Wigwam Motel gets makeover

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Aug 102011
 



SAN BERNARDINO – Have you slept in a teepee lately?
Kumar Patel thinks more people should experience Americana from one of the last remaining Wigwam motels in the country.

The historic motel has a team of painters working to restore San Bernardino’s Wigwam Motel, 2728 Foothill Blvd., along the old Route 66, to its original external color scheme as part of its application to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Patel said.

“We hope to have this completed by the start of the (Stater Bros. 22nd annual) Route 66 celebration (on Sept. 15),” Patel said.

The 20-unit Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino was built in 1949 and was the last of seven built by Frank A. Redford, said Patel, the motel’s manager.

The concept was inspired by a popular ice cream shop shaped like an upside down cone and teepees he had seen while visiting a Sioux reservation in South Dakota.

His first motel was in Horse Cave, Ken., in 1935. And the second followed in 1937 in Cave City, Ken. Over time others were built in Alabama, Florida, New Orleans and Arizona.

The only other remaining Wigwam motels are in Holbrook, Ariz., and Cave City.

Patel said that the Holbrook location was the only franchised property and the franchise fee was the coins from the guests who put coins into the “magic fingers” slot beneath their bed.

Many guests at the San Bernardino site, Patel said, are from other countries, particularly Australia, Holland and England.

“They believe staying in a teepee should be part of their American experience,” he said.

Guests are often enthusiastic about Route 66 and everything connected with it, Patel said.

“Many foreigners are astounded that you can drive 2,000 miles and still be in the same country,” said Patel, who has immersed himself in Route 66 lore since his family bought the Wigwam Motel in 2003.

Coming from the east, the Wigwam Motel is near the end of the historic route, Santa Monica. Driving time for the 78 miles from the motel to Santa Monica, is about five hours – longer than most people think, Patel said.

On Wednesday, workers were scraping off the brown paint on the motel’s 20 teepees. Eventually all will be a white/cream color.

The original red zig-zag lines around the cones and red trim on the windows will also be restored, as will the yellow paint on the three poles protruding from each building.

The poles are actually heat vents that extend deep within the structure.

For a time, Redford lived in San Bernardino’s unit No.1, where he built an firepit, which is still there.

Later he moved into another unit and built an office area in the front. And that’s the office today.

The rooms have modern touches, flatscreen televisions and large refrigerators.

Patel said Wigwam Motel guests are often walk-ins, people stopping in on their cruise of the historic Mother Road.

And the walk-in room rate is $66 – a natural fit.

——————————————————————————–
At a glance
Wigwam Motel

Began in 1935 and grew to seven locations, including San Bernardino.
Only two others remain: one in Kentucky and one in Arizona.
The San Bernardino motel owners have applied for registry as a historic place

Contra Costa Times – Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer

New Route 66 signs from Barstow east

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Aug 032011
 



If you put up the signs, they will come.
Well, truthfully, they’re probably coming anyway, but with the signs, they might not get lost.

Sometime in the fall, San Bernardino County will begin erecting 75 signs between Barstow and Needles identifying Route 66.

It’s not like the road’s been lost. It is traveled all the time. There are even painted stencils on its surface to help identify it for those who are pursuing a piece of America’s transportation history. The stencils, which began appearing in 2000, were a response to the theft of the iconic Route 66 road signs, perhaps the most recognized highway sign in the world. The road from Chicago to Santa Monica was the main artery from the Midwest to Southern California for much of the 20th century.

The famous logo of the sign appears on T-shirts, coffee mugs, tennis shoes, you name it.

That will not be what the new signs look like.

Part of the County Route Marker Program — a 1958 initiative to establish signage for tourist routes that highlight points of interest and provide an alternative to the state highway system — the modified pentangle signs will have a blue background with San Bernardino County 66 in white lettering.

First District County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said he got the idea for marking the route last year and asked the Public Works Department to research the project.

Route 66 is one of those treasures that we are fortunate to have inherited,” Mitzelfelt said. “It draws visitors from around the world. I think we need to do more to promote it and maintain it better and make it more of a tourist attraction.”

While he hopes the county can eventually install signs every couple of miles along the road from the state line to Upland, right now only the desert section from Barstow east will be marked. The cost of that part of the project will be $30,000. That includes brochures and a website.

Mitzelfelt said he hopes the investment will pay off in increased travel and commerce on the roadway.

