San Diego, CA
Route 66 - Cool Springs Camp Az
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© Christine Till
The story of Cool Springs in western Arizona reflects the story of Route 66. The Mother Road gave it life. The hey-day of Route 66 was the hey-day of Cool Springs. When Route 66 declined in this area, so did Cool Springs.
With the huge volume of traffic travelling route 66, back when cars needed frequent service, gas stations were all along the route. Cool Springs Service Station was built in the mid-1920s and eventually had a cafe added as well as eight tourist cabins. For early motorists, Cool Springs represented a life-saving stop, to check for oil, water, gas up and maybe grab a bite to eat - or to calm their nerves before 'climbing' or after descending from the steep grades of Sitgreaves Pass with its narrow road, and hairpin curves. Of all the stretches along Route 66 this was perhaps the most intimidating of all. Some travelers of old Route 66 would pay the locals to drive their car up the grade for them or even have their vehicle towed over the summit. As the main route between Chicago and Los Angeles the traffic on Route 66 increased. It became a particularly dangerous road and Sitgreaves Pass a particularly dangerous stretch.
However, this part of Route 66 was bypassed around 1953, and Interstate 40 follows this new alignment across the desert today. The era of the Interstates had begun, and travel via the "old route" through the Black Mountains and Oatman slowed to a trickle. In 1964 Cool Springs station was abandoned. The final blow came a few years later. In the mid-sixties, a fire burned Cool Springs to the ground. Nothing remained but fragments of the stone foundations and the original stone pillars. For the next quarter of a century Cool Springs was just a forgotten memory, a crumbling stone relic along a forgotten road, home to lizards, tarantulas, and tumbleweeds. Then briefly in 1991 Cool Springs came to life again when Hollywood used it as a location for their movie "Universal Soldier". They built a facade for the movie and then blew it up. The film crew cleaned the area before they left, and the locals began using it for their local dumping grounds.
In 2001 Ned Leuchtner, a real estate agent from Chicago, was intrigued by the beauty, history and majesty of the area. He bought the site and began its careful restoration. He has done a really good job in bringing the old station back to life. Since 2004 Cool Springs Camp & Station is fully restored and has the look and feel of the 20's.
Route 66 became the highway America couldn't forget. And the restoration of Cool Springs represents the end of the old era, and the beginning of the new appreciation for the days of the past. It is a very neat place to stop as you travel the now famous Old Route 66 from Kingman, AZ up to Sitgreaves Pass. The trip is about 15-20 miles through the desert, and before you get to the pass you'll be passing Cool Springs Station.
April 16th, 2013
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