The Paradise Motel, at the junction of US Highway 66 and US 101 near the eastern terminus of Sunset Boulevard (the cross street is named Bellevue), was probably the closest Route 66 motel to downtown Los Angeles. The Texaco gasoline station seen on the corner in this RPPC was long ago replaced by a commercial building with its own parking lot. In fact, the Paradise motel sits today on a narrow L-shaped lot that closely follows the outline of the drive lane and parking and the rooms. Sunset Boulevard, most famous on the western side of Los Angeles where its multiple lanes are busy and noisy, is fairly quiet here. A photograph of the Paradise Motel from 1996 appears on page 151 of Highway America's Endless Dream by Bernd Polster and Phil Patton. Later the Paradise Motel was used as a filming location for the long-ago-cancelled television show The O.C. where the kids supposedly spend the night in an old motel on their way south to Tijuana. This motel still has some nice neon that extends out from the office at the center of the building along the two wings of rooms.
The earliest course of US Highway 66 northeast from Los Angeles included North Broadway, Huntington Drive, and Fair Oaks Avenue, and then to Colorado Street in Pasadena. But two better known later routes north of downtown Los Angeles were used for most of the era of Route 66: first Figueroa Street and second the Arroyo Seco Parkway. The route from Los Angeles to Pasadena followed Figueroa Street north through the Figueroa Tunnels and by way of the Highland Park area of Los Angeles where it finally intersected western Colorado Street. Route 66 went east on Colorado Street (it was "Street" then and "Boulevard" now) where it crossed over the Arroyo Seco ("dry stream" in Spanish) on the 1913 Colorado Street Bridge and into the heart of Pasadena. This route was US Highway 66 until the 1940s when the Arroyo Seco Parkway was built. The Parkway, now called the Pasadena Freeway, shortened the distance since it was east of Figueroa and angled more directly into Pasadena. As the first "parkway" or "freeway" in Los Angeles, it allowed vehicles to travel much faster by limiting access via merging on- and off-ramps from side streets which eliminated traffic signals and stop signs. The older Figueroa Street alignment became Alternate US Highway 66 for many years thereafter.
Pasadena is one of the very earliest incorporated cities in Los Angeles County. Outside of California Pasadena is probably best known for the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl performed and played annually on January 1 (or January 2 if New Year's Day falls on a Sunday). The city attracted the wealthy families of Los Angeles and at one time Pasadena had the highest per-capita income of any city in the USA. Because the city dates back well into the 19th century, there is a remarkable variety of architecture in the commercial buildings as well as the residential buildings. Architectural students and historians know Pasadena for the wealth of Arts and Crafts style homes designed by Greene & Greene. It is also a city known for a number of prestigious museums today. Colorado Blvd. has always been the main street of modern Pasadena and not surprisingly it became US Highway 66.
Colorado Boulevard through Pasadena on a rare cloudy day.
Clark's Cottage Hotel became the Clark Motel. The site is now a Chevrolet automobile dealership.
The Bella Vista ("Beautiful View") Motor Court was on Colorado Blvd.
The Bella Vista Motor Court site is now a modern Buick-GMC automobile dealership.
A trip down Colorado Boulevard today is unlike a trip sixty or seventy years ago. Today Colorado Blvd. has probably some of the most expensive commercial real estate, if not the most expensive real estate, in the San Gabriel Valley of greater Los Angeles. Colorado Blvd. is jammed with traffic and lined with modern office buildings and upscale retail stores today. I can not get a real feel for Route 66 through any of these cities of the western San Gabriel Valley any longer. The land along Colorado Blvd. has been put to what real estate pundits call a "higher and better use". Most of the old motels and restaurants from the Route 66 days on Colorado do not even exist today. The few exceptions that I know include the old Ace High Motel which is still operating as the Ace Motel, and a couple of others in the same block on the south side of Colorado. The more modern Saga Motor Hotel is still open too. Both old motor court complexes shown here in vintage RPPCs have been replaced by automobile dealerships: the Clark's Cottage Hotel (later named the Clark Motel) was razed for a Chevrolet dealership and the Bella Vista Motor Court was razed for a Buick-GMC dealership.
