About Meteor City, Arizona
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation 5,034 ft (1.535 m). Population 0 (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) no DST⁄ PDT (UTC-7).
Meteor City is not a city, or even a town or village; it is what remains of a once popular dome shaped Trading Post on the south side of US Route 66 (just west of I-40's Exit 239) in Coconino County in central-eastern Arizona: It is located on the old alignment of Route 66. See a Map of Meteor City.
The Meteor City trading post in the "good old days", see the "longest map" in "good shape" (to the left)
For the early history of Meteor City, please see the History of Winslow.
Towards the late 1800s, the wagon trail that linked Winslow with Flagstaff was surveyed and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, which later became the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (AT&SF). They laid their tracks through the area, just south of what would later become "Meteor City" in 1882. Dennison station was located 3 miles east of Meteor City and Sunshine was 4.5 miles west (the station is 1 mile north of I-40's Exit 233).
The post was just to the south of the Navajo Reservation and the Hopi Reservation.
The Name: Meteor City
The name "meteor" comes from the nearby meteorite impact crater, Barringer Crater, named after Daniel Barringer who suggested its meteoric origin when most believed it to be an extinct volcano).
City, is a rather pompous title because a "city" is an inhabited place of greater size, population, or importance than a town or village, and this city never had more than 2 inhabitants.
Route 66 was aligned through the area in 1926 following the National Old Trails highway. The road was realigned later and in 1938, the Trading post was built. The freeway (I-40) bypassed it in the late 1970s but an exit was built just east of it, giving easy access to the trading post.
Where to Stay
There is no lodging on Route 66 in Meteor City, but you can find hotels nearby in Twin Arrows and Winslow
Lodging Near Meteor City along Route 66
Heading East.... In Arizona
- 15 miles. Motels and Hotels in Winslow.
- 49 miles. Motels and Hotels in Holbrook.
- 96 miles. Motels and Hotels in Chambers.
East... In New Mexico
- 21 miles. Motels and Hotels in Twin Arrows.
- 44 miles. Motels and Hotels in Flagstaff.
- 55 miles. Motels and Hotels in Bellemont.
- 86 miles. Motels and Hotels in Williams.
- 93 miles. Motels and Hotels in Ash Fork.
- 120 miles. Motels and Hotels in Seligman.
- 157 miles. Motels and Hotels in Peach Springs.
- 190 miles. Motels and Hotels in Kingman.
>> There is a RV campground in Winslow and Barringer Crater
Weather in Meteor City
Weather widget for Winslow, the town nearest Meteor City
The climate of Meteor City is dry, temperate and arid. Relative air humidity is low and this leads to wide variations beween night and day temperatures all through the year, causing hot dry summer days but cool summer nights and cold winter ones.
During summer (Jul), the average high temperature is around 94.5°F (34.7°C) and the average low is 61.9 °F (16.6°C). In winter the average high (Jan) is 49.5°F (9.7°C) and the average low is about 20.8°F (-6.2°C), well below freezing pont.
As expected for an arid area, rainfall is scarce: 6.99 inches (178 mm) yearly and about half of it falls from July to September (3.1 in. - 79 mm). Snowfall is also light, with only 6.4 inches (16.3 cm) per year, between Oct. and April.
It is sunny in Meteor City, only 53 days per year are days with precipitation.
There is almost zero tornado risk in Meteor City: Coconino County has no Tornado watches. The area west of the Rocky Mountains has virtually no tornado events at all.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Meteor City
Map of Route 66 through Meteor City Arizona
Display Meteor City Route 66 Map
Click Map will appear below
The map above shows US 66 alignment through Meteor City, the color key For Meteor City only is the following:
(for the other parts of the map, check the color key of the map of the corresponding city)
Pale Blue: The Route 66 alignment that can still be driven
Route 66's alignment in Arizona: the Historic Route 66 through Meteor City
Route 66 across Arizona
Historic U.S. highway 66, "Route 66" has been designated as an All-American Road and National Scenic Byway in the state of Arizona.
