The American Road: The Boots Motel: a Route 66 restoration

If you were a traveler along the famous Route 66 in the late 1940s and you wanted a first-class place to stay the night, you couldn’t do better than the Boots Court Motel in Carthage, Missouri.

Not only would you have a room with the most modern conveniences — a “radio in every room,” they said — but you could pop over across the road to the 66 Drive-in to catch a movie or maybe to get “breakfast at any hour” at the fountain that served food there.

The drive-in theater is now a bank, but the Boots Motel — thanks to a dedicated group of historic restorationists and civic-minded citizens — is open for business, much like it was in 1939 when it was first built.

The building is a prime example of streamline moderne and art deco architecture with rounded corners, smooth stucco, and a roofline and walls accented by black Carrara glass and green neon.

And it has a history. Here are a few highlights:

  • Arthur Boots, a farm equipment salesman from Kansas City, wanted to run a motel and studied a map carefully trying to find the best location. He settled on Carthage, Missouri, because it was the intersection of Highways 71 and 66. He called it the “Crossroads of America.”
  • Boots constructed much of the original building himself and named it Boots Court when it was first opened in 1939.
  • Originally there was a gas station in front of the motel. Boots had this in case the motel did not do well. It turned out that the motel was so successful that he didn’t have time to pump gas.
  • Despite his work, his dreams, and his initial success, Arthur Boots didn’t last long in the motel business. He and his wife divorced in 1941, and she ran the motel. She sold it in 1944.

There is much more in the history section of the Boots Motel website in case you’re interested.

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Thanks to newsletter reader Marilyn F., who grew up in Carthage, for putting me on to all of this stuff with this link: http://www.scenicusa.net/042611.html

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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