The founding of modern Arcadia has usually been attributed to the real estate magnate Elias "Lucky" Baldwin who bought 8000 acres in the western San Gabriel Valley in the late 19th century. With Baldwin's active encouragement the Santa Fe Railroad built their tracks through his property and he subsequently laid out roads, subdivided his land and constructed the first commercial buildings in the area. Baldwin himself became the first mayor after the city was incorporated early in the 20th century. Arcadia is primarily known today for the famous Santa Anita Racetrack, a Thoroughbred horse racing venue that borders Route 66 and was built in 1934. The venerable Westerner Hotel is still operating today as the Elite Westerner Inn and Suites on old Route 66.
Foothill Boulevard was the early alignment of US Highway 66 in Monrovia
The MonArc Motel was one mile east of the Santa Anita Racetrack.
The Aztec Hotel opened in 1925. Today it wears a combination of brown and green paint.
The Motel Casa Bonita at 2541 E. Huntington Drive called itself the "Sweetest on 66."
Monrovia is the fourth-oldest incorporated city in Los Angeles County (behind Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Pasadena) thus permitting Route 66 to claim to be the most prominent highway link connecting them all. The name of the city was derived from an early rancher, William Monroe. The first alignment of Route 66 through Monrovia was on Foothill Blvd. while the later alignment was just south on Huntington Drive. Foothill Blvd. has the architecturally significant Aztec Hotel, which was designed and built in the middle of the Roaring Twenties and now is on the National Register of Historic Places. Its future is a bit uncertain right now. However, the motels developed later during the post-War period on Huntington Drive although nearly all are gone now.
The Oakleigh Auto Court was listed in a brochure published by the AAA in 1933 and was at 1820 E. Foothill Blvd. in Duarte
The Motel Zanzibar was at 1524 E. Huntington Drive in Duarte and the Filly Park N Eat was next door.
The HiWay 66 Foothill Motel was a long-time motel along Route 66 in Monrovia
The Monte Vista Auto Court originally advertised their location as "2 Miles West of Azusa" but later modernized their name to be the Monte Vista Motel and set their location as Duarte.
Route 66 was Huntington Drive through the City of Duarte. The Hi-Way 66 Foothill Motel operated for many decades on Foothill. As recently as 2007 it was operating as the Capri Motel but shortly thereafter it was razed for a new multi-unit residential complex.
Route 66 shifted to Foothill Blvd. through the town of Azusa. Incorporated late in the 19th century, Azusa, calls itself the "Canyon City", so-named because of its location at the mouth of the San Gabriel Canyon (State Highway 39 to the north). Azusa is known today for the Foothill Drive-In Theatre which has been closed for some time and the subject of a lot of controversy about its future. Purchased by Azusa Pacific University, college administrators planned to raze the remaining structure for a parking lot but the theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lawsuits were filed and the Theatre was removed from the Register data base and razed. Only the marquee sign is left. The Azusa Civic Center, at 213 Foothill Blvd., is an 80-year-old complex that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Madonna of the Trail statue was erected in 1929.
Glendora has two alignments of Route 66, as Monrovia does. The early alignment was Foothill Blvd. and the later alignment was Alosta Avenue. The motels developed on Alosta since it was the post-War alignment. The City of Glendora recently renamed their part of Alosta as "Route 66". The 20th Century Motor Court, which dates well back to the Route 66 days, is still operating today in Glendora.
