Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Shells of wigwam hotels, drive-in theaters, and hokey gift shops.
Though it's been dead for 20 years, Route 66 might be America's most famous road. The 2,500 mile throughway debuted in 1926, running from Chicago to Los Angeles. It served as a major gateway to the west before our current interstate system existed.
Its star began to fade once President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act in 1956. Newer, faster roads (and exit ramps) made for more efficient travel across the country. Eventually, most of the hotels, gas stations and restaurants along Route 66 went out of business. On June 27, 1985, it was officially removed from the United States Highway System.
While you can no longer travel it from end to end, much of the route remains drivable. Portions have been designated as a National Scenic Byway (now called "Historic Route 66") and several states have adopted bypassed sections into their own state road network.
Many drivers are are still drawn to the road, including photographer Carol Highsmith. Highsmith donated her personal collection of digital photographs to the Library of Congress in 2009. Her images, called "Disappearing America," include over 200 captivating shots taken along the famous roadway.
Below, via Highsmith's collection, a look at what remains along the country's most famous and admired road:
"Pops Restaurant and Gift shop, Route 66, Arcadia, Oklahoma" (2009)