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Route 66 Park Project Is Underway: Mayor Stephens Recalls 'Red's Hamburg'

1960's Car on Display at Route 66 Fundraiser / Photo Credit: Shannon Bowers

The City of Springfield has launched a fundraising effort to build a roadside park celebrating the city’s history as the birthplace of Route 66. Also known as the “Mother Road”, it was part of the original highway system in the 1960’s, running from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. KSMU’s Shannon Bowers has this story.

The hum of this '67 SS Camaro is just a taste of what city officials and locals hope will become a new landmark, bringing in tourism and an improved 'Route 66.'  It's locally known as College Street, and Springfield intends to revive its history from Kansas Expressway to Grant Ave.

Mothers Brewing Company is the largest recent development on College Street.  Owner Jeff Schrag says this is a natural progression as downtown grows, creating a larger cultural center.

“It is pretty amazing to think this is where Springfield began was on this rise and then you have the rail road history down below. Just going back and redeveloping these areas, not going out and building new places, is really going to help the community. To see that it can be done redeveloping these historic areas,” Said Schrag.

City Council unanimously approved the use of $100,000 in funds reserved from the ¼ cent Capital Improvement Sales Tax to jump start the development of this project. However, director of city planning and development Ralph Rognstad said this project could cost up to half a million dollars, if you consider all of the pieces the city would like to include.

“We are trying to locate a gas station that we could relocate there and create an inturprtetive center out of that. We have an old motel sign that we want to refurbish and put in the park. We also want to do a birthplace of Route 66 sculpture and there are several other elements in the plan that we want to incorporate in the park. The more money we can raise, the more the park will be able to develop,” said Rognstad.

To raise the money,, a local crowd funding company, is partnering with the City of Springfield to raise the money through donations.  CEO of the company, Jason Graf, is passionate about helping local businesses; he himself has only been in business for about four months.

“Our history is rooted in this project. And we are honored we could be a part of it, and we are honored we could donate our services back to the city for this project,” Graf said.

The first leg of fundraising effort will be a 66 day campaign. This campaign is specifically to construct and recreate the iconic Red’s Giant Hamburg sign. Cora Scott is a spokeswoman for the City of Springfield.

“Legend has it that Red Giant Hamburg, which actually sat on Route 66, was well known at the time for their hamburgers and frech fries and that they had the first drive through window in the country. And several have substantiated that that was the case,” said Scott.

One of those people is Mayor Bob Stephens, who recalls his own memories there.

 “I was a kid and I went and got hamburgers at Red’s Giant Hamburg. Yes.  Red would come running out the front door, and the screen door would slam behind him, and he would run up and take your order, and run it back in. Then you pulled around to the side and they had it ready for you,” said Stephens.

Wednesday night, the city rose just over $10,000 of its 15,000 goal for the Red’s Project. The $100,000 from the Capital Improvement Sales tax will go toward updating infrastructure and the roadway of College Street. City Officials say the project could take anywhere between three to five years, depending on the funds raised.

For KSMU news, I'm Shannon Bowers 

Learn more about the Route 66 Roadside Park Project