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Route 66: Miami, Oklahoma

Miami, seat of Ottawa County, Oklahoma, is nicknamed "Gateway to Oklahoma"; it is well known for its Historic Marathon Oil Service Station and the Coleman Theatre, both of them listed in the National Registry of Historic Places together with the narrow "Nine-foot section" of Route 66 (its 1927 alignment).

Miami OK

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About Miami, Oklahoma

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 796 ft. (243 m). Population: 13,570 (2010 census).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Miami, pronounced "my-am-uh" is the county seat of Ottawa County, Oklahoma, in the northeastern tip of the state, next to Missouri and Kansas.

As time goes by on Main Street, Miami, looking North

Main Street Miami, looking North, a 1920s photograph
Main Street, Looking north, in the 1920s, Miami, Oklahoma
by John Schehrer
Main Street Miami, looking North, a 1948 postcard
Main Street, Looking north, in 1948, Miami, Oklahoma
Main Street Miami, Looking North, a 1959 postcard
Main Street, looking north, in 1959, Miami, Oklahoma
Main Street Miami
Main Street, Today, in Miami Oklahoma
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

The Historic Route 66 crosses the town from North to South.

Miami's History

Eastern Oklahoma has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. And the Ossage Indians lived in this area in historic times. The U.S. government acquired the territory from France (Louisiana) in 1803. And set up an Indian Territory (1831) which would be the home of Native Americans relocated from the east of the Mississippi. The project failed, settlers arrived and the land was taken over by the Federal government, railroads and homesteaders.

There was a trading post in the area, and it was known as Jimtown. The post office was established in 1890, by Jim Palmer; he named it Miami after his wife, who was a Miami Indian.

The Miami Tribe and the town's name

Miami in Oklahoma is not related in any way to Miami, Florida. The latter's name is a Calusa Indian word "Mayami", which named the river where the city is located.

The Oklahoma Miami people were first displaced by the bellicose Iroquois to what are now Indiana, western Ohio and southwest Michigan during the 1600s. Then the Europeans advanced into their territory and later the Americans who by the 1826 treaty made them give up their lands. Though many remained in Indiana as citizens, the Miami tribe as a group was relocated during the 1846 "Indian Removal", to Kansas and the Indian Territory in Oklahoma, where they settled.

The natives called themselves "Mayaamia" (in plural: "Myaamiaki"), it is a word in their language, the Miami-Illinois Algonquian. It meant: "downstream people". Another name for themselves was "Mihtohseeniaki" meaning "the people".

The current population of Miami people is 3,908 (2011).

So they gave their name to the town, which is also the capital of several tribes: the Miami, the Modoc, the Ottawa, the Peoria and the Shawnee.

An entrepreneur by the name W. C. Lykins embarked on a project to establish a town in the area. So he met with the Native Americans (Ottawa and Miami tribes) and together petitioned the U.S. Congress to allow him to lay out a new town. The project was approved and Lykins purchased 588 acres of land from the Ottawa and auctioned the lots in June 1891. The town was incorporated in 1895.

The same veins of lead and zinc mineral found in neighboring Kansas and Missouri also brought wealth to Miami when ore deposits were found in Quapaw, north of Miami.

The population reached 1,527 in 1900 and grew to around 13,000 in the 1960s, and has remained fairly stable since then.

Ottawa County was created in 1907, when Oklahoma became a state. Its origin was the Cherokee Nation. It was named after the Ottawa Tribe of Indians, and has been home to more Indian tribes than any other county in the U.S. There is a strong Native American component in the local population, as it constitutes 17.1% of the people living in the town.

The town grew with the mining revenue and its downtown buildings were built in the early 1900s. Its economy received a boost when, in 1926, Route 66 was created and its course ran through the town as its Main Street.

Mining wealth and increased travel along Route 66 attracted robbers to Miami during the Great Depression:

Bonnie and Clyde

Most Wanted, Bonnie and Clyde, by FBI

Bonnie & Clyde

The early 1930s were a violent period, and the famous criminal couple "Bonnie and Clyde" was active in this area robbing banks in Joplin, Galena, Baxter Springs, Commerce and Miami.

Bonnie Parker met Clyde Champion Barrow in 1930 and after a rampage of four years they were shot to death in an ambush in Louisiana on May 23, 1934.

They even abandoned a car in Miami during the spectacular manhunt that ended with their death. They had been charged of robbery, kidnapping and 13 murders.

Late 1950s: The interstate relegates Route 66 in Miami

Route 66 became crowded and unsafe so Oklahoma built the Turner and the Will Rogers Turnpikes linking Oklahoma City to Joplin, Missouri in 1957, this multi-lane highway bypassed the old segments of Route 66, the Ottawa county section from Afton to Quapaw drew all the interstate traffic, and reduced the inflow of travelers slowing the local economy.

