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Sunset Hills

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Sunset Hills, Missouri

Site of Sylvan Beach

Sunset Hills where Bypass 66 and City 66 met at a Cloverleaf and site of the Sylvan Beach resort which now is the Emmenegger Nature Park next to the US 66 bridge across the Meramec River. See the former Holiday Inn South motel and Laumeier Sculpture Park.

Sunset Hills, MO

Route 66, the "1926-32" Alignment into St. Louis
< West     Gray Summit ¦ Wildwood ¦ Ballwin ¦ Manchester ¦ Des Peres ¦ Kirkwood ¦ Rock Hill ¦ Brentwood ¦ Maplewood     East >

Bypass Route 66 Around St. Louis
< Southwest     Kirkwood ¦ Ladue ¦ Creve Coeur ¦ Maryland Heights ¦ Bridgeton ¦ Hazelwood     Northeast >

< Head West
Eureka ¦ Times Beach ¦ Fenton

Head East >
Crestwood ¦ Marlborough ¦ St. Louis

 

About Sunset Hills Missouri

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 617 ft (188 m). Population 8,496 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Sunset Hills is a city located on the 1932-1977 Route 66 in St. Louis County, central-eastern Missouri. (Map of Sunset Hills).

1960s postcard of the Holiday Inn South motel in Sunset Hills, Missouri - now it is the Days Inn

1960s postcard of the Holiday Inn South motel in Sunset Hills, Missouri
1960s postcard of the Old Holiday Inn South motel in Sunset Hills, Missouri, by
Click on image for large size view

History of Sunset Hills

Eastern Missouri has been inhabited since the last Ice Age, and in more recent times, Native Americans built conical earth mounds in the region (in neighboring Fenton ca. AD 1050 - 1400). The Europeans who reached the area from Canada in the 1680s, encountered an Algonquin nation that called themselves "Illiniwek" which meant "men" in their language; they were hunter-gatherers who also grew crops of beans,corn and squash.

The French named the Indians "Illinois" and the region was called "Louisiana", after the king of France, Louis XIV. St.Louis was founded by Laclede and Chouteau in 1764 and settlers reached the area of Sunset Hills in the 1770s. France sold Louisiana to the U.S. in 1803; St.Louis incorporated as a municipality in 1809 and, three years later the Territory of Missouri was created. The State of Missouri joined the Union in 1821.

Sunset Hills was a rural area with sparse population living in farms and orchards. The main road, Watson Road was named after Wesley Watson who owned sand and gravel pit used in construction. Route 66 was aligned along it in 1932.

World War II veterans bought their dream houses in suburbia and soon Crestwood grew and became a city in 1949. Sunset Hills also grew, but slower as its farms were subdivided and developed. The neighborhood incorporated as a city in 1957 to avoid being annexed by neighboring Kirkwood.

The Name: Sunset Hills

The rolling hills of the area and its lovely sunsets prompted Mr. Vincent Gilliam to incorporate as "The City of Sunset Hills", motion which was approved.

Hotels and Motels: Sunset Hills, Missouri

Accommodation and hotels near Sunset Hills

>> Book your accommodation in town:
Holiday Inn
Days Inn
Hampton Inn
Sunset Lodge

More Lodging near Sunset Hills along Route 66

More motels and Hotels close to Sunset Hills and Route 66

Hotels, Westwards in Missouri

Heading East in Missouri, more accommodation

Hotels further East, in Illinois

Book your Route 66 hotel now
Book your Hotel along Route 66

>> Check out the RV campground in neighboring Fenton

Weather in Sunset Hills

Route 66 and Sunset Hills, MO
Location of Sunset Hills on the Old 1932-1977 Route 66 in Missouri

Sunset Hills has four well marked seasons. It is located in the area where humid continental climate shifts towards a humid subtropical climate, so summers are hot and humid while winters are cold. It gets cold Arctic air and hot damp tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. Spring is wet and may have extreme weather (tornados, thunderstorms and even winter storms). Fall is sunny and less humid, with mild weather.

The average high in winter (Jan) is a cool 39.9°F (4.4°C) while the average low is a chilly 23.7°F (-4.6°C). The summer (Jul) average high is 89.1°F (31.7°C) and the average low is 71°F (21.7°C).

