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A Living Ghost Town on Route 66

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Avilla is a living ghost town on U.S. 66 in SW Missouri. It has some landmarks from the golden days of Route 66, we describe them below.

Make sure that you visit Avilla MO on your Route 66 Road Trip!

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An almost Ghost Town on Route 66

Vacant, derelict buildings on Route 66 in Avilla MO.

old abandoned stone faced store and a two story wood faced building
The ravages of time, Odd Fellows Lodge on Route 66 in Avilla, Missouri. Click for street View.

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About Avilla Missouri

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 1,122 ft (342 m). Population 125 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Avilla is a small village on Old Route 66 on the eastern edge of Jasper County, in southwestern Missouri.

Formerly the town's bank, Avilla Post Office building was built in 1915

Avilla Post Office, red brick building on a corner
Avilla Post Office building, from 1915 in Avilla, Missouri, click for Street view

History of Avilla

Missouri was peopled over ten thousand years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. These Paleoindians became the hunter gatherer tribes of more recent times. Around 700 BC the Osage people moved into the Ozarks from their homeland on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers evicted by the belligerent Iroquois.

French explorers from Canada claimed the region in 1682 and named it "Louisiana" after their king Louis XIV. Napoleon sold the territory to the U.S. in 1803 and this part of vast Louisiana became the Missouri Territory in 1812 and part of the Union in 1821.

White settlement forced the Osage people to cede their land (the 1808, 1818 and 1825 treaties), moving them to a new Reservation in the Indian Territory (which would later become Oklahoma).

The first settlers arrived in what would become Avilla in the 1830s, and Jasper County was organized in 1841. Avilla's first school was called White Oak School as it was close to the creek of the same name. In 1858 D. S. Holman and A.L. Love platted the township, which they named Avilla. They became Postmaster (the post office opened in 1860) and Justice of Peace respectively.

The name: Avilla

It is said to have been named after Avilla Indiana which in turn was settled between 1836 and 1844 and named so because one of its settlers, Judge Edwin Randall liked the name which came from the Spanish word for village or hamlet: "villa".

During the American Civil War, despite Missouri being a Confederate state, the town's leaders were unionists, and after 1862 it was garrisoned by the Union Army, and did not suffer the ravages of the war. After the war it boomed while the neighboring towns were being rebuilt.

The Ghosts of Avilla

There is a local legend ("Avilla Phantom Bushwhacker") about a Confederate soldier (Rotten Johyn Reb, who was a "Bushwhacker") who remained unburied and the "Death Tree" where his skull was hung. The headless ghost is seeking revenge while he looks for his missing head.

Johnny Reb is the generic name for the Confederate soldier (The Union soldiers called them Reb, short for Rebel and Johnny) so the myth mixes many tales into one.

Avilla was located on a main stage coach line and prospered until the railway bypassed the town in its route from Springfield to Carthage. This stunted growth and the town stagnated.

Then, in the early 1900s, cars took to the roads and trails across the area, which were in terrible condition so the Ozark Trails Association was created in 1913 by W. H. "Coin" Harvey (1851-1936), a teacher and businessman and entrepreneur he believed in good roads and promoting car travel and tourism.

Route 66 was created in 1926 and aligned along the Ozark Trail and those driving along the Mother Road in the 1930s brought relief to the small village during the Depression. Finally, US66 was bypassed by I-44 that had opened in 1958 from Oklahoma City to Joplin and continued east along former US-166, south of Avilla, to Springfield. Despite the new freeway, Route 66 remained in use in Avilla until 1978. advertisement

Where to Lodge in Avilla, Missouri

Find your hotel room and lodging close to Avilla, in neighboring Carthage

> > Book your hotel in neighboring Carthage

More Lodging near Carthage along Route 66

Heading West

Heading East, more hotels

>> Check out the RV campgrounds in nearby Carthage

Weather in Avilla

Route 66: Avilla. Missouri location map

Location of Avilla. on Route 66

Avilla has a wet & subtropical climate with dry and cold winters and very wet summers (the rainy season spans from April to July, with thunderstorms).

Averages rainfall is 46.5 in (1.180 mm) yearly plus some 11.9 in. of snow (30 cm) in winter.

The winter (Jan) average high is 44.9°F (7.2°C) and the average low is below freezing, with 25.0°F (-3.9deg;C). The summer (Jul) average high is 90.6°F (32.6°C) and the average low is 69.° (21.1°).

Tornado risk

Avilla is located within the infamous "Tornado Alley" and Japer County has an average of 6 tornado strikes per year.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.

Map of Route 66 in Avilla, MO

Heading West from Spencer and over the next 30 miles, Route 66 has a clear east-to-west alignment and goes through a series of small villages strung along it: Heatonville, Albatross, Phelps, Rescue, Plew, and Avilla. This straight alignment ends on the eastern side of Carthage.

This is the map of this section.

Route 66 Alignment near Avilla

Visit our pages, with old maps and plenty of information about US 66's alignments.