Click on the following link for a Full description of Route 66 across the state of Arizona.
Sights and Attractions in Meteor City
What to Do, Places to See
Meteor City, Arizona, its Landmarks
Sights that are slowly fading away...
A dilapidated Trading Post...
Meteor City is not a city, it was a Trading Post on Route 66 with the "World's longest map of Route 66", and some concrete wigwams. Now it is in ruins.
Historic context, the classic Route 66
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse published his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946; the book describes the Mother Road and the roadside attractions; it is interesting to read his comments about US 66 west of Winslow.
He mentions Leupp Corner with its Trading Post and Navajo hogans (huts) close to it. He points out that 4 miles west of Leupp was another "town" named Dennison, which was really a railway siding with no gas, motels or services for the tourists.
Three miles west was Meteor City with only one building which covered the needs of travellers: gas, food, curios. Rittenhouse mentions a curious fact; the sign next to the post said "Population 2"; for many years it had announced "Population 1", the jump in the population was due to the recent married of the original "resident". Below we have more in this.
To the west of Meteor City, route 66 winded along the hills and reached Meteor Crater Observatory; this castle-like observatory which in now in ruins, in those days was quite an attraction.
One mile to the west, Rittenhouse mentions Rimmy Jim's Service Station which had cabins, lunchroom and gasoline.
The Meteor City Trading Post
The original "Meteor City Indian Trading Post" got its name from the nearby Meteor Crater, 22 mi. by road, to the southwest.
In 1938, after the terrible years of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, things began to improve slightly and on Route 66's twelfth anniversary, Joseph Sharber opened a Texaco service station on the midpoint between Winslow and the Meteor Crater.
In 1941 Jack Newsum took over and opened a curio shop which sold Navajo Rugs, Indian Jewelry and petrified wood. When he married in 1946, both he and his wife, Gloria ran the business.
Jack died in 1960. The post is said to have burned down shortly after his death but as this 1970s postcard shows, the post was still standing in the late 1970s.
It is likely that the post burned down in 1979, which is when the first geodesic dome was built. A second fire in 1990 gutted the building so a new dome was built. Dan and Judi Kempton ran the place from then until 2001 when it passed to Richard and Emelia Benton.
Meteor City appeared in the 1984 film "Starman", with Jeff Bridges.
The 1984 movie "Starman" was directed by John Carpenter, produced by Larry J. Franco and Michael Douglas on a screenplay by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon.
Jeff Bridges played the part of an alien (Starman) who visited Earth after intercepting the gold disk carried by the spacecraft Voyager 2, launched in 1977. The disk carried a messag of peace and showed where Earth was located.
The alien's craft is shot down by the US Air Force and Bridges crashes in Wisconsin, befriends a local widow (played by Karen Allen) and contacts his people who arrange to pick him up at the Barringer Crater in Arizona.
The movie is about the relationship between alien man (in a cloned human body) and human woman as they try to get to Arizona despite the U.S. forces sent to intercept them.
Bridges was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role. A TV series spun off the movie (1986).
Meteor City's claim to fame...
Closed and abandoned, the place has fallen into disrepair and has been looted by bypassers; the glass on windows and doors is broken, the furniture and cabinets have been ransackled and plundered.
The trading post however has some interesting features which are (or were) worth seeing:
- The Longest map in the world of Route 66
- The "Dream Catcher"
- The dome shaped building
- The wigwams
World's longest Route 66 map
Gone, it has collapsed.
On the southeastern side of the dome once stood an L-shaped wall that sported the "World's longest Route 66 map". It is now in very bad shape as you can see in the following image:
The "Worlds Longest Map of U.S. Route 66" in Sept. 2011 and as it stands (or lies in rubble) in April 2015.
It was painted by Robert "Bob" Waldmire (1945 - 2009), an American cartographer and artist devoted to Route 66.
