The “Main Street of America” was once the name of the historic Route 66. It was the first completely paved transcontinental highway in the country. This highway linked many towns and cities together. Route 66 has had many nicknames “The Wire Road” and “The Will Rogers Highway” to name just a few. This piece of highway still remains one of the most well know highways in America
The highway began in prehistoric times with Indian trails that crossed the area. Much later, during the Mexican War, Navy Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale made several journeys along these Indian trails as a scout and messenger. Following his treks across the land, gold was discovered in California. Many people decided to head west. So in 1857, Beale was appointed by the Secretary of War to construct a safe wagon road from Fort Defiance to the mouth of the Mohave River. Lieutenant Beale used camels to survey the road. The idea of using camels for this task was suggested by then Secretary of State Jefferson Davis. The camels were imported from the Mideast. Beale once again used the centuries old Indian trails as a guide for the road.
The construction of the Atlantic and Pacific railroad came along much later and used the most logical route. The railroad ran alongside the same route Beale had laid out.
The National Old Trails Highway was completed in 1914,once again this highway used the same route. Then in 1916, the Colorado River was bridged at Topock.
It wasn’t until 1926, when the route was officially named Route 66. During this time only 800 of the 2,200 miles were paved. As a matter of fact, the entire route in Arizona was dirt and gravel. The paving of Route 66 did not occur until the mid-1930’s. Route 66 enjoyed its hay day in the 40’s, with families traveling to California to start their lives after World War II.
The fall of Route 66 began in the 1950’s, with the increase in traffic and accidents on the nation’s roads. President Eisenhower decided to put into effect the National Interstate Highway System. This new Highway System created Interstate Highway 40, which parallels Route 66 in some spots and covers it in others. Needless to say, this change ended some communities along Route 66. Due to the lack of traffic many perished and yet it created new communities in other places.
Many individuals want to preserve this history and today you can still travel Route 66. You can drive the longest stretch of the Historic Route 66 still intact. The Route begins at Ashfork, a small town to the west of Flagstaff and Williams (approximately 50 miles) and east of Kingman (approximately 94 miles). Route 66 continues east through Ashfork to Seligman. Then the route goes through Peach Springs and Kingman. In Kingman, you might want to stop in at the recently renovated Powerhouse Visitor Center. This center is the home of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. It is located on Route 66, now called Andy Devine Avenue. After a quick stopover, you will continue on to Oatman and then ending at Topock.
For more information about the Powerhouse Visitor Center and Route 66 you can contact: The Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, P.O. Box 66, 120 West Andy Devine Avenue, Kingman, AZ 86402 or call 502-753-5001.