Atlantic Cities
Postcard

The Charming, Forgotten Remains of Route 66

Though it's been dead for 20 years, Route 66 might be America's most famous road. The 2,500 mile throughway debuted in 1926, running from Chicago to Los Angeles. It served as a major gateway to the west before our current interstate system existed.

Its star began to fade once President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act in 1956. Newer, faster roads (and exit ramps) made for more efficient travel across the country. Eventually, most of the hotels, gas stations and restaurants along Route 66 went out of business. On June 27, 1985, it was officially removed from the United States Highway System.

While you can no longer travel it from end to end, much of the route remains drivable. Portions have been designated as a National Scenic Byway  (now called "Historic Route 66") and several states have adopted bypassed sections into their own state road network.

Many drivers are are still drawn to the road, including photographer Carol Highsmith. Highsmith donated her personal collection of digital photographs to the Library of Congress in 2009. Her images, called "Disappearing America," include over 200 captivating shots taken along the famous roadway. 

Below, via Highsmith's collection, a look at what remains along the country's most famous and admired road:

"Route 66 restaurant, 1819 Will Rogers Drive, Santa Rosa, New Mexico" (2006) courtesy Library of Congress

"Wigwam Motel, Route 66, Holbrook, Arizona" (2006) courtesy Library of Congress

"Here it is! Jackrabbit Trading Post, Route 66, Joseph City, Arizona" (2006) courtesy Library of Congress

"Pops Restaurant and Gift shop, Route 66, Arcadia, Oklahoma" (2009) courtesy Library of Congress

"Vintage Phillips 66 Gas Station and historic cars, Route 66, Chandler, Oklahoma" (2006) courtesy Library of Congress

"66 Drive-In Theatre, Route 66, Carthage, Missouri" (2009) courtesy Library of Congress

"Tee Pee Curios Shop, Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico" (2006) courtesy Library of Congress

"Wigwam Motel, Route 66, Holbrook, Arizona" (2006) courtesy Library of Congress

"Blue Swallow Motel, Route 66, Tucumcari, New Mexico" (2006) courtesy Library of Congress

"Frontier Motel, Truxton, Arizona" (2009) courtesy Library of Congress

"Abandoned cars, Route 66, Arizona" (2006) courtesy Library of Congress

"Old motel sign, Route 66, Truxton, Arizona" (2009) courtesy Library of Congress

"Historic Cottage Hotel, Route 66, Seligman, Arizona" (2009) courtesy Library of Congress

"Siesta Motel, Kingman, Arizona" (2006) courtesy Library of Congress

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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