With special incentives, he said, he hopes “to encourage commercial and retail development that would have a retro feel to it and rebuild some of that history and generate sales tax dollars at the same time.”

Albert Okura, who owns the local Juan Pollo chain of restaurants, is one of the few people with a retail business on the route’s Barstow-to-Needles leg. But it’s not a Juan Pollo.

Five years ago, he bought the storied town of Amboy and has kept the landmark Roy’s Cafe in operation as a gas station and souvenir shop. No fresh food is served, but Okura hopes to reopen the cafe in the future.

He’s not sure the signs will increase his business, but he does think they will help tourists.

“A lot of people get lost,” Okura said. “We always get people asking directions, especially the Europeans. I think if you have a unified sign they can look for, that would help them.”

Okura said he also thinks there is the potential for more commerce along the historic road.

“What I’m trying to do is get the tourists to drop their money in our county,” he said.

Among the states that Route 66 passes through, he said, California is the only one lagging behind where there’s no organization where people are restoring things and getting businesses going. There are things that could be highlighted between Barstow and Needles. There’s a lot of history out there that people don’t know about.”

But he adds, it’s important not to do too much and maintain the flavor of places like Amboy.

“People are more interested in keeping it the way it is,” he said.

Mark Muckenfuss – The Press-Enterprise

After Foreclosure, The Aztec Hotel Faces Uncertain Future

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May 102011
 



The historic building, which has long been the subject of “haunted” tales, will go up for sale on May 16.

The Aztec Hotel, one of only three properties in town listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is in the process of foreclosure and will go up for sale later this month at an asking price of more $2.4 million. The fate of the landmark building after it changes hands remains to be seen.

The hotel is currently being run by HTL Hotel Management and a sale by the appointed trustee, Stewart Default Services, is set to be held at the Pomona Superior Courts Building on May 16 at 10:30 a.m.

Chester Reed and Chris Ott of HTL are managing the building until a new buyer purchases the property. Currently, about half of the 44 rooms are either rented to tenants or available to overnight guests.

“We do pretty much everything we can to maintain the building and clean up what’s here,” Ott said. “We’re trying to rebuild the reputation of the hotel.”

“We’re here to do whatever we can to make the place the way it used to be,” Reed added. “Just try to bring back the luster of the place.”

Reed, a chef with 22 years of experience, has revised the menu in the Brass Elephant, the Aztec Hotel’s restaurant. To attract patrons, Ott and Reed are also trying to bring more musical acts to the hotel.

“We’re going to be adding more entertainment on Thursdays and Sundays,” Ott said.

HTL has been managing the Aztec Hotel as a third party ever since the owner defaulted on mortgage payments, leading to foreclosure, according to Reed.

The Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office lists the current owner of the hotel as Kathryn Reece.

The current managers have been on the premises since January 28, after the Los Angeles County District Court appointed HTL to manage the hotel.

The hotel features live music on Fridays and Saturdays. One well-known group is the Billy Haarbauer Band, which has been playing at the venue for about 10 years. Indie rock bands have also filmed music videos at the hotel, Reed said.

Monrovia historian Steve Baker explained more about the building’s significance last month during a MOHPG presentation in the Aztec’s Mayan Room and lobby.

The hotel was constructed along the route of the original Route 66 in the 1920s, and opened in 1925 to much fanfare, Baker said. It was designed by architect Robert Stacy-Judd, who was primarily inspired by the geometric designs and artwork of the Mayan culture. Although it is often cited as an example of Stacy-Judd’s “Mayan Revival” style, the building was named the Aztec Hotel because it was thought the public would not be as familiar with the Mayan civilization.

A novelty attraction frequented by celebrities, the Aztec Hotel nevertheless suffered financial difficulties. A few years after Route 66 was rerouted, the hotel closed in 1935. After reopening in 1938 and undergoing numerous changes, it was finally listed on the National Register of Places in 1978.

Several features, such as the floor tiles, stained glass windows and top light fixtures in the lobby, date back from the 1920s, Baker said. When the Brass Elephant was created in 1983, the right wing of the lobby had been partitioned off. In the last several years, the partition was torn down so the lobby is closer to its original state, and the front doors were restored.

Many of the murals were painted over, but some of them have been restored almost to their original state. One on the east wall, called “The God of Joy” by Stacy-Judd, is still in its original state.

