About Galena, Kansas
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 900 ft. (275 m). Population: 3,085 (2010 census).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Galena is located in Cherokee county, in the southeastern tip of the state of Kansas and Old Route-66 runs through the town with an east to west alignment.
Route 66 is the Main Street in Galena
Kansas has been inhabited for around 10,000 years. Following the discovery of America, Spanish explorer Francisco de Coronado crossed the region in 1541. It later became part of the French Louisiana and was purchased by the US in 1803.
It is set at the foot of the Missouri Ozarks, in an area that was wooded and set apart as the Cherokee Neutral Lands for the Indians, however it was quickly settled and Kansas became a state of the Union in 1861. There were bloody skirmishes along the border during the Civil War.
Galena, the name
The word "Galena" is used to name the world's most important ore of lead. Galena is a lead sulfide mineral, which is the most abundant and has been mined for millennia. It is an appropriate name for a town that sprung to life to mine lead sulfide mineral (which also contains traces of silver).
The town was laid down by the Galena Mining and Smelting Co. and named "Cornwall". But it was initially known as "Short Creek", after a nearby stream. It was later known as "Bonanza", but the lead ore prevailed, and it got its current name in 1877: "Galena".
Galena's history began in 1871, when the railway was built through what is now Galena. But only in 1876 did the town appear, when mineral containing lead was discovered in the area. It was incorporated in 1877 and is the oldest mining town in Kansas.
Galena lead mineral. Rob Lavinsky
Lead mining brought prosperity to the region and its population reached 30,000 in the early 1900s. Route 66 was laid down through Galena in 1926, incorporating a former mining corridor road; Route66 added to its prosperity. The segment through Kansas was fully paved by 1929.
During the Great Depression, there were several strikes by United Mine workers, which were subdued with the intervention of the National Guard. During the 1970s, Interstate I-44 bypassed the town entirely; cutting the flow of travelers and the mines became exhausted. This lead to a continued decline and a drop in population.
Downtown Galena and Route 66.
Where to Stay
There are several hotels close to Galena; you can lodge in the neighboring towns in Kansas, Missouri or Oklahoma:
Weather in Galena
The average temperature in Galena is 60.4°F (15.8°C). The summers are hot, with July averages of: 80°F (26.7°C) and average highs and lows of: 91 and 70° respectively (32.8 and 21.1°C). Winter temperatures average 45.7°F (7.6°C), with January average highs and lows of: 45°F and 25°F (7.2 and -3.8 °C).
Rainfall is quite constant, the monthly average extremes of 2.6 inches in winter (66 mm) to 5.4 inches in spring (160 mm). The average is around 8 to 9 days of rain or drizzle per month.
Snow does fall in winter, averaging 12.5 inches (32 cm). It falls between November and March, with peaks of around 5 inches (12.5 cm) per month in Dec and January.
Tornados. Galena is part of Kansas, and it lies within the infamous "Tornado Alley. Read more: Tornadoes on Route66.
Getting To Galena
Galena is the first town in Kansas to the west of the Missouri state Line. It is 7 mi (11 km) west of Joplin, Missouri and 9 miles to the northeast of Baxter Springs, in Kansas, on the Oklahoma state line.
Map of Route 66 in Galena
Map of Route 66 in Galena
Map of US Highway 66 through Galena.
Display MapClick for Map to appear below
The red icon marks the location of Galena
Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment.
Static map of Route 66 in Kansas, through Galena
Alignment of Route 66 through Kansas: Historic U.S. 66 in Galena
Route 66 across Kansas
Click on the following link and see our overview of Route 66 across the state of Kansas.
Below you will find full details on Old Route 66 in Galena.
Galena: Attractions & Sights
Things to Do and See
Route 66's 1926 alignment is the Main Street of Galena, crossing its Historic District and passing by the famous Kan-O-Tex Service Station.
US 66 in Galena
Just after the end of World War II, Jack DeVere Rittenhouse drove the whole of Route 66 collecting information for his famous 1946 work, "A Guide Book to Highway 66". He mentioned each of the towns along Route 66 and dedicates the following comment to Galena : "garages: Phipps and Front St.; small hotel; no cabins; stores; gas; cafes. A town whose growth seems to have slowed. The main street has many old buildings, whose roffs are edged with the old-fashioned ornate metal cornices...".
