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Route 66

Here is the essay of my research on the Route 66 from architecture class.

Mother Road

The mother road, John Steinbeck coined Route 66’s best-known nickname in The Grapes of Wrath. (RoadTrip America, 2008) Towns around the Mojave Desert now remained like ghost towns, but it suddenly developed and boomed affected by migration of people from the east states, and also its development of the transcontinental railway. It is also, now part of well-known historical rout 66. It is the most severe parts of the road to get to California, in terms of its weather at the Mojave Desert, around 120 degree Fahrenheit in summer. If you go across there, you really need to make sure the water in a hood of your car. However, as a family in the Grape of Wrath, this area was once an important place in California for emigrants to rest before getting into the costal cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It would be relevant to talk from the Eastern part of Mojave. The reasons that I choose to discuss about multiple towns in the area are that some of the towns don’t have much ruin or abandoned buildings. And I wanted to talk about only Needles at first, because it was a town that I stopped at when I drove to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, But there are not much, “Frontier Town” style building images from Needles. I think that is because Needles became like gorgeous, oasis town, so the buildings were more as modern style than the “Frontier Town” style.

Needles (Mojave ‘Aha Kuloh) is a city located on the western banks of the Colorado River in San Bernadino County, California. The city was founded in 1883 as a result of the construction of the railroad. The station is in the border between California and Arizona. It was the gateway city to the Golden State. The population was 4,830 at the 2000 census. (wikipedia, Needles)

“In 1776, Father Francisco Garces was the first white man to visit the homeland of the Mojave. The United State Army established Camp Colorado (later changed to Ft. Mojave) on the east side of the Colorado River in 1859 to protect settlers migrating west.” (, 2003)

The most recognizable structure at Needles was El Garces Hotel which was built in 1908 by the Santa Fe Railroad. Architect Francis W. Wilson designed a neo classical structure with Doric Columns. (

The next town, Goffs is more like a ghost town, used to be a mining town, now they have a general store and the Goffs School, renovated in 1914, from when first built in 1982. According to the road wanderer’s site, they built as mission style that seemed oddly out of place there. The restoration was done by the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association. I am glad that there is such a heritage association to preserve the area. Otherwise these remaining structures and old cars literally would have gone with wind.

The towns along the Mojave Desert were more for water stops for the railroad or gas stops for the route 66 travelers than mining towns. So what they left there are the structures of gas stations, cafes, and general stores. All other towns like Essex, Summitte, Chambless, Aboy, Bagdad, and Siberia have the same functions.

Both Amboy and Bagdad had popularity with their cafes where were almost nothing but the café and gas stations. Amboy was founded in 1858 with the growth of chloride works in that area. There is a crater made of pahoehoe rock. Roy Café was opened by Roy Crowl in 1938 as a 24 hours café and gas station service and a motel. After Roy died in 2000, it was handed over to different owners, reopened again.

Bagdad started from 1883, until the early 1970’s. It was a shipping point for the mined and ranches of the area. It is a disappeared town, but some of you who watched the movie, Bagdada Café would remember the place, and its café. (I was a big fan of the movie.) The café which was doing location of the movie was actually called the Sidewinder Café, but after the movie made it popular, they changed its name to Bagdada Café. Now their places are popular for the movie fan and the route 66 enthusiasts. (which I used to be.)

The lastly, Ludlow is also a ghost town along Interstate 40 in the Mojave Desert. But it had more business buildings as from a mining town from 1882. Pre was found in the nearby hills, so there were business going on in the town. It was also a water store for the Atlantic and Pacific Railwoad in 1882. But the decline of mining and rail traffic in the 1940’s swept people away from Ludlow as well. Similar view will be seen along with the Interstate 40 towards the west.

I understood from the research that, even though these towns are far away from the western coastal towns/cities, the towns once affected by the boom of the Gold Rush and the development of the railway and freeway.



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