“Interestingly enough, next to the women’s room, the design is called ‘The God of Lust,’” Baker told an amused audience.

Guests have also reported that the ladies room in the main lobby is the location of “psychic phenomemon,” one of several stories of ghostly activity at the hotel. One story involved a pair of newlyweds who purportedly stayed in the famously haunted Room 120 on their wedding night.

“Supposedly their nuptial activities were a little rambunctious,” Baker said. “The bride fell out of bed, struck her head on the radiator, and died from the blow.”

There is another story about the haunted room, with a slightly different yet strangely similar ending.

“A young woman who had the interesting name of Razzle Dazzle allegedly also functioned as an ‘independent contractor’ in the Aztec bar, and one of her clients she went up with, either an argument came up over the monetary proposition, or who was going to do what to whom, and she was shoved and fell and hit her head,” Baker said.

Guests have told Reed and Ott of strange noises and banging coming from Room 129, which is also rumored to be haunted, although it is not as famous as Room 120.

“I think everyone’s familiar with Room 120. People call and ask,” said Reed.

“Specifically for that room,” Ott added.

Not surprisingly, the accounts of ghostly happenings means that the Aztec Hotel has also attracted its share of ghost hunters.

“I’ve got a paranormal group coming out at the end of the month to check up on some stuff,” Reed said.

Part of historical El Rancho complex destroyed in fire

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May 052011
 



A fire destroyed part of a historical building connected to Route 66 early Thursday morning on Main Street.

At the time of the blaze the building was unoccupied and no injuries were reported.
Firefighters were called to a structure fire at on the 100 block of East Main Street at about 1:11 a.m.

Barstow Fire Protection Chief Darrell Jauss said the fire started in the attic of the building of what used to be El Rancho Restaurant — currently Cedar Restaurant and Travel Store.

About 20 Barstow Fire Department firefighters arrived at the scene at 1:15 a.m.

According to Jauss, firefighters received help from the Marine Corps Logistics Base Fire Department and from the Barstow Police but by the time firefighters arrived the fire was very big and had consumed most of the building.

“We were able to stop the fire but by the time we did the roof collapsed in,” Jauss said. “We are concerned that the main wall might collapse also.”

The fire was contained in two hours and was completely put out in four hours.

“We wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t spread further to the neighboring business,” Jauss said.

Firefighters are currently trying to stop smaller pockets of smoke that are smoldering in the building.

There is no estimate of the amount of damage on the structure yet.

By FIORELLA CASELLA, Desert Dispatch

East Hollywood’s Neglected Santa Monica Boulevard May Get Some Love

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May 032011
 



Looking to transform a grimy-looking stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council applied this week for city grants to help pay for what’s being called the Route 66 project. The proposed streetscape improvements would gussy up 22 blocks of the corridor between Hoover Street to the 101 Freeway.

Armen Makasjian of the Santa Monica Boulevard/Route 66 Task Force says his group hopes to capitalize on Route 66’s reputation as one of the nation’s best known highways. The effort would be modeled in part after West Hollywood’s own stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, he tells Curbed.

Granted, East Hollywood’s goals are more modest: The Task Force wants more trash cans, cleaner bus stops, and less tagging. Longer-term goals include adding Historic Route 66 marker signs, benches, bike racks, and decorative trash cans. Anything to lure more pedestrians and more shops, really. “We haven’t had any new businesses moving in,” says Makasjian of the area. “You have to have more services.”

About 50 people, including business owners, and City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who represents the area, attended a recent neighborhood meeting to talk up goals for the area. “Santa Monica, like Melrose, is one of those great streets that have languished,” said Garcetti at the meeting, encouraging the group’s work.

Invoking Route 66, which at one point traversed eight states, and was disbanded in 1985, as a historic marker is often successful. The Cucamonga Service Station off Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga was designated a historical landmark two years ago because of its position as a pit stop on the highway.

Michael Wallis, author of the book Route 66: The Mother Road said he was pleased to hear about East Hollywood’s plans. “It’s music to my ears to hear about these grassroots efforts,” said Wallis, who said he has seen numerous examples of thoughtful preservation and commercial efforts along the highway.

And while East Hollywood may not be seeking tourists, Europeans — particularly the French and the Brits — “love to drive the entire route,” he said. Viva la Santa Monica!

