The Chelsea Hotel is at the intersection of Historic Route 66,
called N. Walnut Ave. locally, and E. First St. in Chelsea, OK.
The motel is privately owned and used for storage. It is not
accessible to the public but can be viewed from the public right
Cafes, motels, and
gas stations were the backbone of the Route 66 economy.
The Chelsea Motel--modest and now abandoned, with paint peeling
off its once-white walls--is evidence of that vibrant period
when Route 66 helped transform the social and economic landscape
of Middle America. All along the length of Route 66, the highway
generated social change--first as the stimulus for hundreds of
mom and pop motels like the Chelsea Hotel, and later as those
same enterprises faded away.
At the time of Route 66ís
designation as a Federal highway, Chelsea was one of a string of
towns in northeastern Oklahoma connected by the highway. At that
point, Chelsea had a solid commercial district and at least one
oil refinery. The center of town was the railroad depot. Route
66 shifted the center. For most of its distance in Chelsea, the
highway ran on the east side of the railroad, opposite the
business district. Route 66 did not enter Chelseaís business
district at all but skirted to the southwest toward Claremore
and Tulsa. Route 66 was a powerful magnet, and Chelsea commerce
followed the new highway. Within a few years, several businesses
emerged along the east side of Route 66 (Walnut
Avenue)--stations, cafes, and motels designed to accommodate the
auto traffic that was increasing along the route.
easy to imagine a vacationing family, tired from a long day on
hot Oklahoma roads, taking pleasure in the sight of a line of
cafes and motels where they could eat, rest, and sort out the
back-seat quarrels between the kids. One of the most prominent
of those businesses on Walnut Avenue was the Chelsea Motel,
complete with a large, elaborate neon sign. The simple stucco
rectangular building held six motel units.
1936, but certainly by 1939, the motel was operating at the
corner of First and Walnut. These were good years for small-time
motel owners. The Chelsea changed ownership occasionally during
its two decades of operation, but the late 40s and early 50s
were a booming time in the mom-and-pop motel industry. A modest
row of rooms on a busy thoroughfare could provide a family with
a steady income.
By the mid 1950s, however, pressures
were increasing on enterprises like the Chelsea Motel.
Competition increased as the number of motels more than doubled
nationwide between 1946 and 1953. Motels were changing, too,
requiring bigger facilities and amenities like telephones and
air conditioning. The Chelsea Motel responded to these demands,
but an even bigger threat to the survival of the enterprise was
Automobile traffic on Route 66 led to the
creation of the Chelsea Motel, and paradoxically its success
would lead to its demise. During the post-war years, Route 66 in
Oklahoma became increasingly congested with cars, trucks, and
buses. Federal efforts to improve the highway turned into a
project to replace it altogether. In 1953, the Turner Turnpike
between Tulsa and Oklahoma City opened, running essentially
parallel to Route 66.