MIAMI — If not for a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, renovation of the Coleman Theatre might never have gotten off the ground and returned to its status as the crown jewel along the “The Mother Road” — Route 66.
The preservation group named Route 66 to its National Treasures portfolio and is pursuing National Historic Trail status for one of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.”
And to bring attention to the effort, a team has been making its way across the country in a classic Airstream travel trailer.
Shannon Duhon, managing director of the Coleman, said a National Trust grant helped provide funding for an engineer’s study to determine if the structure — which will be 90 years old in April of 2019 — could be saved.
“Because of that funding, they were able to get the engineer’s report and found not only was the building structurally sound, but it was one of the soundest buildings in town,” Duhon said. “They were able to move forward with saving it. None of this would be here if it wasn’t for the funding of the National Trust in 1990.”
Miami was one of numerous side trips along a month-long trek from Chicago to Santa Monica, California on Wednesday, July 11.
In addition to the Coleman stop, the group went by Waylan’s Ku-Ku — another Route 66 icon — and traveled the Ribbon Road, one of the original segments of the highway.
From Miami, they were making stops in Afton and Vinita, then spent the night in Catoosa at the Blue Whale.
They are spending two days in Tulsa, then head west.
US 66 was established on Nov. 11, 1926, by the U.S. Highway System and became one of the most famous roads in the United States.
In addition to Oklahoma, which has 432 miles of original roadway, US 66 also runs through Missouri, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
It covered a total of 2,448 miles.
The trip concludes Aug. 3.
“It’s been tiring, but it’s such an opportunity to do this,” said Diana Tisue, who is making this leg of the journey with Gary McKinney, David Kafer and Lina Tran. “This is a really important project (for the National Trust) to take on,” she said. “It’s important because we know that Route 66 represents so much of America.”
While McKinney, the driver, and Kafer, who is documenting the trip with pictures, are making the whole trip, the other roadies rotate out on a weekly basis. Each is providing their perspective for the project.
“I am a little envious of that, so I have been leaving seeds in every town we go to and with every wonderful person we’ve met,” Tisue said. “I think I will be back because its something I have wanted to do for a long time and I am so glad we are able to do this now, especially at a pivotal moment when we need to be talking about the National Trail designation.”
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 801 and the group is circulating a petition encouraging Senate approval.
“We have the petition and taking pics along the way,” Tisue said. “We want to show them the faces and places of Route 66.”
Tisue said if passed, the legislation means there will be a lot more opportunities to connect with the National Park Service on projects.
“It will help, especially with signage in some way, having the National Trail designation,” she said. “That will bring even more people onto the route.”
State Farm Insurance is the presenting sponsor of the trip.
Others on board are National Geographic, Airstream, Polaroid and Two Lanes by Mike Wolfe of “American Pickers” fame.
There currently are 19 National Historic Trails, including the Santa Fe and Lewis & Clark Trails.
To follow the group’s journey, visit www.preserveroute66.org.
The website for the National Trust is www.savingplaces.org.