Avery Plaza SW
At the intersection of Southwest Blvd. and Riverside Dr. in Tulsa, an old concrete bridge stands between two modern crossings with a bronze statue on one side and a neon sign park on the other. The statue is called 'East Meets West' and it commemorates Cyrus Avery, the Father of Route 66. The neon signs represent the three distinct eras of Route 66 in the City of Tulsa when it was still a federal highway.
Read on to learn more about Avery and this multi-faceted tribute to the Mother Road.
As County Commissioner in the early 1900s, Cyrus Avery facilitated the construction of the 11th Street Bridge. It was the most state-of-the-art concrete span across the Arkansas River upon completion in 1915. A decade later, when the US Government decided it was time for an organized and numbered highway network, he was one of the few men picked to select the roads that would be a part of this national system. Chicago-to-Los Angeles was deemed to be one of the most vital.
It was Avery that suggested that the path take advantage of Tulsa's 11th Street Bridge to cross the Arkansas River. Because of his influence, Route 66 came down through Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas rather than take a more direct path through the Midwest. Avery also founded the US Highway 66 Association and cemented the road's permanent place as a part of American Pop Culture.
For these reasons, the old 11th Street Bridge is bookended by plazas bearing his name.
On the opposite side of the Arkansas River from the statue, at the southwest end of what is now known as the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge, is a small neon sign park called Avery Plaza Southwest. This park stands as a tribute to three eras of the Mother Road in the City of Tulsa, telling that story in the neon language of roadside architecture. The original signs had long since been lost to the wrecking ball of progress, so they were recreated using postcards and old photographs (such as this photo from the John Margolies Collection at the Library of Congress).
Each sign once stood on an alignment of US Highway 66 in Tulsa as it evolved over the years. The original alignment came into downtown via Admiral (then Federal Drive) from 1926 to 1932. It was re-aligned to 11th Street when a crossing was built over Mingo Creek; that path carried the famous road until the Skelly Bypass (now Interstate 44) was built in the 1950s.
Below are the stories of each motel; this information is also presented on individual historic markers at the plaza.
This project was made possible by Vision 2025 and the Tulsa Route 66 Commission.