Today Miami is a charming American "small town" with Route 66 running down its classic Main Street nestled by early 1900s buildings and vintage Service Stations, a short drive from the historic "Ribbon Road" and the "Spook Lights". Get Your Kicks in Miami, Gateway to Oklahoma.

Where to Stay

There are several hotels in Miami. Alternatively you can also lodge in the neighboring towns in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma:

Lodging Nearby in Oklahoma
In Kansas and Missouri
Book your Route 66 hotel now
Book your Hotel along Route 66

>> There are two RV campgrounds in Miami.

Weather in Miami

Miami has average annual Highs of 70.2°F (21°C), and the lows of 47.2°F (8.4°C) and its mean annual temperature is 58.8°F (14.9°C).

During summer the temperatures average between 92°F and 56°F (33.3 to 13.3 °C) while in winter the range is 48°F to 24°F (8.9 to -4.4°C).

The average Number of Rain Days per year is 84, most rainy months are March through June (with 8 days of rain per month). Yearly rainfall averages 44 inches (1.118 mm), with most rain falling during May, June and Sept. (over 5 inches each of those months - 125 mm).

Snow falls in Miami, with about 11 inches (28 cm) per year between November and March, maximum snowfall has been 23 in. in one month (58 cm).

Tornado Risk. Miami is in the Oklahoma "Tornado Alley and experiences about 9 Tornado watches every year.

Read more about: Tornadoes on Route66.

Route 66 and Miami Oklahoma
Location of Miami, Oklahoma on Route 66

Getting to Miami

Miami is the first major town in Oklahoma coming from Kansas. It is 15 miles south of the Kansas state line and Baxter Springs, KS. and just south of the town of Commerce.

To the south (US 69 - Route 66) is Afton (15 mi.).

Map of Miami and Route66

in Oklahoma.

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment; Red line: Interstate highways, where they overlap the old alignment.

  Click to See the Western Oklahoma alignment

Remove or restore State shading
 

Google Maps. Terms. Icons.

Route 66 itinerary to Miami

Route 66 logo

Route 66 in Oklahoma

Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across Oklahoma.

Miami, OK: Attractions & Sights

Things to Do and See

Town Attractions

Miami

Coleman Theatre

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

103 N. Main St., Miami, OK.

A lavish Spanish Revival style building, built in 1929 with luxurious decor, to provide entertainment to those traveling along Route 66.

The local millionaire George L. Coleman Sr. conceived the idea and provided the funds to build it. He commissioned the Broller Bros. from Kansas City to design it with grandeur.

The theatre can seat 1,600 people and cost $ 600,000 to build, a small fortune in those days.

Historic Coleman Theatre, Miami

Coleman Theatre
Historic Coleman Theatre, Miami, Oklahoma
by

Its interior has Louis XV decor, including a chandelier, winding mahogany staircases, statues, gold leaf trim, and silk panels.

Its facade has terracotta ornaments, carvings and even bell towers with balconettes. A typical example of Spanish Revival style.

The theatre had a pipe organ (the "Mighty Wurlitzer") and offered the local customers and travelers movies, vaudeville and live music.

It was refurbished and renovated and is open, as a commercial and entertainment center. There are free tours too; visit the website: www.colemantheatre.org.

Miami "Gateway" Portico

211 S Main St., Miami, Okla.

Original Gateway Miami

Original Gateway in Miami, by John Schehrer

In the early 1900s a steel arch greeted visitors entering Miami (by train), as it spanned East Central Avenue (between C and D Streets) next to the railway station. It was the "Gateway". The arch was removed in the 1930s.

As part of the city's project to reinforce its Route 66 roots, a replica of the classic steel structure was planned in 2007. It was built and finally erected by Heck and Wicker Inc. in July 2012, but now on Main Street.

The new steel structure with a triangular top, proclaims to all visitors "The Gateway, Miami, Okla."

Main Street Miami Gateway
Gateway on Main St. in Miami Oklahoma
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

The Dobson Museum

110 A S.W., Miami. www.dobsonmuseum.com

Just one block from Route 66. It displays plenty of items belonging to the local history, from an Indian cultural collection to a mining display.

Miami Downtown Historic District

Main St. and SE A St. at Central Avenue.

This is the Commercial and business district of Miami and comprises 29 buildings along the Main Street and the side streets in the downtown district. They were built between 1902 and 1958.

There are some Art Decó styled buildings. Unfortunately many were demolished in the mid-1960s to create parking space.

Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum

128 South Main, Miami OK. www.route66vintageiron.com

The museum, which opened in 2006, exhibits vintage motorcycles. Visit the Gift shop for Route 66 collectibles.

Miami Marathon Oil Company Service Station

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

331 South Main St., Miami, OK.

A unique 1929 service station on Miami's Main Street.

Historic Miami Marathon Oil Company Service Station

Miami Marathon Oil Service Station
Historic Marathon Oil Service Station, Miami, Oklahoma
by

The service station was built in 1929 by the Transcontinental Oil Co. The company was later acquired by Marathon Oil (which is still in business today) and the service station adopted the new owner's logo.

Marathon oil vintage logo

Old Marathon Oil logo, by Jon R. Roma

The logo depicted the Greek runner who conveyed the news of the victory of Greek forces over the Persian invaders at Marathon. His name was Pheidippides, and he ran all the way from Marathon to Athens (26 miles - 42 km), gave the good news and, according to legend, fell dead on the spot.

Marathon Oil's slogan was "Best in the long run" fitting to its name.

The building has a Neoclassical Revival style. Its canopy and sturdy classic columns resemble a Greek Temple (again, matching its name). The canopy provided shade to motorists and the gabled roof gave it a homey residential look reassuring to motorists, which was favored in the 1930s as it allowed the building to blend in with the surrounding residential area.

Its design and location, on a corner, gave it good exposure to traffic flowing down Main St. in the Route 66 hey-day.

It went out of business but was restored (lacking the gas pumps) and its latest use has been as a beauty salon.

Tours & Itineraries

There are some very interesting landmarks, sights and scenic places close to Miami:

Nearby Route 66 Towns

Visit the nearby towns of Afton (15 miles south) and Commerce (5 miles north), with their typical Route 66 attractions.

Riviera Courts

One mile southwest of Miami, by the curve on U.S. 69A.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Motor Courts

Motor Courts improved on the concept of tourist camps and cabins as they united the lodging units under one roof, with a V or U shaped arrangement. They are predecessors of Motels.

It was built in 1937 on a highly visible location next to the curve of the new alignment of Route 66 just before the bridge over Neosho River that gives access to Miami from the south (the old alignment was to the south of the town, along the "Ribbon Road".

The lodging units were painted white and joined under one roofline, in a single story brick structure, and were separated by garages. It had a "V" shape.

This classic motel owned and operated by Adam Ried and his wife, boasted facilities with "All brick modern 100%, fire proof, automatic steam heat. Tile showers, beauty rest mattresses, cross ventilation and ventilating fans".

The Will Rogers Turnpike opened in 1957 and traffic dwindled. In the late 1950s it changed its name to "Holiday Motel" and gradually faded away until its closure in 1978. Today it lies in disrepair.

Riviera Courts, Miami
Riviera Courts Today, in Miami Oklahoma
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

Lovers' Leap

On the bridge of E 57 Rd., over Spring River, close to Quapaw.

Leave Miami and head north along Route 66, after 10 miles, you will reach the south tip of Quapaw where the road curves left into the town along S. Main St. Don't turn, instead head straight east along E 50 Rd., pass through Lincolnville and take a right on S630 Rd., which will curve to the left and head east as E 57 Rd, crossing Spring River (13.2 miles). At this point, on the west bank of the River, right to the north of the bridge are two rock buffs, known as "Lovers' Leap".

The local legend is that a young Indian warrior fell in love with a girl of the Quapaw tribe, but the maiden's father asked for a large payment for his daughter's hand. The lovers eloped but their escape was quickly discovered and the Chief sent a party to capture them. The couple knew the severe punishment that they would face so they committed suicide by jumping off the rocky cliff which is now known as "Lovers' Leap" or "Devil's Promenade"

Spook Lights

Here the Indian lover's myth blends with another local myth, the "Spook Lights" legend:

A local phenomenon called Spook Lights is said to be caused by the nightly return of the young couple's ghosts to the spot where they died.

Spook Lights, the legend

The Tri-state corner area, where Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma meet is the site of a mysterious phenomenon known under various names: "spook lights", "ghost lights", "Indian lights" and "Hornet lights" (after the town of Hornet, Mo.).

It consists of a strange light appearing, dimming and brightening, jumping about in the air, moving and then disappearing. It is said to date back to the days of the Indians, and many explanations have been offered: marsh gas, plasma, magnetism, ghosts and even the lights of cars on the old Route 66 refracting in the layers of warm air....

A short film, of the "Cars" series by Pixar ⁄ Disney, "Mater and the Ghostlight", was inspired by these mysterious lights...