Route 66 Sights in Avilla

A Vanishing Town

Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Avilla

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse wrote his book "A Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946 and it provides a very good idea of what Route 66 was like during its heyday. Rittenhouse mentions the town as follows.

Avilla (Pop 178) Gas, cafe, stores Rittenhouse (1946)

He added that it was an important agricultural trading and supply center, and that one mile east of the town were two gas stations and the "White Oak Cabins" (could he have been referring to Nichol’ Garage - Hardesty Station & Cabins that are 1.3 mi east of Avilla?

He added that Log City (4 mi. east) and Stone City (3 mi.) were resorts with cabins built of logs and stone, and had filling stations and cafes (we describe these sites in our Plew webpage).

Tour the route 66 landmarks in Avilla

We will begin our tour on the eastern side of the town, coming from Plew. This is the western part of the Ozarks region.

The Ozarks

Route 66 crossess the Missouri Ozarks all the way from St. Louis to Kansas state line.

The Ozarks is a highland region in south-central Missouri, northern Arkansas and northwestern Oklahoma. It covers 47,000 sq. mi. (122.000 km2). The name drives from French "aux Arcs" "aux" meaning "from" or "at", and "Arcs" is an abbreviation of "Arkansas", meaning: "From ⁄ at Arkansas".

The karst limestones of the Springfield Plateau (Joplin to Stafford along US 66) has sinkholes, caves and springs, which are also found in the dolostone rocks of the Salem Plateau north and east of Stafford towards St. Louis.

The countryside has gently rolling hills, and Missouri is known as the "Cave State" with more than 6,000 caves, mostly in the Ozarks.

Drive west from Plew, after 1.7 miles, to your right, just after crossing County Rd. 10 is an old tourist complex on the north side of the highway.

Nichol’ Garage - Hardesty Station & Cabins

Roughly one and a half miles east of Avilla. (Map showing the spot). It has a log cabin, gas station and garage plus a small pumphouse.

Log cabin

The building on the eastern tip of the property is a log cabin. It has a gable roof and faces the highway. It was moved here from another unknown location, and was rented to travellers who needed an overnight room.

Next to it is a small pumphouse with stucco walls.

log cabin with gable roof
Log Cabin on Route 66 at Hardesty's, Avilla. Click for Street view

Hardesty Gas Station

Listed in the 1993 Missouri Route 66 Survey, the property has several buildings. The filling station is a two-room bungalow-style wooden building with a gable roof. It faces the highway, it has a single door entrance flanked by two double-hung windows.

It served as a gas station and also sold beer in the room at the back.

Ms. Mabel Hardesty ran it for some time in the 1930s-40s and then she sold it to Dick Clark. He hung himself here in 1948!

small gable roof house-like gas station
Hardesty's gas station, Avilla. Click for Street view

Nichols' Garage

stone wall garage with gabled roof

Nichol's garage, Avilla. Click for street view

On the western side of the property,this gable roof building dates back to 1930 in stone, it has a single service bay and a small office.

Midway Service & Cafe

Continue west for 1.5 miles, and set upon a low grassy hill half a mile west of White Oak Creek is this old cafe and gas station (to your right).

Another building from the 1930s, it was moved to this location in the 1950s, and Mary Manynard bought it together with her husband in 1953. The complex included a gas station which burned down in the 1970s.

It has a side gabled roof and is built in gold and red stone (in "giraffe style).

stone faced gable roof Midway Cafe seen from Route 66
Midway Service & Cafe, Avilla. Click on image for Street View

Head west and you will reach Avilla. You will notice two old buildings on the north side of the road, to your right.

They are pictured at the top of this page: the stone building was a grocery store (Old French's) and the two-story wood frame one was the "Odd Fellows Lodge".

Odd Fellows Lodge

two story gable roof derelict building

Odd Fellows Lodge, Avilla. Click for street view

The building to the right. It is a wood frame building built in Victorian style around 1885, it was the "Odd Fellows Lodge" meeting hall and the most impressive building on Route 66 in Avilla.

The Odd Fellows Lodge formed its chapter in Avilla at a very early date (ca. 1870s) together with the Freemasons.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) (Odd Fellows for short) is a secret society without any political or sectarian orientation. It was founded by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, USA in 1819 (check their website).

Next to it is the adjacent grocery, a stone building sandwiched between "Bernie's Bar" to the west and Odd Fellows building to the east:

Stone Grocery Store

This stone building has two boarded windows and a door in the middle. It is a commercial structure sharing a common wall with the lodge. The stone rubble facade is randomly laid and it gives the building a strange appearance.

Former Flo's Tavern

What is nowadays Bernie's Bar used to be Flo's Tavern it was run by Thomas W. Melugin (1903 - 1968) and his wife Florida Pratt Melugin (1910 - 1995). They had married (he for a second time) in 1947 and had two children.

Apart from the tavern, they also ran the Hotel next to it (we haven't been able to identify the building).

