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History of the BEST WESTERN Route 66 Rail Haven

No matter how much time passes, the history and nostalgia of certain places never grows old. Route 66 is one of those places, and it has rightfully taken its standing being one of the first original highways in the U.S. Highway System. Originating in Springfield, MO., Route 66 served as the primary route for those looking to find prosperity in the American west. First designated as a National Highway in 1927, Route 66 wasn’t completely paved until 1938, the same year the original Rail Haven Motel was built.

The land the hotel sits on today was once an apple orchard owned by the maternal grandfather of Elwyn and Lawrence Lippman. Located at the crossroads of Missouri Highways 65, 60, and U.S. Highway 66, the Lippmans’ hotel offered travelers comfort and lodging. To accommodate more people, the brothers built eight steam-heated sandstone cottages, each with adjoining garages and surrounded by a split rail fence.

About the same time the Lippman brothers were delighting guests with their hospitality and expanding their growing business to 28 guest rooms, a new hotel concept was being formed by M.K. Guertin just after World War II. The Lippman brothers immediately saw the value in joining Guertin’s new hotel chain, Best Western, which was established in 1946. By 1951, Lawrence Lippman was serving on the board of directors for Best Western.

As it so happened, during the pre-war years a traveling salesman by the name of Duncan Hines started keeping a list of all the good and bad meals he had eaten across the country. In 1935 that list was published in paperback form and was so popular, it inspired Mr. Hines to also create a guide of recommended lodgings. Americans soon relied on the “Recommended by Duncan Hines” seal of approval when choosing places to stay and eat during their travels.  

Eventually, Mr. Hines and his wife visited the Route 66 Rail Haven and enjoyed their stay so much; the hotel received Hine’s official approval.

The Rail Haven motel continued to grow and evolve adding rooms and features to meet the needs of travelers as times changed. In 1961, the Rail Haven was sold to Ward Chrisman who built the Sycamore Inn restaurant. Bringing a taste of Europe to Springfield, the restaurant featured a beautiful terrazzo floor, mosaic tiles and light fixtures from Italy. A central gathering point for locals and hotel guests for a while, the restaurant then slowly declined over the years, and was finally demolished in the early 1980s.

In 1994 Gordon Elliott acquired the hotel and through his careful vision returned the Rail Haven to its former glory – a place for travelers to rest, relax and recharge. Today, you can still find traces of the Lippmans’ original stone cottages and some of their furnishings in selected rooms. 

A visit to the birthplace of Route 66 would not be complete without a stay at one of last original continually operating Best Western hotels on Route 66. The BEST WESTERN Route 66 Rail Haven has the distinct honor of being listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

For more than 75 years, the Route 66 Rail Haven has delighted guests earning positive reviews and top honors from travel experts, starting with the “Recommended by Duncan Hines” approval through today with our AAA Diamond rating and top traveler ratings on TripAdvisor.

After you get your kicks on Route 66, relax and unwind at the BEST WESTERN Route 66 Rail Haven hotel in Springfield, MO.

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