About McLean, Texas
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 2,861 ft. (872 m). Population: 778 (2010 census).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
McLean is located in Gray County, in the eastern region of the Texas Panhandle.
The Texas Panhandle covers a rectangular section of northern Texas. New Mexico borders it to the west and Oklahoma to the east.
Most of it is flat (High Plains), and it is a relatively dry area averaging 20 inches of rain per year (500 mm); however the Ogallala Aquifer supplies water for irrigation of the loamy, clayey, and calcareous soils of the plains.
The Paleo-Indian ancestors of the Comanche and Kiowa Indians lived here over 10,000 years ago. Later Indians lived hunting the southern buffalo on the plains but after the US annexed Texas, a period of wars began. The natives lost and were displaced to reservations. This opened the land to pioneers.
In 1901, the Rock Island Railway set up a switch in Gray County and it was around this switch that rancher Alfred Rowe donated 640 acres of land for a townsite that would become McLean.
He chose a spot which was next to the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway station where he shipped his longhorn cattle to the markets.
Rancher perished on the Titanic
Alfred Rowe (1853 - 1912). Born in Lima Peru was part of a wealthy English merchant family. He moved to the US in 1878 with 500 pounds and eventually settled on land he purchased in the Salt For of the Red River, in 1884. His RO Ranch covered 200,000 acres.
He donated the land for establishing what would become the town of McLean next to the station where he shipped his longhorn cattle to the markets.
In 1901 he married Constance Ethel Kingsley and in 1910 he moved with his family back to England but returned twice a year to keep an eye on his ranch.
On his April 1912 journey, he embarked on the HMS Titanic tragic maiden voyage. He refused to board a lifeboat and died of exposure. His body was recovered and buried in Liverpool.
Rowe and Kingsley Streets in McLean remember both his and his wife's names.
The town was named after a Texan Civil War hero, Judge and representative in the State Legislature, William P. McLean (1836 - 1925) he was also secretary of the Texas Railroad Commission.
Livestock and agriculture helped the town grow and it incorporated in 1909. C.S. Rice was its first mayor.
Oil in the mid 1920s and U.S. Highway 66 contributed to the town's prosperity during the Great Depression. By 1940 its population had reached 1,500 inhabitants.
A Prisoner of War Camp was built in 1942 to house German POWs, it closed in 1945.
Growth of Amarillo and Pampa led to a slow decline of McLean during the 1950s and 60s. Interstate 40 bypassed the town reducing the inflow of travelers.
Where to Stay
Besides the Cactus motel mentioned below, the closest town with a pick of places to stay is neighboring Shamrock, 19 miles (31 km) east of McLean.
>> Book your Hotels in Shamrock
Lodging Near McLean along Route 66
Heading East.... into Oklahoma
Weather in McLean
The area where McLean is located is quite dry and around 24 in (618 mm) of rain fall every year. It can be quite hot in summer with averages that range from 65°F (19°C) to values over 90°F (30°C). It cools at night.
Winters have averages that vary between 51°F (10°C) 26°F (-4°C), below freezing point.
Snow: You may not associate snow with Texas, but they are linked: it snows in McLean starting around the first week of December. You may encounter snow between September and March. As it is a high area, snowfall is greater than in Oklahoma, and averages 18” per year (with maximum values of about 41”), that is: 43 to 103 cm.
Tornadoes in the Panhandle region: this part of Texas is located within the famous "Tornado Alley", yet it is highly unlikely that you may see one. Read more: Tornadoes on Route 66.
Getting To McLean
McLean is the third town along I-40 and U.S. Route 66 after entering Texas from Oklahoma.
It is 34 miles (55 km) west of the Texas state line.
Map of Route 66 in McLean
Map of Route 66 in McLean
Map of US Highway 66 through McLean.
Display MapClick for Map to appear below
Alignment of Route 66 in Texas: Historic U.S. 66 through McLean
Route 66 across Texas
Click on the following link and see our overview of Route 66 across the state of Texas.
Below you will find full details on Old Route 66 in McLean
Attractions & Sights
Things to Do and See in McLean
McLean's Main Street is the Historic U.S. Route 66; visit its Commercial Historic District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Don't miss its Phillips 66 Service Station, the barbed wire Museum and its World War II POW Camp
Sights in the town of McLean
City Hall, 220 N. Main St. Housed in a former Masonic Hall. Tel. 806 779 2481 Mon. to Fri. 8:00 AM - Noon and 1:00 to 5:00 PM
McLean Commercial Historic District
Barbed Wire Hat at the local museum, Highsmith, Carol M.
The Historic District is defined by 2nd Street on the north, Railroad St. on the south and Rowe St. to the east and Gray St. to the West (McLean TX). The Route 66 corridor runs along 1st and Railroad Streets.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
The Classical layout of a "Mother Road" town between 1930 and 1970: assortment of vintage gasoline stations, stores, garages and motels. Relive the heyday of Route 66.
