By Wally Kennedy

Globe columnist

It's kind of an eyesore now, but at one time it was a landmark restaurant on Range Line where Joplin's most powerful people dined and dealed.

Most people know the place as the former Travetti's restaurant, 3010 E. 20th St. But 23 years ago, it was The Rafters, a popular restaurant with a secluded bar and an impressive clientele.

It was a meeting place where deals were made with a handshake over cocktails. It was a place where teenagers went on prom dates, and where families gathered for birthdays and anniversaries. The steaks were good. The service was top of the line. After it opened, it became the upscale place for Joplin.

The Rafters was opened in 1964 by Jim Stone, a Joplin resident. Back then, Range Line was a two-lane road. The restaurant reached its peak in the late 1960s and 1970s. Imagine people with big hair wearing psychedelic colors and suits with bell-bottom pants. The Rafters operated for 19 years before it was leased in 1983 to Sleepy Hollow International Inc., an Oklahoma restaurant corporation, and promptly went belly up.

The restaurant was revived and eventually became Travetti's, a successful Italian restaurant with tasty breadsticks and all-you-can-eat bowls of salad. Sound familiar? Competition in the market and other factors put pressure on the restaurant. When it closed, it was replaced by a short-lived Mexican restaurant.

The structure, which has been vacant for at least a couple of years, has been on borrowed time since it was acquired by the Missouri Department of Transportation with the specific purpose of taking "the dogleg" out of East 20th Street on the east side of Range Line. Its time is up. Work should begin this week to bring the structure down.

Ron Reed Dozing, of Sheldon, has the demolition contract. Susie Reed, with the company, said little salvaging of materials is planned. The demolition should take less than two weeks.

Seeing it go is kind of sad, but it will certainly be a blessing for Home Depot, which will have unobstructed visibility from Range Line. It also will make the area around Home Depot more inviting for future development.

After the structure is razed, MoDOT will redesign the intersection to make it look more like the Range Line intersections at Seventh Street and 32nd Street. A contract is to be let this fall, probably in September or October. The contractor won't be allowed to tie up traffic during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

New traffic light

The new traffic signals at Seventh Street and Geneva Avenue, south of the Target store, will be in flashing mode this week in preparation for full activation next week.

The intersection is now the south entrance to the North Park Crossing retail development, which is continuing to expand. Construction is under way at the southeast corner of the intersection for a new restaurant and a new storefront.

If you have news about something that's happening on Range Line, dial 623-3480, Ext. 7250; or send an e-mail to; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 623-8598.

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