Route 66 in Villa Ridge
Index to this page
- About Villa Ridge
- Hotels close to Villa Ridge
- Map of US 66
- What to see and do in Villa Ridge
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About Villa Ridge Missouri
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 659 ft (201 m). Population 2,636 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Villa Ridge is an unincorporated community on Old Route 66 in Franklin County, in the central-eastern Missouri.
History of Villa Ridge
For a general history of the area (Franklin County) visit our St. Clair History post.
The station and siding on the Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad were built in the early 1880s, just 5 mi. south of the Missouri River and 8 mi. east of the county seat in Union. The first post office opened in 1889 and was named after its hilly geographic setting.
The Name: Villa Ridge
Named after the ridge that marks the divide between the Meramec and Missouri rivers watershed with the word "Villa" for "village or town".
It was located 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 Villa Ridge.
Where to Lodge in Villa Ridge, Missouri
Find accommodation and hotels in Villa Ridge:
> > Book your Hotel in Villa Ridge
More Lodging close to Villa Ridge along Route 66
You can find more hotels and motels in other towns on Route 66 near Villa Ridge. Click on any of the following links to check out the accommodation options in each town.
Hotels to the west in MO, KS and OK
- 11 mi. Saint Clair
- 27 mi. Sullivan
- 45 mi Cuba
- 58 mi. Saint James
- 68 mi. Rolla
- 95 mi. St. Robert
- 97 mi. Waynesville
- 129 mi. Lebanon
- 160 mi. Marshfield
- 173 mi. Strafford
- 189 mi. Springfield
- 258 mi. Carthage
- 270 mi. Joplin
- 282 mi. Baxter Springs
- 296 mi. Miami
- 311 mi. Afton
- 325 mi. Vinita
- 360 mi. Claremore
- 383 mi. Catoosa
- 386 mi. Tulsa
Accommodation to the east in Missouri
Hotels further East, in Illinois
- 41 mi. East St. Louis
- 47 mi. Granite City
- 49 mi. Pontoon Beach
- 57 mi. Glen Carbon
- 62 mi. Troy
- 67 mi. Edwardsville
- 77 mi. Hamel
- 84 mi. Williamson
- 89 mi. Staunton
- 100 mi. Litchfield
- 113 mi. Raymond
- 141 mi. Springfield IL
- 177 mi. Lincoln
- 189 mi. Atlanta
- 211 mi. Bloomington
- 223 mi. Normal
- 236 mi. Chenoa
- 247 mi. Pontiac
- 304 mi. Joliet
- 344 mi. Chicago
Find your room in Villa Ridge
>> Check out the RV campground in Villa Ridge
Weather in Villa Ridge
Location of Villa Ridge on U.S. Hwy. 66
Villa Ridge has clearly marked seasons, and it combines wet continental and humid subtropical climates.
Its summers are hot and damp and its winters are cold. Spring is quite wet and can surprise you with extreme weather (tornados, thunderstorms and even winter storms). Fall is milder, sunny and less humid. The winter (Jan), the average high is around 39°F (4°C) and the average 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 is around 43 in. (1.092 mm) yearly. There are around 205 sunny days each year and snowfall is on average 17.8 in. (45 cm), which falls between November and April.
Villa Ridge 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.
Map of Route 66 in Villa Ridge
1924 map close to Villa Ridge. Credits.
Click image to enlarge
In the 1840s the "State Road to Jefferson City" was built along the route now used by MO-100 and US-50 highwayd; it linked St. Louis with the state capital in Jefferson City; a stagecoach ran along it.
A second highway was the "Springfield Road" that would become part of Route 66. The roads were improved and the State of Missouri created State Higways (#14 and #100).
The thumbnail (click on it to enlarge) shows the "Auto Trails" in this area in 1924. These trails were roads that cars could drive along relatively safely in the days when mud, pot holes and river fords complicated driving.
The trails had names. The one followed by Roue 66 in 1926 was marked "50" (Ozark Trails) running from St. Louis through Gray Summit and St. Clair. The later (1930s) Route 66 would go through Pacific and Eureka, which can be seen on an unmarked trail. Notice how the main road went through Union, the county seat. Highway "9" was the "Capital Highway"
When it was created in 1926, Route 66 was first named Route 60 even thouth it wasn't a transcontinental highway (which were numbered as multiples of 10). But this numbering was disputed and a compromise was reached; it ended up as U.S. highway 66. Below is a 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 (click map to see original pdf)
At that time the highway was paved to Gray Summit, but under contract for paving between that town and Stanton.