The original Route 66 (the 1926 - 1961 alignment) is the continuation of Missouri's "Old Route 66 Boulevard", which in Kansas is renamed as "Front Street". This road enters the town from the northeast.
The current US 66, which crosses the town further south, as 7th Street, is the later (after 1961) alignment.
When entering the town along Front St., the mining history is present in Galena. At the first sharp curve along Front St., on the right, beyond the tracks, you can see the old smelter at the Eagle-Picher facilities which operated between 1912 and the late 1970s. Here the lead ore was processed and silver, zinc and lead obtained.
The factory was also the site of the bloody faceoff between trade union workers and the National Guard in the 1930s.
Hell's Half Acre
In the past it was known as Hickory Flats, and later as "Hell's half acre"; it had been perforated by countless mine shafts and waste ore from the mines known as "chat". In 2006 it was bulldozed and covered by EPA, but is undermined due to the mineral that was removed.
After the curve, the road crosses the railway using the Historic viaduct built in 1923, which is over 200 ft. long, and meets the town's Main Street, turning south along it.
The bridge predates Route 66 by three years, and was chosen to become part of its alignment when the Mother Road was created in 1926 as a safe way across the tracks. This is a street view from the top of the viaduct. Then US 66 reaches Galena proper and takes a left onto Main Street. Here are Two classic attractions, to your right is a former Bordello, and to your left is the famous "Kan-O-Tex" service station:
Logo of the Kan-O-Tex brand of gasoline
Old Kan-O-Tex service station
119 North Main St., Galena, KS.
A vintage service station of the 1930s on the original alignment of Route 66
Galena's Kan-O-Tex Service Station
The service station dates back to 1934. It sold a regional brand of gasoline in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and this gave it its name: Kan-O-Tex. The brand's logo was a sunflower set behind a five-pointed star. The company is now defunct.
It was previously known as "Little's Service Station, "4 Women on the Route and now "Cars on the Route", due to the boom truck that inspired a character in the movie Cars.
Cars Movie character "Tow Mater"
The tow truck in Pixar's animated movie Cars, "Tow Mater" was inspired by a truck which can be seen next to the service station.
The truck (a boom-truck, which was used to lift gear from the mine shafts near Galena), was an L-series International Harvester 1951 model truck.
This series of trucks was introduced in 1949 and replaced in 1952 by the R Series. To avoid infringing Disney ⁄ Pixar trademarks, the original truck is named "Tater"
It was built on the site of the Banks Hotel, on the Main Street in Galena (at that time it was U.S. Route 66). A few years later, a repair shop and garage were added.
The new four-lane US 66 highway moved to 7sth St. in 1961, leaving the service station far from the flow of travelers. When I-44 bypassed the town (and Kansas) it went out of business until it was restored in 2007.
The restored site has a roadside café and a souvenir shop. It still has the facade and gas pumps but includes a diner which the original did not have.
Haunted Staffleback Bordello
The "Haunted" Staffleback Bordello. Google. Click image for street view
NE corner of E Front St. and Main St.
The gabled building which had fallen in disrepair was recently restored. In the 1890s it was a bordello or brothel owned by the Staffleback family. An apocriphal story says that some family members were convicted for the murder of one of their customers, and that the ghost of deceased haunted the house. Now it is an antiques shop.
Take a left to head south along Main street, but don't miss the Ghost Sign on the SW corner. A Ghost Sign is an old hand-painted advertisment that has survived on a building for a long time and not been removed or painted over on. This is its Street View.
Kansas Route 66 Historic District-East Galena
Main Street,, Galena, KS.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
The classic red-brick buildings of an early 1900s American city along the original Route 66 alignment, they stand just as Rittenhouse described them in 1946. It is pictured above at the top of the page.
Howard "Pappy" Litch Memorial Park and the 1952 Will Rogers Marker
On 502 Main St. (and W 5th St.).
