Legends of Route 66 have been passed down through generations in stories, songs, books and the preservation of historic sites since 1926, when the U.S. highway was started and eventually extended 2,400 miles from Chicago through Tulsa and Oklahoma City to Los Angeles.
Now, visitors can hear and read about Route 66's 300 miles of historic Oklahoma landmarks thanks to a mobile tour available on cellphones. The tour is presented by the Oklahoma Historical Society's State Historic Preservation Office.
Mobile tour stops extend from the Coleman Theater in Miami through landmarks such as the Whittier Square and Blue Dome historic districts in Tulsa and the gold dome Citizens State Bank and Lake Overholser Bridge in Oklahoma City. It continues through the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton and finally the West Winds Motel in Erick and the Magnolia Service Station in Texola.
“The landmarks featured in the 72 stops and stories about them have become part of the heritage of Route 66 and Oklahoma,” said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Songs such as “Get Your Kicks” by Asleep at the Wheel and “Will Rogers Highway” by Woody Guthrie can be heard at the Route 66 Museum.
“Route 66 linked rural communities to urban ones, permitting an unprecedented flow of ideas and economic growth across the country,” said Melvena Heisch, director of the State Historic Preservation Office. “It saw the migration of Dust Bowl refugees, World War II troop movement, the advent of car culture and automobile tourism. It facilitated large-scale settlement of the west.
“The highway has come to symbolize the spirit and freedom of America and the pursuit of the American dream. Route 66 was decommissioned as a federal highway in 1985, but Oklahomans continue to celebrate the road and its landmarks.”
As stretches of Route 66 were widened and paved and as bridges were constructed, Oklahoma's landscape changed. Visitors can learn from properties included in the mobile tour stops that business establishments often moved to the highway, and a town's development shifted in that direction.