Ot was 100 feet long (30.5 m), so it was not the "longest" Route 66 map.
The mural had gradually fallen into disrepair and it was repainted by volunteers enrolled in the Hampton Hotels "Save-A-Landmark" campaign on October 23, 2002; they also restored and repainted the wigwams.
The honor of displaying the Worlds longest Route 66 map goes to the 1939 El Trovatore Motel, on Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona.
The Map is a mural that is 206 feet long (62.8 m) and covers the front of the entire motel. It was painted by local artist Dan Louden. See its Street View.
The "Largest" dreamcatcher
A dreamcatcher is a circular frame decorated along its rim with a net or web strung across its interior. Its purpose is to help you sleep in peace by hanging it next to your bed. The web snares nightmares and lets you sleep quietly.
There is a slightly damaged dreamcatcher, which allegedly is the largest in the world, located just to the northeast of the dome, between old Route 66 and the freeway.
However, Guinness proclaims as the largest dreamcatcher, one located in London, England. It is 9 ft. 10 in. in diameter (3 m).
The dome shaped building
the dome is peculiar because it has a crest running along its upper part. This is quite unusual in geodesic domes.
It is a building with a shell structure shaped like a sphere or partial-sphere. The shell is based on a network of great circles (called geodesics) that intersect forming triangles on the surface of a sphere.
In practice, to simplify construction, the triangles all have the same size. They provide rigidity and are light and stable.
The first geodesic dome was designed by Walther Bauersfeld in Germany in 1926 to house a planetarium. In the U.S., R. Buckminster Fuller named the dome "geodesic", studied it from a mathematical point of view and patented it in 1954.
The crested dome
But why does it have a crest? There is a local Navajo masked dancer (Kachina) which wears a helmet-shaped mask with feathers along its centerline marking a crest. Perhaps this inspired the crest on the dome. (See an image of a crested mask).
The movie "Cars" and its Dome
Disney Pixar's animated film "Cars" (2006) included a building in Cars Land that is strikingly similar to both Lupton and Meteor Crater domes; it is Fillmore's Taste-In drink stand. It even has a wheel-shaped "dream catcher" on the gateway. (See a photo of it).
The dome's decoration
The building's color theme has changed as time passes. The original "crest" had the name "METEOR CRATER" painted on it and a comet-like meteor blazing across the western side of the dome. Three Pueblo corn dancers were painted above the western windows.
Then, after 2003, the crest was painted with three concentric bands (turquoise innermost, then yellow followed by red), which are identical to those displayed on the Navajo Nation Flag. They represent the rainbow which is a symbol of the Navajo Nation itself. A yellow lightining bolt was painted on both east and western sides of the dome under the words "METEOR CITY". The eastern part had an Indian wearing a full plumed sioux headdress between both windows, the western face had a black Navajo thunderbird.
But by 2007 the dome had been whitewashed and only in July 2008 did the current decorations appear: it now sports a black crenellated shape on a yellow crest. A Kokopelli was painted above the eastern windows and a thunderbird motif under him.
He is an ancient god found in rock art; Kokopelli played the flute ending winter and announcing the coming of spring.
The western side had a big round symbol in blue and red, resembling a face; it is "Tawa", a representation of the Sun. Under it are other paintings: petrified trunks and feathers around the windows.
There are 3 wigwams to the west and 2 to the east. You can see some of them in the following image.
The Meteor City in 2011, still alive and kicking
They also sport the image of Kokopelli. What is interesting is that the Arizona natives never lived in wigwams, they were used as a Route 66 marketing gimmick to lure in city slickers.
Wigwam, Tepee and Hogan
A wigwam is a native shelter made from a pole structure covered with bark. It is usually used as a synonym for tipi or teepee, but they are not the same.
A teepee is a conical tent used by the natives of the Great Plains. It is made with animal hides set upon wooden poles. They have smoke flaps a the tip of the cone. The word "tipi" means "dwelling" in Lakota language (Thípi) and the word "wigwam", derives from the Algonquian "wikewam", with the same meaning.
