Historic Route 66 intersection still an important presence in Cuba, Missouri
A colorful, but somewhat confusing, intersection in Cuba, Missouri got some new direction with the installation of dual signage.
After Route 66 tourists and others were confused with the existing sign in the center of the Route 66 community of Cuba, Missouri, the city and MoDOT agreed on the use of signs that paid tribute to a dual legacy. While the street is part of historic Route 66, it is also known locally as Washington. The sign now says both “Washington” and “Historic Route 66.”
The colorful intersection is the home of a restored Phillips 66 gas station from the 1930s, one of Cuba’s, “Route 66 Mural City,” murals, painted traffic control boxes, and the location of the Viva Cuba Garden with an 1873 train replica.
Wallis Companies owns and restored the old Phillips station.Their headquarters sits across from the station in a modern, buff-colored brick building. The company’s first office in 1968 was located in the small station across the street. Today, the company owns a chain of convenience stores and is one of the Midwest’s largest distributors of petroleum products and has over 600 employees. The founder of the company Bill Wallis passed away in 2001, but his wife and children still run the company. The three mural panels on the original company headquarters portray events in the life of Bill Wallis and the Cuba community. Route 66 Missouri artist Ray Harvey painted the murals.
The Viva Cuba Garden, first purchased in 1992, was re-designed and landscaped in 2007-08 by Viva Cuba, a community beautification group that commissioned Cuba’s 12 outdoor murals. The replica train, built by Curtis and Glen Tutterrow, was added in 2008 to commemorate a train that ran between Cuba and Salem, MO. Missouri artist Julie Wiegand painted the nearby traffic control boxes in 2008 just before Viva Cuba re-dedicated the park.
The large white structure on the fourth corner of the intersection is the old Midway Building that has been a presence since the 1930s. It was named because it was midway between St. Louis and Springfield. While the building is now empty, it has a rich history that is revered by the community. For years it was a bus stop, taxi stand, hotel, cafeteria, gathering place for families, and a nightspot.
Allyne Earls owned Midway for 38 years, and the doors were never locked. When she sold the building, no keys could be found to give the new owner. During WW II, the it had 24 bedrooms and four bathrooms on the second floor. During the War, they were filled with Fort Leonard Wood soldiers and their wives. The restaurant fed as many as 600 soldiers a day. Over the years, families celebrated at the Midway, and teenagers met to dance and socialize. In the 1970s, hockey star Noel Picard owned the restaurant and bar. Today, the building awaits someone with a new vision to reenergize the old landmark.
When travelers see the new sign, they might reflect on the history of the spot as they journey through the historic intersection.