About Gray Summit Missouri
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 633 ft (183 m). Population 2,701 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Gray Summit is a village on the Original 1926 to 1932 alignment in northeastern Franklin County, in the central-eastern Missouri. (Map of Gray Summit).
Gardenway Inn sign, Route 66 in Gray Summit Missouri
History of Gray Summit
For a general history of the area (Franklin County) visit our St. Clair History post. German immigrants settled in the area in the 1830s as farmers. When the Missouri Pacific Railroad planned its line from St. Louis to Kansas City it chose the crest of the divide between the Meramec and Missouri Rivers. Knowing this, Daniel Gray built in 1845 a hotel at the highest point along the future line.
At this spot known as Ponit L'Abaddie, the railroad built a siding in 1853. The name Labadie was given to a station 3 mi. west, while the hotel stop was called "Summit". however there already was a town in Missouri with that name so it was changed to "Gray Summit".
The Name: Gray Summit
Daniel Gray opened a hotel in this spot in 1845, at the highest point of the railroad between the state capital and Saint Louis, the "summit", hence "Gray Summit".
At that time it was already the crossroads of the state's oldest highways: the "Wagon Road" and the "State Road to Jefferson City". It grew as a farming community on the main road linking St. Louis with the state capital, Jefferson City (now MO-100 and US-50) and in 1926 the newly US highway 66 and 50 were both aligned through the community. In the early 1950s Route 66 was too congested and, all through Missouri it was moved out of the towns and cities, bypassing them, this also happened to Gray Summit.
Where to Lodge in Gray Summit, Missouri
Accommodation and hotels nearby Gray Summit
>> Book your Hotel in Pacific
More Lodging near Gray Summit along Route 66
More motels and Hotels close to Gray Summit
Hotels, Westwards in Missouri
- 14 miles Saint Clair
- 30 miles Sullivan
- 48 miles Cuba
- 61 miles Saint James
- 71 miles Rolla
- 99 miles St. Robert
- 100 miles Waynesville
- 134 miles Lebanon
- 164 miles Marshfield
- 177 miles Strafford
- 186 miles Springfield MO
- 247 miles Carthage
- 265 miles Joplin
Heading West... Hotels & Motels in Kansas...
- 280 miles Baxter Springs
Further West... Hotels & Motels on Route 66 in Oklahoma...
- 298 miles Miami
Heading East in Missouri, more accommodation
Hotels further East, in Illinois
>> Check out the nearby RV campground in neighboring Villa Ridge
Weather in Gray Summit
Gray Summit has well defined seasons, because it combines wet continental and humid subtropical climates.
So summers are hot and humid while winters are cold. Spring is wet and may have extreme weather (tornados, thunderstorms and even winter storms). Fall is sunny and less humid, with mild weather.
The winter (Jan), the average high is around 39°F (4°C) and the aveage low is a freezing 21.8°F (-5.7°C). The summer (Jul) average high is 88°F (31°C) with an average low of 68°F (20°C). Rainfall averages 43 in. (1.092 mm) yearly and takes place during some 90 days each year. There are around 205 sunny days yearly. Snowfall is around 17.8 in. (45 cm), which falls from November to April.
Gray Summit is located in Missouri's "Tornado Alley" and Franklin County is struck by some 7 tornados every year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Gray Summit
Get to Gray Summit via Old US 66 and then MO-100- Interstate I-44 also links it with St. Clair, Cuba, Rolla and Springfield to the west and with Pacific, Eureka and St. Louis in the east. To the west, US 63 runs through Rolla and US 50 passes by just to the south of the town (with I-44).
Map of Route 66 through Gray Summit Missouri
Static Map showing Route 66 alignment through Gray Summit, Missouri
Display Gray Summit Route 66 Map
Click Map will appear below
Below is the color key for Route 66’s alignment in Gray Summit:
(for the other parts of Missouri, check the color key in the corresponding city's web page)
Orange marks the 1926 to 1932 alignment of Route 66 from St. Louis to Gray Summit.
Pale Blue, west of Gray Summit marks the 1926 - 1953 US 66, and east, it is the 1932 to 1953 Route 66 that bypassed the previous Orange alignment located north of it. It may also mark the current road that you can use to avoid those sections bypassed in 1953 by the Four-Lane Route which now is beneath I-44's roadbed (those sections now covered by the freeway are shown in Black). In Blue are the original parts of Route 66's 1926 roadbed that can still be driven and are not located on the Pale Blue road.
Route 66's alignment in Missouri: the Historic Route 66 through Gray Summit
Route 66 across Missouri
Historic U.S. highway 66, "Route 66" has been designated as an All-American Road and National Scenic Byway in the state of Missouri.
Click on the following link for a Full description of Route 66 across the state of Missouri.
Route 66 Sights in Gray Summit
Landmarks and Places to See
On the original 1926 alignment of US 66
Gray Summit and its Route 66 attractions
The Route 66 attractions in Gray Summit is located on the 1926 to 1932 Route 66 alignment just where it meets the later alignment. It has some Classics: the Trail's End Motel, the Gardenway Motel and the Motel Normandy; The Diamonds Restaurant site, a Railroad tunnel and deep cut plus the Shaw Nature Reserve or Arboretum and Purina Farms.
Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Gray Summit
The WPA travel guide "Missouri, a guide to the "Show Me" state" published in 1941 tells us its history and informs it had 215 residents; it mentions the 540 acre Ralston Purina Co. Experimental farm, one mile away and the Shaw Nature Reserve or Arboretum.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse in his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" published in 1946 wrote: "The village of Gray Summit is off to the right here, and US 66 crosses a deep cut through which a railroad runs. Watch for the tunnel (R[ight])", there was a truck weighing station 1 mi. west.
Sights in Gray Summit
Start your tour along Route 66 in Gray Summit at its eastern tip on the 1932-1965 alignment, here is a classic 1950s motel:
3202 W. Osage St., Gray Summit
Just beyond the western tip of Pacific, to your left, on the south side of the highway is the former Motel Normandy ran by the O'Hanlons. It had several gabled-roof cabines painted white. You can still see them with their green roofs. They closed when US 66 bypassed them in the 60s.
Motel Normandy, Route 66 Gray Summit in an old postcard, www.66postcards.com
Click for larger image
Just ahead, on the "crest" of the hill was the "Crest Restaurant and Cabins" ran by Ed and Dell Moore. They also sold gasoline. Nothing remains of it. Now, to your left is the Trail's End Motel:
Trail’s End motel
3218 W Osage St., Gray Summit, Location map.
On the south side of the road, it faces the road with a long and narrow building. No longer open as a hotel it has a vertical sign with the word "MOTEL" written on it.
Trail’s End Motel, Route 66 in Gray Summit Missouri
It opened in 1945 and was bypassed by I-44 in 1965 at that time the vertical sign was erected to catch the eyes of those driving along the Freeway.
Drive west along the 1932-1950s US 66, the road crosses the Union Pacific Railroad:
Route 66 and UP RR tracks, Location map.
This is the "deep cut through which a railroad runs" pointed out by Rittenhouse in 1946. The cut is still there, and this is its Street View, but the original lost arch (open-Spandrel Arch) bridge built by Gaines Bros. in 1932 has gone: it was replaced in 1994 by a steel bridge.
Old and New alignments Meet
Junction of the Orange and Pale Blue roads in the map above
Just ahead you reach the point where old (1926-1932) and later Alignments of Route 66 meet, on the south side of I-44's exit 253, straight ahead you will see a large Gardenway Sign. The sign (Pictured above at the top of this page) currently says "GARDENWAY - MOTEL" in white letters inside red boxes and has a large red arrow showing the way to the motel. But at one time, there was another text above the motel's; it read "DIAMONDS - RESTAURANT" in black letters in white boxes and beneath. This was the advertisment of the famous Diamonds Resaurant. There is another sign (Street view), to your left, on the south side of Route 66, facing the overpass at the intersection, it reads "Diamond Inn Motel - Gardenway Motel".
Gone - razed Landmark
2875 MO-100 (Historic Route 66)
The signs at "The Diamonds" in Gray Summit now and in the 1970s. A. Whittall
The original Diamonds restaurant, was located about two miles west, in Villa Ridge and was owned by Spencer Groff who built it in 1927. It burned down in 1948 and was rebuilt in a Streamline Moderne style and can still be seen there as the Tri County Truck Stop.
Groff took on a partner in 1935, who in 1938 bought Groff out. He added a motel to the complex with 25 cabins and a pool. However, the 1967 realignment of Route 66 when I-44 was completed made him close his restaurant and move it to this location in Gray Summit.
The image shows what remains of the original building, in the upper part the remains of two signs, below an early 1970's postcard showing those same signs, the one with the word "Texaco" is now empty, but the one with "Sinclair" on it now says "Travelodge". See the Original postcard and the Street View used in the image.
Closed from 1969 to 1972 when it reopened at this better location on the south side of Exit 253, he kept the original sign which he had brought from the old location. The place remained open until the mid 1990s. Then it closed and was later demolished.
Eckelkamp also owned the Gardenway Motel so he added his motel to the "Diamond's" sign. The restaurant called itself the "World's Largest Roadside Restaurant", and boasted it served over 1,000,000 customers a year. It also sold gasoline and had a motel next to it. The motel is still there, now it is the Travelodge Six Flags ⁄ Gray Summit. Across the road is the Visitor Center of the The Shaw Nature Reserve:
The Shaw Nature Reserve
307 Pinetum Loop Rd. Gray Summit
It is a division of the Missouri Botanical Garden, spanning 2,400 acres of natural Ozark Border landscape and has 1.5 miles of Meramec River frontage. It dates back to 1925 it was named after Henry Shaw, founder of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It was established to protect the plant collection from St. Louis 1920's smog. It is a outdoor spot for recreation (13 mi. of hiking trails), research and nature reserve. More information at their website.
