Oklahoma’s Existing Route 66 Signs
by Lynne Rostochil. Photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated.
Recently, I was hunting around the internet looking for a comprehensive list of all of Oklahoma’s Route 66 signs and was very surprised to find absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. What do you do in that case? Well, you make a list, of course. So that’s exactly what I did and instead of keeping it all to myself, I thought I’d share it with you. I’ve sorted the list of 100+ signs alphabetically by town below — please let me know if I’ve missed a sign and I’ll be sure to include it here.
Although it’s in ruins, it looks like the town of Afton appreciates this old motor court sign and has no plans to take it down. You can find it just west of town near the intersection of S. 1st Street and S. Monroe.
Located in the heart of downtown on Main Street, the Palmer Hotel sign rests on another unused building that is just across from Afton Station (where you can also find an old DX sign and a vintage Packard sign). Be sure to go inside and check out the great car museum at the station.
Rest Haven Motel
A couple of blocks east of the Palmer Hotel is another abandoned beauty, the Rest Haven Motel. This is another weathered sign that has seen better days but is still loved by the community:
Lake Air Drive-In Theater
From what I’ve read, the drive-in was a golf range first and then morphed into a drive-in movie theater in 1950. According to one expert, “It was built by Robert and Charles Mc Farland and sold to local theater magnet, Robert Lewis Barton in 1959. The first movie shown was ‘Francis’, starring Donald O’Conner, Patricia Medina and Ray Collins. The second feature was ‘Francis, The Talking Mule.’ Admission price was 50 cents for adults.”
Another source on Cinema Treasures says, “The entrance drive was lined by lattice fencing, with baroque trim, topped by Victorian gaslight fixtures. Manicured landscaping was exceptionally lush with a vast array of varied foliage. Below the screentower was a small playground park surrounded by royal gold cannas, boardered by hostas plants. There was a candy cane striped swingset, candy striped teeter-totters, spiral slide, and a round trampoline housed inside a white gazebo. The concession stand had a brick patio enclosed by an iron picket fence. The enterior was Victorian styled with flocked foil wallpaper and gingerbread trim. It offered the usual hot dogs, popcorn, candy, and pop, but its popular specialty was a breaded mutton steak sandwich, topped with mayo and onion rings (this sandwich was also a favorite across town at the Ice Cream Parlor inside Frontier City Amusement Park).”
The drive-in closed after the 1967 season and became a go-cart track then a golf range again and maybe even a church before being abandoned altogether in the early 2000s. Here are photos of the sign and snack bar/projection booth:
Located on the western edge of Bethany, the appropriately named Western Motel opened in 1953 and hasn’t changed much since then. The motel was closed for awhile and rumors circulated that it was going to be demolished, which landed the motel and many of its Route 66 counterparts on the 2007 Most Endangered Places list. But the motel is open again to long-term residents and it’s still there, I’m happy to report.
Norm Smith Auto Sales
This great sign is located at the intersection of NW 39th and Rockwell and is in great condition.
Comet Skating Rink
This cutie is located just off of Route 66 on NW 36th east of MacArthur. The sign has been repainted since I took this photo and the place is now called Skate Galaxy.
Beard Motor Company Chrysler-Plymouth sign
Located at 210 E. 9th, this giant of a sign sits a couple of blocks off of Route 66 but is still impossible to miss. It’s one of the few Oklahoma signs on the National Register, too:
Cotton Boll Motel
The Cotton Boll Motel, located just east of 6th Street, became a private residence a long time ago, but the sign remains and is a Route 66 icon:
Down the street from the Cotton Boll just east of 1st street is another motel that is now a private residence, the Washita.
I haven’t photographed this one myself and I’m not sure if it’s still there or not — hopefully so. Here’s a link to a photo of the motel sign that was taken in 2010.
Mullen Drive-In Restaurant
The drive-in closed long ago, but the sign and building are still there.