Upland is known for having one of the dozen national Madonna of the Trail statues, all dedicated to the early pioneer women and children and their role in settling the West. The statues were planned in the mid-1920s and the idea was to place one in each state through which the National Highway (also called the "Old Trails National Highway" in the Southwest) traveled on its way from coast to coast. Sculptor August Leimbach prepared a small model of a pioneer mother with her baby in one arm and a rifle in her other while a small boy clinged to her long skirt. The model won the competition and Mr. Leimbach gained the commission to produce the twelve statues. These statues were cast from a slurry of crushed marble, granite, cement and other stone that was poured into a mold, so all statues across the country are the same although the particular geographical and historical information cut into the base varies on each. The base of this statue mentions that trapper and scout Jedediah Smith led 16 trappers into the area, the first non-Native Americans to reach California overland in 1826. Mention is also made of the significant role of the Spanish padres in settling the coastal area of California as well. This statue was erected in 1929, just three years after the commissioning of US Highway 66. Foothill Blvd. is Route 66 and the statue is in the park-like median strip of the cross street of Euclid Avenue. The only other Madonna of the Trail statue on Route 66 is in Albuquerque on Fourth Street, the first alignment of US Highway 66 in that city.
Lucy and John's Italian Dinners opened on Foothill Blvd. in 1934. This building burned down in 1954 and John Clearman built and opened a new restaurant which he called the Magic Lamp Inn in 1955. The Magic Lamp Inn is still open and a notable stop on old Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga.
Cucamonga was known for its orchards, vineyards and wineries in the Route 66 days of the past. The incorporated City of Rancho Cucamonga was created in 1977 from the unincorporated areas known as Cucamonga, Alta Loma, and Etiwanda. Like many of the suburbs east of Los Angeles, Rancho Cucamonga is substantially suburbanized today. The Sycamore Inn, in the "Bear Gulch" area of Cucamonga, is still open today after 60 years of operation.
A Richfield gasoline station occupies the corner of Foothill Blvd. and Sierra Way in Fontana.
Fontana has been known as the place where Henry J. Kaiser built a huge steel mill in 1942 to supply steel to several Kaiser shipyards located on the West coast. The mill, which was sited here to be beyond the range of guns on enemy warships, occupied an area of about two square miles about one mile south of Route 66. Unlike the region of the USA that spans from the upper Midwest to Pennsylvania, the West is not known for its production and use of iron ore. In fact this Kaiser steel mill had the first blast furnace west of the Rocky Mountains. The Vulcan Iron Ore Mine located in the Mojave Desert north of Route 66 opened the same year and was worked to supply ore for this mill. Iron ore would be loaded into Union Pacific hopper cars at Kelso where it would be transported by the railroad to Daggett and through Cajon Pass and then to this Kaiser Steel mill. Kaiser modernized the plant just prior to shutting it down in the early 1980s. Much of the plant equipment was broken down into units and sections and shipped to China for re-assembly and re-use.
Bono's Restaurant on Foothill Blvd. is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mac's Garage was 5 miles west of San Bernardino. It was listed in a brochure of auto courts published by the AAA in 1933 and advertised "Modern Cabins" and a "Lunch Room"
Rialto is known for the final Wigwam Motel that was built in 1949 right on Foothill Blvd. (Route 66). The Wigwam Motel has been refurbished and upgraded after a decade under previous management who operated it under a non-traveler-friendly business model. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. Way out here on Foothill Blvd., where the land values have not risen as spectacularly as close-in Pasadena, Arcadia, and Monrovia, there are a number of old motels still in operation but most are for longer-term local rentals.
Like much of coastal California, the first white settlers to what would eventually become San Bernardino were Spanish missionaries. In time ranches were established and a community was born. Mormons were dispatched from Salt Lake City to acquire and settle land where additional and alternative food could be cultivated and harvested. In 1851 they purchased much of the land in what today is central San Bernardino and laid out a city. Mormon leadership recalled the settlers in 1857 and most returned to Salt Lake City although some stayed in California.
San Bernardino was and still is a major railroad town. The Santa Fe Railroad is the most important railroad here, with a substantial freight yard and large mission-style depot with what once was an attached Harvey House restaurant. Nearby the Union Pacific railroad split from the Santa Fe tracks that traveled from Daggett to San Bernardino through Cajon Pass, and switched over to their own tracks for service to the Los Angeles area. The Southern Pacific Railroad, since acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad, also ran through the town.