Rain is on average 41 in. (1.041 mm) with the rainiest months being May through July with over 4.1 in monthly (104 mm). Snow falls between Nov. and Apr., with a total snowfall of 17.8 in. (45 cm). Relative humitiy ranges averages 69.7% and is fairly stable year round.

Tornado risk

Sunset Hills was hit by an EF3 tornado on Dec. 31, 2010 (yes, during winter), it killed one person and struck a four block area around Lindbergh Blvd. The town is located in Missouri's "Tornado Alley" and St. Louis County is struck by some 7 tornados every year.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along U.S. 66.
 

Getting to Sunset Hills

You can reach Sunset Hills along historic Route 66 and also via Interstate I-44. US 50 and US 61 run through the town along the old Bypass 66 alignment. To the east I-270 and I-55.

Map of Route 66 in Sunset Hills

in Missouri.

Orange marks the 1926 to 1932 alignment of Route 66 from St. Louis to Gray Summit, to the north of Sunset Hills.
Pale Blue, west up to Gray Summit, is the 1932 to 1953 Route 66 that bypassed the previous Orange alignment located north of it. To the east, it also marks the 1932 - 1977 Route 66 into St. Louis.
Red shows where you must drive on the Interstate as the old segments of Route 66 are under its roadbed.
Blue shows the original parts of Route 66's 1932 to 1977 roadbed that can still be driven but are not located on the Pale Blue road, they end in dead ends and the Black segments show the orginal but now gone parts of the old road.

See Route 66's alignment in Missouri Map

  Click to See the Western Missouri alignment (Western MO: the road from "Phillipsburg to the Kansas state line")
  Click to See the Central Missouri alignment (Central MO: the road from "Arlington to Phillipsburg")
  Click to See the Route 66 alignments in St. Louis. (All of the alignments taken by Route 66 through St. Louis since 1926)

Remove or restore State shading
 

Google Maps. Terms. Icons.

Alignment of Route 66 in Missouri: Historic U.S. 66 through former Sunset Hills

Route 66 logo

Route 66 across Missouri

U.S. Route 66 in Missouri is a State Historic Scenic Byway in Missouri and this also includes the old alignment in Sunset Hills and in Saint Louis County, however 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 Sunset Hills

Sights and Attractions in Sunset Hills, Missouri

What to Do, Places to See

On the outskirts of St. Louis

Sunset Hills and its Route 66 attractions

Sunset Hills on the 1932-77 alignment of US 66, the City 66 is the site of the once famous Sylvan Beach resort, now the Emmenegger Nature Park. Here was the US 66 bridge at Sylvan Beach. Don't miss the Old Holiday Inn South, the site of Route 66 Cloverleaf and Laumeier Sculpture Park.

Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Sunset Hills

The WPA travel guide "Missouri, a guide to the "Show Me" state" published in 1941 does not mention Sunset Hills, but it does describe Sylvan Beach as "a privately operated amusement and recreational park on the Meramec River, with free picnic grounds, baseball diamonds, and parking facilities (swimming, riding and boating at nominal charge)." it adds that Father Gravier discovered the "River Miaramegoua" in 1700.

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse in his 1946 classic "A Guide Book to Highway 66" makes no reference to the town but does describe the "a 'cloverleaf' intersection on the west side of Saint Louis... 2 miles south of KIRKWOOD.... intersection of City 66 and Bypass 66" as being "about 13 miles from the City Hall in the center of St. Louis", followed two miles away by "SYLVAN BEACH, on the Meramec River, [which] is popular tourist resort."

