Webb City, Missouri: Giant Praying Hands

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Webb City was one of the most pleasing small towns I visited on my trip down Route 66.  The town has some beautiful architecture, and pays homage to the Mother Road.

Route 66 follows Broadway through downtown Webb City.  Rather than make a straight shot through town, the route requires a left at Webb Street, then a quick right to put you back on Broadway.

I stopped downtown and spent a few minutes walking around.  One attraction that caught my eye was this beautiful mural that doesn’t just celebrate Webb City, but also nearby Carthage (the Jasper County Courthouse), then in the distance St. Louis (the arch), and far away, the distinctive skyline of Chicago.

You’ll drive by a lot of murals during a trip down 66, but I think this is one of the most attractive.  The mural is on the side of Bruner Pharmacy, and was painted by Webb City Mayor John Biggs.

Most of the downtown district lines up along Main Street, which is not Route 66 (the old road runs east/west, Main runs north/south).

Worth noticing is the Route 66 Theater (not to be confused with the 66 Drive-In, just up the road in Carthage).

The old theater is still showing new movies, and even has its own myspace page.  I’d sure love to have seen the neon at night!

Webb City used to have a network of street cars, connecting the city with other nearby towns.  Some of the routes even ran on Route 66!  According to one website, you can see the one surviving streetcar at the Webb City Chamber of Commerce, at the south end of Main Street.

John C. Webb may have ended up with his name on the city, but he didn’t end up with much to show for the discovery that caused his city to boom.  In 1874, one year after discovering a lead deposit on his property, Webb sold his share of the mining rights for $25.  The Center Creek Mining Company capitalized on his discovery, and eventually pulled $13 Million in ore from the ground. During World War I, there were more than 50 lead and zinc mines operating in the area.

Giant Praying Hands

Take Broadway to Madison, then turn south.  Route 66 used to follow Jefferson, not Madison, but Jefferson has been cut off by US 71.  Before you continue south on Madison, make a left onto US 71/MO Rte. 171, and head east for a few blocks, to see the praying hands.

Chuck Surface from Webb City has this update: Just saw your web site and loved it. I want to bring you up to date on Webb City’s new Route 66 endeavors. We are rehabilitating a gas station at Webb and Broadway (Rt 66) for a Route 66 info center. Also making a Route 66 park as you enter the city from the east.

For nearly four decades, a 100-ton pair of concrete hands have been praying over Webb City.  The giant sculpture is perched on a hill in King Jack Park, just behind the railroad tracks.

You can park at the foot of the hill, and walk all the way up to the base of the statue.

The Praying Hands are surrounded by American flags, living up to Webb City’s name: The Friendly City of Flags.

The Praying Hands were sculpted and cast in concrete by 20 year old college student Jack Dawson, back in 1972.  Most of the money to fund the project (and to maintain it today) comes from private donations.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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