Spring River Inn’s Old Neon Sign Back Online for Catering | Local News
RIVERTON, Kansas – A fundraiser to restore the Spring River Inn sign to its original glory has been relaunched, and it will soon become the third neon sign to light up the 13.2 mile stretch of historic Route 66 in Kansas.
The neon sign was supposed to be restored in 2013, but the project was stalled due to ownership issues, according to the Kansas Historic Route 66 Association. The group is made up of around 50 members who focus on promoting tourism and commerce, preserving history, and protecting the heritage of the Mother Road.
The sign was returned to the association this summer, and the group is trying to raise $ 10,000 to restore and relocate it to the original location. The sign was attached to the top of a stone pillar on the west side of Route 66 going to Riverton.
“There was a dispute over who owned the sign at the time, and in 2014 or 2015 a woman said she owned it and wanted to get it back,” said Renee Charles, president of the Kansas Historic Route 66 Association. “She got the sign from Allen Sign Studio and said she would restore it. Years have passed and it has not been restored.
Jason Gaskill, a business owner from Webb City, recently discovered the panel tucked away in his late mother’s storage unit and returned it to the association.
“I would hate to see him get lost,” he said.
Unfortunately, the sign was in worse shape than it was in 2013. The remaining neon has been removed. The sign’s pewter structure is rusty, but the steel base is still salvageable.
“When we first got it, there was still neon when my husband and I picked it up, but there wasn’t any this time,” Charles said. “The neon tube was completely gone, but Allen Sign Studio still had the pattern. “
Allen Sign Studio at 307 E. Central Ave. in Miami, Oklahoma, was responsible for the restoration.
Colby Allen, owner of the sign business, said it would take about eight weeks from start to finish to complete in its current state. He said he didn’t think he would ever see the sign again, but it was a pleasant surprise.
“It’s really cool to see people preserve history, and not just for themselves but for the enjoyment of others,” he said. “I want to make it as close to the original as possible. It is a significant investment, but it can be enjoyed for generations.
Allen believes the decades-old sign may have been made in the late 1940s due to the materials and type of styling used. Neon signs were popular in the United States from the 1920s to the 1960s.
“There was neon green, and judging by how it looked, that arrow on the top seems to have been added over the years,” Allen said. “It wasn’t a high end porcelain sign, but it was really well done.”
The history of the inn
The Spring River Inn was a popular restaurant located on Kansas Route 66 and the Southeast 73rd Terrace in Riverton. It was a popular destination for area residents and Mother Road travelers.
When in operation, the restaurant was well known for its 35-foot buffet table of home-cooked meals and could seat up to 350 people.
Many past customers have recalled memories of mouthwatering cinnamon buns, all-you-can-eat crab legs, squaw bread, homemade noodles, and fried chicken.
Charles started working as a waitress at the inn at the age of 16, and her husband, Billy Charles, also worked there as a chef. She said he still made some of their signature dishes at home.
“My husband and I even got married outside the Spring River Inn,” said Renee Charles. “My husband had worked there since he was 13 years old. He used to paddle boat on the river, then he moved on to the kitchen and was a cook. He still makes Spring River Inn chicken, squaw bread, and chunks of meat, just the way it was made.
The Spring River Inn was built in 1902 as a private home and was sold with its square footage to the Joplin Country Club in July 1905 for $ 1,500.
Joplin was connected in the mining era to Galena and Baxter Springs by an electric railroad, and the property as a country club became very popular for events and activities. The private social club consisted of the “Four Hundred,” members of Joplin’s most prominent families, according to Joplin Public Library records.
The 22-room clubhouse featured tennis courts, picnic areas, boating on the Spring River and a 4-foot-deep “swim tank”, according to an ad published in The Joplin Globe on September 21. 1980.
The lodge and 60 acres were sold in 1932 and used for many years as the base for a boating club. The Inn as a restaurant was opened in the early 1950s by Gates and June Harrold, and has become a destination for Route 66 travelers.
Joplin’s attorney, Raymond Birk, and his wife, Judy Birk-Tutin, reopened the Spring River Inn restaurant in 1970 and it ceased operations in the mid-1990s. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1998.