Route 66 in California

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Mar 162011
 



For much of the early twentieth century, Route 66 was the way most people got to California. After its creation in 1926, it was the way west for migrants escaping the Dust Bowl, hoping to find work in California’s fields and factories. After World War II and the beginning of America’s new car culture, it carried vacationers who wanted to tour The West, visit a new-fangled attraction called Disneyland or see the Pacific Ocean.

In 1985, it was removed from the United States highway system, replaced by wider, more modern Interstate Highway, but in those six decades it gained a status few strips of asphalt enjoy, passing into the fabric of our culture. It was the backdrop for John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, the topic of a song by Bobby Troup and the backdrop for a 1960s television show. Steinbeck called it the Mother Road – and the name stuck.

In California, Route 66 ran from the Arizona border near Needles, through Barstow, across San Bernardino County, into Pasadena and south into Los Angeles, a distance of about 270 miles. Today, drivers making the same journey travel on I-40, I-15 and I-10.

If you’ve strolled along Route 66 in Williams, Arizona or cruised the neons along Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, don’t expect to find anything comparable in California. In the east, the Interstate often bypassed towns along the Mother Road, leading them to inevitable decline. Further west, fueled by dreams of growth and funded by state money earmarked for redevelopment, San Bernardino and Los Angeles County’s civic leaders all but obliterated the old Route 66 landmarks and today, you’ll find Route 66 signs outnumber the sights.

If you want to focus on exactly where every square inch of asphalt ran and when it ran there, following tortuous routes to drive on as much of it as possible, this guide may not be for you. However, the highway department has conscientiously signposted every possible exit from I-40 that leads to a section of Historic Route 66 and the California Route 66 Preservation Association has a mile-by-mile guide and some nice historic photos to go along with it. And if you want to know all the details of where Route 66 went in Los Angeles County, experts say Scott R. Piotrowski’s Finding the End of the Mother Road is the definitive resource.

By Betsy Malloy, About.com Guide

Denmark Students Stop In Litchfield

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Mar 072011
 



Nearly 150 Denmark students stopped in Litchfield Thursday night and Friday morning, with 20 identical Four Winds recreational vehicles parked at the Walmart parking lot.

The back of each RV read, “Goin’ Places with Smiling Faces.” The students are currently attending Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark, and are traveling Route 66 across the United States as part of a group project.

When they arrived in Litchfield on Thursday night, they had been traveling for three days from Chicago, and their trip will end in Los Angeles after 30 days.

A total of 31 RVs will make the trip along the Mother Road including 142 students and eight teachers.

Students will be taking pictures of farm buildings, grain elevators, signs, cars, trucks and more as part of both group and individual projects.

They will also focus on the hospitality of various stops along the way, and each student will be responsible for a book about his/her experiences when they return home to Denmark.

Following their stop at Walmart, the group camped for the evening in Honey Bend before continuing their trip

City Looks Ahead to Revitalizing Route 66

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Feb 282011
 

I have not been in Glendora for some time now – but it seems they need to embrace te ‘history’ of the route (like so many other successful towns) and try not to wipe the ‘hisotry’ away….

 

With the sunset of redevelopment agencies drawing near – as well the uncertain current state of redevelopment agencies – city officials hope to boost economic development along the historic corridor.

In its heyday, Route 66 was one of the nation’s main transportation arteries that spanned through eight different states. But since the road’s decommission in the 1980s, many communities where the highway passes through have maintained the road’s name if only for historic and cultural value.

In Glendora, much of the city’s portion of Route 66 remains as it has for decades. Car repair and automotive shops line a portion of the road. But in an era where big box retailers and malls have replaced mom-and-pop businesses as central areas of retail, businesses along the corridor are struggling. Route 66 has been plagued with high vacancies.

With redevelopment agencies slated to sunset in 2019 – as well as the uncertain state of redevelopment agencies following Gov. Jerry Brown state proposal – city officials are looking into ways to speed up the process to revitalize its portion of the historic route into a sales tax-generating area. But planning for commercial, industrial, office, retail and residential development along the corridor is a long, slow and challenging process.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the council discussed future development plans as outlined in the city’s 20-year Route 66 Specific Plan, including possible projects to consolidate small parcels of land along the route and create more possibilities for future businesses. The Specific Plan determined types of desired development for different areas along the route.

While Route 66 currently generates far less sales tax revenue than other commercial areas, city officials say it provides a significant number of workforce opportunities, including Armstrong Nurseries, America’s Christian Credit Union and incoming Loopnet.

