New Route 66 exhibit takes visitors back in time on Mother Road

Springfield, Mo. -- The newest exhibit at the History Museum on the Square is called 'Woodruff's Dream:  The Mother Road Through Springfield.'  The narrow hallways of the museum are filled with artifacts, photos, and newspaper clippings.  They tell the story of Route 66, from its very beginnings, to the day it was replaced by Interstate 44.

"This is an original painting. This was done by Jerry Rice, and he's a famous painter locally," said John Sellars, the museum's director, during a preview tour Friday.

A look at the busy scene depicted in the Rice paiting shows how the square looked at its peak.
The new highway lead to a construction boom with hotels, motels, service stations, and shops popping up.

Black and white photographs in the museum feature pictures from the 1920s, '30s, '40s, and '50s, including some of the Woodruff.  Standing ten stories high, it was considered a skyscraper when built in 1910.  The Woodruff has long since been vacant, and just recently a developer announced plans to renovate the building.  Other landmarks, like the Heers, were at the center of activity 60 years ago.  But those places lost their purposes as traffic veered around downtown with the new interstate system.

"Up until the time of the federal highway program, the roads were poorly-maintained.  They didn't interconnect," Sellars said.

People started driving cross-country after Route 66 opened up in 1926, stopping off at some of the hundreds of mom and pop filling stations along the way.

"Red's was famous, because it was the very first drive up window restaurant on Route 66," Sellars said.

A handwritten menu, featured in the museum, shows the price of a Red's junior burger at 65 cents. Many of those once hot spots have since been torn down, but a few remain, including Steak 'n Shake on the corner of Glenstone and St. Louis.

The exhibit will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 to 4:30.  It is on the northside of the square downtown Springfield at 155 Park Central Square.  Admission is $5 dollars for adults and $3 for children.