America is a truly varied country, with a diversity of both cultures and landscapes. Nothing demonstrates this quite like its architecture, with a wide-ranging mix of influences and regional differences. To see it all up close, there's no beating the ultimate American road trip: historic Route 66.
The Mother Road is home to buildings and structures that aren't just historically important, but also visually stunning. From the skyscrapers of Chicago to the adobe pueblos of the Southwest, Route 66 shows off the full range of American architectural ingenuity. You'll be amazed to see how buildings change as you travel westward, from plains to mountains to deserts.
There's no better way to take it all in than a guided experience with Route 66 Tours. Some of our favourite landmarks and architectural trends on the Mother Road include:
Route 66 begins in Chicago with a true architectural marvel. The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, rises 452 metres above the Mother Road. The skyscraper was the tallest building in the world from its completion in 1973 until it was surpassed in 1996 by the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Today, the Willis Tower remains the second-tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and a monument to American ingenuity. Visitors to the tower can ride an elevator up 103 storeys and take in unparalleled views from the Skydeck, the highest observation deck in the U.S.
The Gateway Arch
One of the true icons of American architecture, St. Louis' Gateway Arch rises high above the mighty Mississippi River and is a sure sign you're travelling west. This glinting metal monument stands 192 metres high and 192 metres wide, according to Architectural Digest. It was completed in 1965 to serve as a symbol of the diverse people who shaped American history and westward expansion, according to the National Park Service.
Visitors to the Gateway Arch can stroll its surrounding grounds or take a tram ride all the way to the top. Other options a historic riverboat tour that embarks from the monument.
Adobe structures and the Pueblo
Descend from the Midwest down into the deserts and red rocks of the Southwest, and you'll be sure to notice more than the changing scenery. Many homes and buildings in this part of the country are made in part from an earthy material called adobe that blends in with the environment.
The adobe homes of today draw directly from the historic buildings of the indigenous Pueblo people, who began living in the region about 1,000 years ago, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. Their structures were typically built into the side of a cliff and designed so that the roof of one building would serve as the terrace for another. While adobe is now used for single-family homes far away from cliffs, the inspiration from the past remains.
The Googie Architecture of the West
Route 66 is often associated with the 1950s, a time when America was experiencing a population boom in the wake of World War II and the expansion of highways meant more people than ever were taking to the open road. It's fitting then that the Mother Road is dotted with examples of one of the era's most novel architectural styles — the uniquely named Googie.
Googie buildings drew inspiration from the impending space race and incorporated modern, synthetic materials like plastic, chrome and neon. The architectural style also favoured sharp lines, simple layouts and a lack of ornamentation that's uniquely American, according to the Smithsonian Institute.
Today, the once-futuristic Googie buildings look dated, clear landmarks of a different era. That doesn't mean they've gone away. Googie-styled motels, diners and coffee shops dot the western half of the Mother Road, wearing their '50s pastiche with pride. For many travellers, a peek into the not too distant past a big part of the Route 66 experience. Googie architecture provides a historic snapshot that's like little else.
For the road trip of a lifetime, you simply cannot top a drive down historic Route 66. We can't wait to take you back out on The Mother Road, once we are permitted to do so. Our next planned tour is scheduled for Fall, 2021. You can look forward to an incredible 20 nights travelling from Chicago to Las Vegas, exploring the best antique cars, roadside attractions and natural features that America has to offer. While you wait, you can stay connected and check out more views of the adventure ahead at www.route66tours.com.au.