Historic Route 66
The legendary road which John Steinbeck called, “the Mother Road, the road of flight”, is the nation’s most famous highway.
Crossing eight states and covering over 2,400 miles, Route 66 became official on November 11, 1926. On that day, state and federal highway spokesmen mapped out interstate highway routes connecting the entire nation. Route 66 would start out in Chicago and end up in Los Angeles, cutting across Tucumcari to Gallup and changing the state forever.
A nationwide demand for a better system of roads arose in the 1920’s, as more and more people obtained automobiles. There were parts of a highway in place along the eventual route of Highway 66, with names like The Grand Canyon Route, National Old Trails Highway, and the Will Rogers Highway. These were all tied together to create the “Main Street of America”, so called because it passed through the heart of towns such as Gallup.
“THIS IS THE GREATEST HIGHWAY PROJECT IN AMERICA!!!“ read the headline in the April 15, 1927 edition of the Gallup Independent. From Chicago to Los Angeles the “Main Street of America” would be U.S. 66. The National Old Trail Highway was on the map. Its route would run right through Gallup, New Mexico in part due to actions of former Gallup Mayor and then Governor Arthur T. Hannett. He lost his pursuit for re-election, but not until he committed one of his final administrative acts by rerouting U.S. Route 66 to avoid Santa Fe and instead pass through Albuquerque, New Mexico west directly towards Gallup. The rerouting saved drivers traveling across the state nearly four hours.
In recent years many people still fascinated by old Route 66 have begun working together to keep the proud old highway alive. Charles Kuralt made the statement, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System (freeways) it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.” But travelers looking for the Highway 66 spirit still find their way to the heart of Gallup where businesses remain active.