Red Cedar Inn, Pacific, Missouri, USA

Pacific, Missouri, had little commerce in the early 20th century except for mining silica for use in making fine glassware and in the production of construction materials such as the bricks used in the Red Cedar Inn. The silica came from large caverns in bluffs just north of town that are still visible to drivers on Route 66. Pacific got a major boost in 1932 when Route 66 arrived. Shortly thereafter, the Red Cedar Inn opened with Route 66 right at its front door. Opened just after Prohibition ended, the Red Cedar Inn was an atmospheric, full service restaurant serving cocktails. Located at the edge of Pacific and close to St. Louis, the restaurant became popular with travelers on Route 66 and with celebrities like St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Klinger and his wife and friends, such as famed ball players Dizzy Dean and Ted Williams.

Except for two modest additions to the back, the restaurant looks very much like it did during the 1930s, with its peeled cedar posts, a 1930s barbeque shack, square red cedar logs “v”-notched at the corners, and lines of wide, white chinking. Materials inside like the log or knotty pine interior walls are as rustic as the ones on the exterior. The builders, James and Bill Smith, intentionally selected such rustic materials to reflect Missouri pioneer days and catch the eyes of tourists eager to experience some local color.

Route 66 provided a life-changing business opportunity for brothers James and Bill Smith. The two made their living for nearly a decade bootlegging liquor from the family farm at Villa Ridge. When Prohibition ended in 1933 so did their livelihood. Both brothers opened legal taverns–Bill in Fenton and James in Eureka. At the same time, they built the Red Cedar Inn on newly designated Route 66.

The Smiths cut logs from their family farm, hauled them to the Red Cedar site on a one-ton Ford truck, to build their restaurant. Even before they opened the doors for business, Route 66 was carrying hungry out-of-state customers past the front door. The Red Cedar Inn was an immediate success, allowing the Smiths to add a bar to the restaurant in 1935.

The Smith brothers did not spend much time at the new restaurant. When James and Bill finished building the restaurant, they turned its management over to James II and went back to the pool hall in Eureka and the tavern in Fenton. James II was just 24 when he took over the brand-new business which he ended up spending most of the next four decades managing. In 1935, he hired Katherine Brinkman as a waitress, and in 1940, she became Mrs. James Smith II. The couple bought the business from James Smith I in 1944, and, with the help of their son James Smith III, they ran the business until 1972. The Red Cedar was closed from 1972 until 1987, when James III reopened the business.

In April of 2003, the Inn was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The town celebrated the designation on July 11 with speeches, a caravan, and music. The town’s fire truck raised a huge American flag high on its boom, a local teen sang “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” a caravan of old cars arrived, a color guard marched, and the crowd sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” Meanwhile, a train passing on nearby tracks slowed to a stop until the singing ended. When the music stopped, the train conductor blew the whistle and traveled on down the tracks.

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