Have you ever heard the song by Mississippi John Hurt, “It was a hot time in the old town tonight”? Well, that seemed true last night in Cuba, Missouri along Rt. 66. It started around 5:30 when friends and family of the new owner of the Wagon Wheel Motel Connie Echols assembled to tear down the old temporary structure that connected the old Wagon Wheel Cafe building and the small rock gas station that sat next door. It was a more of a ceremonial tearing down as the roof and had already been removed during the day.
Echols also used the occasion to show off the restored Wagon Wheel Cafe building that she plans to open in December as Connie’s Shoppe at the Wagon Wheel Motel. It will be a gift shop and also serve as the registration center for the Wagon Wheel Motel that sits behind the Shoppe. The motel has been a continuously operating Rt. 66 Motel since the 1930s. The renovations on the Tudor style motel cottages behind the Shoppe will continue through the winter with some units kept open for Route 66 travelers.
As the old siding was torn down, it was tossed on a bonfire that lit up the night. The group celebrated with hot dogs and smores and admired the progress made on the two buildings.
The ironic part of the evening was when police cars and firetrucks began racing from all parts of Cuba down Rt. 66 to the Hotel Cuba building, another historic Rt. 66 building in Cuba within site of the Wagon Wheel complex. That fire is recounted in a previous blog. So while one Saturday night fire on Rt. 66 was of a celebratory nature, the one fire just down the street could have had potential tragic consequence to the residents of the building. At this time, I have heard of no injuries although several apartments are damaged.
During the evening, I also checked out the MO Hick BBQ operation, which is a landmark on Route 66, and next door to the Wagon Wheel Motel. The only things smokin’ there were the ribs, and all else seemed well.
Although the fire at the Hotel Cuba is regrettable, it is gratifying to see the Route 66 iconic Wagon Wheel Motel Cafe buildings restored to a more authentic look.
See the post “Historic Route 66 structure threatened by fire in Cuba, MO.”
UPDATE 1/11/11: Owner Connie Echols has spent more than a year renovating the motel. She hopes to have all rooms renoated by spring. The motel now has a website.
Another UPDATE: It is the spring of 2011, and Connie has finished the complete restoratiion of the 19 Wagon Wheel Rooms. There are also two outdoor decks and a bike shelter/pavilion. See the Wagon Wheel Motel on Facebook.