Father of Route 66 memorialized with Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza in Tulsa
TULSA U.S. Route 66, the historic highway that connected Oklahoma with Chicago and Los Angeles, is memorialized with a plaza just off the banks of the Arkansas River along the original route a short distance from downtown.
Avery suggested "66"
Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza is named for a Tulsa resident who is also known as "The Father of Route 66." Avery (1877-1963) originally suggested the number "66" for a planned U.S. highway connecting the Midwest to the West Coast during a convention with federal highway officials in Springfield, Mo., in 1926. Avery, a farmer and oilman, was a one-time Tulsa County commissioner and member of the Oklahoma Highway Commission and was instrumental in the founding of the U.S. Highway 66 Association, which promoted efforts to pave the entire length of the highway (which was completed in 1937) and promote tourism along the route.
Route 66 passed through eight states and covered over 2,400 miles, including nearly 400 miles through the Sooner State.
"East Meets West"
Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza is on Southwest Boulevard between Riverside Drive and 12th Street just east of the river. A pedestrian overpass designed with art deco architecture resembling many Tulsa buildings constructed in the early 20th century connects the plaza's parking area with the bronze exhibit "East Meets West" on the other side of the street. "East Meets West," cast by a Texas firm, depicts Cyrus Avery stopping a Model T Ford as the vehicle frightened two horses pulling a wagon hauling oil barrels highlighting the early 20th century transformation from the horse and buggy to the automobile as America's primary mode of transportation. The sculpture was scaled to 135 percent actual size and weighs over 20,000 pounds. Towering above the sculpture exhibit are eight flags depicting each of the states that Route 66 passed through, from east to west: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Directly to the west of Cyrus Avery Plaza is the original art deco-designed bridge built in 1915 that took Route 66 over the Arkansas River for many years but is no longer open to vehicular or pedestrian traffic as it is positioned between newer bridges on Southwest Boulevard and Interstate 244. The old bridge is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and named the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge.
The plaza was built in 2008 and the "East Meets West" statue was dedicated in 2012. The project cost $1.2 million and was funded through the Tulsa Vision 2025 program with some funding provided by an Oklahoma Centennial Commission grant. Future plans for the plaza include the construction of a visitor/interpretive center.