholstry store, but at one time this was a Cottage-style Conoco gas station. With a steep gabled roof. It appears that the garage to the east was added later (see photos below):
Current view Conoco Service Station, Cuba, MO Google
Click to enlarge
1940s postcard, Conoco Service Station, Cuba, MO. www.66postcards.com
Click to enlarge
See the mural painted on wall opposite the filling station, to the west:
SW corner of S. Fillmore St. and E Washington
The Blue Bonnet Frisco train is shown carrying young men to fight in World War II, "Cuba's Gold Star Boys".
One block west, there is another mural:
SW corner of Buchanan St. and Route 66
Local Bank President, A. J. Barnett is depicted cranking his Ford model T, the first in town, the mural is painted on the site where the Peoples Bank stood in the 1900s.
On that same block, to the south is yet another Mural:
S. Buchanan St. and W Main Ave.
Its panels depict Civil War and battles between Confederate and Union troops in 1864 in the region around Cuba.
Back on Washington Ave., to your right, on the wall facing west you can see another mural:
503 W Washington St
Cuba grew apples and from 1895 to 1920 was the largest distributor in Missouri, they were shipped out by train in barrels, made locally. Barrel-making is still a strong industry in Cuba.
Across the street is Hayes Shoe Store and Route 66 Cafe, with a mural:
Cuba MO, Route 66 cafe, just look at those bricks! Credits.
Hayes Shoe Store
103 S Smith St - Smith and Washington (Route 66)
See a Street View of the store. Open since 1950, it has two Robert Wadlow Shoes on display: Robert Robert Pershing Wadlow(1918-1940) "the Alton Giant" or the "Giant of Illinois", became famous because he was the tallest person ever in human recorded history: 8 ft. 11.1 in. (2,722 m). Visit their website for more information
Hayse Shoe store is also the site of the Prosperity Corner Mural, Pictured above. This was originally H.H. Tieman's General Merchandise Store.
Next to the shoe shop is an attractive colored brick-faced store, the Old 66 Café from the early 1950's, which in the 80's was "Chandler's Café" but now closed.
On the western side of the street (N Smith St.) on the north side of Route 66 is another Viva Cuba mural:
180 N. Smith St.
A view of what things were like in 1948 at the Roberts Judson Lumber co, that produced wood and sheet metal articles
And, on Route 66, one block west, to your right, is a mural:
609 W Washington Ave
Depicts Harry Truman (then a Senator) campaigning in Cuba at the Homecoming Fair during the 1940 primary election. Truman was later President of the U.S.
Ahead, on the western tip of town, to your left is the old Kinder Cemetery ca 1832, this district is known as Amanda (the town's original name). This is the ending point of your "Cuba City Tour".
Tours & Itineraries
Two short tours to nearby attractions: one is east, the other west.
Bob’s Gasoline Alley
822 Beamer Lane, Cuba 4.6 mi west of Cuba (map with directions)
Head west towards Fanning; this is ideal for those interested in 1950s and 60s memorabilia, original vintage signs and advertising, this is a place to stop at: The largest collection of Historic Route 66 gasoline memorabilia in the mid-west with most popular brands of petroleum, alcohol, and soft drink beverages. Visit their Facebook.
Bob’s Gasoline Alley in Cuba, Missouri
19 Drive-In Theater
5853 MO-19, Cuba. Just 1 mi. north of downtown along MO-19 (NFranklin St). Map with directions.
The 19 Drive in, on Highway 19 has been open since 1954. Check its website 19drivein.com.
Belmont Vineyard & Winery
5870 Old Route 66
Old Route 66 in Cuba
The first "trail" in this area was tramppled thousands of years ago by roaming buffalo and deer, crossing the plains to the Ozarks. Much later it was used by the Illinois Indians and more recently by French and English trappers and explorers. It was adopted as the main road from St. Louis towards Springfield, and in the 1850s it became the "Wire Road", which ran next to the military telegraph line from St. Louis to Fort Smith.
By the early 1910s, cars had become more popular in this area, and the road was improved thanks to the lobbying carried out by the Inter-Ozarks Highway Association; the state created Missouri State Highway 14 from Saint Louis to Springfield which had a gravel surface in Cuba westwards, and a graded earth roadbed east to Bourbon.
From Cuba to Fanning
In 1926 Route 66 was aligned along MO-14 through Cuba's downtown business district. The original road is now named Highway ZZ and runs well to the south of I-44 and it is shown in Pale Blue in the Map above.
1926 Map of Route 66 from St. James to St. Louis, Missouri, notice that this first map calls it "US 60", instead of US 66 (read more about this: Route 66 was born as US 60). Cuba is in the lower left part of the map.
1950s: Four Lane Freeway
USGS map of Fanning to Hofflins through Cuba 1966, Route 66 is shown in Red.
Starting in 1953 Route 66 became too congested in central Cuba, and in other cities in Missouri too. So it was upgraded to a four-lane highway. From then to 1969, the original 1926 Route 66 alignment through Cuba became the two eastbound lanes of the new "super highway" from Fanning to Hofflins. Two new lanes were built (shown in Blue in the map above) from what is now Exit 203 past Cuba to Hofflins to carry the westbound traffic.
1969 New roadbed
Beginning in 1967 the old four lane US-66 ⁄ I-44 Freeway was improved again in Missouri and the city route in Cuba was bypassed: two new eastbound lanes added next to the westbound ones, forming a four-lane dual highway that replaced and bypassed the old alignment through Cuba, from Hofflins to Fanning. This can be seen in the 1966 USGS map of that area.
Eventually the whole of US 66 in this area was upgraded into a four lane divided highway with overpasses and it coexisted with the new interstate I-44. A state petition in 1962 to name the highway I-66 was denied by the AASHTO as that number had been used already.
Finally in 1972 the whole of Route 66 had been replaced by the Interstate system and in 1974 it was decided that the whole of US 66 from Chicago to Joplin would be eliminated and decertified. However this was delayed until I-55 in Illinois was completely brought up to Interstate standards. The signs were removed in 1977 but even then, the last segment of the old Route 66 was bypassed in 1981.
> > See the previous segment Hofflins to Cuba (east)
> > See the next segment Fanning to Rosati (west)
Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.