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Volume 2, Issue 9, June 20, 2017
After a wonderful vacation in Hannibal, MO, seeing the places that inspired Mark Twain, including the natural beauty of the Mississippi, and listening to history mixed in with tall tales and Indian legends, I am now back at my computer, typing about why historic places matter. In keeping with road trips to nostalgic locations, this issue highlights two sites that are along the old Route 66: one is a drive-in theater, the other is an ornate movie palace.
Cynthia Collins
Cynthia Collins 

66 Drive-In Theatre Carthage, MO
The most famous highway in America is the old U.S. Highway 66, better known as Route 66. It was the nation's first completely paved highway, and went through eight states, beginning in Chicago, IL, then Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and ending in Los Angeles, CA. Construction of the 2,448-mile road began in 1926 and was finished in 1937. Small towns sprang up along the route, and with them, a way of life that offered roadside motels, gas stations, ice cream soda shops, and drive-in theaters. People traveled this road to escape the Dust Bowl and to find work during the Great Depression. It became as much a part of American history as the events that were taking place.

66 Drive-In Theatre Carthage, MOWhen World War II ended, rules regarding war rations were lifted and businesses that had suffered during the war were bouncing back. The popularity of drive-in movie theaters was on the rise. One of the drive-ins was the 66 Drive-In Theatre in the southwestern Missouri town of Carthage. Built in 1949 as part of the post-war boom, its name and height directly reflected its link to Route 66. The 66-foot high steel frame supported the screen on one side and a billboard on the other with the words: 66 Drive-In Theatre Carthage, MO.

With the building of the nation's interstate system, some towns that had once thrived along Route 66 were bypassed completely. Some of the popular places were absorbed into memories and ghost towns while others survived. The 66 Drive-In Theatre is one of the surviving sites along the route. It is still in the same nine-acre rural location, its ticket booth and concession stand are in its original Art Deco style, and there is still a children's playground under the screen to remind visitors of the postwar baby boom.

The 66 Drive-In Theatre shows first-run feature films every weekend, April through October. It is part of the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 2003.

Los Angeles Theatre
The  Broadway Theater and Commercial District of Los Angeles was the western end of the line of Route 66 from 1926 to 1936. This area was home to elaborate department stores and theaters built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Buildings exuded the rich architectural styles of Beaux Arts, French Renaissance, and Art Deco. As the motion picture industry grew, the movie palaces became increasingly ornate representing the glamour of Hollywood during the 1930s.

Los Angeles Theatre lobbyThere were several theaters built prior to 1931 in the district but the most lavish was the Los Angeles Theatre. Construction began in 1930 and it opened January 1931. Everything about it reflected Hollywood grandeur at its finest. It was designed by architects S. Charles Lee, who specialized in motion picture theaters in the Los Angeles area during the 1920s, '30s and '40s. and Samuel Tilden Norton, known as the designer for many L.A. landmarks. The interior was modeled in the French Baroque style with crystal chandeliers, marble restrooms, a glass ceiling in the ballroom, a grand staircase in the lobby, carved cherubs, and murals. The orchestra and balcony combined could seat 2,000 people.

The district continued to thrive even after Route 66 was rerouted to Santa Monica. In addition to motion pictures, the palatial theaters offered vaudeville performances and stage plays, often to a sold-out house. The entire Broadway Theater and Commercial District has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.

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Photo credits: 66 Drive-In Theatre Carthage, MO: courtesy of NPS/Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. Los Angeles Theatre Lobby: courtesy of Los Angeles Theatre/Broadway Theatre Group. Schubertiade at Schwarzenberg: courtesy of Schubertiade.

All articles in this newsletter are by Cynthia Collins. The featured historic site section contains general information. The other articles may not be reprinted without written permission. Subscriber lists are not sold or given to any third parties and historic sites are not charged for being featured. To suggest historic sites for future issues, request article reprint permission, or any comments/questions regarding this newsletter, please contact Cynthia Collins.
Copyright © 2017 Cynthia Collins, All rights reserved.

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