It was in the past a Federal Weigh station on the US Highway 66, now it has been converted into a park. Don't miss the "Official Route66 Roadside Attraction", the original 1952 Will Rogers Highway plaque now emplaced in the park (it used to be on the Kansas - Missouri state line). Street View.
Will Rogers, Oklahoma's Favorite Son
William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers was born in 1879 close to Claremore, Oklahoma. He was a Cherokee Indian, a cowboy and also a movie star, an entertainer. He became a Brodway actor, a writer, philosopher and comedian.
His father, Clement Vann Rogers was a Cherokee Nation Senator and a judge. He helped write the Oklahoma Constitution. His mother was Mary America Schrimsher Rogers, who descended from a Cherokee chief. He had eight brothers and sisters, four of them died in their childhood. Rogers joked that his ancestors did not come over on the Mayflower, but they "met the boat".
On the ranch he learned how to rope cattle and became a cowboy. During his career in the 1920s and 1930s he made 71 movies and wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns. He was a world famous star.
He died in an airplane crash in Alaska in 1935.
Many memorials remember him across the nation, the I-44 turnpike in Oklahoma bears his name as does U.S. Route 66, the "Will Rogers Highway" (there is a a plaque dedicating the highway to him, just next to its western terminus in Santa Monica, California.
Ahead, at 7th Street is the Mural of Galena:
Murals of Galena
On the SW corner of Main & 7th St.
This is where the 1926 and the later 1961 alignments met in downtown Galena.
Route 66 is the Main Street in Galena
US 66 mural in Galena Kansas
Tank at the Galena Museum. Google. Click image for street view
Litch Historical and Mining Museum
319 W 7th St., Galena
As you leave town westbound, on the right side of the street.
The museum is located in the original building of the M-K-T railroad (Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway) station, which was acquired in 1983 for that purpose and moved from its original location on Main & Front Streets. It is named after a local historian Howard "Pappy" Litch.
As fitting with a town born from mining, the museum has a collection of items related to the zinc and lead mining operations in the area; it also has a caboose and a locomotive and, the tank (pictured), form the US military. Across the road, to your left is an Old Gas Station:
Old Gas Station
SE corner of W 7th St. and Elm
With two pumps on the corner, no canopy and some signs with broken acrylic sheeting marking the spot.
An old Service Station
Trivia: Galena and Grapes of Wrath
Two of the characters in the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Grapes of Wrath written by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, were from Galena: Sairy and Ivy Wilson.
Tours & Itineraries
US Highway 66
Historic Route 66 alignment
Route 66 itinerary through Kansas
Route 66 in Kansas
With only 13 miles, this is the shortest segment of US 66 in any state.
Current mileage: 13 mi.
Alignment of US 66 in Kansas, from Missouri to Oklahoma
Route 66 crosses the southeastern corner of Kansas, the shortest segment of the whole Route66: 13 miles.
Follow it to Main St., Galena (1.3 mi) and take a left. At 7th St, (KS 66) take a right. Stop at the Kansas Route 66 Historic District-East Galena, a Historic Place.
The road runs to the west, crosses Spring River and entering Riverton (5 mi).
Visit the Williams' Store, a Historical Place.
At the west of the town, the alignments split at U.S. 400 - Alt US 69: the later one follows U.S. 400 - Alt US 69), but the 1926 road keeps on west. Follow it to the Historic Bridge, over Brush Creek (7.5 mi): the Rainbow Curve Bridge is the last Marsh Arch Bridge of all Route 66, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After the bridge, the road curves south towards Baxter Springs.
It enters the town (10 mi) and curves left to meet again with Alt US 69. Take a right. The road passes through the central part of the town. The road leaves town, curving around a Walmart (the 1926 alignment went behind it, along Roberts Rd. on the east and W 30th St. on the south). Keep straight until you reach the Oklahoma state line (13 mi). US 66 keeps on southbound, along Alternate US 69 towards Commerce in Oklahoma.
Fate of old US 66
After I-44 bypassed Kansas, US-66 was decommissioned and in 1985 US-69 Alternate took over part of its alignment, the rest became K-66.
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.