This clipping, donated by Carolyn Clark, shows concrete being laid for the new Route 66 on what we now call MacArthur Drive.. At right in the distance is the water standpipe (where the large water tower is now).

Old News

From the 3rd floor
of the Webb City Public Library

Twists and turns of Route 66 through downtown were straightened out in 1950

The original Route 66 snaked through Webb City until MacArthur Drive was constructed in 1950.

From the east (Chicago), travelers came into Webb City on Broadway, proceeded through the intersection with Main Street. That’s when the turns began – left on Webb Street, immediate right on Broadway, left on Jefferson Street. It eventually veered to Madison Street at 14th Street and followed Range Line Road to westbound Zora Street. A left turn onto Florida Street was followed by a right on Utica Street and then a left on Euclid.

Bypassing downtown Webb City was appreciated by bus drivers because it was faster, but the Route 66 traffic was missed in the business district. An arrow sign lit by neon still directs travelers on Highway 171 (the Route 66 successor) still points travelers to “Webb City.”


Webb City could have been bypassed all together

In January 1949, Russell Ellis, division engineer of the state highway department, spoke on the history of road conditions in and around Webb City and made a proposal to reroute US Highway 66 through Webb City.

During an open meeting, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, Ellis told citizens that the present road was greatly out dated and inadequate for the current needs of the community.  He said the present road was constructed in 1922 and consisted of many twists and turns making the route confusing to many travelers.

The new proposed highway would extend in a straight line from Pine Street in Carterville and connect with Fourth Street in Webb City. The concrete portion of the highway would be 24 feet wide with shoulders added. At one point, between Jefferson and Madison streets, the road would be 48 feet wide making it a four-lane highway. 

Harry Easley encouraged citizens to support the new highway because the loss of the route would hinder the city’s prosperity in the future.  A bond issue of $7,200 would need to be passed to pay for the city’s share of the project.

Ellis warned if the bond did not pass that there was a possibility that the future highway could be rerouted to bypass Webb City. 

The bond issue was defeated when the plan failed, 60 votes short of the required two-thirds majority.

So the Chamber of Commerce took on the job of raising the $7,200 needed.

After much hard work, the chamber was successful in raising the funds, but the Webb City Council turned down the money by a 9 to 2 vote.

The Chamber of Commerce members then presented the money to the state highway department leaving them to negotiate the terms with the council.

The state highway department began arranging to purchase land for the right-of-way for the highway with the highest sum going to Mr. and Mrs. William Sampson, owners of the Webb City Greenhouse, which was located between Fourth and Fifth Streets. In March 1949, the city council approved a contract with the state highway department to allow construction of the new highway to commence. 

The cost of the entire road would be $584,000.

It was sort of limited access road, with crossings at Jefferson, Madison, Oronogo, Ball, Main, Hall, Walker and Centennial streets.

Paving began in June 1950, and the new highway was opened to traffic in Sept. 1950.

The Darris S. Schalk American Legion Post received approval from the Webb City Council on May 4, 1954, to name the new stretch of highway within Webb City as MacArthur Drive, in honor of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. 

When a new highway was proposed in 1949, area residents were assured that the old highway would remain open to the public.  This photo was taken on June 7, 1950, showing the old route between Webb City and Carterville. Would you say a new road was needed?

The “Route 66 IN WEBB CITY” sign reflected back at nighttime motorists.

Route 66 between Webb City and Carterville in the 1960s.

Sentinel bound volumes are now in the Genealogy Room

The WCAGS has accepted ownership of the complete collection of bound volumes of the Webb City Sentinel, from 1983 (after the fire) until the final issue on Dec. 30, 2020.

Those issues can also be viewed on microfilm, along with much older issues.

Webb City Area Genealogical Society

WCAGS members staff the Genealogy Room on the third floor of the Webb City Public Library. Current hours are noon to 4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Meetings are held at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month in the Genealogy Room.

Everything you want to know about Jasper County Missouri Schools is available at a site compiled by Webb City Area Genealogical Society member Kathy Sidenstricker.