About Joplin Missouri
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 1,004 ft (306 m). Population 50,150, Metro Area 176,849 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Joplin, also known as "JoMo" is the largest city in Jasper County and also expands into Newton County, in the southwestern corner of Missouri next to Oklahoma and Kansas. (Map of Joplin).
One of the two murals in Joplin Missouri
The history of Joplin
This area has been inhabited for over 10,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age. Around 700 BC, the Osage people moved west from their homeland in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys pushed by the warfaring Iroquois. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers.
The French, coming from Canada, claimed Louisiana (named after their King Louis XIV) in 1682 after Robert de La Salle explored the area. Missouri was part of the Upper Louisiana district. Trappers and explorers named the natives "Osage", a French version of the name that they used to refer to themselves: "Wazhazhe" ("mid waters").
Main Street in Joplin, ca. 1910, Public Domain
After the Seven Years' War (1763) France ceded Upper Louisiana to Spain but recovered it in 1800. Shortly after, in 1803 Napoleon sold the territory to the U.S. government. In 1812 the area became part of the Missouri Territory which was addmitted into the Union as the state of Missouri in 1821.
The Osage were forced to cede their land to the advancing White settlers and the treaties of 1808, 1818 and 1825 whittled off their land in Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas. In return they were relocated to reservation land in the Indian Territory, which later became the state of Oklahoma.
Jasper county was created in 1841, named after Sgt. William Jasper an American Independence War hero. Carthage was named county seat in 1842.
During the Civil War in the early 1860s, Carthage was evacuated and completely destroyed in two battles.
Joplin is founded
Lead and Zinc (known as "Jack" and originator of the town's nickname: "The City that Jack Built") was discovered in the area, and resident John C. Cox platted a town on the eastern side of the valley in 1871. Another town was founded by Patrick Murphy next to it, named Murphysburg. Both merged into Union City, but had to separate due to legal reasons. In 1873 both merged again and incorporated under the name of Joplin.
The name: Joplin
Reverend Harris G. Joplin settled in the area ca. 1840, and his name was given to a spring and creek there. These in turn gave their name to the town.
The surname (also spelled Joblin and Jopling) may be a diminutive of Biblical Job, derive from 10th century French "joppe" or jester, or a barrel maker (jopper) of finally the maker of skirts known as "jupe".
Mineral wealth brought railways in to ship the ore out and the town boomed into a regional center, spanning the "Tri-state district" and becoming the lead and zinc mining capital of the world.
Most Wanted, Bonnie and Clyde. FBI
Route 66 was aligned through the town in 1926 and shortly after the Great Depression hit the economy. At that time Bonnie and Clyde lived in the area.
Mines started closing after World War II. and the town was bypassed by I-44 which opened in 1958 from Oklahoma City to Joplin. Later the freeway headed east along US-166.
Where to Lodge in Joplin Missouri
Lodging in Joplin
> > Book your hotel in Joplin.
More Lodging near Joplin along Route 66
Motels and Hotels close to Joplin
Heading West... Hotels & Motels in Kansas...
- 16 miles Baxter Springs
Further West... Hotels & Motels on Route 66 in Oklahoma...
Heading East in Missouri
>> Check out the RV campground in Joplin
Weather in Joplin
The climate in Joplin is humid and subtropical, with wet summers and dry and cool winters. Most rain falls during the period from April through June, which also has the most severe weather.
Rainfall is around 46.5 in yearly (1.180 mm) and 11.9 in. of snow (30 cm).
The summer (Jul) average high is 90.6°F (32.6°C) and the average low is 69.° (21.1°). During winter (Jan), the average high is 44.9°F (7.2°C) while the average low is below freezing at 25.0°F (-3.9deg;C).
Joplin is located within the infamous "Tornado Alley" and has its share of tornados (like the May 5, 1971 tornado that killed one and injured 50 or the gigantic tornado of 2011).
The Monster EF5 Tornado of 2011
The EF5 force Tornado (they don't get stronger than this) hit the south of Joplin on May 22, 2011. It's track was 0.75 miles wide (1.2 km) and ran for 22.1 miles (35.6 km) it destroyed 18,000 cars, 8,400 homes and 450 businesses killing 161 people.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Joplin
You can reach Joplin along old Route 66 and Interstate 44 that links it with Tulsa and Oklahoma City in the west and with Springfield and St. Louis in the east. U.S. Route 71 (overlapping I-49 here) links the city with Kansas City to the north and Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the south.
