302 South Main
Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.
Closed on all State and Federal Holidays
Crossing three time zones and eight states, Route 66 linked
communities together from Chicago to the Southern California coast.
In Missouri, the fabled highway crossed ten counties spanning over
300 miles. This thoroughfare came through the downtown districts of
Carthage, Carterville, Webb City and Joplin, all located in Jasper
County, before carrying travelers into Southeast Kansas.
Thanks to the efforts of Cyrus Avery, a leader of the American Association of Highway Development, and John Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri, Route 66 became a reality in 1926 in Springfield, Missouri. The famed highway exposed traveling tourists to the Midwest and Southwest United States. Businessmen, desperados and vacationers used the diagonal path to cross the United States. Approximately 2,400 miles of road went through the center of urban and rural communities leading to the poetic epithet “The Main Street of America”.
Some of Route 66’s original path can be traced hundreds of years ago when the native Americans traveled by horse and foot searching for wild game. Prior to the Civil War (1861-1865) white settlers referred to the trail as the St. Louis to Springfield Road. During the Civil War a telegraph line ran parallel to the trail. This communication network became known as the Wire Road.
Route 66 was considered to be the ultimate road trip. Motorists encountered the likes of treacherous curves, costly speed traps, trading posts and full service filling stations. ‘Mom and Pop’ motor camps and roadside businesses selling regional flair opened to accommodate the travelers.
The road even seeped into our country’s pop culture in written publications, musical songs and even a prime-time evening television show. Song writer Bobby Troup selected the city of Joplin to be among the communities touted in his classic hit “Get Your Kicks On Route 66”. The song, recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946, became one of the most requested by music fans throughout the country for years to come. Novelist John Steinbeck in his 1936 classic “The Grapes of Wrath” coined the phrase “Mother Road”. An estimated 210,000 people escaped the despair of the Dust Bowl, migrating to California with dreams of beginning a new prosperous life.
By the 1960s most of Route 66 was too narrow to handle modern trucks and automobiles. Motorists simply opted for faster, newer, four-lane roads that bypassed the multi-stop lighted and gridlocked congested downtowns. The passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 signed by President Eisenhower, signaled the beginning of the end of Route 66. The comprehensive funding for a national interstate and defense highway system bypassed many of the towns that depended on tourism brought to them by those traveling along “The Main Street of America”. Many of these communities suffered economically from the loss of the direct traffic.
Amazingly, it took five interstates to replace Route 66. In October 1984, the final section of the original road was bypassed by Interstate 40 at Williams, Arizona. In Missouri, Interstate I-44 covers and parallels parts of the original road from St. Louis to Joplin.
For additional Jasper County and Missouri Route 66 information:
Carthage Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
Joplin Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
Joplin Museum Complex
Webb City Route 66 Information Center
Courthouse Route 66 Museum
302 S Main ST
Carthage, MO 64836
Route 66 Museum funded by Missouri Department of Transportation.
Page content provided courtesy of Jasper County Courthouse Preservation & Beautification Advisory Committee
& produced in participation with the Joplin Museum Complex and the Carthage Convention & Visitor’s Bureau