Uplift Capital of the World
At one time visitors arriving at McLean were welcomed by a colorful billboard that announced they had reached «The Uplift Capital of the World»
uplift verb \(.)əp-'lift\
: to make (someone) happy or hopeful
: to lift (something) up : to raise (something) to a higher position
That was maybe a pun: travel and "road tripping" is fun and raises your spirits, but McLean also had a factory that made brassieres, which according to its advertising: «mold gently yet firmly to that graceful uplift that is youth's alone»
The Form-o-uth Brassiere Company of Gardena, California, opened a branch in the town in 1957. They closed in the 1970s and were a big employer in town.
During the economic boom years that followed World War II, in the late 1940s and 1950s, McLean greeted thousands of motorists who were crisscrossing the country vacationing.
During its heyday the town had 22 auto-related businesses and 17 of them were gasoline service stations. Other shops included tire repair and dealerships.
A 1947 magazine advertisement of "Form-o-uth" California Stylist Vol. XI No. 2, February 1947
Bypassed by I-40, the town gradually froze in time in a state of arrested decay, a time capsule which is slowly being restored to its former glory.
The town still retains its easygoing atmosphere of the mid-20th century, and its commercial district which was shaped by Route 66 and happy travelers. Its Commercial District was listed in the historical register on December 20, 2006.
Sights in the Historic District
Phillips 66 Service Station, McLean
218 West First St (McLean TX), on the southeast corner of Gray St.
Route 66 reached McLean in 1927 and shortly after Phillips Petroleum chose the town as the location of its first gasoline station in Texas, which stands to this day.
The building is surprisingly small for modern travelers, it was built in Tudor Revival style (which imitated medieval English cottages with simple lines, steep pitched roofs, tall windows, brickwork walls and high chimneys).
The service station closed in 1977 but has been restored to its original condition.
Phillips. The Phillips brothers discovered oil in 1905 but their company (Phillips Petroleum Co.) did not open its first gasoline station until 1927, when it purchased a small Texan refinery.
Phill'er Up. Their first service stations opened in Wichita, Topeka, Salina (Kansas) and Bartlesville (Oklahoma) and were located close to the railway because gasoline was transported in tankcars.
The gas stations were designed to blend in with the local neighborhoods, which were residential and that was the origin of the "cottage" look.
The company developed a high-octane gasoline in 1927 and ran a test drive along the brand new U.S. Highway 66. The car reached a cruising speed of 66 mph so inevitably the fuel was named Phillips 66®. The highway's shield shaped road sign inspired the company logo.
Guyton Motor Co
Across the street from the Phillips gas station, it has a double bay garage and a wide concrete parking apron. It is pictured at the top of this page.
Ran by Raymond Guyton who had a tow service and repair garage from 1950 to 1998.
The Main Street is paved with red bricks. On the block between Railroad and 1st, several classic & vintage 20th century buildings can be seen, like the old theater:
Avalon Movie Theater
The building has a distinctive Art Deco facade, with the typical geometric elements of that style. The building dates back to the 1930s and has been restored by the Old Route 66 Association of Texas.
Its name is that of a legendary island in the legend of King Arthur.
It remained in operation for over fifty years.
The McLean Alanreed Historical Museum
116 South Main St. Tue to Fri. 10:00 AM - Noon and 1:00 to 4:00 PM. March to December. Tel 806 779 2731
Around the Town
There are other sights in the town, along the Route 66 corridor:
Cactus Inn Motel
On the corner of Pine (101 Pine St.) and Railroad St., on the western part of town.
Route 66 was McLean's Main Street and it offered travelers diners, cafes and restaurants. Lodging included tourist cabins and motels, most of them have closed down, but one survives, the Cactus Inn Motel
In case you are wondering, yes, the motel's sign is shaped like a cactus.
Cactus Inn sign. A. Whittall
It was built in 1956 and has a definite 50's air to it. Cacti planted by the sign add to the ambiance.
Devil's Rope Museum
100 Kingsley St. On the southwestern corner of East Main St and Kingsley St., McLean. Tel 806 779 2225. Open Tue- Sat 10:00 AM - 04:00 PM
The brick building that houses the museum was once a bra manufacturing company.
This is a unique museum exhibiting different varieties of barbed wire (did you know that there are over 2,000 types of barbed wire?), wiring tools and local memorabilia like some snakes pickled in formalin from Lela's snake pit and souvenirs from the POW Camp.
Until the invention of barbed wire, keeping cattle contained in a specific location required thorn hedges, stone walls or wood fences. In open terrain forks in rivers helped to retain errant cattle, but the open prairies of Western America needed something else, and that led to the invention of barbed wire.
