During my Missouri Route 66 planning, I made a note to visit Red Oak II since I wanted to see the cottage-style Phillips 66 service station that had been relocated there and restored from the ghost town of Red Oak, Missouri. That was the extent of my research on this location, and while I knew there were a few other restored buildings on-site, nothing I read prepared me for the magnitude of this Route 66 treasure.
This place is absolutely amazing and should be a MUST SEE on every Route 66 itinerary! It is, in my opinion, the absolute best gem along the entire stretch of the Mother Road!
Red Oak II, Missoura, spelled with an "a" not an "i', was the artistic vision of artist Lowell Davis (1937-2020). Sometimes called the "Norman Rockwell of Rural Art," much of his artwork reflects what it was like to grow up in rural America along Route 66 during its heyday. While he is best known for his farm animal figurines, he also painted, sculpted, and created metal art.
Lowell Davis returned to Missouri after his wanderlust took him to the Air Force, Kansas State University and Dallas, Texas, where he spent 13 years as an art director at an advertising agency.
During his years in the big city all he could think about was getting home to Missouri. Eventually, he bought a farm and made the move.
After arriving home, he was saddened to see that the small rural Missouri communities of his youth, like his family's hometown of Red Oak, were becoming ghost towns and that the buildings were in ruins. So he began collecting old buildings and moving them to his farm, Fox Fire, to restore.
Not every building came from the original Red Oak, but Davis's buildings stay true to the same era, dating from the turn of the century through the 1930s. He couldn't find a couple of the buildings he wanted in Red Oak II, so he created them himself. To think, this all started in a cornfield in 1987 and eventually became the quaint and colorful early 1900s utopian village you see today.
The village of Red Oak II encompasses roughly 60 acres. It includes a diner, jail, blacksmith shop, general store, Phillips 66 station, schoolhouse, town hall, country church, cemetery, several homes and other buildings.
The blacksmith shop once belonged to Davis's great grandfather, and his father once owned the general store.
Lowell Davis began selling off his collection of homes for people to live in when the upkeep and maintenance became too much—transforming the village of his "childhood memories" from an art exhibit into a living museum.
There are now about a dozen residents in Red Oak II, helping maintain and care for the town. The landscaping is immaculate, and the village is complete with old cars, farm equipment, and even an airplane! Peppered throughout the village is Lowell Davis's metal art.
I had difficulty knowing which buildings were "lived in" and which were part of the collection, so please be respectful about looking into windows and trying doors when you visit.
Red Oak II is open to the public seven days a week from 7 am to 9 pm. The village has several degrees of openness, from some buildings being unlocked and open to the public to just being able to walk the streets and enjoy from afar. When I visited on a Sunday afternoon, everything was closed, but the few people I saw made me feel welcome.
Check out their website before you visit for more information. They hold special events throughout the year and have a weekly Pickin' and Singin' Jam session on Saturday evenings and church services on Sunday mornings at the Salem Country Church. The public is always welcome.
The village is free to visit, but be sure to drop something into the donation box by the General Store to help with maintenance costs.
Red Oak II is quaint, quirky, colorful, and fun, with interesting details around every corner. When visiting, I felt like I had simultaneously died, gone to heaven, and found "my people" it's just that good! I could live here. It's my kind of place...
Red Oak II, Missoura - 12275 Kafir Road, Carthage, Missouri
Not every images makes it into my blog, visit the Route 66 Collection to see more of my travels along the Mother Road!
Other Route 66 blog post.
The Best of Texas Route 66
The Best of New Mexico Route 66
Check back, blog post are coming soon for Route 66 though Illinois and Missouri.
About the Photographer
In the process, she found her roots again, developing a photography obsession far beyond casual snapshots that evolved into a desire to capture every location and object as art. By meshing her two loves, photography and design, she has come full circle.
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I am the 8th photographer in 4 generations of my family. Back in 2006, my husband accepted a job traveling, and I jumped at the chance to go with him.
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