But dwindling redevelopment funds and the lack of eminent domain has limited and delayed development efforts on the historic route.

According to City Manager Chris Jeffers, current zoning along the route has allowed for multiple uses on small parcels. To update a considerable amount of property in the area, developers may have to deal with several owners, of which all may not be willing to sell.

“These small uses are underperforming,” said Jeffers. “It’s impeded, slowed and retarded economic growth from happening because of those facts. For instance, why would we have, in one of the major thoroughfares across this country, a junkyard? Does someone want to make an investment of millions of dollars knowing they’re right next to a junkyard? This is where economic blight comes in.”

According to Planning and Redevelopment Director Jeff Kugel, 14 percent of the city’s sales tax is generated from businesses on Route 66. Most of Route 66 is within a redevelopment zone – Project Area 3 – that does not generate any more tax increment. Kugel said about $7 million is left for improvement projects in Project Area 3, a number he said does not cover all of the proposed projects for the area.

The physical makeup of the route compounds difficulties in developing large-scale projects along the route.

“The challenge of assembling these parcels is that the road is bordered to the north by the Gold Line,” said council member Gene Murabito. “Parcels are not very deep and we have to assemble east to west.”

Location logistics is also affecting a proposed development at a former mortuary at 363 W. Route 66. Developers are proposing an 8,300-square-foot banquet hall on the land. But limited surrounding space – the property sits adjacent to a mobile home park— poses parking challenges. A public hearing on the project is planned at the planning commission meeting, Tuesday, March 1 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

But with recently acquired properties along and around the corridor, the city is looking forward to new development. A baseball school is slated for an area on Route 66 and Amelia, along with housing development near the future Metro Gold Line. A vacant portion on Glendora Avenue and Route 66 has also been acquired.

Even with time and money constraints, city officials say that all future development will stay on course with the city’s Specific Plan.

“The key issue is that we need to keep consistency in this plan and avoid inclination to try to change it, monkey with it, fool with it before it has the chance to reach its full potential,” said Mayor Pro Tem Doug Tessitor.

-GlendoraPatch

Historic Route 66 gas station in Rancho Cucamonga – on the chopping block?

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Feb 062011
 



I was notified this Historic Gas Station on Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga was scheduled to be leveled in the near future.

An offer of $150,000 was presented to purchase it from a private owner – and the offer was refused.
One of the reasons was because of ‘not enough parking’. Apparently there are plans to tear it down with the other buildings behind it and use the property for some other type of business. It seems not a matter of ‘if’, but more like ‘when’.

I find this a little upsetting with Rancho Cucamonga in the news so many times lately about how they are embracing and realizing the importance of Route 66 running through their town and how to capitalize off of it like so many other towns up and down the route.

I do not know if this news is old or not – but the topic was brought up again just a few days ago – and it seems the town will not change their mind about saving this building and any type of preservation.
If this is so – is saddens me such a picturesque building has to simply ‘disappear’.

If anyone has any other additional information on this property or if there are any correction – please Email me at info@route66world.com

Carty’s Camp in Needles CA on Route 66

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Feb 042011
 



Tucked away behind the famous 66 Motel (Route 66 Motel) in Needles CA – hidden by a fence and some over-growth is the remains of the historic Carty’s Camp.

The camp is probably best known for its cameo in the movie ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ after the family finally crosses into California, and drive up Route 66 with Carty’s Camp in the background as the camera slowly pans to the ‘Welcome to Needles’ sign. You pretty much see the ‘Carty’s Camp’ sign on top of the gas station – but you can not see the actual camp.

It is reported the crew stayed the night here while filming the scene.

While talking to the owners of the 66 Motel, I was given a personal tour of the remains of the camp. The remains pretty much consist of a row of ‘back to back’ rooms which were beyond repair. I was told tents were here before the cabins and there used to be dates in the back area the workers used to go out and pick during harvest season.

I poked my head inside a few cabins and things look almost frozen in time, not touched for years. It almost looked like no one has stepped back there in a very long time.

I really didn’t know too much about Carty’s Camp until I took the tour. I actually went back and watched ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ again, and sure enough – the sign was front and center on the screen!

Please remember it is on private property and the owners of the 66 Motel do not own that property – so you will not be able to go back there – and the owners of the 66 Motel probably do no want to be considered ‘tour guides’ for something which is not theirs.