Glenrio Ghost Town ~ Route 66 Texas
Just like how Texola is the last Route 66 town going west through Oklahoma, Glenrio is the the end of the dusty trail when heading toward the sunset in Texas. What Texola and Glenrio have in common is they are now both old historic Route 66 ghost towns. It is as if the border towns going west in these two states are both omens of things to come for Route 66 tourists entering the Desert Southwest. In no other region does the harsh reality of the devastating economic effects of the Route 66 bypass become more evident.
For those who have toured Route 66 from Chicago to the western border of the Texas panhandle, plenty of small towns along the way show signs of economic devastation, but relatively few have actually sunk below rock bottom to the point of no return. Once a Route 66 town acquires ghost town status, there is very little hope for the town to remain on the map going into the future. In modern day ghost towns like Texola and Glenrio, entrepreneurs and potential investors that pass through will balk at the thought of making a long term business commitment to turn the local economy around. The main reason why is the thought of a return on investment likely becoming a loss of investment, no matter how good the business plan may be. Therefore, the hardest hit Route 66 ghost towns are stuck in an eternal state of hopelessness.
Route 66 pride does run thicker than blood in the hearts of true Mother Road fans and for some there is no such thing as giving up hope. In the Route 66 towns that have achieved full ghost town status, there always seems to be a few local people hanging on to threads of what used to be. Some of these people know no other way to live and they have no other place to go. Being born and raised in a prospering Route 66 community, then slowly watching the home turf turn into a forgotten ghost town is too much to bear for some, while others resign to struggling through the hard times with the hope of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
A complacent long wait is rarely rewarded in the case of Route 66 ghost towns, but with no income it becomes difficult for hangers on to do much more than sit idle. With no funds for new materials, preservation of the town becomes increasingly difficult and the historic features of the town slowly erode into the past. Sometimes a local artist uses the abandoned resources to create a roadside attraction, like an apocalyptic rusty metal art display or a mini museum of some kind. These kinds of low budget tourist traps rarely earn more than a few nickels and dimes per day, but the owner feels obligated to keep the doors open, just like making a last stand in the face of defeat. Defying the inevitable is a pride driven initiative that has kept the Route 66 culture from fading into the past through the years. In some cases, it was the effort of one solitary eccentric local individual that prevented a Route 66 ghost town from being forgotten altogether.
The Route 66 ghost town of Glenrio does have a bit of old west history under its belt. Back in the early 1900s, this town was called Rock Island after a railroad company by the same name. As the age of the horseless carriage came to be, the town changed its name to Glenrio and it soon catered to travelers on four wheels. As the old pioneer age Ozark Trail became part of the Route 66 alignment in this region back in the 1920s, the town of Glenrio was able to show off its historic past. Most of the buildings were made of traditional native adobe back then and the Art Deco era style was incorporated. Southwestern adobe buildings with deco flair were something new for westbound tourists to see back then and this architectural style is still en vogue in throughout this region.
The little Route 66 town of Glenrio had a charming look way back in its heyday and some of the original buildings have survived into this modern age. What makes the local architecture from this time period so interesting is that the Art Deco era was in full swing, so even the traditional adobe buildings adapted the clean lines of the deco style into the design framework. The Route 66 strip in Glenrio is a designated historic district that is now protected by local residents. A few of the longer lasting concrete buildings from the golden age of of automobile touring can be seen in this town too.
It only take a few minutes to get off the high speed Interstate Highway 40 to check out the little ghost town of Glenrio when passing through. This Route 66 ghost town straddles the border, so two states regulate the local roads. On the Texas side of the state line, the roads are paved, while on the New Mexico side the local dirt roads are a bit too rough for small passenger cars. All of the buildings are privately owned in Glenrio, so it is best to heed the “no trespassing” signs. “Pickers” looking to steal Route 66 memorabilia have always been a problem in ghost towns like Glenrio and to not end up getting in trouble with the locals, it is best to not be suspected of being up to no good. Swinging by to take a few pictures is okay and this is all that most Route 66 tourists do when touring this old ghost town.
Whether the ghost town of Glenrio is restored as a nostalgic Route 66 point of interest or whether Glenrio completely fades off the map in the future are questions that can only be answered by looking into the crystal ball. The old Art Deco adobe architecture in this small west Texas town is still charming to see, even though some of the buildings have deteriorated well beyond repair. Even the abandoned old 1960s era gas stations by the highway loom over the desert landscape, as if they are waiting for someone to care. Modern day ghost towns like Glenrio do set a dramatic tone for the rest of the Route 66 trip, so be sure to take a break from the high speed freeway to check out this little nostalgic gem from the past!