Historic Route 66 in Joplin MO
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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.
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. Looking south from 5th. St. Large image, click image for St. View
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.
Route 66 was aligned through the town in 1926 along its Main Street (images below), and shortly after the Great Depression hit the economy. At that time Bonnie and Clyde lived in the area.
Same spot today, notice the bay window on the second floor of the building to the left.
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.
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.
Where to Lodge in Joplin Missouri
Find your Hotel in Joplin
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Motels and Hotels close to Joplin to choose from.
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Further West. Hotels & Motels on Route 66 in Oklahoma
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>> Check out the RV campground in Joplin
Weather in Joplin
Location of Joplin on Route 66
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 Route 66.
Map of Route 66 in Joplin
The thumbnail map below (click it to enlarge) was published in 1956. Before the interstate was built. It is a Shell Highway Map and it shows Western Missouri. You can follow Route 66 from Springfield to Joplin (to the left).
1956 Roadmap western Missouri. Credits
Click for large size map
The other map (click it to enlarge) shows the different alignments of Route 66 through Joplin. The following color key applies to this map:
Green: The 1926 to 1937 alignment from Joplin to Webb City (Map).
Blue the 1937 to 1945 alignment which later became U.S. 66 Alt. (Map).
Pale Blue: The 1945 and later alignments of Route 66 through Joplin. (Map).
Why did the 1926 alignment have such a winding course?
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.
Route 66 Sights in Joplin
Landmarks and Places to See in "JoMo"
Get your Kicks on Route 66 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 in the following stanza:
"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 ... 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. Rittenhouse (1946)
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.
City Tour of the Rute 66 landmarks in Joplin
We will begin our tour approaching Joplin from Webb City, in an East-to-West tour of town along the 1937-45 alignment.
The North side of Joplin on U.S. 66 Alt
Head west out of Webb City along MO-171, turn left (south) along MO-43, this used to be "U.S. 66 Alternate". After one mile, to your right is a classic gas station.
Phillips Service Station
On the 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, pictured below.
One hundred yards ahead, across Route 66, to your left is the "Westport Motel".
The Westport Lodge
At 3999 North Main Street Road. This is a restored motor court, that was built around 1946 and consist of 10 independent cabins. Below is a "Then and Now" photo sequence.
Welpman's Sinclair station
Head straight southwards into Joplin, drive to W D St. and N. Main St. (2.3 miles), to your right, on the NW corner is an old Sinclair gas station.
The image shows the Sinclair station with its classic large corner columns holding a flat canopy with a Spanish Eclectic style, typical of the 1930-40s Sinclair filling stations. It had two garage bays. At that time it was owned by Gary Welpman, who lived in the gabled house behind the station (still there in both images, see red arrow).
The station has changed, now with a flat roof and a "stepped" design – service wing higher than office, which has a slanting flat roof and small awning.
Former Murr Texaco Service Station
Head straight for two blocks, and to your right, at 302 N Main St. and B St., NW corner, is this Texaco located on the north side of town for inbound traffic, it is a typical Texaco Service Station of the 1940s, with a two bay garage and an office. The pumps and canopy are gone. It is still standing. The place was owned in the 1950s by the Murr brothers (blue arrow in card below).
1950s Murr Bros Card, credits
The Joplin Union Depot
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Continue straight. On the next block, to your left (East of Main St. at A Street) is the now closed "Joplin Depot" (Street View). Off bounds and state property.
Joplin's railroad depot was built in 1911 and remaind operational until 1969. It served the Kansas City Southern Railway and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.
Despite plans to restore it in the 1980s, it has fallen into disrepair.
Route 66 travellers saw the station from 1st St. Viaduct and later from 3rd St. Viaduct as they drove into the city.
Vintage postcard Union Depot, credits
Humble or Magnolia 1925 gas station
Head south and take a left along 2nd St., ahead it becomes E Broadway and crosses the railroad tracks. Head east to visit some attractions along this 1926 - 1937 Route 66 alignment. After the viaduct, to your left at 601 E Broadway stands an old building, constructed in 1925. It had an open hipped roof canopy supported by two massive columns. It was enclosed in 1955, shortly after it became Harper's Barbecue. It was probably a service station (Humble and Magnolia stations had hipped canopies in the 1910-1927 period). Later it became a shop or store.