Brabato's Phillips 66 Site (Gone)

The next block, between Short and Lamar streets is now vacant, but at one time there was a magnificent Phillips 66 service station here built by Tom Brabato in 1930 using local rocks.

Below is a picture of it, taken in 1979 by John Margolies. This is a street view of the same spot nowadays.

stone faced garage and gas station on Route 66
1979 picture, Brabato Station, Avilla. Credits

On the next corner is the City Park and Murals.

City Park and Murals

On the NW corner of Lamar, to your right. It is the small park with a gateway and a pavilion. It faces Route 66. The mural depicts a Route 66 shield in red, white and blue colors (like those of an Interstate shield), sunflowers, a tractor and a car. More murals are painted on the western side of the building.

mural depicting car, tractor, sunflowers, and US66 blue and red colored shield on a one story building

Mural, Avilla. Credits

triangular pediment with words 1915 Post Office written on it

Post Office Pediment, Avilla. Click for St. view

Avilla Post Office: former Bank of Avilla

Turn right at Lamar St. and just ahead to your left is the Historic Post Office, at 205 Greenfield St, Avilla NW corner of Lamar and Greenfield. You can see it pictured further up in the page. Avilla's bank was created in 1914 with a capital of $10,000. The building opened to the public in 1915.
It was the local farmers' and merchants' bank and managed to weather the Great Depression during the 1930s.

On May 18, 1932, the "Irish O'Malley Gang" robbed the bank and kidnaped the cashier, Ivy Russell. He was later released unharmed in Carthage. The gang members were eventually jailed or shot.

In 1944 the local bank merged into the Bank of Carthage and the building remained empty until 1952 when it became the local Post Office's building. Above is a view of its pediment (with the year 1915 inscribed in it) and the two columns that support it.

19th Century Church

Methodist Church building in Avilla

Avilla 1800s (United) Methodist Church, Credits

On the diagonally opposite corner of the same block (go north along Lamar and take a right on Binney St.) is the old Avilla (United) Methodist Church.
It was the first church established in the town and dates back to the 1800s.

Head back to Route 66 and head west, next to the plaza is the old Semmons & Rives building. During the Civil War it was a commercial business run by D. B. Rives and T. J. Stemmons (Street View).

Old 1930s gas station

On the south side of Route 66, to your left, are two oblong box style gas station buildings from the 1930s. The first, built in concrete blocks, has two garage service bays and an office on the eastern side of the building. No pumps or canopy. Apparently vacant; see its picture below.

white concrete block long building with trees around it a 1930s gas station
A 1930s gas station, Avilla. Click for Street view
abandoned garage in the trees

Route 66 garage, Avilla. Click for street view

The other filling station or garage is located next to the first, on the western side of the property. Perhaps it was part of the same property. It is a small cubic-shaped building with a single service bay.

We know that James Daniel Mueller owned and operated the Standard Oil service station in Avilla for 17 years from the late 1950s onwards, it could have been this one.

Drive west from this point, leaving the town behind, after 3.8 miles, to your right, after passing County Rd. 80, is the site of the 1916 Standard Oil Filling Station.

1916 Standard Oil Filling Station Site

Originally a Standard Oil gas station, that is now safely relocated in Red Oak II. Red Oak II is a recreation of a Missouri town with original buildings from the early 1900s. It is located very close to Avilla.

The gas station has a Spanish Colonial Revival style, and is a two-room prefabricated building made with pressed metal. The walls were stamped to look like wood siding and the hip roof simulated tiles.

The roof extends forward as a canopy over the pump island and his supported by two sturdy piers.

It was manufactured by Butler Company of Kansas City in 1916, and was originally located in Carthage on the Ozark Trail, where the now closed Powers Museum stood (western side of I-49 and Route 66). Later it served traffic driving along Route 66.

In the late 1970s or early 1980s it was moved to Avilla, on the NW corner of Route 66 and County Rd. 80 (Map showing the spot).

The sequence below shows it while it was there (in 2007) and the same place later, after the station was taken to Red Oak II (it moved around 2008).

trees and the 1916 gas station

1916 Std. Oil station in 2007, click for street view

trees and no trace of the 1916 gas station

1916 Std. Oil station Gone, click for street view

Below is a picture of the old station nowadays, restored, in its new setting.

restored 1916 gas station

1916 Carthage Std. Oil station. Credits

restored cottage-style Phillips 66 gas station

Avilla's Phillips 66. Credits

Cottage Phillips 66

There was a Phillips 66 cottage style station in Avilla on Route 66 but, we haven't been able to find out exactly where. Like the Standard Oil from Carthage it has also been relocated in Red Oak II, it is pictured above.

Your city tour of Avilla ends here, you can continue your road trip by heading west towards Carthage. advertisement

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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66
Architectural - Historic Survey of Route 66 in Missouri, Maura Johnson. 1993.
Route 66 in Missouri, NPS. 2008

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