Map of Route 66 through Joplin Missouri
Display Joplin Route 66 Map
Click Map will appear below
Below is the color key for Route 66’s alignment in Joplin:
(for the other parts of Missouri, check the color key in the corresponding city's web page)
Green: The 1926 to 1937 alignment from Joplin to Webb City.
Blue the 1937 to 1945 alignment which later became U.S. 66 Alt.
Pale Blue: The 1945 and later alignments of Route 66 through Joplin
Route 66's alignment in Missouri: the Historic Route 66 through Joplin
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 Joplin
Landmarks and Places to See
Joplin and its Route 66 attractions
Joplin has many attractions, such as Service Stations: Former Texaco Service Station, Cosden Service Station and
the 1930s Phillips Service Station. Even Dales Ole 66 Barber shop is an old gas station.
The Historic landmarks include: The Joplin Union Depot railway station, the Fifth and Main Historic District, Murphysburg Residential Historic District, Fox Theatre and Bonnie and Clyde Garage Apartment.
Diners like: The Colonel's Restaurant, Wilder's Steakhouse, Fred and Red's diner and Mr. Swiss.
Few motels survive: The Westport Lodge and the Plaza Motel.
And don't miss the The Route 66 Mural Park, Joplin's The strange "Spook Lights", its Museum Complex and the Kansas state line Gas stations and liquor stores.
Get your Kicks in Joplin
"Route Sixty-six": is an emblematic song that immortalized Route 66 in the minds of several generations as an iconic Road Trip, a journey where the traveler can get his kicks, enjoying and savoring the moment and the freedom of riding the Mother Road. It was written by Bobby Troup in 1946 and since then, it has been a hit evoked by all those who have driven (or dream about driving along) Route 66.
Read More: Get your Kicks on Route 66, full details on the song and its context.
The song mentions Joplin :
Now you go through Saint Looey
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
Words and Music by Bobby Troup, Copyright 1946. London Music.
Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Joplin
In 1946 Jack DeVere Rittenhouse drove along Route 66 collecting information which he included in his book "A Guide Book to Highway 66". It is a great reference for those who want to know what US 66 was like in those days.
Rittenhouse wrote that West of Webb City, Route 66 split and provided two options into Joplin: "... a city route and a suburban route ... both meeting in the edge of the business district". Joplin itself was described as having "radio station... hotels: Connor, Keystone, Yates, Virgina; courts: Koronado, Trail Inn, Golden Glow, Castle, Mack's, Gateway, Star, Tivoli Park, Sunset, Joplin Courts, Joy Vista.... many courts on U.S. 66 at western approach to city."
He also mentioned that as you left the town along Route 66 and passed Schifferdecker Park, there was an "unusually large mineral museum" and that there were large piles of mine tailings "chert" in the area.
Many of the hotels and motels (which he called "courts") have gone. During the 1960s and 70s as business moved to the outskirts, near the freeway, almost 40 acres -16 ha of the downtown area were demolished when the city tried to renew itself. The Keystone and Connor Hotels were razed.
All the old motels have vanished except the Plaza Hotel and the Westport Lodge, however some service stations and the old brick buildings in downtown have survived and are now part of the Historic District.
The route 66 landmarks in Joplin
3.3 mile drive into Joplin. Map with Directions
We will drive into Joplin along the 1926 alignment from north to south, beginning at E. Zora St. and North Rangeline Rd.; and visit our first sight:
Dales Ole 66 Barber
Joplin Historic Landmark
2312 Utica Ave. SE corner with Euclid Ave. Royal Heights, Joplin, on Historic Route 66.
The building dates back ton 1928, it was a service station selling Shamrock, a Phillips Oil brand. The station closed in 1959 and it was bought -sans pumps- in 1962 by Dale Holly.
Dale converted it into his barber shop and and cut hair there until he retired in 2004.
Dale's Ole Barber Shop
Phillips' gas stations were designed to blend in with the local neighborhoods, which were residential and that was the origin of the "cottage" look (there is another similar Phillips Service Station in Joplin on U.S. 66 Alt.)
