Nearly 30 years ago, the City of Waynesville played a role in a significant chapter in the history of Route 66 when, on July 10, 1990, at the Pulaski County Courthouse, then-Gov. John Ashcroft signed a state law making the highway an official historic district.
Missouri was the first state to award the status to the famous highway, an action that kicked off a nationwide revival of interest in “The Mother Road” that has attracted tourists from around the world and sparked numerous preservation efforts over the past three decades.
On May 21, city leaders celebrated the milestone, with Mayor Luge Hardman proclaiming Waynesville the “Birthplace of the Byway.”
“We proudly celebrated the highway’s rebirth then, and we continue to celebrate Route 66 now, as we build our town and community around its rich history,” Hardman stated in the official proclamation.
Attending the May 21 ceremony was former state Rep. Jim Mitchell, of Richland, who co-sponsored the bill in 1990 with then-Rep. J. Dan Woodall of Springfield, Missouri. Mitchell said he was pleased to see the positive impact the historic designation has had for small cities and towns along the route in the years since the measure received unanimous support from the Missouri General Assembly.
“I get a kick out of seeing folks from around the country, and the world, getting their kicks on Route 66 in Waynesville,” Mitchell said.
Also in attendance was Beth Wiles, Pulaski County Tourism Bureau executive director, who said she hopes to see even more Route 66 enthusiasts exploring downtown Waynesville as the town’s claim to Route 66 fame gains more recognition.
“The story of Governor Ashcroft signing the bill at the courthouse needed to be dusted off and retold. Waynesville is a significant part of the rebirth of Route 66,” Wiles said.
(Editor’s note: Information for this story provided by the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau.)