Route 66 shifts from Foothill Blvd. to 5th Street and then makes the turn to the north onto Mt. Vernon Avenue. Foothill Blvd. and 5th Street and Mt. Vernon Avenue have a number of surviving motels from the Route 66 days but many others have been lost. Where Mt. Vernon Avenue ends is where Route 66 moved to Cajon Blvd. which veers a bit to the northwest and runs parallel to the Santa Fe Railroad tracks as it approaches the Cajon Pass region. Just a couple of old motels on Cajon Blvd. survive today for long-term rentals.
Cajon Pass has been the historical gateway to southern California since well before the era of Route 66. "Cajon" (Kah-HONE) means "big box" or "box canyon" in American Spanish and is an appropriate name for the opening between the San Gabriel Mountains to the west and the San Bernardino Mountains to the east, two ranges that reach over 10,000' above sea level.
The extensive summit ridge has been crossed at many different locations. Footpaths were the first passageways and were followed by ox-cart trails, railroad tracks, and then roadways constructed for motorized vehicles. The present Interstate 15 freeway follows a direct course between Cajon Canyon and the Mojave Desert and crosses at an elevation of about 4200 feet. The gentle approach from Victorville (elevation 2700 feet) through the high desert landscape has not been particularly difficult for vehicles. The rise from San Bernardino (elevation 1100 feet) begins moderately but becomes much more formidable during the last seven miles to the summit.
I remember the highway from the 1960s when I was growing up near Los Angeles. Cajon Pass was still a noteworthy geographical entity, a distinct interval on the highway, a trip within a trip. It meant passage from the suburban areas of greater Los Angeles into the vastness of the Mojave Desert.
Visitors on the Cajon Pass roadway before the road was designated US Highway 66
Scenic U.S. Highway 66 approaching Cajon Pass
Cajon Pass has always been the conduit for transcontinental travel to and from southern California on the National Old Trails Highway (predecessor to US Highway 66 in much of the West) and various named trails and roadways toward Salt Lake City. When the National Old Trails Highway was absorbed into the state highway system in 1909, the county road on the south side of the summit was just a partially oiled and partially macadam wagon trail but on the north side of the summit it was a primitive path that wound its way to Hesperia and then to Victorville where at one point travelers had to ford a creek.
The first road designed for motorized vehicles from the south was built and paved in 1916. By 1922 pavement had been applied to an improved roadway re-alignment down the north side of Cajon Pass directly to Victorville thus providing a completely paved road through the mountains and into the desert but bypassing Hesperia.
The federal highway system was inaugurated in 1926 and the road through Cajon Pass would become not only US Highway 66 but also US Highways 91 and 395.
By 1930 the State of California relocated the highest three miles of road on the south side of Cajon Pass and made large cuts of record-breaking heights for the day to eliminate a number of dangerous and steep switchbacks.
In 1932 a major road improvement project called for completing two underpasses of the Santa Fe Railroad to eliminate safety hazards and traffic delays due to rail operations. The unstable Blue Cut rock formation, which frequently and dangerously released hillside debris onto the road, was distanced through a novel feat. Cajon Creek was moved west to a new man-made channel and the old creek bed suitably filled with material for the new roadway. The former speed limit of 30 mph was increased to 45 mph. Upon the completion of this project the two-lane roadway over Cajon Pass was proclaimed to be a modern "highway" by the standards of that day.
The State of California began an upgrade and expansion of the road to a four-lane highway in 1952. Engineers felt that the existing two-lane roadway was adequate and retained it as half of the new highway in most locations. The completion of this project in 1956 brought the entire road over Cajon Pass to four lanes.