The Sunset Hills Route 66 Tour

There are very few Route 66 landmarks or classic sights in Sunset Hills. Urban development, the construction of a new exchange at Lindbergh and Watson roads, the building of I-44 and I-270 and their exchange also removed old Route 66 buildings in the area, but you can still see remains of the former sights. This is the Map with directions of your 2.8 mile drive. Start your at Lindbergh and Watson:

Junction of Bypass 66 and City US 66

Former Cloverleaf

Below is the same spot, looking north along US 61; Old Route 66 runs across the overpass, east to west:

detail of a 1940s postcard showing the original Sylvan Beach Bridge

1940s view of the US 66 cloverleaf at Sunset Hill. www.66postcard.com
click on image for larger view

view of the Sylvan Beach Bridge piers

View of former US-66 bypass & city cloverleaf. Google
click on image for street view

As mentioned by Rittenhouse above, here, at the junction of Watson and Lindbergh Blvd. both City and Bypass Route 66 alignments met. They can be seen in the Map above where the Brown Bypass US 66 (click on "St. Louis US 66" button first) meets the Pale Blue City 66 alignment.

There was a bridge here, built in 1931, carrying Watson Road across Lindbergh Blvd. It was a arched concrete rigid-frame bridge and was part of the cloverleaf interchange that linked both highways, Bypass US 66 running along Lindbergh, and City US 66 which the following year ran along Watson. The old bridge was replaced in 1983 by a concrete girder bridge.

Head south to visit the site of the Old Holiday Inn South:

Old Holiday Inn

3660 South Lindbergh Blvd.

It is not strictly a Route 66 Motel because it was built just south of it, however its postcard proclaimed "Intersection 66, 61,50 and By-pass 67 & 50". The old hotel is still operating, but now it is the Days Inn.

You can Book a Room in the Days Inn.

You can see it in this vintage postcard shown above, at the top of this page, and in this present street view, its fabulous neon sign is, regrettably gone.

Head west to visit a local landmark with no Route 66 significance, Laumeier Sculpture Park:

Laumeier Sculpture Park

12580 Rott Rd, St.

An open air museum with outdoor sculptures in a 105-acre park. Visit their website for more information.

Now head north and then west to visit the north banks of the Meramec River, the site of Sylvan Beach:

Sylvan Beach

Route 66 - I-44 and Meramec River

The site along the eastern shore of the Meramec River was very suitable for a resort because the gravel at Sylvan Beach had no dangerous currents so it was ideal for swimming and bathing. Route 66 passed right beside it providing easy access. The land was owned by Frank and Ethel Weimeyer, and Louis Peters leased it from them in 1932, on the brand new Route 66 alignment and bridge. The resort had picnic areas, a restaurant and a swimming pool. Peters and his partners went broke in 1935, hit by the Depression, so the Weimeyer's took over. See this Vintage Postcard of the resort.

In 1936 they added a quarter-mile racetrack with midget racing cars. The four-lane improvements done to Route 66 in 1954 included building a new set of bridges across the Meramec River and it is said that this cut into the land of Sylvan Beach but we are not in agreement with this (more on this below). The restaurant was demolished at that time, but not due to the new freeway. Its sign survived and can be seen at the Route 66 State Park Visitor Center. The former resort is now part of the Emmenegger Nature Park:

Emmenegger Nature Park

Cragwold

This is a Location map, it is in Kirkwood.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

The park spans 93 acres and adjacent Possum Woods Conservation Area has another 15 acres. It used to be part of the Lemp family estate.

The Lemps owned a brewery in St. Louis in the early 1910s and Edwin A. Lemp built "Cragwold" in 1911. It was a large mansion (11,000 sq. ft.) and the park that surrounded it was home to exotic animals and birds.

The estate was purchased by Russell Emmenegger in the 1970s, who donated part of the property to the neighboring city of Kirkwood, who together with the Missouri Department of Conservations, operates the park. Here you can enjoy hardwood trees (oaks, hickory and sugar maple) and elms and sycamores. It has a 1 mi. hiking trail. Read more at the park’s website.

