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Arts and Culture

Thinking Out Loud: An Architecural and Social History of Old Highway 40

Trevor Harris / KBIA

Columbia's Business Loop 70 has been in the news a lot lately. A group of property owners along the roadway have gathered in an attempt to improve the aging commercial corridor. Before the road was called Business Loop 70, it was U.S. Highway 40. In a recent episode of KBIA's Thinking Out Loud, Trevor Harris spoke to a trio of Columbians about their memories of businesses along Old Highway 40.

This radio segment started life as a bicycle tour. I have now researched and led three Columbia history tours by bicycle. The rides are sponsored by Columbia Parks and Recreation. On October 18, after 28 folks showed up for my Architectural History Tour of Columbia's Business Loop, my wife suggested I ought to turn the audio in to an episode of Thinking Out Loud. If you missed the ride, here's an audio version of the tour.

In preparation for my ride, I went to the  Boone County Historical Society Museum to research documents in their library. Columbia native Richard Sorrels came in while I was looking through hanging files. He started recounting the businesses that lined the Business Loop when it was Highway 40 and his father owned and operated Sorrels Garage. The machine and engine shop was located just west of the main Business Loop entrance to Columbia's Cosmo Park.

Richard and I met last month to take a tour along Old Highway 40. He brought a hand-drawn map of businesses that were listed in a 1954 Columbia phone book that Richard got his hands on. To free me up to interview, I asked my mother-in-law and history fan Diana Groshong to drive us in her comfortable 2013 minivan. Also along for the ride was Business Loop Community Improvement District Director Carrie Gartner.

Richard mentioned long-gone businesses that served townies and students alike. Between about 1930 and 1960 Highway 40 was the main artery through Columbia. Interstate 70 opened through Columbia in 1960. That same year, Highway 40 got a new name: Business Loop 70.

Also featured in this episode of Thinking Out Loud is longtime Columbia businesswoman Marilyn Griggs and current Loop businessman Gary Ennis.

This episode of Thinking Out Loud originally aired on Tuesday, November 24, 2015.

Hear new episodes of Thinking Out Loud each Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on 91.3FM KBIA.

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