St. Cloud Hotel
The St. Cloud Hotel on the southern tip of downtown was built by John E Gromley and opened in 1903. It’s on the National Register and features a fun ghost sign on the side advertising the hotel and Coca-Cola. This shot was taken by Kim on Flickr:
One of the most iconic signs along Route 66 is the fun bow tie-shaped beauty that stands in front of the Lincoln Motel at 740 E. 1st just east of downtown. The place is busier than ever and draws an enthusiastic and loyal Route 66 crowd.
This iconic sign sat just west of NW 39th and Portland until the bowling alley closed in 2010. For years, the fate of this beauty was unknown until it was erected just east of downtown Chandler a couple of years ago. It marks the spot of an entertainment complex that is currently under construction.
Dorothy’s Flowers and Dot’s Cafe
Dot’s Cafe and Dorothy’s Flowers are neighbors on the 300 block of W. Will Rogers in downtown. Dorothy’s has been serving the community since 1947, and I imagine that Dot’s has been around just as long. This photo is from moreclaremore.com
What’s not to love about this delicious piece of Googie goodness located at 217 W. Gary? The motel has been recently remodeled and is looking pretty good these days.
This theater was originally called the Rialto and opened around 1920. It became the Redland sometime after 1957.
This rusty crusty beauty in downtown is barely readable now but is still very cool.
McClain Rogers Park
Here’s another beauty that has been recently restored. The 12-acre park was built as a WPA project between 1934 and 1937 and named after the then mayor of the town. Photo from roadarch.com
There are a few of these signs scattered around Oklahoma — this one is located at 1029 S 10th Street.
The beautiful Centre Theater in downtown El Reno was designed by Jack Corgan and opened in 1944. Sometime in the 1050s, it received a new facade that aged pretty poorly over time. In 2010, a big wind storm blew through town and literally ripped off the ’50s facade, exposing the original streamline moderne gem underneath. After painstakingly refurbishing the theater inside and out and replicating the original neon sign, the theater is once again alive and hosting all kinds of events.
At one time, there were several motels in El Reno that boasted some pretty fantastic signs, including the Big 8 Motel that was featured in the 1988 film, Rain Man. Unfortunately, all are gone now except for the Ranger Motel just east of town. It’s still looking pretty great:
What’s not to love about the typography used in the United Supermarket sign?
Although it hasn’t been a theater in quite awhile, the Westland sign downtown is still in great shape.
This was probably a cute little motor court at one time, but the old Elm Motel is looking pretty sad these days and the sign is looking even worse.
Just west of town between Birch and Cedar streets sits the long-vacant Westwinds Motel. The sign fades a little more each time I visit town, but it’s still a stunner.
U.S and Oklahoma Flags
In the downtown area, this great ghost sits and slowly fades away.
“When it opened on April 18, 1929 along Miami’s Main Street segment of Route 66, the Coleman Theatre was proudly billed as the most elaborate entertainment facility between Dallas and Kansas City. Local mining magnate, George Coleman, who conceived and funded the theatre, determined to give Miami–and Mother Road travelers– the very best entertainment in the most modern surroundings…. The Coleman’s Spanish Revival style exterior was a favorite choice of the Jazz Age, and this stucco palace is considered one of the best surviving examples in Oklahoma…. It was added to the National Register in 1983.”
Ku Ku Burger
Waylans Ku Ku Burger was once part of a chain that was built in the 1960s, and it’s the only Ku Ku left today:
Miami Armature Wks
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a shot of this zippy sign when I was in Miami last time, but I did find a Flickriver shot of it:
There were several Route 66 alignments that ran through Oklahoma City over the years, which is why these signs are all over the place in town.
The stalwart Jack’s sign on NW 39th and Meridian is so good, I’m including a night and day shot of it. The food’s not too shabby, either.
This is a new sign but it’s a great addition to Route 66 at NW 39th and Meridian, I think. Who doesn’t love a sign with a guy wearing a blingy C necklace?