Dales Ole 66 Barber
Joplin Historic Landmark
Now drive 2 miles: follow Broadway to N. St. Louis Ave, turn left and head north until you meet a diagonally running Euclid Ave to your right. Take it and at its intersection with Utica St., on the SE corner, to your right is this historic gas station (2312 Utica Ave).
The building dates back ton 1928, located on Rittenhouse's "suburban route" through Joplin. In 1938 and 1942, the City directory tell us it was owned by John Gernandt, sold Shamrock gasoline and had a restaurant.
The station closed in 1959 and it was bought -without it pumps- in 1962 by Dale Holly.
Dale converted it into his barber shop and and cut hair there until he retired in 2004.
First Street Viaduct (Gone)
Retrace your steps to Broadway Viaduct across Joplin Creek Valley and the railroad, from Broadway to 2nd St. This is the "new" Broadway Viaduct, but when Route 66 was created in 1926, the two-lane viaduct linked Broadway with 1st Street, a bit to the north of the present one. It was built in 1914 and carried the streetcar, cars and pedestrians. It was widened to 3 lanes in 1941 and demolished in 1983, replaced by the current one.
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 and the streetcar tracks were removed. It was demolished in 1983. See this vintage postcard of the viaduct. We will se its remains on its western tip.
Cosden Service Station
At the western end of the viaduct, take a right and go north for one block. On the corner of 1st St. is the old "Cosden Service Station" and the remains of the original "1st Street Viaduct".
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 place now does state vehicle inspections.
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.
From here you can take a short 1 mile-long detour into a historic district (map).
Side trip into 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 citizens in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They made fortunes from Joplin's mines and soon others came to build their mansions in the upper-class 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 along 4th St. Tour to this point: 10.4 miles. Map to this point. Park and take a stroll along Main Street to visit the historic district and the murals.
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.
Connor Hotel Monument and Joplin Marker
A pink granite marker in front of the Public Library, S Main St. 300. (Street View), It is a memorial to "the grand lady of Joplin", the Connor Hotel that stood here. On the corner of 4th St. is a marker with the history of Joplin.
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 southis 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, red brick commercial buildings from the early 20th century.
On the SE corner (501 Main St.) is Christman's Department Store. (1917), the largest building, six-story brown brick structure. Macy's purchased it in 1954. Adjacent is the Paramount Bldg. at 507 Main St. (1912), with retail stores facing the street and offices on the second floor.
View of both murals. Click for St. View, credits
The Route 66 Mural Park
Walk south and at 619 Main St. and see them murals on the south side of Pearl Brothers building, a hardware store
The Mural Park consists of two large tile murals by Paul Whitehill, designed by Chris Auckerman and Jon Whitel. Don't miss the red sports car, a 1964 Corvette (half the car, as a 3-D addition to the tiles). The murals are named "Cruisin' into Joplin" (upper mural) and "The American Ribbon" (bottom mural).
This ends your Downtown tour.
At the end of the block, the intersection of Main St. and 7th St. marks the meeting point of Alternate Route 66, the 1926 alignment and the later 1945 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. Return to the parking lot and drive on.
South, East and West of Downtown Joplin
This is not a Route 66 alignment, but it takes you to the Bonnie & Clyde hideout in Joplin, a Historic place.
1216 S. Main St. Five blocks south of the Route 66 alignments. Its motto is "Famous for Good Things to Eat & Drink". It opened as a restaurant in 1929 in a building dating back to 1908. Verne Wilder opened his restaurant in 1936 and named it "Wilder’s Restaurant" in 1950 when he also installed the neon sign. Don't miss its Art Deco style bar and 1930s wooden boths.
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. Barely 2.3 miles south of downtown Joplin. Here is the Map with directions.
