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Historic Route 66 Is Under Threat, But You Can Help Save It

Ann Kathrin Bopp / Unsplash

Montana’s Going to the Sun Road, Virginia’s Skyline Drive, and California’s coastal Highway 1 — the U.S. is home to some of the most scenic drives in the world. Chief among them: Route 66. However, thanks to crumbling infrastructure, lack of federal funding, and general apathy toward old-school road-tripping, the “main street of America” is under threat. One non-profit organization is focusing its considerable influence on the iconic route with the hope of saving it.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation released their annual list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places. Each year, the list includes some of the country’s most culturally and historically relevant landmarks at risk, at the very least, of irreparable damage or, worse, demolition. Sadly, for 2018, Route 66 made the cut.

The “Mother Road” was born during the Great Depression as one of the country’s first highways, connecting Chicago to Santa Monica, California. In the ensuing decades, it was officially decommissioned. Efforts to revive and rebrand it in the ‘80s as the “Great American Road Trip” proved successful for a time. Retro emblems of Americana — motor lodges, chrome-heavy diners, and bright neon signs — beckoned travelers through a bygone era of automotive travel. But, many of those nostalgic relics have fallen victim to modern “progress” — better highways, strip malls, and towns built around a Wal-Mart.

Jakub Gorajek / Unsplash

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a non-profit organization with an ongoing goal to save historic locations around the country. Not all of their projects are as iconic as Route 66. Also on this year’s list are Hurricane-Damaged Historic Resources in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Denver’s Larimer Square (the city’s first historic block and commercial district), the Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses (the oldest houses built by African Americans in Connecticut), and Nebraska’s Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital (in honor of the first Native American licensed to practice medicine in the United States).

The group also works to save large swaths of U.S. cities through their ReUrbanism project with the motto “Adaptive reuse should be the default, and demolition a last resort.” Their work also focuses on specific homes, buildings, and other landmarks with historical value. The website maintains a database of beautiful historic homes for sale, should you be in the market.

The trust is pushing Congress to designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail this year. This national recognition would guarantee much-needed funding to save the crumbling highway. To help preserve Route 66 and the other threatened destinations the National Trust for Historic Preservation is working to protect, you can donate through their official website.

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Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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