Once, not too long ago, several motor courts dotted NW 39th — the Suntide, Carlyle, Tower Courts, etc. — including the Arcadia with its deliciously Googie sign. Here it is in its heyday:
The motel ceased operations around 2006 and it became home to Tioli Motors two years later. Here’s the sign from that time:
Since then, the sign has lost more and more of its bits and little of it is left.
At Northwest 39th just west of Portland next to the old 66 Bowl is the FA Highley sign. It was restored about a decade ago and looks fantastic today. It’s so good, it gets a day and night shot, too.
There are a few great signs along the NW 23rd stretch of old Route 66, too, including one of my favorites, even if it has been mucked up a bit. That’s the very Googie Drexel Cleaners sign. Here it is when it was shiny and new:
It wouldn’t take much to spruce up this baby and bring it back to life, which is exactly what I hope happens someday.
Hoover Service Center
This ghost sign sits on a faded building across from the Gold Dome at NW 23rd and Classen.
From the Cheever’s website:
“On May 19th, 1889, the first baby was born in the newly formed Oklahoma City. She was proudly named “Oklahoma Belle Cunningham”,and—in 1912—she married Lawrence “L.L.” Cheever. In 1927, Oklahoma Belle began her flower career selling roses from her backyard to help with family finances. When L.L. became unemployed during the Great Depression, the flower business became the family trade. In 1938, the Cheevers moved into Belle’s family home on Hudson Avenue, and purchased the property from her grandmother. They added a stylish Deco storefront–built of limestone and black glass with huge plate glass windows and terrazzo floors. The Cheevers also procured a 20-foot flower display cooler from Chicago. All the while, they lived in the back portion of the original Victorian house. Cheever’s flowers continued in this location until the mid-nineties and served as the home to three generations of Cheevers…. Heather and Keith Paul purchased the building in 2000 (and opened Cheever’s Cafe).”
This is a new sign in the Tower Theatre complex, but it’s so atomic age good that I had to include it. The Bunker Club itself is as great as the sign, so check it out:
The Tower Theatre was designed by W. Scott Dunne and built in 1937. After the theater closed, it became a concert venue for awhile in the late 1990s before closing for good and sitting empty for nearly 20 years until it was purchased by the Pivot Group, who completed a $6.5 million renovation of the building and sign and reopened the beloved building as an event space in 2016.
These restored signs are near the downtown area at the intersection of Water and Hobson.
Originally a Tastee-Freez when it opened in 1957, the owner changed the name to Happy Burger when he wanted to leave the franchise in the early 1970s. The place has been thriving ever since and serves a mean peanut butter shake.
The Starlite Skating sign is one of the most beloved Route 66 icons in Oklahoma. The rink closed around 2000 and sat closed for a couple of years, but I believe it has reopened and is a rink and events center.
Grain elevator ghost
Locate near the train tracks is this fantastic ghost sign the covers the entire surface of an old grain elevator.
Owl Rexall Drugs
What’s not to love about this old sign?
The theater has been remodeled and the sign restored since I took this shot in 2010. The theater got a blah facelift, but the sign looks great.
Go here to see what it looks like today.
One place that hasn’t changed, I’m happy to say, is the fantastic Western Motel. Long may it live!
This is surely one of the most photographed signs along Route 66 because it’s so fabulously Googie and dramatic. Love it!
A true Route 66 icon, the Rock Cafe has been around since the ‘30s and in addition to owner Dawn Welch being the inspiration for Sally in the Disney Pixar film “Cars,” you can get one of the best burgers in the state at this friendly roadside eatery.
By far, T-Town has the largest collection Mother Road signs in the state, and they are working hard to capitalize on their Route 66 heritage and preserve them. Way to go, Tulsa!
Here are some great motel signs:
The once charming motel with its cottage-style office has been closed awhile and is deteriorating more each day. Same case with the sign. Go by and take a look before it’s all gone — 11017 E 11th St.