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, Buck and Blanche Barrow and W. D. Jones 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 cops thought that they were bootleggers but came across deadly criminals. The gang got away after killing Harry McGinnis, a Joplin Detective and J. Harryman the Newton County Constable.
Most Wanted, Bonnie and Clyde. FBI
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.
The sign by the garage tells the story of the site.
Turn around and Head back to 7th Street for your next tour, East.
East along Route 66
The 1945 Route 66, follow it eastwards for 1.5 miles. (Map). To your right you will see the only other remaining Route 66 motel in Joplin.
2612 East Seventh St. Joplin. 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 sandstone wall behind it is still there.
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.
Head east to the intersection of S. Rangeline Rd. with E 7th St. and take a right (map), on the second block, to your right is a curious cottage-shaped building.
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.
Return to Main and 7th St. to head west along US 66 towards Galena, KS.
West along US 66
From 7th and Main it is only 5.8 miles to the Kansas state line along Old Route 66. On the second corner, to your right, along S Wall St., half a block north of Route 66 is a classic garage.
At 520 S Wall St., on the left side of the street you can see this garage that opened in 1922 and offered 24-hour service for cars. It was also a Hupmobile dealership owned by Verne Norton. In the 1930s it became Marold's Motor Co. a used car dealer. Norton's name can be seen in white sandstone over the main entrance.
Texaco Gas Station
Ahead, you will see a former Texaco station, on the SE corner of W 7th St and S Moffet Ave. It is in very good shape, with its distinctive Texaco branding: Flat roof, white porcelain enamel steel panels and three green bands around the building above office and the two service bay doors.
The chimney on the roof and the house on the right side of the 1930s black and white photo below, are still there.
Former gas station (Anderson's)
Across S. Moffat Ave, on the SW corner is another former gas station, brand unknown. Oblong box style with two service bays and a corner office with plate glass windows. The outline of the pumps island can be made out in the concrete paving. It has a Route 66 mural on its eastern facade. Pictured below.
635 W 7th St. Joplin. To your right, half a block west of Anderson's, you will see 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. Pictured above.
Former Sinclair? station
Drive west. On ths SW corner of S. Picher Ave. and W 7th St. is yet another old Route 66 gas station. With an angled corner office and glazed transom over the single entry door, chimney atop the flat roof and a two bay garage, you can make out the former pump island in the concrete paving. The angled corner office was adopted by Sinclair and Gulf around 1940.
Drive west for 1.3 miles, 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. Visit 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. It is a Route 66 Roadside attraction.
Central City (State Line) gas stations and liquor stores
Continue west for 3.2 miles. Route 66 becomes a four lane highway. Where it curves to the SW, is the beginning of the last alignment of Route 66 in this area, built in 1961. The original 1926-61 alignment forks off the four-lane road, and heads west as "West Old 66 Blvd." As you approach Kansas (only 0.5 miles west) you will come across some "last chance" gas stations on Route 66 right beside the Kansas state line. This was a bustling community called "Central City", it also had many liquor stores which served the Kansans at a time when Kansas was a "dry" state.
State Line Mercantile
First of the statline spots. Sold gas and liquor, originally Gray & Archer Filling Station with a hipped canopy roof held up by three poles. The western side of the site has a shed-like wing, which was the old liquor store. Below is a "Then and Now" sequence.
Harry's Phillips Super Station
This oblong box style gas station built with concrete blocks has two bays and a single entry. The pump islands are still there.
It belonged to Charlie Haroldson who ran it for many years. It had the 1940-1950 design used by Phillips 66 before their Rock Frame design of the early 1950s.
Notice the three widely spaced horizontal bands above service bays and office separated by red ridges.
The same building (State Line Bar) appears in both images below, on the left side.
State Line Restaurant
Also known as State Line Bar & Grill. It is a concrete block building with smooth stucco finish. It was "The last stop in Missouri". It had a glass block storefront with large windows, but these were removed when it became a bar.
State Line when it was a restaurant, credits
This ends your tour of Joplin, Missouri. Cross the state line and head west to Galena in Kansas.
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.
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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
Architectural - Historic Survey of Route 66 in Missouri, Maura Johnson. 1993.