They call Spencer a ghost town, but I say that there would have to be more town here for it to qualify. This dot on the southwest Missouri map has but one row of buildings, capped by this restored Phillips 66 service station.
It’s the last thing you expect to find as you turn onto this old, almost forgotten alignment of the road.
Because it is almost forgotten, it still bears the 1924 steel truss bridge I wrote about here and the 1920s concrete pavement I wrote about here. It looks like what is now Highway N used to curve around to follow this alignment, but what is now Highway 96 was built later to be a straighter and truer path for the Mother Road. That must have happened a very long time ago for the bridge never to have been upgraded and the concrete never to have been covered with asphalt. Check out that glorious concrete as it passes by this station.
Spencer formed here in the 1870s, with a store, a church, and a post office lining what was then known as Carthage Road. It’s said that by 1912 the old road had become impassable, which hurt the town’s fortunes. The arrival of Route 66 in 1927 led to the concrete pavement and the bridge. It sparked the local economy enough to establish this service station and a few other businesses.
This was first a Tydol station; later, it switched to Phillips 66. I imagine that the road brought just enough business here to provide a living for the proprietors, but not enough to make anybody wealthy.
The realignment of Route 66 along what is now Highway 96 had to have hurt business, but the construction of nearby I-44 surely killed it. Traffic dried up and soon these businesses closed for good.
This restoration is recent, and appears to be ongoing. I’ve seen photos of this building from the past few years that show it boarded up in dereliction and, later, in various stages of restoration. This awning and these gas pumps weren’t there just a couple years ago, for example. The other buildings in this row have been tidied up but it looks like a lot more work can be done to them. Here’s hoping that happens. It’s stops like this, out in the middle of nowhere, that make Route 66 a wonderful museum of 20th-century history.
Check out the restored Standard station on Route 66 in Illinois here.