This is the map of Route 66 in Villa Ridge. There is a missing segment after the Twin Bridges: the original Route 66 is now obliterated by the exchange between I-44 and US 50. But you can see it in this "missing segments map", marked with a blue line.
Route 66 Sights and Stops in Villa Ridge
Landmarks and Places to See on your Road Trip
Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Villa Ridge
The WPA travel guide "Missouri, a guide to the "Show Me" state" published in 1941 does not mention it by name, but does describe the region, and tells us that US 66 and US 50 unite for 6.5 miles at Gray Summit, passing the Missouri Botanical Garden, and that 1.9 miles west of it:
...junction with State 100. West of the junction the highway rides a curving ridge that descends into the Bourbeuse River Valley. Approaching the river, the highway divides into one-way lanes and crosses the river on twin steel and concrete bridges WPA Guide (1941)
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse in his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" published in 1946 does not mention it either. He describes Gray Summit, followed by a Truck Weighing Station and then states that "US 66 crosses the Bourbeuse River here on a double bridge. From here into St. Louis, US 66 has three or more lanes."
Roadside Attractions on Route 66 in Villa Ridge
Start your tour along Route 66 in Villa Ridge at the eastern end on the boundary with Gray Summit on old Route 66 (Higway AT), head west. Just north of the interchange between Hwy 100 and I-44 at Exit 251 is an Old Gas station:
To your right at 3302 MO-100, the spot is mentioned in the 1993 Survey of Route 66 now it is store and a gas station. It was build in 1946 as a long and narrow building with sheet metal walls. It is a Quonset prefabricated building, typical of that time. The front part was added in 1952. Below is a Then and Now view:
Wayside Market 1950s, Villa Ridge. Credits
Head west, MO-100 takes a right here, but keep straight and go west along US 66 for 0.4 mi. to visit the the old cafe and restaurant at the "Y" formed by Old Hwy 100 and Historic Route 66.
The First "Diamonds"
At Old Hwy 100 and Hwy AT, Villa Ridge. Map with location.
This Streamline Moderne building pictured above (at the top of this page) is better known as the Tri County Truck Stop, but few know that it was the original location of the famous Diamonds restaurant.
Spencer Groff started off selling plumbs to passing motorists from his family's farm in Gray Summit in the early 1920s. Cash strapped, he expanded his business to
a non-seasonal one, by selling meals and sodas. He kept it open 24 ⁄ 7.
In 1927 he built a diamond-shaped building (hence its name) due to the odd shape of the plot of land where it was located: on the junction of Old Highway 100 and the recently created US 66 & US 50. It called itself "the old reliable eating place." Over 70 buses stopped here on weekdays and 90 on the weekends.
It appeared in the 1947 USGS map as a landmark but, one year later, the original building burned down so Groff and his business partner Louis Eckelkamp rebuilt it. This second building had a modernistic curved Streamline Moderne style; below is a "Then and Now" view of the building:
The complex also had 25 cabins and a pool which were located on the now vacant plot of land on the North side of MO-100, they later became the Mission Bell Motel (which appear in the 1969 USGS map). They were later torn down. The restaurant boasted that it served "over 1,000,000 customers a year."
The Diamond moves
1993 view Tri County Truck Stop, Villa Ridge. Credits
The 1967 realignment of Route 66 ⁄ I-44 bypassed the location (although it could still be reached from Exit 251). It closed from 1969 to 1972 and then moved to a better location on the south side of Exit 253 in neighboring Gray Summit (Read more about The Diamonds new location in our Gray Summit page).
They kept the original sign that they brought from their old location. The place remained open until the mid 1990s. It closed and was later demolished.
Eckelkamp also owned the Gardenway Motel in Gay Summit, so he added his motel to the sign. It called itself the "World's Largest Roadside Restaurant."
