I've always said that one of my favorite things about the Adirondacks is that you never know what you will find around the next corner. It might be an amazing view, a funky sign that seems to be in the middle of nowhere, a nostalgic rock painted like a pig, or a single community that has an intriguing number of outhouses. But more importantly, as you travel from village to village you will discover that each community has it own unique personality that makes it stand apart.
Within the community of Speculator, you will find a hidden little attraction that is a community all on its own...
Welcome to Route 66!
As you drive south down NYS Route 30 toward the Town of Wells, you will pass the Speculator Community Beach on your right, and a large park with a playground and pavilion on your left. But if you aren't looking, what you probably will miss (mostly because you are distracted by the beautiful view of the lake) is the hidden treasure behind the playground in the far corner of the park. This is where the 7-building community of Route 66 has found its ground.
The town is made up of a general store, service station, church, school house, post office, ice cream parlor, and even a barbershop. Really, what more could you ask for in such a small community?
When I first walked up to Route 66, I felt as thought I had stumbled onto the movie set of Big Fish and that Johnny Depp would be walking out from behind a building at any moment. Unfortunately, I did not see Depp, but it was pretty magical to feel how these miniatures bring out the child in you. With the church centered at the far end of "Main Street" and buildings flanking both sides, your attention is quickly drawn from building to building, then on to the unique little details that make each unit special. From the barber pole, weathervane, and vintage signs, to the combination locks on the mail boxes and the message from "my mom" on the sign next to the church, each of these details makes the community automatically welcoming and intriguing.
The buildings are usually locked, but the glass windows in each of them allow you to sneak a peek inside and uncover the thoughtfully furnished items that make them come to life.
Warning: if you don't want to jump out of your skin like I did, use caution when approaching the barbershop, the real looking mannequins can be alarming if you don't know they are there!
After visiting the Route 66 Village, I learned that during special events the buildings are opened so that you can explore inside them. This is something that I need to do with my children in the future, as I would love to see their faces as they experience a time gone by on Route 66. In addition, I also learned that many of the features still work such as the lights, the barber pole, and an old Texaco Gas Pump that is in the process of being installed.
The history of Route 66
The buildings were originally constructed by John Van Buiten who had built them on his property on South Shore Road. John, who was in his 80s at the time of construction, was not only a contractor by trade prior to retirement, but also an avid collector by hobby. These two passions truly came together with these miniature masterpieces. Along with his good friend, Richie Koert, the town slowly came to life. In the winter months they would plan and collect the unique items, then in the summer months with construction (and as I'd like to believe... a little magic) a new business would open its doors on Route 66.
After many happy summers of his grandchildren playing on Route 66, and the public wandering in to check it out, the clock unfortunately started ticking — his grandchildren grew up, his dear wife passed away, and Mr. Van Buiten sold his summer residence in Speculator. To keep this Route 66 community intact, the buildings and their unique furnishings were kindly donated to the community for all to enjoy.
The buildings were relocated to their new home in a massive two-part undertaking. But thanks to a lot of hard work and ingenuity, Route 66 is now a place where children of all ages can discover and explore what is probably the Adirondack's smallest community.
Cheap Travel Tip!
As a mother of 3, I have to be frugal! As a result, I am always on the lookout for cheap (or affordable) activities to do and places to visit. I don't believe that you always need to pay a fortune to have a memorable family outing, so the discovery of Route 66 in Speculator is right up my alley. Located in a free community park, a stop at Route 66 offers more than just experiencing a bygone era since it is located adjacent to a playground, picnic area, ball field, beach, and educational nature trail.
With so much at your disposal, take advantage of it and spend an afternoon or a whole day exploring with your family. Let the kids burn off some energy playing on the playground, and then spend some time running from building to building pressing their faces up against the windows to check out all of the thoughtful details constructed and placed inside Route 66. Afterwards, enjoy a picnic at the park and take a leisurely hike through the beautifully maintained nature trails on the Sacandaga River Community Park.