Rock Café, Stroud, Oklahoma, USA

Like so many Route 66 roadside businesses, the landmark Rock Café in Stroud began as a start up business with modest capital. Owner Roy Rives took three years to finish construction and, at times, resorted to hiring high school students as a labor force. The concrete foundation of the Bungalow/Craftsman influenced café was poured by wheelbarrow, and its now famous Giraffe-style sandstone exterior may very well have been the result of economy over inspiration. Some say that Mr. Rives spotted a deal and purchased the entire supply of local colorful sandstone (leftovers from a recent construction project on Route 66) for just five dollars.

When the Rock Café finally opened for business in August 1939, conditions were favorable. Traffic along the Mother Road steadily increased as America emerged from the Great Depression. The café flourished even during the rationing years of World War II, in part because it doubled as a stop for the Greyhound bus lines that carried thousands of travelers and hungry, thirsty GIs to and from home leave. Following the war, the café went to a 24-hour schedule, a sign that Route 66 was entering its boom years. The café installed its strikingly modernistic neon sign in the late 1940s.

The Rock Café survived the decommissioning of Route 66, but by the early 1990s, the restaurant needed extensive rehabilitation. When the current owners purchased the property in 1993, the outlook appeared grim, and it got worse when in 1999 a major tornado hit Stroud, devastating the town’s economy. Persisting through a commitment to their adopted town and to the memory of the Mother Road, the owners held on. In 2001, they succeeded in placing the café in the National Register of Historic Places and received a cost share grant from the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program the same year. The owners used the funds for a top to bottom rehabilitation of the café, including restoration work on the green tin roof, neon sign, and Giraffe-style sandstone exterior. They also restored two original entrances on the east and west sides of the café that had been covered over with stone. The entire dining room returned to an earlier era with booths, counter, and counter stools restored to an original floor plan. In 2008, the café suffered a disastrous fire. Funding from NPS and National Trust Southwest Office assisted with post-fire assessment and preservation plan that led to meticulous rehabilitation of the cafe. Reopened in 2009, this welcoming roadside café is a favorite stop for travelers along historic Route 66.

The Rock Café is located at 114 W. Main St. in Stroud, OK. The café is open from 6:00am to 9:00pm seven days a week. For information, call 918-968-3990.

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