By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Owners of the iconic Boots Motel have two more projects planned to bring back the building’s historical appearance.
The neon sign at the front of the building is being restored, and work is to start later this month on returning the original flat roof to the motel.
The motel was a fixture on Route 66 during the highway’s heyday. The celebrities who stayed there included actor Clark Gable, orchestra leader Guy Lombardo, and singer and actor Gene Autry.
Sign crews began working last week, said Debye Harvey, one of two sisters who bought the landmark two years ago and announced plans to restore it.
The project will bring back the name Boots Court to the sign, in its original red and white colors, and will restore “its neon glory,” Harvey said.
“They’ll be able to use the original ‘Boots’ neon, but the ‘Court’ will be new,” Harvey said.
Changes to the sign and to the building’s roofline, she said, are all that stand in the way of the Boots being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Work on the roof will start soon, with half of the costs funded by a grant from the National Park Service.
The grant application got enthusiastic backing from the Carthage Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Wendi Douglas, executive director. Douglas, in a letter of support, called the motel “a treasured piece of history in Carthage” that for a time had been used for transient housing.
Under new ownership, she said, the property is “well on its way to becoming a thriving economic driver for our tourist population.”
Harvey and her sister, Priscilla Bledsaw, bought the building in 2011. By the spring of 2012, the five units at the rear of the property were restored to their original appearance, including polished hardwood floors and “a radio in every room.”
“Restoration of the property will bring a new type of traveler to Carthage and open our small town to foreign traffic as a new lodging option on Route 66,” Douglas wrote.
Said Harvey: “We had a wonderful summer. It was amazing because it was mainly by word of mouth among people interested in Route 66. We didn’t have a good winter, but it’s already starting to pick up.”
Tentative plans call for a sign relighting party on March 23 to coincide with a two-day effort by volunteers to remove the existing roofing. Brothers Construction, of Carthage, is the contractor on that work.
A National Park Service grant is paying $12,000, or half the costs, and area residents may support the effort with work or money, Harvey said.
“Our part of the work will include roof removal, and we can avoid some costs with help from volunteers,” she said. “We already have 14 people. We’re hoping for more with some roof experience.”
A fund — the Boots Roof Fund — has been established at Southwest Missouri Bank.
Debye Harvey, one of two sisters who bought the Boots Motel in Carthage two years ago, said future improvements will include new awnings, window repairs, returning the remaining neon lighting and landscaping.