Continue into town and when you reach the viaduct across Joplin Creek Valley and the railroad, from Broadway to 2nd St. You wil cross the "new" Broadway Viaduct, but when Route 66 was created in 1926, the viaduct linked Broadway with 1st Street, a bit to the north of the present one. To your right, below you is the old abandoned Joplin Union Depot station:
The Joplin Union Depot
Union Depot Station in Joplin from the old US 66 viaduct. Google
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
East of Main St. at A Street, Joplin
Joplin's railroad station, built in 1911 and operational until 1969. It served the Kansas City Southern Railway and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.
Route 66 travellers saw the station from 1st St. Viaduct and later from 3rd St. Viaduct. It has deteriorated and there are plans to restore it. See its Street View.
At the western end of the viaduct, take a right and go north for one block, and on the corner of 1st. is the old Cosden Service Station and the remains of the original 1st Street Viaduct:
Cosden Service Station
1st St. and Virginia Ave. SE corner
The old gas station's sign is strategically located next to the 1st St. Viaduct and is still visible. Cosden Petroleum Corp. was founded in Big Spring Texas in 1929. It was an independent refiner until W.R. Grace purchased it in 1960; in 1963 it leased its gas stations to American Petrofina Inc.
The image below shows the Cosden service station sign (enlarged in the inset) to the right, 1st St. which now ends in a dead end just ahead and, to the left (arrow) the concrete railing of the First Street Viaduct. The old Joplin Union Depot is not in the image, but is further left in the valley beyond the trees.
Remains of 1st St. Viaduct and the old Cosden Service Station in Joplin Missouri
First Street Viaduct
Gone, remains at 1st St. and Virginia Ave.
It was built in 1914 as a two-lane bridge across the valley -overpassing the railroad and Joplin Creek. It carried pedestrians, cars and the streetcar. It also had a stairway leading to the station. It carried the 1926 to 1937 alignment of Route 66.
In 1941 the WPA removed the tram tracks and widened it to 3 lanes. It was demolished in 1983. See a vintage postcard of the viaduct.
North of Joplin on U.S. 66 Alt
Head west along 1st Street for one block and at Main you can turn right, northwards along former U.S. 66 Alternate, to visit two service stations and a motel or take a left southwards into the historic downtown.
Joplin Texaco Gas Station, Google
Former Texaco Service Station
302 N Main St. NW on B St. corner.
Located on the north side of town for inbound traffic, it is a typical Texaco Service Station of the 1940s, with a two door garage and an office. The pumps and canopy are gone.
Continue north along North Main St. (MO-43) for 2.5 miles and, at the intersection with Fountain St., on its SE corner is a classic motel: Westport Lodge.
The Westport Lodge
3999 North Main Street Road, Joplin
This is a restored motor court, that was built around 1946 and consist of 10 independent cabins. It was located on what was Alternate U.S. 66.
The Westport Lodge motor court in Joplin
You can see a 1950s postcard of the motel.
Just ahead, to your left is a 1930s filling station:
Joplin Phillips Gas Station, Google
Phillips Service Station
NW Corner of Fountain and Main St. Joplin
The building is a cottage-style 1930s Phillips Petroleum Filling Station. Next to it (south side) is a large brick garage. See Street View.
Turn around and head back into Joplin.
Downtown Joplin landmarks
The recently renovated center of the city is known as "Sunshine Light District", after the lamps that miners used on their helmets.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
415 S. Main St.
Designed by Larry Lassen in Mission Revival, Spanish Renaissance style, it sat 1,179 spectators and opened in 1930 as the Electric Theatre, it was later bought by Fox Theatres Corp.
It closed in 1974 and is now owned by the Central Assembly Church, it is in very good shape. See Street View.
On the next block is the Historic District:
Fifth and Main Historic District
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
On Main St. and 5th St.
These buildings were witness to those driving along US 66 and US 66 Alt from 1926 until the late 1950s. They are flat-roofed, brick commercial buildings from the early 20th century. See Street View:
- Christman's Department Store 501-505 Main St. (1917), the largest building, six-story brown brick structure. Macy's purchased it in 1954.
- Paramount Bldg. 507 -13 Main St. (1912), with retail stores facing the street and offices on the second floor
- Christman's Annex 504 S. Virginia St. (1903 to 1920), three stories tall was initially a warehouse and later part of the Department Store.
View of Julius Fischer House, Joplin. Google Street View Click image to see
Murphysburg Residential Historic District
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Just west of the Downtown along Sergeant Ave. and Moffet Ave. at 4th St. are the homes built by Joplin's wealthy citizns in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They made fortunes from Joplin's mines and soon others came to build their mansions in the wealthy district.
