It’s the most culturally celebrated and internationally recognized stretch of highway in America, where generations of open road seekers got their kicks and experienced the quintessential road trip. But Route 66’s history runs much deeper than that. As our nation’s first all-paved U.S. Highway System connecting the Midwest to California, it was the “road to opportunity” for hundreds of thousands of Americans escaping the devastation of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
It also provided thousands of road crew jobs for workers unemployed during the Great Depression. Throughout World War II, critical troops, equipment, and supplies were transported on Route 66 to military bases across the country. And when the war ended, thousands of those troops traveled Route 66 back to their homes and families. Over time, travelers began bypassing Route 66 for the Interstate, causing the independent businesses, rich roadside architecture, and kitschy landmarks and attractions that the roadway was known for to slowly diminish.
By the 1960s, many communities and businesses along the route fell into deep decay…or disappeared entirely. Today, this same threat persists as motorists opt for faster and more direct routes. That’s why we need your help. Please join the National Trust, the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership, and dozens of statewide and local partners in seeking a National Historic Trail designation for Route 66.
This permanent designation will bring greater public interest and investment to the communities along the iconic highway and encourage their economic revitalization. And most importantly, it will help preserve Route 66 as a vital, iconic, and evolving piece of Americana for generations to come.