Tri County Truck Stop
Their former and original location remained vacant until it was bought by the Reeds, Arla and Susan in 1971. They moved there from their previous truck stop which they also had to close when I-44 bypassed it (it was 20 mi. west of Sullivan). They opened the The Tri County Truck Stop and Restaurant. It also closed and the building is now vacant.
Head west along Old Route 66 for 1 mile and, to your right is the old motel. The Lovelace family opened it in 1947; it was bought by Oliver and Loleta Krueger in 1971, it is still in the family but now as weekly rentals. The motel has 12 units with a "V-shaped" single story layout, brick walls and gabled roof; it advertised itself in the 50s as: "12 Units - 12 Baths - Panel Ray Heat - Beautyrest Mattresses - Air-Conditioned - Quiet".
Sunset Motel Neon Sign
Sunset Motel, Villa Ridge neon sign, Credits
Route 66 neon sign
Its neon sign (see picture) was restored in 2009 but is flaking and fading again. Don't miss it: it has a distinct red arrow showing the "Entrance" and the classic "Vacancy" sign. The setting sun on a sea completes the sign with the motel's name on it.
Head west. There is a building just ahead, opposite the local church, to your right, it appears in the 1945 aerial photograph of the area, and probably was a garage or cafe (street view).
More sights along Route 66
Head west for 0.2 mi. and on the SW corner of Route 66 and the aptly named American Inn Rd., to your left, is the old "American Inn".
The distinctive feature of this two story building is the "cupola" that crowns its hipped roof (red arrow in the images below).
It opened in 1931 and was a restaurant and gas station. It belonged to Ms. Wengler. The gas station was the building with the cupola, to the right was a two story log cabin that housed the restaurant on the ground floor. The owners lived on the upper floor.
It closed in the 1970s and since then has been a child care center and a computer store. The building is still standing.
Drive west for 1.5 -mi, and to your left at 1128 AT Hwy is an old campsite.
Stropman's Camp - Villa Courts
According to the 1993 US66 Survey, it was also known as Guffey's Villa Ridge Store, a neighbor, William Key informed that it was the site of Stropman's campground. It is Located between Pin Oak Creek that runs paralel to Route 66, at the back of the property and the Highway. There are two cabins one behind, the other to the right of the store. The original building (postcard depicts it as "Villa Courts"), had a Conoco gas station and a gable roof facing the highway you can see the same cabins in both images (red arrow). The station had meals (postcard states "U-KAN EAT Here"). It was two miles west of Diamonds, the local reference point.
1930s postcard Stropman's - Villa Courts. Credits
Zephyr Service Station and Andy's Cafe
Head west, pass the Sleepy Hollow RV Park, and to your left is an old gas station. at 1238 Highway AT, Villa Ridge
The abandoned building is on the south side of the road. It has two sections, the western tip seems to have been a Quonset hut -a prefabricated semicircular building of corrugated galvanized developed during WW II. The eastern section has a flat roof.
The first building here was Dick Davis station and a cafe that burned down in 1943. Later it became the Zephyr station. Zephyr was the brand of J.D. Streett Co. from Maryland Heights Missouri. They produced lubricants in the 1920s and gasoline after 1939. It had 500 stations during its peak,
On July 4, 1958 a fire destroyed the site (and the adjacent Andy's Restaurant), its owner Andrew Gullet reopened the next day using an old bus as a temporary building.
Passing the Pin Oak RV Resort, the railroad approaches the highway, and just before the junction at Hilltop Rd., to your right is the site of the former "Hilltop Service Station and Grill", it had "Modern Rest Rooms", and offered "Good Food, Delicious Beverages" and gas; it was ran by Max Pracht and his wife Laverta.
Standard Cafe site (gone)
Across from Gullet's Zephyr was the Standard Cafe and station, long gone, all that remains are the concrete foundations and a pump island. See images for a Then and Now sequence.
Vintage 1958 picture Standard Cafe, Villa Ridge. Credits
After passing the Pin Oak RV Resort (left), Hilltop Cafe and Service Station is located to your right, just before the junction of Route 66 and Hilltop Road, in a narrow strip of land between the highway and the railroad. It too closed when I-44 opened. It had "Modern Rest Rooms" and was ran by Max Pracht and his wife and Laverta. It offered "Good Food... Delicious Beverages." Below is what remains (red arrow) of the site, a retaining wall and some concrete foundations next to the shoulder.
