The Route 66 icon Boots Court is going into the future with a look from its past, and Debye Harvey, the owner of the Boots, took time to celebrate the change with local and federal officials.
Kaisa Barthuli, program manager for the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program with the National Park Service, joined Harvey, Carthage City Administrator Tom Short, City Clerk Lynn Campbell, City Council member Steve Leibbrand, Fire Chief Chris Thompson, Chamber of Commerce President Mark Elliff, Tommy and Glenda Pike, with the Missouri Route 66 Association, and others to celebrate the completion of a grant project that funded the removal of the gabled roof from the two buildings that make up the Boots.
The National Parks Service provided $12,000 to match $12,000 from Harvey to pay for removing the roof and restoring the Boots to the flat-roofed look it sported from the mid-1930s until the mid-1970s.
“Leaving the gabled roof on wasn't even optional for me,” Harvey said. “In order to make it the building that it ought to be, you had to take the gabled roof off. We know that flat roofs require more maintenance, but for me, that was the only option.”
Barthuli said removing the gabled roof makes the Boots eligible to be included on the National Register of Historic Places and brings on the protections and the funding opportunities the National Register brings.
“Debye applied for a grant in 2012 to help remove the pitched roof here, and we knew how important that was because that old, inappropriate roof was holding it back from being listed on the National Register of Historic Place,” Barthuli said. “We awarded a grant in the amount of $12,000 to help her, it was a cost share one to one, and its gone, the roof is gone, so we're here to celebrate that.”
Barthuli said it's accurate to call the Boots Court, the original name for the business before it was changed to Boots Motel, a Route 66 icon.
She said the small business and the building that Arthur Boots built during the Great Depression has weathered challenges and threats through the year, but it has become a recognized symbol of rural American life around the world.
“The Boots Motel is an icon and it's recognized around the world,” Barthuli said. “Debye was just telling me a story about a Chinese gentleman who was out here photographing the heck out of it and she asked if she could help. He said the Boots Motel architecture is famous world wide.
“Rutgers University recently did a travel survey on Route 66 and people from 40 different countries and all the state responded saying that they were traveling on Route 66 to learn about American History and to experience the past and the Boots Motel is one of those properties they come to see from all around the world.”
Page 2 of 2 - The Boots Motel had fallen into disrepair and was being used as low-income housing when Debye Harvey and her sister, Pricilla Bledsaw, bought it out of foreclosure in 2011.
They immediately set to work cleaning the rooms and preparing them for occupancy. Currently people can stay in the five rooms in the building at the back of the lot, but the four rooms in the main building are still being restored.
Harvey, who does consulting work on historic preservation and research, decided to put her expertise to work on a project of her own. Harvey said she knew the Boots was important, but even she underestimated the fame of the tiny business.
“I didn't know when we bought the Boots, that is was famous world wide,” Harvey said. “I thought it was a really cool building and I think that's part of the thing, it's a very unusual design and there are not a lot of these kinds of buildings left anywhere and certainly not on Route 66, so because of Arthur Boots' obsession with this kind of architecture, he made this the icon that it is in his own way.
“It's not a standard box and it has the streamlined modern features, it has the glass accents, it has all these cool little things that you just don't find much anywhere. It's always amazing to me that there are people coming from Tahiti and Japan and Australia and Europe to see the Boots or to stay at the Boots now.”