As an example, take a look at Julius Fischer House (315 South Sergeant) it is the oldest house in Murphysburg, dating back to the 1880s.
Head back to Main Street and visit the Route 66 Mural Park:
The Route 66 Mural Park
619 Main St. and 7th. on the south side of Pearl Brothers building -a hardware store
The park consists of two large tile murals by Paul Whitehill, designed by Chris Auckerman and Jon Whitel. Don't miss the red sports car (See one of the murals above).
Wilders Steakhouse in Joplin Missouri. Google
The corner of Main St. and 7th St. marks the meeting point of Alternate Route 66, the 1926 alignment and the later Route 66 alignment (that heads east). Westwards all three roads combine into the same alignment. You can tour in all three directions:South, West and East. Below we describe the three options:
Go south along Main Street to see two restaurants -one closed, one open- and Bonny and Clyde's hideout.
1216 S. Main St.
Its motto is "Famous for Good Things to Eat & Drink". It opened in 1929 and is housed in a building dating back to 1908. Don't miss its Art Deco style bar and 1930s wooden boths.
Its neon signs are great. Street View.
Fred and Red's diner
Sign at Fred and Red's. Click for street view. Credits
1719 S. Main St.
This restaurant predated Route 66 by 3 years, as it opened in 1923. It moved to its present location in 1943 and closed in 2012.
The building is still there and so is the sign, don't miss it.
Bonnie and Clyde Garage Apartment
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
On West 34th Street just half a block from Oak Ridge Drive, north side of the road.
Bonnie and Clyde Garage Apartment, Google
The early 1930s were violent years: gangsters and bank robbers were very active, and one famous criminal couple, "Bonnie and Clyde", robbed several banks in the Tri-State region between Joplin, Commerce and Miami.
Bonnie Parker met Clyde Champion Barrow in 1930 and after a violent rampage of four years they were shot to death in an ambush in Louisiana on May 23, 1934. They had been charged of robbery, kidnapping and 13 murders.
In 1933, the criminal couple hid in a Garage Apartment in Joplin after several robberies in Missouri and the tri-state area. Their neighbor however was suspicious and alerted the police. The criminals got away after killing McGinnis, a Joplin Detective and Harryman the Newton County Constable.
The site is barely 2.3 miles south of downtown Joplin. Here is the Map showing Exact Location.
Formerly a bed and breakfast housing shortage after the 2011 tornado saw it become a family residence - It is Private property so please no trespassing.
Head back to 7th Street for your next tour, West.
Joplin Trivia: The strange "Spook Lights"
The Tri-state Area including Joplin Missouri, between Baxter Springs, KS, Miami, OK, and Joplin Missouri is a place where strange sightings have been reported. They describe bobbing balls of light that glow with varying intensity and move about, change color and come and go without any seemingly rational explanation for them.
There are several websites that deal with the paranormal and UFOs which provide information about the "Ghost Light" phenomenon. Some magazine articles and even books have been written about them. They are known as Ghost Light, Spook Light and Hornet Lights. Read more about them at our page Spook Lights.
West along US 66
From 7th and Main it is only 5.8 miles to the Kansas state line along Old Route 66 (Map with Directions).
635 W 7th St. Joplin
Mr. Swiss Hamburger Drive-in
To your right is a flaking red roofed A-frame building which is now a used car dealership, but it was formerly a "Mr. Swiss" hamburger drive-in.
Mr. Swiss was opened by L. Doefler in 1964 in Oklahoma City, OK and sold burgers, ice cream and sandwiches. It grew to have almost 200 stores across the US, folding in the 1970s. There is another one on US 66 in Lebanon MO and two more, in Claremore OK and in Oklahoma City, OK.
Just ahead, also to your right is Schifferdecker Park
It was named after a local philanthropist, Charles Schifferdecker. It was a spot where travellers used to stop for a picnic or camp before reaching Kansas. At one time there was an amusement park here (Electric Park). Now it is the home of the Joplin Museum Complex:
Joplin Museum Complex
504 S Schifferdecker Ave. Joplin.
Full information at the Museum's website. The Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum has the full story of lead and zinc mining in Joplin plus a great mineral collection and mining gear.