That same year the Federal Aid Highway Act was passed. A network of "Interstate Highways" with superior standards for limited-access, lane width, safety, and high speed was planned. But an intermediate step for the highway prior to reaching "Interstate" status was as a portion of the "Barstow Freeway." In December 1958 the Barstow Freeway was completed between Victorville and Barstow shortening the distance between those two towns by nearly five miles but bypassing Oro Grande, Helendale, Hodge and Lenwood. By the next year the Barstow Freeway had crept eight miles north from San Bernardino to near Devore. But apparent progress slowed during the next decade as the difficult, time consuming work in the mountains had to be undertaken. Finally in 1969 the Barstow Freeway, then officially designated Interstate 15, was opened through Cajon Pass and one continuous high-speed multi-lane freeway existed between San Bernardino and Barstow.
Meekers Cafe was near Camp Cajon. This picture was taken in 1931.
Meekers Cafe and Garage was also a bus stop in Cajon Pass in 1938.
Cajon Mountain Camp had a gasoline station, cafe and tourist cabins
Picnic tables and barbecue facilities were at Camp Cajon (a.k.a. Cajon Mountain Camp)
The Tops of the Cajon Pass from 1934.
Railroad facilities have existed in Cajon Pass area for more than a century. For northbound Santa Fe trains headed by steam locomotives, helper engines were usually attached to a train near San Bernardino for the run up to the Cajon Pass summit. At the top of the railroad's Cajon Pass, which is a bit east of the highway summit at a place the Santa Fe appropriately calls "Summit", the helper locomotives were cut-off from the train, turned and then returned back to San Bernardino when tracks were clear. Many of today's trains headed by diesel locomotives ascend Cajon Pass without helper engines but some trains do require them and so they are still seen in the Pass.
Services for motorists came to the Cajon Pass region as travel increased. Unlike today, the early roads were slow-going for travelers, especially for north-bound drivers who had to negotiate not only the turns of the road but also more than a 3000 foot rise in elevation.
The Blue Cut is a region in the southern area of Cajon Pass where the rock, exposed when highway construction equipment cut the mountainside back, supposedly has a bluish tinge but I've never seen it. The original Blue Cut service buildings were built in the 1920s. The few surviving Blue Cut buildings are on the west side of upper Cajon Blvd but are behind chain link fence and partially obscured by trees. The Blue Cut had a gasoline station, a garage, a grocery store, a café and some tourist cabins. The old Red Circle Motel (a.k.a. "Red Cyrcle") and other buildings have been razed. The Double D Ranch was on the north side of the Blue Cut.
Farther north Meeker's was a traveler and bus stop.
Cajon, also known as Camp Cajon or Cajon Mountain Camp, was south of the summit down near the creek itself and had important gasoline and tourist services. The Santa Fe Railroad had track maintenance facilities and a series of passing and switching sidings here to assist train movements through the Pass.
The most famous stop in the Cajon Pass area is the Summit Inn, principally because it is the only business that existed back in the two-lane Route 66 era that is still open today. The Summit Inn is north and elevation-wise just below the actual Cajon Pass summit at the Oak Hills exit off of I-15. Opening way back in 1952, the Summit Inn is a throw-back to those old days. Decorated with period signage and artifacts, booths run along the walls of windows that are on opposite sides of the dining room. A counter runs through the central part of the room. The usual classic road fare is offered.
Travelers in the hot summertime may be surprised to learn that snow can fall on Cajon Pass in the winter. Although snowfall is not a frequent occurrence, the Pass does have a history of changing into a winter wonderland, sans trees of course.
Mt. San Antonio, more commonly known as Mt. Baldy, at 10,000 feet in elevation, sits west of Cajon Pass on the Los Angeles/San Bernardino County line and is usually snowcapped for several months each winter. It is visible from some locations in the Cajon Pass area but it is better known as a picturesque backdrop for many of the Route 66 cities of eastern Los Angeles County and western San Bernardino County. Who can forget the classic postcard image that shows sunny California orange groves with the San Gabriel Mountains and snowcapped Mt. Baldy as their backdrop?
