In the ghost towns of Route 66, the old road will forever be America’s Main Street. In the empty places along America’s most famous highway, the ghosts whisper on every breeze, and the swirling sands of time blur the line between past and present.
The quintessential boom-and-bust highway of the American West, Route 66 once hosted a thriving array of boom towns built around oil wells, railroad stops, cattle ranches, resorts, stagecoach stops, and gold mines.
Ultimately, each weathered the hard times of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II, and dying oil fields with a flow of traffic that ebbed and flowed as a tide on Route 66. In spite of their diversity, the decline of each also has a common denominator: the replacement of Route 66 with a four-lane superhighway that allowed motorists to zip past rather than wander through.
From the book Ghost Towns of Route 66 is a closer look at some of the abandoned Route 66 cities found in the Lone Star State.
Amid the ruins of Jericho, the rusty bones of what was once the pride of Detroit provide a link to the modern era.
In Glenrio, only prairie critters find respite from the summer sun or the winter wind at an old motel that was once a restful haven for the road-weary.
Vestiges of the Route 66 glory days and the frontier era in which they were founded pepper the communities in the western half of the Panhandle, but few qualify as ghost towns. The exceptions are Boise (less than a site on an early alignment of the highway that is on private property), Wildorado, and Glenrio.
Depending on the date of the map you consult, Glenrio may be shown in New Mexico or Texas, but it is actually in the latter astride the border in northwestern Deaf Smith County. At least most of the town is in Texas; Jack Rittenhouse notes that, in 1946, the depot was on the west side of the state line, and the business district was on the east.
Some twenty years before the road through town was marked with a shield emblazoned with two sixes, Glenrio was a farming town on the Chicago, Rock Island & Gulf Railway. The depot and railyard were beehives of activity. Cattle and produce were loaded on outbound shipments, while freight and dry goods for the area’s farms and ranches came inbound.
By the 1920s, the little town on the staked plains was a quiet but busy community with a hotel, a land office, a hardware store, a grocery store, and several cafés and service stations. It even had a newspaper, the Glenrio Tribune.
What it did not have were bars or liquor stores, since Deaf Smith County was dry. This posed no real hardship on residents, though, since libations were but a dusty five-mile drive to the west in Endee, New Mexico.
With the closure of the depot in 1955, the asphalt lifeline that was Route 66 became the town’s primary source of revenue. Upon completion of Interstate 40 in 1973 and the severance of this tenuous hold, Glenrio quickly succumbed to abandonment.
Today, Glenrio is a photographer’s paradise, with its forlorn ruins casting long shadows over the empty asphalt of the old highway.
How many years has it been since the road-weary trucker stopped for coffee, pie, and a friendly smile at the café in Alanreed?
The winds play a haunting melody in Jericho as they whisper through glassless windows and swirl dust on floors.
Less than a dozen miles west of Alanreed are the forlorn remnants of Jericho, a small community with origins dating to 1902 and the establishment of a station for the Chicago, Rock Island & Gulf Railway. Ironically, traffic on Route 66 made the dark days of the Great Depression the glory days for Jericho.
At its peak during the early 1930s, the town boasted three stores, a grain elevator, a tourist court, a garage, and a filling station. But the realignment of the highway and the changing face of agriculture in the Panhandle fueled the town’s demise. By 1955, the population no longer was sufficient to warrant a post office.
The original alignment of Route 66 from Jericho to Groom is notorious in the annals of the highway’s history. This section, known as the Jericho Gap, was infamous for mud, ruts, and enterprising farmers ready to rescue motorists for a few dollars. The Texas Department of Transportation began work to close the gap with a paved bypass in 1928, and the project was completed in 1931.
A vintage Jeep out to pasture seems an apt monument to the landscape of the Staked Plains that embraces the ghostly remnants of Glenrio.
A station in Glenrio stands in silent testimony to an era when traffic flowed through town day and night without respite.
Ghost towns lie all along the Mother Road. The quintessential boom-and-bust highway of the American West, Route 66 once hosted a thriving array of boom towns built around oil wells, railroad stops, cattle ranches, resorts, stagecoach stops, and gold mines. Join Route 66 expert Jim Hinckley as he tours more than 25 ghost towns, rich in stories and history, complemented by gorgeous sepia-tone and color photography by Kerrick James. Also includes directions and travel tips for your ghost-town explorations along Route 66.
Explore the beauty and nostalgia of these abandoned communities along America’s favorite highway in Ghost Towns of Route 66.