The former US 66 now crosses the Meramec River into Fenton; here once stood the Meramec River Bridge:

US 66 Meramec River Bridge

The original bridge (a Lost Warren deck truss bridge) was built in 1932 by the Wisconsin Bridge & Steel Co. for the new Route 66 Alignment along New Watson Rd. It was a two lane bridge that remained operational for many years. The USGS maps of the area give us an insight into its evolution: The 1940 map shows it as carrying a simple 2 lane highway. The 1954 map has it as a 4 lane highway running along the present westboung lanes of I-44. It was then that the old steel bridge was replaced and a second bridge added. As can be seen in the following images:

detail of a 1940s postcard showing the original Sylvan Beach Bridge

Detail of a 1940s postcard showing the US 66 bridge. www.66postcard.com
click on image for larger view

view of the Sylvan Beach Bridge piers

View of I-44 bridge piers at Meramec River -old US 66 bridge. Google
click on image for street view

Above we see that the original US 66 concrete piers were narrow and these are currently on the north side of the westbound lanes. Another group of piers were built beside the original ones, but were much wider. They carried the second pair of lanes -in those days, eastbound lanes of the 4-lane highway. Another view looking north from the eastbound lanes of I-44 allows us to see the piers on the north bank of the river (Street View, and the old, northern ones are identical to those in the postcard.

The 1962 map shows the 4 lane highway (but not a dual freeway) running across US 61 and east along Watson Rd. to St. Louis city limits. It ran along these two bridges. The 1963 map revised in 1969, has a new freeway (present I-270) named I-244 running between the Meramec and Sunset Hills. US-66 road is now a dual carriageway freeway upto its junction with US-61 at the old Cloverleaf. During this period, as seen in the 1968 and 1974 USGS maps, US 66 and US 50 run together with I-44 across the Meramec River with two separate sets of lanes, using these same two bridges.

Much later and long after Route 66 disappeared were the new eastbound lanes and a new bridge added, south of the old ones. The 1993 USGS map shows this; after that date, the older bridges only carried the westbound lanes.

Your trip ends here.

Tours & Itineraries

Head west to visit Eureka or Route 66 State Park , go east into St. Louis or head north along the old "Bypass 66" into Kirkwood.

Old Route 66 in Sunset Hills

From Sunset Hills to Fenton

Fenton is just across the Meramec River Bridge (the part of Fenton that is crossed by Old Route 66, because downtown Fenton is located south, and is not on US 66).

Route 66 1926

The original 1926 to 1932 alignment of U.S 66 west of ran to the north of Sunset Hills, through Kirkwood along Mancester Rd. and avoided crossing the Meramec River. You can see it shown in Orange in the Map above; from Maplewood in the east to Gray Summit in the west.

1933-1977 Route 66

The highway was aligned to the south along Watson Rd. which was paved in 1932 and a bridge was built at Sylvan Beach to cross the Meramec River. As you can see above, this road is now partly overlaid by I-44 west of S. Geyer Rd. and Watson, this is shown in Red in the Map above. Eastwards, into St. Louis, the original road is shown in Pale Blue; this was the US City 66 alignment.

There were many Route 66 alignments in St. Louis, including the Bypass US 66, that went around the city along its north and western sides and met the City 66 at Sunset Hills. This alignment is shown in Brown in the map above (click on "St. Louis US 66" button first); Both Bypass and City alignments met at a Cloverleaf exchange, called so because of its shape, very popular in the 1940s, but as traffic crosses on the right lane it has its safety issues.

1950s: Four Lane Freeway

By the early 1940s Route 66 was becoming congested and the heavy traffic made it unsafe. The war truck traffic made it even worse. But it was gradually improved: Rittenhouse mentions in 1946 that east of Gray Summit and into St. Louis "US 66 has three or more lanes.".

During this period the US 66 bridge at Sylvan Beach suffered changes.

The state petitioned in 1962 to have the Interstate renamed as I-66 instead of I-44, but this was denied by the AASHTO because the number "66" had already been used elsewhere.

1965 New roadbed

The old four lane US-66 ⁄ I-44 Freeway was improved again in Missouri after 1965, and the old US 66 was upgraded to Interstate standards. By 1972 the whole of Route 66 had been replaced by the Interstate system. In 1974 it was decided that US Hwy 66 between Joplin and Chicago be eliminated, but his was delayed until I-55 in Illinois was completely brought up to Interstate standards. In 1977 the US 66 shields and signs were removed.

> > See the previous segment Crestwood to Sunset Hills (east)

> > See the next segment Fenton to Times Beach (west)

> > See the Bypass 66 segment Sunset Hills to Kirkwood (north)

Sources

The Ramsay Place Names File

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

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.

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