About a dozen years ago, Michael Smith stood virtually alone in promoting revitalization of NW 23 between Classen Boulevard and Broadway. He pushed hard for a streetscape of the corridor and helped promote creation of a design review ordinance.
Smith also pushed an early-day effort at branding the stretch as “Uptown.” A couple of years ago, Smith moved his interior design store, but his legacy lives on with the streetscape and a stretch of trendy restaurants including Tuckers, Big Truck Tacos,' Cheever's and Mutt's.
The Uptown sign, once posted in front of the landmark Gold Dome, however, since has disappeared. In its place stands a new street sign installed last fall at the direction of state Sen. David Holt that tells travelers this street was once part of Route 66.
Holt has long sought ways to promote the city's urban core, and was instrumental in moving Shakespeare in the Park from Edmond to the Myriad Gardens and in renaming an obscure Bricktown alleyway “Flaming Lips Alley.”
Like many locals, Holt never thought of NW 23 — or any other stretch of Oklahoma City roadway — as being a part of old Route 66. Nor did he fully appreciate its appeal to tourists until rock legend Paul McCartney stopped at the Skirvin as part of his own Route 66 journey.
Looking back, how could Oklahoma City have ignored its own contributions along Route 66? If the essence of Route 66 is nostalgic commercialism, does it get any better than the Gold Dome, a former bank at NW 23 and Classen, or the nearby Milk Bottle Building? The recently restored neon Tower Theater marquee and a vintage Philips 66 gas station, along NW 23, would seem to make this stretch of Route 66 a must-see for tourists.
And the restaurants, all of which opened in a path blazed by Smith and his peers, all seem custom-made for Route 66 tourism.