The Henry Shaw Gardenway
In 1935, a portion of Route 66 from the St. Louis city limits westwards to the arboretum in Gray Summit was dedicated as the Henry Shaw Gardenway. Not much remains of it. It was a typical beautification program of the 1930s Depression days: it was planted in native flowers and shrubs, with hawthorn, redbud and dogwood trees together with the local hickory, oak and pines. Only the Jensen Point overlook in Pacific and a bus stop shelter which used to be at Allenton and now has been moved to the Shaw Reserve.
Allenton Road bus shelter
Now head west for 0.4 mi. and to your left is the classic Gardenway Motel:
581 Highway 100 East
Gardenway motel neon sign, Gray Summit Route 66,
Cory Willmott, Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Louis Eckelkamp built part of the present motel complex a short distance from his family's home in 1945; the second part was constructed in 1953. It consists of two linear units parallel to Old US 66 one behind the other. It had 41 units. It was built in Georgian Revival Style popular at that time, its name is a reference to the neighboring Henry Shaw Gardenway. He operated it with his wife Martha and when US 66 was bypassed in the 1960s, he added the sign on the hill (mentioned further up)
It has a great neon sign with a red arrow mounded on a stone and glass-brick column.
Though we describe it in Gray Summit, actually due to the town's limits, as it is on the south side of Route 66 it is inside Villa Ridge; however its proximity to Gray Summit's attractions make it fit better in Gray Summit's web page.
Turn around and return to the overpass. There take a left and head north, cross I-44 and head into Gray Summit proper. Here just past the access ramps, to your left, is an empty plot on which once stood the Motel 44, you can see this vintage postcard of the motel.
You are now driving along the 1926-1932 U.S. 66 alignment which is shown in Orange in the map above. At Hwy MM, take a left and visit another local sight:
200 Checkerboard Dr, Gray Summit, Map with Directions.
Just 1.4 mi. west along Hwy MM. If you like dog shows and competitions, this is a place to visit. Farm animals, restaurant and ideal for children. More information at their website.
Turn back and once you reach downtown, take a left along MO-100 and just ahead, by the post office, you will be above the Tunnel mentioned by Rittenhouse:
The Missouri Pacific Railroad followed a steep climb to the "summit" at Gray Summit. So in 1929 the railway decided to reduce the gradient and improve the line so the made a tunnel on this, their busiest line. They also added a second track next to the original one. It is still in use (now the railroad is the Union Pacific Railroad Co.).
The tunnel passes underneath the town, carries two tracks and measures about 1,500 ft. long. There is another tunnel further west, at Labadie.
This is the end of your tour through Gray Summit Missouri.
Tours & Itineraries
Old Route 66 in Gray Summit
Deer and buffalo opened the first trail through the woods into the Ozark highlands thousands of years ago. Later they were used by Illinois and Osage Natives and by the French, Spanish and English explorers. Later, during the 1850s it had become a cart trail linking St. Louis with Springfield. The Federal Government laid a military telegraph line between St. Louis and Fort Smith in Arkansas next to the road which then became known as the "Wire Road" the second road from St. Louis to Jefferson City ran along what is now MO-100 to Gray Summit and then west along what is now US-50.
With automobiles becoming popular in the 1910s, roads had to be improved, they were suitable for carts, but not for cars. The State of Missouri improved those roads and created State Higways (#14 and#100), building bridges and improving them by paving them or placing gravel on the roadbed. Route 66 was aligned along both of these highways in 1926, and was paved between St. Louis and Gray Summit and was being paved west towards St. Clair and Stanton.
From Gray Summit to Villa Ridge
A short 2.7 mile drive along Route 66, this is its Map with Directions.
As you can see in the Map above, we have colored the different segments of the old alignment as follows: the original alignment from 1926 to 1932 from St. Louis to Gray Summit is shown in Orange. The original 1926 - 1950s alignment west of Gray Summit and the 1932 to 1950s alignment east of the town are shown in Pale Blue.
1926 Map of Route 66 from St. James to St. Louis, Missouri, notice that this first map calls it "US 60", instead of US 66 (read more about this: Route 66 was born as US 60). Gray Summit is in the central part of the map.
1950s: Four Lane Freeway
By the early 1940s Route 66 had become congested in this area, heavy traffic made it dangerous so the road was widened; as Rittenhouse mentions in 1946: "From here into St. Louis, US 66 has three or more lanes.". In the early 1950 most of the original road was bypassed by a new four-lane divided dual carriageway highway which replaced the old US 66. And the USGS 1954 and 1962 maps in Pacific show the Highway as a four lane road eastwards into Pacific. US 50 followed what is now MO-100 in those days. In the late 1950s US 66 was also numbered as I-44.
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.
1969 New roadbed
The old four lane US-66 ⁄ I-44 Freeway was improved again in Missouri after 1967, and the old US 66 was upgraded to Interstate standards as attested by the USGS 1963 Map revised in 1969, the four lane divided I-44 carried US-66 and US-50 and bypassed the original road in Gray Summit. 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 Pacific to Gray Summit (east - 1932-67 US 66)
> > See the previous segment Wildwood to Gray Summit (east - 1926-32 US 66)
> > See the next segment Villa Ridge to St. Clair (west 1926 - 67 US 66)