Meteor City is located in Coconino County, Arizona, and got its strange name due to its proximity to a meteor crater named Barringer Crate which is 22 miles to the southwest.
Despite its moniker of “city,” this site never even got up the numbers and facilities to be called a town or a village.
It was merely a trading post on Route 66 that had a distinctive dome topped by a fake yellow mohawk and some interesting tourist features.
When Route 66 was realigned in 1938, Meteor City was built as a Texaco gas station. At that time it was known as the Sharber Service Station and was operated by Joe Sharber. He ran it until 1941 when new owner Jack Newsam appeared.
Newsam soon expanded the trading post to offer not only gas for sale but also groceries and curios. It was around this time that the iconic dome with its yellow mohawk was built to stock the curios that Newsam was looking to sell to tourists.
Items on sale included moccasins, Navajo rugs, postcards, petrified wood, and Baja shirts.
One particularly sweet story associated with Meteor City is that a sign advertising the number of inhabitants read “Population: one” for a very long time – until Newsam, the sole resident, married a woman named Gloria. After that, the sign was updated to read: “Population: two.”
A less adorable story is that Newsam’s wife was known as “the wicked witch of Route 66” because she served as a justice in the area and would issue speeding tickets to those she caught driving too fast on Route 66.
As well as its distinctive dome, Meteor City had two other claims to fame which drew tourists.
It boasted the world’s largest dream catcher which was located near the road and also a 100-foot map of Route 66 painted by artist and cartographer Bob Waldmire, which was stated to be the world’s longest map of Route 66.
Unfortunately, it appears that both those claims might be exaggerated. The world’s longest Route 66 map is actually recorded as being a map at the El Trovatore motel on Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona, while the Guinness World Records have the largest dreamcatcher being in London.
What tourists see today is not the original Meteor City as it stood in the 1930s or even the 1970s.
The site has suffered two fires – one in the 1960s (before the dome was built) and another in the 1990s. The dome that stands today is the one that was constructed after the second fire.
Although freeway I-40 initially bypassed Meteor City when it was built in the 1970s, an exit was later constructed to provide easier access to the trading post.
The year 2001 saw the trading post briefly shut down and the owners, sadly, decided to paint over the map of Route 66 in the next few years.
Although the site was put up for sale again in 2012 with a price of $150,000, no buyers could be found and the post was ultimately abandoned.
For several years, it looked like it had met the fate of so many other once-thriving businesses along the Mother Road, like Twin Arrows and Two Guns.
In 2017, the site was purchased by Joann and Mike Brown, who describe themselves as being in a “working retirement.” Both have very fond memories of Meteor City and Route 66, so they hope to renovate and then reopen the trading post for business.
The first order of business is to get fences erected and the doors boarded up to deter vandals. After that, they’ll focus on renovating the dome by fixing the damage done over the years and removing the detritus both around it and inside it.
After that, there’s plenty of work to be done on the tattered dream catcher and also six cement teepees that adorn the site.
The 1984 movie Starman starring Jeff Bridges filmed a few scenes at Meteor City, and Joann Brown plans to add a section to their own store that focusses on this film.
The couple are also trying to track down photos of Waldmire’s map in the hope they can restore that as a tourist attraction as well.
A big thank you to Alexandra Charitan for the pictures. You can find more cool content on her website here – www.onlylivingirlny.com