The local Navajo natives did not use wigwams. They lived in houses called "hogan": a round or polygonal shaped building with timber or stone walls packed with earth, a door facing east and a bark roof.
The "smallest town on Route 66"
As reported by Rittenhouse, there was a sign next to the trading post announcing a population of one, which changed to "Two" when the owner got married in 1946. This was published in many U.S. newspapers as a curious piece of news as reported in the Spokane Daily Chronicle:
CITY'S POPULATION GROWTH TERRIFIC. FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Feb. 2 1946 (AP). For several years a sign about 30miles east of Flagstaff has read: "Meteor City, Population One." But that's improved now by 100 per cent. Lonesome Jack Newsome, the sole resident, married Goldie Moman of Andalusia, Ala., last week. The sign now reads: "Meteor City, Population Two."
Comments Jack: "We have left room on the sign for further changes - maybe we'll even get a larger sign".
Sadly, population dwindled to zero.
Tours & Itineraries plus outdoor Fun
Nearby Route 66 Towns
The area around Meteor City
Heading west from Meteor City the road keeps on climbing gradually into the Arizona Plateau, a table-land which will rise all the way to Flagstaff.
To the west you can see the snow capped summits of volcanic San Francisco Peaks around Flagstaff. These are relatively young volcanoes (6-million-years-old) and the highest one is Humphreys Peak which is the highest point in the state of Arizona (12,633 ft - 3.853 m).
The Alignment of Old Route 66 near Meteor City
Leave central Winslow and head West along West 3rd St. (Map: Leaving downtown Winslow), at the junction with Old W Hwy 66 you have two options:
- 1926 road: Head west along the 1926 alignment until it reaches a dead end just south of I-40. (1926 alignment map).
- later road: keep along W 3rd St. to its end, just past Exit 252 of I-40. (Later alignment).
Both options end on the south side of I-40 and their roadbeds further west are under the freeway, but you can meet them further west on the north side of I-40, so head there crossing to the North Frontage Rd. at Exit 252 and head west.
There is a segment 1.3 miles long shown in Map of Route 66 just west of Winslow.
To Leupp Corner
This segment also ends in a dead end, making it necessary to backtrack and get on I-40 at Exit 252 and head west along it until Exit 245, where you can go to the North Frontage Rd. again and head west along Route 66 (AZ-99). This segment passes by Leupp Corner.
1926 - 1935
The road continued further west and heads along the Red Gap Ranch. This segment passes Exit 239 and (this is the 1926 alignment) it ends in a dead end on the east side of the railroad tracks after 8.1 miles. (see a photograph of the dead end here).
This is the Map alignment through Leupp Corner.
Where the dead end is now located, the old road crossed the tracks and headed towards what is now the south of I-40; the road then arches in a wide curve further south and then back again towards I-40, crossing a creek and what is now I-40 at the Westbound Rest Area. You cannot drive this segment, but you can still see the old roadbed in many places south of I-40. See this alignment below:
Meteor City on the Later 1940s - 1969 alignment
The road took another course after it was paved in 1935, at the point where modern I-40s Exit 239 is located, the road veered towards the south, passing in front of Meteor City trading Post and keeping west south of what is now I-40, across Cow Wash, the railway and then heading north into what today is the Rest Stop West, merging with the previous alignment.
This is the Map of the 1940s road through Meteor City; the western part of the road cannot be driven as it is cut by the tracks and I-40.
> > See the previous segment Joseph City to Winslow
> > This segment Winslow to Winona
> > See the next segment Flagstaff to Winona
National and State Parks
To the west, near Flagstaff there more parks: the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument and Slide Rock State Park among others.
February 2, 1946, Spokane Daily Chronicle
Will Croft Barnes, Arizona Place Names, University of Arizona Press, 1988.
Historic Route 66 in Arizona All-American Road, National Scenic Byway, www.fhwa.dot.gov.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.