Desert Hills Motel
This U-shaped motel located at 5220 E. 11th was constructed in 1953 and the sign dates from around that time, too. In 2007, Oklahoma’s Route 66 motels were on the Endangered Places list, with several were deemed worthy of being on the National Register and, for obvious reasons, the Desert Hills Motel was eligible. I don’t think it has ever made it onto the Register, but it’s still in great shape today.
Located at 9303 E. 11th, the Oasis Motel sign is simply sublime.
Elm’s Court Motel
With its rock cabins, this old motor court looks like it’s been around since the 1920s or 1930s. It’s been closed for a really long time, but whoever owns it keeps the property well maintained and the buildings look like they could open back up for business with a little love and elbow grease.
Saratoga Motor Hotel
Here’s what the once-glorious Saratoga Motor Hotel at 10117 E. 11th looked like in its heyday:
At some point, the motel became an America’s Value Inn but the giant Googie sign remained somewhat intact — here it is in 2009:
Sadly, when I went back to photograph the place earlier this year, it was all closed up and the starburst on the sign was gone:
The neon Restaurant sign is barely hanging on:
There are a cluster of great signs just south of Route 66 on Harvard that are worth checking out:
C&C Tile and Carpet
This one is so good, both day and night:
And in no particular order, here are some other great Route 66 signs that are scattered around Tulsa:
Marshall Radio & TV
Here’s another one that’s not quite on Route 66 but is worth taking a detour to check out — it’s located at 4128 E. Admiral:
FYI, there are a lot of great signs up and down Admiral, so it’s worth going east out of town on Route 66 and driving back on Admiral to see them.
Clay’s Motors sign
This Googie-licious beauty is located at 4507 E. 11th. I took the first photo in 2009 and the second one at 2018:
Skateland is the last of Tulsa’s skating rinks. It opened in 1968 and is located just off of Route 66 at 1150 S Sheridan Rd.
One of the very best buildings in all of T-Town is the lovely and oh-so-fun Rose Bowl, which was designed by Bill Ryan and opened in 1962. Here it is when it was still a baby:
The bowling alley closed over a decade ago and the place has been a recreation center for underprivileged youth since then, but the Rose Bowl is currently for sale and its fate is uncertain.
Day & Nite Cleaners
This sweet Streamline building at 1012 S. Elgin was designed by William H. Wolaver and opened in 1946 — the sign looks like it might be a bit newer than that, and both it and the building are in great shape today:
Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant
This glorious was built in 1950 and moved to its present location at 1629 E 11th St three years later. In 2009, the sign was completely restored and is ready to light up Route 66 well into the 21st century.
The Meadow Gold sign was erected for the Beatrice Food Company in the 1940s atop a small building at 11th and Lewis. It was a Route 66 icon for over 60 years until the building sold in 2004 and the new owner planned to demolish both the building and the sign. Through the combined efforts of the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Program, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture, and the OK Route 66 Association, the sign was saved and eventually restored. It now rests atop another small building at 11th and Quaker and remains a Route 66 gem.
I believe this was originally called the Lyric and it opened in 1922. In the 1990s, it was renovated and converted into a three-screen cinema. It is located at 124 S Wilson St., and here’s a photo from Cinema Treasures of the building and sign:
Hi Way Cafe
The cafe is located at 437918 Hwy 60 just west of Vinita. Here’s a photo of the sign by Kelly Ludwig:
Right ghost sign
I’m always a sucker for a good ghost sign, and this one in the downtown area is beyond good.
Obviously, this was a diner at some point in time, but the place, located on Route 66 just west of Yukon, sits quiet and abandoned now.
The stunning 42′ x 55′ sign was restored in 2013 and relit for the first time in decades. Here’s a photo by the Lope of it looking happy and bright once again. Here it is at night:
… and during the day:
And that’s it for our tour of signs. Of course, I probably missed some and if that’s the case, let me know and I’ll be sure to add them here.
Sadly, a lot of Oklahoma’s Route 66 signs are gone — soon, we’ll take a look at some of those.