The brilliant neon sign at the Rest Haven Court greets you, as you arrive in Springfield, Missouri. The old motor court comes before the city and bypass routes split, so you won’t miss it, whichever route you choose.
I didn’t stay at the Rest Haven — it was still too early in the day to stop. But, from the outside, it looked like a well-maintained motel. It does concern me that tripadvisor.com — a website I rely on heavily for motel reviews — doesn’t list the Rest Haven, and it appears the Rest Haven doesn’t have a website of its own. Of course, both of those things may have nothing to do with the quality or cleanliness of the room. All I can tell you is, it looked acceptable from the outside.
Just beyond the Rest Haven, the two alignments of Route 66 split. I chose to follow the city route into Springfield’s Town square.
The center of Springfield’s downtown is quite literally, a square. Roads enter the square in the middle (instead of the edges, as in most towns), then circle around the outer edge of this brick and grass plaza.
Springfield’s downtown felt a bit eerie to me. It wasn’t completely desolate — there were a few people around, enough so that I had to circle twice to find a parking spot on a side road. But, like so many other towns, storefronts sat empty, and everything looked a little worn.
Most of the buildings are only a few stories tall, yet this was the biggest town I had seen all day. That, coupled with the tight design of the streets that circled the plaza, made me feel like I was in the bottom of a canyon, and the walls were closing in.
Suddenly I feel thirsty, but for what? The remnants of what was most likely a bold neon sign over the town square left me with no clue as to what I should consume.
Just a short walk east from the downtown square is the historic Gillioz Theater. The elaborate old theater was built in 1926, and closed in 1980, but restored and re-opened in 2006.
[tmt_info =””]The Gillioz website credits concrete and drug users for helping preserve the old theater. So much concrete was used in constructing the Gillioz, that when the theater was bought by preservationists in 1990, they were told it would cost just as much to restore it, as to tear it down. As for the drug dealers: when the theater closed, a bad element moved into St. Louis Street. Because they were there, vandals stayed away, reducing damage to the outside architecture.[/tmt_info]
With little else to hold my attention in downtown Springfield, I hopped back on the road again.
[tmt_info =””]On your way out of Springfield, you can avoid the Interstate and stay on old Route 66, by following College St. to Chestnut Expressway, which turns into MO Rte. 266, then Rte. 96 all the way into Carthage.[/tmt_info]
Note: This trip was first published in 2008.