Amarillo Route 66

In 1926, the nation commissioned the first highway to be open to travelers year-round and shortened the traveling distance and time from coast to coast by more than 200 miles. The highway was fully paved by the 1930s and ready for use by the American public. The highway quickly became a symbol of across-the-country travel and freedom for citizens all over the nation. While it is not the United States' oldest or longest highway, it is the most well-known and widely regarded as the “Mother Road.” Other names for the highway include the “Main Street of America” and the “Will Rogers Highway.”

A year after the highway was established for construction in 1926, road signs were erected along the pavement that was Route 66. Beginning in Chicago, IL, the road ran through cities including St. Louis, MO, Oklahoma City, OK, and, of course, Amarillo, TX, before ending in Santa Monica, CA. Numerous factors led to the constant development and construction of the highway as well as its subsequent decline and decommission, such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 and efforts to create more direct routes between cities and towns. The aim to reposition the highway so that it ran through certain towns was driven by advancements in highway engineering which guided Route 66 to its demise. 

When the highway was first constructed, it ran through what is today known as the 6th Street Historic District. Eventually, the highway was rerouted to run through 8th St., now known as Amarillo Blvd., which caused a majorly significant drop in business to the stores located on 6th St. A lot of these businesses were forced to close, and the area became neglected and less popular. 

Route 66 saw its final days of popularity in the 1960s when Interstate 40 was constructed in Amarillo and, finally, in 1985, the highway was decommissioned. In 1991, a group of people from the Amarillo community came together to form the Amarillo Route 66 Historic Association to revive the area that Route 66 originally went across and encourage tourism to it. Restaurant and business owners in the area began to revitalize their storefronts starting in the 1980s, and a “number of buildings were listed on the National Historic Register,” according to the association’s website. 

After the district saw a new wave of popularity, it was nothing compared to the days when Route 66 ran through. However, this spot is a great place to visit when you are in Amarillo. It also always provides a good time for the local community with food places featuring barbecue, Mexican cuisine, American food, and more. Various biker bars and tattoo shops also grace the area, but don’t let that spook anyone away! The presence of these things gives a more authentic feel to the space. There is also a popular coffee joint situated along 6th St and several places where you can indulge in some nostalgia with buyable antiques and art. 

If you decide to pay the 6th Street Historic District a visit, make sure to hit as many stores and shops as possible. You won’t want to miss out on all there is to see and discover about this moment in Amarillo's history.

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Map from Amarillo Route66 to William Wheeler, Amarillo REALTOR

Map from Amarillo Route66 to Route 66 Motor Speedway