Long before Route 66 was commissioned in the 1920s, settlers used the Beale Wagon Road to move west. Route 66 traced the same route used by the Beale Wagon Road through Arizona. The Arizona Route 66 Museum, located in a former Kingman power plant, recalls the history of the route from horse-and-buggy days to the Route 66 heyday in the 1950s and ‘60s.
The museum’s story begins with the Beale Wagon Road. In 1857 President James Buchanan dispatched Edward Fitzgerald “Ned” Beale to survey and build a 1,000 mile road along the 35th parallel from Fort Defiance, New Mexico, to the Colorado River between Arizona and California. Beale used camels for the survey expedition, thinking they might fare better in the desert than horses and mules and would also be able to carry more weight. Although the camels worked well for the project, their sour disposition didn’t go over well with the workers.
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The museum’s life-size diorama depicts a family moving west along the Beale Wagon Road in a prairie schooner.
Similarly, another diorama shows a family moving west on Route 66 during the Dust Bowl. Quotes from John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” tell the story of families moving west searching for a better life along “the mother road.”
Surprising Fact: Only eight percent of the families that moved to California during the 1930s Dust Bowl stayed. Most found life no easier in California and returned home.
The last section of the museum celebrates Main Street U.S.A. Following World War II automobile ownership increased dramatically. With more leisure time, people took road trips along Route 66. Times were good, and businesses along Route 66 boomed.
Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum
The Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum is also located in the Powerhouse and is included with your Route 66 Museum admission. Among the fun collection of cars are several micro cars from the 1940s to ’60s.
The Powerhouse Building
The Powerhouse building in which the museum is located dates back to 1907 and once generated electrical power for the city of Kingman. It is the oldest known reinforced concrete industrial building in Arizona. The building’s construction was the beginning of new construction methods used in industrial buildings throughout the state.
If you visit the Arizona Route 66 Museum
The Arizona Route 66 Museum, located at 120 W Andy Devine Avenue in Kingman, Arizona, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $4.00 and also includes admission to the nearby Mohave Museum. Check the website for further details.
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