Route 66 Historic District
This mile-long stretch of road originally belonging to Route 66, now features shops, clubs and restaurants. Favorites include the Nat Ballroom, currently a wrestling match and concert venue, but a former stop for the Big Bands that passed through Amarillo, and the Golden Light Café, where the best hamburgers in town have been served for more than 50 years.
The Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas. It was originally located in a wheat field, but in 1997 the installation was moved two miles to the west, to a cow pasture along Interstate 40. The sites belong to the local millionaire Stanley Marsh III, the patron of the project. Marsh is well known in the city for long time patronage of artistic endeavors including the "Cadillac Ranch", Floating Mesa, "Amarillo Ramp" a work of well known land artist Robert Smithson, and a series of fake traffic signs throughout the city known collectively as the "Dynamite Museum".
Old Route 66 through Sixth Street in Amarillo, Texas is home to the old Natatorium, familiarly called “The Nat,” and according to locals, a few unearthly spirits as well. This old area, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been fashionably restored to an antique district, full of collectibles, boutiques and street-side cafes.
“Natatorium” is an old-fashioned word for an indoor swimming pool and when this building opened in July, 1922, that’s exactly what it housed. However, in 1926, J.D. Tucker purchased the pool building and turned it into a dance palace. Covering the pool over with a fine wooden dance floor, the Nat Ballroom began to cater to the flappers of the Roaring 20’s.
There is still a sign on the side of the building from it's life as an antique mall in the 1990s. It currently hosts wrestling matches and concerts. The Nat doesn't face route 66, it is around the corner on S. Georgia St., so we almost missed it. Just to the south of the building is a Fire Station, and across the street is a small parking lot for a BBQ stand.
In 1995, when The Nat was purchased and renovated for an Antique Mall, owners and guests would notice cold spots upon entering the upstairs rooms, once utilized as a gambling hall. On other occasions strange noises would be heard when no one was there and the owner would arrive to find the furniture rearranged during the night.
The ballroom floor is said to also be popular with the spirits. When bands still play at the Nat, a ghostly couple can often be seen gliding along its hard-wood floors. In 1996, the Nat conducted an all night ghost investigation complete with video cameras and tape recorders. Though the investigators had many difficulties with the cameras, as they mysteriously shut themselves off, they did obtain a voice recording of a drum playing solo in the background and the sounds of a woman singing.
This is the front of what used to be the Nat Café, 2705 W. 6th Ave. (old Route 66), which opened in 1935, as an addition running off the north side of the building with a front door facing Rt. 66. It is currently a bookstore that has extremely limited hours. If you happen to visit while it is open, the building connects through to the Nat.
This is the historical marker out front.
In 1960, the Big Texan Steak Ranch opened its doors alongside old Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas. On evening a hungry cowboy ventured in bragging that he was so hungry that he could "eat the whole, darned cow." Big Texan founder, R.J. "Bob" Lee started cooking him steaks. When the cowpoke finally hollered "calf rope," he had consumed 4 1/2 pounds of tasty Texas beef. Bob vowed from that day forward the dinner would be served "FREE" to anyone who could consume it in one hour.
You can see the elevated table and clock in front of the kitchen. We didn't even try, we split a 12 oz. steak, and it was really good.
The U-Drop Inn & Conoco Station was built in 1936 by J.M. Tindall & R.C. Lewis at a cost of $23,000. The local newspaper at the time said that it was "the swankiest of swank eating places" and "the most up-to-date edifice of its kind on U.S. Highway 66 between Oklahoma City and Amarillo". The U-Drop Inn became a welcoming sight to the many highway travelers & buses that pulled in at the diner. "Delicious Food Courteously Served" became the diner's motto.