Boots Court opens 5 of 13 bedrooms as renovation continues | Local News

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CARTHAGE, Mo. – The renovation of Carthage’s Route 66 icon, the Boots Court, continues and people have already started renting rooms after part of the motel reopened this summer.

The “Emerald Jewel of the Road,” so called because of the bright green neon that traced the white stucco motel roofline, is owned by a non-profit foundation called the Boots Court Foundation and is getting its third or fourth lease on the life, depending on who counts.

Kim Bausinger, Manager of Boots Court, said the motel’s five rooms in the rear building were renovated and open for rent. Work is progressing on the main building, which houses eight rooms, including the room where legendary movie actor Clark Gable stayed while traveling on Route 66.

“We’re going to get the Clark Gable room back,” Bausinger said. “There will be Hollywood glamor in it. Where the rear bedrooms are the double bedrooms, they are a bit larger and have softer colours. The front bedrooms will have a bit brighter colors.

The motel was built in 1939 by Arthur Boots at the “Crossroads of America”, as it was advertised at the time when the intersection of Central and Garrison in Carthage was also the intersection of Routes 66 and 71, two highways American majors of the 1940s.

They featured covered carports and a radio in every room, a luxury at the time.

Arthur Boots initially built four rooms at the back of an on-site service station, adding four more rooms when the first group proved successful. He sold the motel shortly after building it, and the Neely family added a second building in 1946 with five additional rooms.

By the 1990s the Boots had fallen into disrepair and a developer bought it to tear it down and redevelop this corner of Central and Garrison, but public outcry forced him to abandon those plans. The motel became long-term housing for low-income people.

In 2011 the owner defaulted and the motel was sold to sisters Debye Harvey and Pricilla Bledsaw in a foreclosure auction.

The sisters had traveled Route 66 in the past and dreamed of owning a motel on the Mother Road. They had some experience in historic preservation and grant writing, so they began the long process of restoring the Boots to its former glory.

They removed the gable roof that had been added in the 1970s, restored the bright green neon along the motel’s roofline, and restored the neon sign that proclaimed “a radio in every room.”

The sisters moved to Carthage and continued the slow work of renovating the rooms until 2021, when they decided to retire, and a group of Carthage residents, under the name C Town LLC, purchased the motel and formed the Boots Court Foundation.

Back home

The restoration has already had a huge impact on the motel and the surrounding landscape.

In addition to Boots Court, the foundation also owns the land between the motel and Olive Street to the south.

Two old houses have been demolished, a brushy area has been cleared and work begins on a former Sinclair gas station at the corner of Garrison and Olive streets to convert it into offices for the motel and a Carthage visitor center.

Bausinger said the rest of the motel’s rooms will be renovated and ready for occupancy before the Maple Leaf Festival in October, and she hopes the visitor center will be ready for use as well.

The Boots Court temporary offices are located in the basement of the rear part of the motel and will be temporarily relocated to the original reception until the visitor center is ready.

Once complete, the reception area will be converted to provide amenities such as coffee and ice cream to guests, and the check-in desks in the motel will be moved to the visitor center.

“Contractors are lined up and large pieces have been ordered for the visitor center,” Bausinger said. “I would love to think that the visitor center will be done by Maple Leaf. There will be exterior beautification work to be done there, but structurally there is not much to change. It’s still going to be an open space inside, so it’s pretty much about making bathrooms ADA compliant. This will be the most important thing.

Boots Court holds an important place in the history of one of the world’s most famous roads, Route 66, as one of the few motels from the Mother Road’s heyday still open to travellers. Bausinger, from Carthage, said this was one of the lessons she needed to learn as she took on the managerial role.

“My thinking was stuck in the 80s when my car broke down here and I was mortified that someone would think I was at Boots because the nice girls weren’t going there,” Bausinger said. “Sometimes you have to walk away and change your perspective on things. Personally, I’ve been to Tucumcari, New Mexico, where they have a motel called the Blue Swallow. It was built in 1939 , the same year as the Boots. We went out because I was like, I need to know what I’m getting into. I came back with a whole different mindset about what the Boots mean to people on Route 66.

“What they tell me is that when people across the Atlantic plan where they should stay on their trip and they look at the five motels they should stay in, the Boots is the ‘one of them. I was introduced as a valued guest at a Route 66 Association meeting in New Mexico and as a lifelong resident of Carthage, I thought to myself, these are the boots. We have to get over it.”

Management

The Boots Court Foundation was founded for the explicit purpose of saving the motel, Bausinger said, because of its importance to Carthage.

“There is a board that has a lot of local business people connected to the square, connected to historic preservation, Vision Carthage. People of all these interests got together and decided they didn’t want anyone from out of town to come and buy it and tear it down.

Bausinger said being a nonprofit organization opens up the possibility of applying for grants to support the motel. He also points out that while the motel should always support itself, making a profit is not the most important goal.

“You can take the income it produces and give it back to the community,” Bausinger said. “The first element will be the visitor center. Between the “Welcome to Carthage” sign, the old police car, the Boots, and the neon, people are already stopping here, so it’s a great place to have it, and it’s right on route 66 .

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