North of Cajon Pass lies the Mojave Desert, an area that stretches for over one hundred miles to the north and east into southern Nevada and northwestern Arizona. Officially the Mojave Desert is about 50,000 square miles. It does not include the lower elevation desert of Southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico, which geographers officially call the Colorado Desert. This is the only area where US Highway 66 passes through Joshua trees, a distinctive slow-growing desert plant that lives in this area and particularly southeast to and through Joshua Tree National Park. The trees are not very dense here but they are visible for a short time.
US 395 leaves US Highway 66 at an unnamed junction (it was called "Millers' Corners" in Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66) but the Outpost Café has been located here since around the time that the two highways were commissioned. The RPPC here shows the original building. The completion of the Barstow Freeway changed things and the present Outpost Café was built in the 1960s and seems to be locked in that decade even today.
The famous Green Spot Cafe is on the right at Seventh and C Streets.
The corner where Route 66 turned between Seventh and D Streets. The Stewart Hotel and all of the two story buildings are gone now.
The Green Spot Motel was operating on C Street in 2009 but I am not sure that is the case anymore.
The Kleen Spot Auto Courts.
Victorville was once known as Mormon Crossing and then as Victor. It was re-named Victorville upon request of the post office to eliminate confusion with a similarly named town in Colorado. US Highway 66 entered Victorville from the south which became 7th Street, the main business street of Victorville. It still is although a modern nearly-unrecognizable Victorville has been built over the last decades close to the I-15 / 7th Street exit. 7th Street abruptly ends at the Santa Fe Railroad tracks at the north end of town and US Highway 66 turned and went northwesterly on D Street out of town. The oldest part of commercial Victorville is the northern-most ten blocks or so along 7th Street. (By the way, a long time ago D Street northwest of 7th Street was called Main Street.)
The Green Spot Café, seen in both real photo and chrome postcards, was on the corner of 7th Street and C Street but succumbed to fire years ago. The oldest surviving motel in Victorville is the Green Spot Motel, just east of the Café site on C Street. The motel was built with covered garages between the court units but they were later filled in with additional rooms. A swimming pool was added to the large interior courtyard in the later Route 66 years but it has been gone for many years now. Arches that frame the two driveway entrances to the motel grounds from C Street are still there today.
D Street becomes the National Trails Highway for the run north to Barstow.
The 1930 "Baltimore Truss Bridge" across the Mojave River on the way to Oro Grande is a picturesque spot on old US Highway 66 northwest of Victorville. The source of the Mojave River is the watershed along the northern slope of the San Bernardino Mountains. As rivers go the Mojave River is fairly unique in that it runs underground for most of its length but a rock dike south of Victorville brings the Mojave River to the surface where it passes by Victorville before sinking back into the desert sands north of Oro Grande. The path of the underground Mojave River that continues north past Barstow and then northeasterly appears somewhat like a dry riverbed. On rare occasions when run-off is high the Mojave River may breech the surface in places that it is not usually seen.
Oro Grande means "Big Gold" in Spanish but today the dusty town is known for the large cement plant on the east side of US Highway 66.
Helendale has become a turn-off to the relatively new desert community of Silver Lakes.
Hodge is all-but-gone although if you look carefully there is a cross street called Hodge Road.
Lenwood seems to be two cities: there is the modern Lenwood that reaches out to Interstate 15 and there is the old Lenwood on Route 66 which shows its age but does have some traveler history. If you look carefully at the buildings along Main Street in Lenwood (Main Street is a direct extension of Main Street in Barstow) you can find what look like old motels and gas stations.
I find this 30 mile drive between Victorville and Barstow to be quite pleasant although I always encounter at least a few locals that don't like me driving the slow speeds that I prefer. The Santa Fe Railroad and the Mojave River accompany the driver along the west and low desert hills are on the east. There are no freeways or modern interchanges to distract you from the old road. And there are still quite a number of old ruins along the way for contemplating and photographing.