CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Visitors traveling in the area as part of the Route 66 International Festival this week will get to see a Carthage icon of the route being restored to its original appearance.
That icon — the Boots Court — got praise from officials of the National Park Service on Monday. Representatives of the agency recognized work by the motel’s new owners to redo the roof of the historic motel to return it to how it looked when it was built in the 1940s.
A plaque was presented to Debye Harvey, a co-owner of the motel, by Kaisa Barthuli, program manager of the Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. A $12,000 grant from the federal program paid half the costs of the project.
The complex was opened as Boots Court, then later renamed Boots Motel. The original name is part of a now-glowing neon sign at the front of the complex.
“We’ve been calling it the Boots Court Motel so people won’t be confused,” Harvey said. She and her sister, Priscilla Bledsaw, are restoring the complex after purchasing it about two years ago.
The Route 66 landmark that housed guests including Clark Gable will be among the attractions this week when the Route 66 International Festival is held in Joplin and surrounding communities. The court’s five rooms are booked for each day of the festival.
“We’re not an official part of the festival’s itinerary, but we think we’ll be an unofficial stop,” Harvey said.
She said she and her sister “really appreciate” the National Park Service recognition and the financial support that helped with the project to replace the roof on the site’s two buildings.
The motel property had been a source of concern for those interested in Carthage history and in Route 66 for several years, as the buildings continued to deteriorate and at one time were eyed for demolition to make way for a drugstore.
That concern extended to the national level, Barthuli said, so when officials heard that the property had been sold, “We were holding our breath.
“Then we found out it was bought with the intention to restore it as a motel, which is its best use, and by people who have preservation experience. What is really special is their attention to detail. They’re taking such care; the preservation has been very authentic.”
Harvey, who owns a consulting firm involved in historic preservation, said returning the buildings to their original roofline will allow her to apply to get the motel designated on the National Register of Historic Places.
Harvey and her sister bought the property with plans to renovate it, but it took nearly 18 months before the current five rooms could be restored. The building had been vacant for a time, and before that had been used as rental units.
Work is under way to restore another five rooms, but that will take longer, Harvey said. Plastered walls in those rooms will have to be repaired to correct damage caused by condensation behind paneling that had been put up in that part of the building.
THE BOOTS AT ONE TIME was listed among the state’s “most endangered” buildings by the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation and had a similar national designation by the Society for Commercial Archaeology.