If you want to enjoy an interesting Sunday afternoon drive, (or any other day for that matter) find a copy of the 2021 Laclede County Route 66 Guide and Map, a joint project of the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society and The Laclede County Record. Using the guide, you can travel 36 miles of Route 66 from one end of Laclede County to the other, identifying mile-by-mile nearly 100 existing and past points of interest that made the Mother Road the attraction it continues to be today.
You also can explore the shopping, dining, lodging, antiquing, factory outlets and many other attractions offered by the nearly 60 advertisers whose support made it possible for this guide to be free. Consider spending a full day or more in Lebanon, “The Heart of Route 66,” and Laclede County to experience everything we have to offer.
From east to west:
Gasconade River Bridge
Don’t wait to visit the historic Gasconade River Bridge, about two miles west of the Pulaski-Laclede county line. The bridge, built from 1922 to 1924, is threatened with demolition if negotiations fail for the Route 66 Association of Missouri to assume ownership from the state of Missouri. To access it, look for turnoffs to the south on either side of the replacement bridge, which opened in 2019. The bridge’s four spans include two Parker Trusses, one Pratt truss and a Warren Pony Truss. The bridge continued to carry traffic until December 2014 when it was closed because of extensive deterioration.
Munger Moss Motel
When you think of Route 66 in Lebanon, Missouri, the first image that comes to mind probably is the beautiful neon sign of the Munger Moss Motel, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. You’ve seen that sign featured in many Route 66 books and magazines. Pete and Jesse Hudson purchased the Munger Moss sandwich shop in 1945 and moved it from the old, bypassed alignment of Route 66 at Devils Elbow to Lebanon. The motel opened the following year. Bob and Ramona Lehman bought the motel in 1971. Bob died in 2019, but Ramona and the Munger Moss continue to serve travelers from all over the world in Route 66 style.
Wrinks Market on the north side of Route 66, just past the Munger Moss Motel, was operated by the late Glenn Wrinkle, a true Route 66 ambassador, from 1950 until his death in 2005. It was reopened under the name The Vintage Cowgirl at Wrinks Market by his granddaughter, Katie Hapner, in 2017 with many of the same features including deli sandwiches, Route 66 souvenirs and antiques. “My grandfather loved Route 66 and all the people that came through here,” Katie told our local newspaper. “That’s why he did it, and I think that’s why I want to do it. It’s for them, his customers, the people he loved so much.”
The Manor House Inn
The stately mansion across from the Cowan Civic Center reopened to the public in 2018 after eight months of remodeling and restoration as The Manor House Inn, a bed-and-breakfast targeting Route 66 travelers. The ambitious project by new owners Randy and Bronwen Palilla and Jason and Michelle Cochran returned the home to its earlier role on The Mother Road. From 1932 to 1975, the building provided overnight accommodations to Route 66 travelers under the names Lenz Homotel – an amalgamation of “home” and “motel” – and, in its later years, simply the Lenz Motel, operated by William and Ethel Lenz.
Route 66 Museum
Lebanon is proud to be the home of the first permanent Route 66 museum in Missouri. The Route 66 Museum, located in the Lebanon-Laclede County Library, attracted nearly 15,000 visitors in 2019 from 49 states, 58 countries and 200 Missouri cities. The 3,500-square-foot museum, which celebrates its 17th anniversary this year, honors the legacy of Route 66 in Laclede County and includes a Route 66-themed gift shop. It’s open six days a week, and admission is free. Make sure you see the exhibit about Nelsonville, a salute to such iconic Route 66 businesses as Nelson’s Tavern and Nelson’s Dream Village.
Route 66 Murals at Boswell Park
The three murals at Route 66-themed Boswell Park are a tribute to the county’s proud history on The Mother Road. In recent years the park has been redeveloped to include a Route 66-themed playground, a winding replica of Route 66 called “66 Mural Drive,” a Blue Star Memorial Garden, replicas of arches that once welcomed Route 66 travelers to Lebanon with the greeting “Our Town, Your Town,” and a replica of the fountain that once was a marvel of the stone cottages at Nelson’s Dream Village.
The first mural, depicting a 1957 Chevrolet driving past the “Our Town, Your Town” sign at the entrance to Lebanon, is designed so you can pull your classic car in front of it and pose for pictures. The second mural shows a 1927 Texaco gas truck crossing the Gasconade River Bridge.
The third mural depicts the “Nelson Family Legacy,” which recognizes the many contributions Col. Arthur T. Nelson and his descendants made to Route 66 in Lebanon, including donating 40 acres for the right-of-way and founding such iconic businesses as the Nelson Hotel and Nelson’s Dream Village. The mural pays tribute to Nelson’s Dream Village and the Nelson family’s famous apple orchard.
Camp Joy cabin
at Boswell Park
Before you leave Boswell Park, check out the Camp Joy cabin on the hill. Camp Joy was one of Lebanon’s first Route 66 tourist camps, founded by the Spears family in 1927, one year after the gravel road through Lebanon was designated Route 66. Camp Joy was located at the present location of Sing Rental, and owner Lee Sing donated the last surviving cabin to the Route 66 Society in 2019. Volunteers from the Route 66 Society restored the cabin inside and out and moved it to Boswell Park. Make sure you read Camp Joy’s history on the cabin’s north side. Outlaws Bonnie and Clyde were among Camp Joy’s most notorious customers.
About nine miles west of Lebanon on Route 66/Highway W, just west of the Frisco Railroad bridge, you’ll find the Underpass Café. The Route 66 Society finished restoring the building’s exterior in 2019. O.E. Carter and Ed Lawson, who previously operated two gas stations in Lebanon, owned the café, a prefabricated gas station and a garage. The gas station, no longer standing, opened in 1941, and the café was added in 1950. The station was handy for those truckers who needed air after letting it out of their tires in order to pass under the bridge. The businesses closed sometime after the new Interstate 44 bypassed them in 1957.
Before you start
We remind you that some of the Route 66 landmarks are on private property. Please don’t trespass where it’s obvious you shouldn’t.
This story contains sponsored content.