Route 66 (also known as the Mother Road, Will Rogers Highway, and the Mainstreet of America) was commissioned on November 11, 1926. The road began in Chicago, Illinois, and covered a total of 2,448 miles ending in Los Angeles, California.
The road is an important part of American history. It was the path for those who had lost everything in the 1930s, during the Dust Bowl years, to a promise of prosperity in the west. During World War II, the road was used for military vehicles to get from one coast to the other. In the 1950s, Route 66 became popular for road trips in a prospering economy. Neon lights, giant statues, art deco buildings, teepee-shaped motels, frozen custard stands, Indian curio shops, and reptile farms advertised for the business of everyone traveling the Mainstreet of America.
The 1950s was also the time that the interstate highways started being built and bypassing parts of the Mother Road. The last part of Route 66 was bypassed in 1984 with decertification in 1985.
Business owners along the route saw business decline as they were bypassed by the interstate highways. Angel Delgadillo, a barber in Seligman, Arizona, saw his town dying and wanted to do something about it. He was instrumental in the formation of the Route 66 Association of Arizona in 1987. Other states followed with their own associations, and soon parts of the road were being designated as a State Historic Route.
Today, each of the eight states has signage leading the paths of the old highway. Different alignments where the road was redirected overtime are also indicated. Businesses and ruins along the route are being maintained and restored. Museums showcasing the history of Route 66 have been built.
Although not officially a national road, Route 66 is an international destination for many people to relive history and experience small town Americana across the US.