Route 66 preservation grant awarded for Henning Motel sign restoration

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Route 66 preservation grant awarded to Henning Motel sign restoration
Photo credit: Martin Brent

NEWBERRY SPRINGS – The National Park Service (NPS) announced the Henning Motel sign as one of its 2022 cost-share grant awards recipients. The $10,000 Route 66 Preservation grant will be used to restore the sign to operating condition as an important part of the Route 66 cultural landscape.

The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program provides funding for the revitalization and commemoration of Route 66 through grants for eligible projects. As one of the most famous highways covering 2,448 miles, from Chicago to Santa Monica, it was eventually decommissioned due to disrepair.

Since 2001, NPS has awarded 169 projects $2.55 million with $3.98 million in cost-share match, totaling $6.53 million in public-private investment to revitalize the Route 66 corridor.

The Henning Motel was built in 1947 along Route 66 in Newberry Springs. Its 35-foot neon sign offered travelers motel rooms and “free TV’ for over 40 years. With the completion of Interstate 40, in 1973, travelers bypassed Route 66, and without steady business, the Henning Motel went out of business. 

In 1988, the motel and adjacent Bagdad Cafe were used to film the German film Bagdad Cafe. The film is a fictional story of a German tourist who finds herself alone and stranded on Route 66.  The storyline follows Jasmine’s new-found life at the Bagdad Cafe & Truck Stop and Henning Motel.  The movie became a cult classic lasting over 30 years. 

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While the site has become a tourist attraction, a lack of funds and understanding of the motel’s historic significance led to disrepair and ultimately to demolition. The current owners are committed to preserving the sign as a testimony to the historic motel. 

Restoration is not the only type of Route 66 project eligible for grant funding.

Historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative, and educational projects are also funded. Congressional appropriations provide program cost-share grant funds, which are determined each new fiscal year. Project eligibility criteria requires a minimum 50% (1:1) cost-share match provided by the applicant.

For more information about the Route 66 Preservation grant Program visit https://ncptt.nps.gov/rt66/cost-share-grants/

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