Route 66 preservationists look to save historical Lurvey Courts on East Kearney

Published: Aug. 9, 2019 at 3:08 PM CDT
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If you're driving on Kearney Street in Springfield, you probably won't even notice the six motor court cottages that remain from what was once a thriving business on Route 66 with quite the story to tell.

"This place has a lot of historical significance because it was built when Route 66 was being built," explained Richard Walker, a member of the Route 66 Association of Missouri that's worked on preserving the Lurvey Courts.

Built in 1928 by Burt and Irene Lurvey, the wooden cabins were originally located near Strafford before they were moved to East Kearney when U.S. highway 66 was re-routed. It was then that the cottages had a new stone exterior s added that to this day makes them an iconic representation of Route 66 architecture.

"This is a rock that is native to this area called draft rock or Ozarks rock and you're not going to go up and down Route 66 and see this," said Judy Walker, Richard's wife who's also heavily involved in Route 66 preservation.

"It's one of the photogenic properties because of the Ozark stone but also because the cabins predate motels," Richard added.

The Lurvey Courts also were unique in that their $2 per night rooms were available to anyone no matter their skin color during a time when Jim Crow laws were the norm.

"To me that's a proud monument to our history that they were open-minded enough to anybody and not get down that rabbit hole of segregation," Richard said.

But after being rented as apartments in the 1970's, the Lurvey Courts fell into disrepair and it wasn't until this spring that a Route 66 traveler from California made a startling discovery.

"As she was taking pictures she saw a note from the city of Springfield where the property was going to be bulldozed if it wasn't repaired," Richard said.

Route 66 preservationists jumped into action by spending over 100 hours clearing 40 truckloads of brush from around the cabins. They also convinced the city to delay demolition as they try to work out a way to save this piece of history.

"It's so future generations can come by and say, 'Wow! That's what a motel looked like in 1928,"" Richard said.

"If this property is to be sold some day our hope is that some of these buildings are taken apart and put back together in another location along Route 66 in Springfield exactly like it is," added Judy.

The Lurvey family still owns that property and Robert Lurvey says he's still amenable to letting the association move one of the cabins. He says he's still unsure what will eventually be done with the land where the cabins currently sit now."