1940s postcard Hilltop Cafe, Villa Ridge. Credits
Site of Key’s Twin Bridge Gas Station and Cafe
Keys Cafe originally at Villa Ridge neon sign; now at Route 66 State Park,
Ahead, to your left, on the south side of the road is the site of the now gone Keys Cafe.
Nothing remains of this once busy café and filling station that opened in 1948: it was razed.
However, you can still see the concrete foundations. It was ran by Noble and Nellie Key who opened it in 1948. The building was the work of John Kovak. It was named after the family (Key) and the two bridges that carried Routes 66 and 50 across the Bourbeuse River.
The Keys had worked at the Diamonds for 19 years (Noble was a partner there and sold his share to Mr. Eckelkamp) before embarking on their venture as entrepreneurs. The cafe was open 24 hours and sold grape pie, hot dinners and sandwiches.
The buildings are gone, but fortunately, the distinctive key-shaped neon sign (see it in the image above, marked with the red arrow) was saved and donated by the Key family to the Route 66 State Park (formerly Times Beach), see it in this view to the left of the Park's visitor center.
George's Tavern (Gone)
Across the highway, rom Key Cafe, to your left. It belonged to George H. Habberberger and dates back to the early 1940s. Its advertising informed it offered "Beer & Liquor - Bar-B-Q - Live Bair - Fishing Supplies - Hunting & Fishing Licenses". It finally closed and was torn down recently. You can see it in this 2008 view, while it was still standing. It was later razed, now it is a contractor site with heavy machinery.
Pin Oak Motel
Ahead, to your left. It was named after the Pin Oak creek and the oaks in the forest around it, Pin Oak or swamp Spanish Oak is a red oak that grows in Central and Eastern United States. It was built after 1945: it does not appear in an aerial photo taken that year but the cross-gable roof home to the left did.
Now only the central office remains and the concrete foundations mark the "U-shaped" layout of the property. The 28 units are gone (see it in 2008 when it was not so dilapidated). It was repurposed in the late 1970s as a storage business, but then closed.
It was opened by George Sweeney and also built by John Kovack its postcards tell us it was ""A Better Court for Better People" and that it had ultra-modern units that were clean and had Stewart-Warner Saf-Aire heaters. Sweeney sold it later to a hotel operator from St. Louis. It went broke when the freeway bypassed it.
Head west, to the site of the Twin Bridges (actually now there are three bridges, one for Route 66 and two for I-44).
Route 66 (Hwy AT) and I-44, at Borbeuse River. The first bridge across the Bourbeuse River was built in 1925 and one year later it carried US 66. In 1935 another bridge was built next to it, and the eastbound lanes were aligned along it. The old bridge carried the westbound traffic.
They are mentioned in the WPA book of 1941; at that time they were steel truss bridges. In 1958 when the highway was improved to four-lanes all across the state, the old bridges were replaced with steel girder bridges. The old 1949 postcard shows both bridges: this is looking west with the 1925 bridge on the left side of the image, and is its street view today, at that same spot.
After the bridge, the original Route 66 was torn up by the exchange between I-44 and US 50 (original alignment map marked with a blue line). There is a Flea Market just past the bridge along the new bypass. Cross US 50 and continue westwards to see another Cafe.
Bud & Roy’s Place - Perkins
The place is 2.6 mi west of the twin bridges (Map with directions), to visit Perkins a former cafe and tourist camp with gas station. Only the concrete pump islands remain.
It offered Hot Lunches and sold gasoline (it had two pumps under a wide gabled canopy). The building had a sign on its roof: "Oak Grove Cafe" At one time it sold Mobile gasoline under the name of "Perkins Tourist Camp", which had "Clean, cool, comfortable cottages. Pure deep well water - Modern rest rooms".
Located on a sharp bend of the curving road in a spot which today would be considered unsafe. The remnant of the concrete pump island can still be seen (red arrow image below), there is a deep shoulder on the higway, paved in concrete which was the parking area of the old gas station and store.
Continue your Route 66 Road Trip westwards to visit your next stop driving towards St. clair.
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Villa Ridge Missouri Memories and History
Architectural - Historic Survey of Route 66 in Missouri and Detailed Survey, Maura Johnson. 1993
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66