Gas stations and liquor stores
Continue west and leave the four lane highway at West Old 66 Blvd. here are the "last chance" gas stations on Route 66 before the Kansas state line, the area also had many liquor stores which served the Kansans at a time when Kansas was a "dry" state. The State Lin Mercantile is still standing, and also a Texaco (?) service station to the west of it. Then comes a more modern Hogs & Hot Rods Saloon:
East along Route 66
To your right you will see the other remaining Route 66 motel in Joplin:
2612 East Seventh St. Joplin
The postcard below from ca. 1962 announced: "AAA. On U.S. route 66 & 166 city (business route to turnpike, 3 blocks west of junction 66 & 71). 22 air-conditioned units - room telephones, family and commercial rates - free TV & coffee - tiled baths, tub or shower - free cubed ice. Carpeted - restaurants and shopping center nearby. Phone: Mayfair3-2810 for reservations. Mr. & Mrs. Clarence S. Hill, Sr., owners". The place is still open.
The typical 1960s neon sign with geometric designs as gone and a bland sign replaced it. The entrance canopy has been cut away and the public phone booth on the right has also gone, but the building is clearly recognizeable.
Head east to the intersection of S. Rangeline Rd. with E 7th St. and take a right, to your right is a curious cottage-shaped building:
Former Colonel's Restaurant in Joplin MO. Google
The Colonel's Restaurant
842 S Rangeline Rd
Formerly Colonel's Pancake house, from the 1960s, now closed after opening again in 2013. See it in vintage postcard.
Tours & Itineraries
Old Route 66 in Joplin, Missouri
Now the detailed course of Route 66 from Webb City, through Joplin and onwards to the Kansas state line:
The 1926 to 1937 alignment
This is shown in Black in the Map above.
When Route 66 was created in 1926 it adopted a rather circuitous alignment from Webb City to Joplin: it went south of Webb City along S. Jefferson St Pale Blue and then merged right into S. Madison St. which then became Range Line Rd. and took a sharp 90° turn to the left along Zora and then another 90° left on Florida followed by a 90°right on Utica and then into Royal Heights, using a slanted route along Euclid up to St. Louis where it headed south again. Then it headed right along Broadway crossing Joplin Creek and the railroad along the now gone First Stret Viaduct, reaching Main along 1st Street in Downtown Joplin.
It headed south along Main and took a right along W. 7th St. which it followed all the way westwards until reaching the Kansas State Line.
Why such a winding Alignment?
The meandering and twisting course of Route 66 in its first alignment has a very simple explanation: it followed the rails of the Southwest Missouri Electric Railway, a streetcar (tramway) that linked Carthage, Carterville, Webb City and Joplin with Galena Kansas and Miami in Oklahoma. The company was established in 1893 and transported many passengers until the car began taking over. By the time U.S. 66 was created it had already began using buses instead of streetcars. Shortly after it lifted its tracks and the old railroad bed became the new U.S. 66 highway roadbed and shared with U.S. 71.
This route was replaced by a more direct one with less curves and therefore quicker and safer in 1937. The old route became BR-71 and the old 1st St. Viaduct was replaced by a new one located on 2nd St. and eventually demolished.
The 1937 to 1945 alignment
This is shown in Blue in the Map above.
It is the City Route mentioned by Rittenhouse in 1946. It left Webb City along Broadway, westwards, then met with MO State Hwy. 171 taking a right along it until reaching what is now MO-43 where it turned south into town, the highway becoming North Main St. It then continued along the same original alignment into Kansas. After 1945 it became U.S. 66 Alt.
This was the "Suburban Route" mentioned by Rittenhouse. It left Webb City, southwards along South Jefferson St. curving at 14th St. west for a block and then heading south again along Range Line Rd. all the way to E 7th St. Here it turned right and went west to Main St. where it met the old alignment.
This is shown in Pale Blue in the Map above.
U.S 161 also ran along E 7th St. but continued east at Range Line Rd. It was at this crossing that U.S. 71, coming from the south met Route 66 and went to Webb City.
Route 66 and Interstate I-44
Route 66 and Interstate 44 lived along together for many years (like many U.S. Higwhays do today), From Springfield west, to Halltown, they overlapped and at this point US 66 went northwards to Spencer and west to Carthage along its original alignment (now MO-96) while I-44 turned southwest and then west to Oklahoma. They coexisted until the federal government officially decommissioned Route 66 in 1985.
> > See the previous segment Carterville to Webb City (east)
> > See the next segment Galena to Baxter Springs Kansas (west)
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.