Patents were issued for steel wire fences after 1853. Michael Kelly from New York patented barbed wire in 1868. But the first practical wire as known nowadays was invented by Joseph F. Glidden of DeKalb, Illinois. He was granted Patent No. 157,124 on Nov. 24 1874.
A steel wire with steel barbs that were held in position by another strand of wire wrapped around the first. Strong and easy to manufacture, it was a success and earned its inventor the title of "Father of Barbed Wire". It was the most important factor in the economic conquest of the Great Plains.
Did you know that... Glidden established a ranch in Bushland next to what is now U.S. Route 66, to demonstrate that his barbed wire was effective.
He started fencing in 1881 and proved the advantages of barbed wire. The eastern fence line of his ranch is nowadays Western Street in Amarillo. Heirs of Glidden still manage the ranch.
Tours & Itineraries
Historic Route 66 in McLean
World War II Prisoner of War Camp Site
Take Exit 146 on I-40 2 miles east of McLean and go north along CR 5280 (county line road) for 1 mile. USAGPS: 35.240616, -100.538312
Texas Historical Commission Marker
The camp was on the grounds of the current municipal airport. Some remains of the buildings can be seen from the marker sign at the roadside.
The POW camp at McLean was formally known as a Permanent Alien Internment Camp, and it was set up during World War II.
Construction began in September 1942 and the first German prisoners arrived in July 1943. The camp had almost 30 buildings which accommodated military and civilian personnel as well as three compounds for the POWs.
There were also other buildings: quarters for bachelor officers and nurses, hospital, barber shop, theatre, laundry, Post Exchange and fire department. The first prisoners had been captured in North Africa, and had fought in General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps. The camp housed over 3,000 prisoners by October 1944. After the war ended, the camp closed in July 1945.
Route 66 itinerary to McLean
See previous sections of US Route 66:
Below we detail the itinerary from McLean to Conway. You can also see the followint sections of Route 66 after Conway:
From McLean to Conway on Route 66
Leave the town starting at the corner of Main and 1st St. (zero mile) and head west. Take a left turn when you reach TX-273 (0.6 miles) cross to the south of I-40 (Exit 142) and head west along the south Frontage Road (1.2 mi.). At County Road 26, go right (2.2 mi.) and then take a left to head westwards along the South Service Rd. of I-40.
AT Exit 135 (8 miles) it becomes TX-271 Loop W. and goes straight through the town of Alanreed as its Third Street. It passes the historic Cemetery.
Cross Main St. (8.6 mi.) and see the vintage Service Station on the SW corner. Head out of town by the oldest church on Texas' Route 66, (9 miles) and keep along the south service Rd. of I-40 until reaching Exit 132 (12 mi.). Here you must get on to I-40 West.
Route 66 does carry on west south of I-40 but turns into a dirty surface road and ends at private property. This is part of the Jericho Gap which entrapped drivers in its sticky mud.
Leave I-40 west at Exit 124 (19 mi.) and go South along TX-70 to visit the old Jericho Cemetery, a few miles southwest of the Exit.
You can drive the Jericho Gap to the west or, return to I-40 and continue westbound. At Exit 121 (22.4 miles) return to the south frontage road of I-40 towards the west.
At Exit 114 (30 mi.) the I-40 Frontage Road becomes I-40BUS (near the famous Leaning Water Tower), and enters Groom becoming its Front St. Drive by its Main St. (31.5 miles) and after passing along the south of the Great Cross, the road meets the I-40 at Exit 110 (33.6 mi.).
Groom to Conway
Take the south service road westwards and pass the Exit 105 (39.2 mi.), an I-40 overpass with CR-V on the south and FM-2880 on the north, this is the location of Lark.
At the next important intersection (46.2 miles) you will find CR-O on the north, leading to I-40's Exit 98 and TX-207 which goes straight ahead, westwards. Take it, it is the Historic US-66 (TX-207).
Shortly after, (47.2 mi.) another crossing: FM 2161 heads west, and is US-66, it continues to Amarillo. This is the site of Conway. Take a right turn along TX-207 towards I-40 and just next to Exit 96 (47.8 miles) to visit its Buggy Farm.
Keep aware of the Road Information: TxDOT Highway Conditions
The exit and entry ramps of I-40 do not intersect its service roads; they merge with them. Those driving the on- and off-ramps have the right of way. Drivers along the I-40 Service Roads must yield to ramp. Drive safely and pay attention when approaching a ramp to avoid collisions with those exiting I-40.
Eloise Lane, White Deer Land Museum, Pampa, TX
H. Allen Anderson, "Rowe, Alfred", Handbook of Texas Online. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
The Devil's Rope Museum website.
Our History, Phillips 66 Gas. Phillips 66® and its respective logos are registered trademarks owned by Phillips 66 Company.
William Nienke & Sam Morrow. Historic Markers in Texas POW Camp
McLean Commercial Historic District and Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary Route 66, National Park Service.
Panhandle snowfall National Weather Service.
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.