Getting to Spook Lights

To be done at night, the best time to see the lights (if you are lucky), drive with care.

From the bridge, head east along E57 Rd., it will curve to the southeast, cross I-44 and head east again as E60 Rd. Turn left on S680 until reaching E50 Rd. Take a right and head east again. After 7.9 miles from the bridge you will have reached your destination, just before the Oklahoma - Missouri state Line.

>> Click to read about the Spook Lights on Route 66

The Ribbon Road or Nine-Foot-Section of Route 66

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Between Miami and Afton is a very old segment of Route 66. It predates the creation of the highway as it was completed between 1921 and 1922, over four years before the creation of Route 66. Actually Route66 was aligned along this pre-existing road when it was commissioned in 1926.

The "Ribbon Road" in Miami, OK.

Ribbon Road or 9 foot wide Route 66 in Miami Oklahoma
The 9 foot wide 1920s Route 66 "Ribbon Road", Miami, Oklahoma
by

The original Route 66 was pieced together linking different State highways, and these roads had different surfaces, paving and even widths.

The famous "Sidewalk road" or "Ribbon Road" is a very narrow section of the Mother Road. It was used between 1921 and 1937 when it was replaced by a shorter and, even more important, wider stretch of road (current U.S. 69) between Miami and Afton.

This section has a paved surface that is only 9 feet wide (2.75 m), flanked by two five-foot gravel shoulders.

The road has sharp 90° curves and can still be driven along. It has been resurfaced but is still operational. There is a marker near Narcissa next 140 Rd. and U.S. 69 detailing its history.

Ribbon Road Monument
Ribbon Road monument marker by Narcissa, near Miami Oklahoma
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

>> Click to read about the Route 66: The Ribbon Road

US Highway 66

Historic Route 66 alignment

Learn more about alignment of Historic Route-66 through Oklahoma.

Natural Attractions

National & State Parks

Miami, Oklahoma, has great landscapes and nearby places ideal for outdoor recreation and enjoying nature, there are several areas nearby along the Grand Lake State Park:

Grand Lake State Park

The Grand Lake O' The Cherokees has a surface area of 45,000 acres and boasts 1,300 miles of coastline. The park is known as the "Crappie Capital of the World" and is ideal for swimming, walking and enjoying water activities.

Twin Bridges Area

Located 11.2 miles southwest of Miami (Hwy 137 and U.S.60, Twin Bridges Area: 14801 S Hwy 137. Fairland, OK.

Leave downtown Miami (mile zero) and head west along OK-10, after five miles take a right along OK-137 and drive until you reach U.S. 60 where Spring River joins the Neosho River (11.2 mi.)

It is a great fishing area in a quite country setting. The area has campground, RV park and picnic facilities.

Read more at the official website.

Berenice Area

21mi. South of Miami, at 54101 E Hwy 85 A, 1⁄2 mile east of Berenice, OK.

Leave Miami, (mile zero) head south along Main St., take OK-125 and cross I-40, U.S. 60, and 59, after 20 miles, take a right along OK-85A. The park is 1.6 miles west.

Enjoy the picnic areas, swimming beach, wildlife watch towers, RV park and campground.

Read more at the official website.

Cherokee Area

37 miles south of Miami and 16.5 miles southwest of Vinita.

Leave Miami (mile zero), southbound along U.S. 69 (Route 66), pass through Afton, and follow U.S. 69 - 60 until the intersection with OK-82, turn left and follow it till it meets OK-28 north of Langley. Keep south along Hwy 28 and pass the town, head east into the Park.

It is on the shores of the Grand Lake O' The Cherokees. Good fishing and ideal for water sports. There are picnic areas, campsites and RV sites. There are several areas in the park: Riverside, Grand Cherokee and Grand View.

Read more at the official website.

Sources

Miami Climatology, US Department of Commerce, NOAA, National Weather Service

Image by TheWhitePelican, under its CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Image by Federal Bureau of Investigations Dept. of Justice, Famous Cases & Criminals. Public Domain.

Image by Abe Ezekowitz under its CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Image by Jimmy Emerson, DVM used under its CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0 License.

Image by Jon R. Roma under fair usage.

Miami Marathon Oil Company Service Station, Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary. National Park Service.

Registration Form Riviera Courts - Holiday Motel, National Parks Service, 2003

Oklahoma Historical Society Route 66 Mobile Tour Stop List.

Oklahoma, Miami Nine-Foot Section, National Park Service

Image courtesy of John Schehrer, Ottawa County, Oklahoma, Vintage Photographs from Yesteryear

Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License

Map Icons by Nicolas Mollet under its CC BY SA 3.0 License