LEBANON, Missouri- The exterior of the long-closed Underpass Café, a Route 66 landmark east of Phillipsburg, will be restored by the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society, President Bill Jones announced at Tuesday’s meeting.

Gary McMillan, whose family has owned the property since 1969, has given permission for the group to clean and paint the exterior, Jones said. McMillan met at the site with several members of the Route 66 Society on a recent Saturday.

McMillan said he hoped the group can “get it to where people can get out and take pictures.”

 According to the book “Route 66 in the Missouri Ozarks” by Joe Sonderman: “In 1941, O.E. Carter and Ed Lawson erected a prefabricated gas station west of the Frisco Railroad overpass known as ‘the Subway.’ Many truckers had to let the air out of their tires or detour around the 13-foot-5-inch bridge.”

McMillan said westbound truckers then stopped at the station to refill their tires.

Sonderman wrote that in 1950, Carter and Lawson added a café building and moved their operations there from Lebanon.

The café, which included a small gift shop, and station closed shortly after four-lane New Route 66 – now Interstate 44 – opened in 1957. The metal station building was removed. The café building at one time was used as a farrowing house for hogs. It’s now used for storage.

The Route 66 Society plans to re-letter the café’s exterior and possibly install neon tubing in its original location, although there are no plans for working neon lights. A sign giving the history of the café also will be erected. In the future, the group might build a replica of the metal gas station building on its original site.

Jones said he hopes work can start this fall, but cold weather might delay it until spring.

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