December 9, 2009

Cut off, Goffs a study of Route's past

Route 66

By Claudia Heller
Pasadena Star-News

The 1914 Goffs Schoolhouse has been renovated and now houses a museum. (Alan Heller / Correspondent)

Part 5 of an ongoing series

We are about to visit an extremely significant Route 66 town, despite the fact that it has been expelled from the famous highway.

On our trip on Route 66, we leave the California border town of Needles and head for my personal favorite.

At first glance there isn't much left of the little town of Goffs, that is until you drive under the sign that reads "Study the Past." On the other side you will emerge into a different world to find a treasure which is under the tender care of the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association (MDHCA).

A related organization, The Friends of the Old Mojave Road, is dedicated to preserving a 138-mile trail once traversed by pioneers. This road was abandoned when railroads and more modern roads displaced it. Today the Mojave Road winds through the East Mojave Preserve in much the same dusty, bumpy and sometimes barely passable condition as it was in the 1860s.

Goffs became an important railroad stop because it is where steam engines could replenish their water supply.

The National Old Trails Road was established in 1912 (also called the ocean-to-ocean highway) and in 1926 it was designated as the first national highway system for automobiles and renamed Route 66. Several years later Route 66 was realigned to bypass Goffs when an eight-mile shortcut was carved through the Piute Mountains, skipping Goffs altogether.

Abandoned, Goffs' main landmark, a 1914 mission-style schoolhouse, fell into disrepair.

As fate would have it, a lone man, Dennis Casebier, set out to save Goffs and recapture its fading history. Today the MDHCA, under Casebier's direction, has renovated the schoolhouse to its former glory and established a museum within its walls. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Federal Government.

The Goffs Library, a replica of the historic Goffs Santa Fe Railway Depot, 1902-1956.
(Alan Heller / Correspondent)

Unlike many Route 66 towns in the area, Goffs is not waning. To the contrary. A recent addition to the Cultural Center is the Library, a replica of the historic Goffs Santa Fe Railway Depot (1902-1956). Within its walls is the massive Mojave Desert Archives.

"There is no assemblage anywhere of material relating to the history of the Mojave Desert like the collections that exist at Goffs," Casebier said.

Visitors to the 75-acre Goffs Cultural Center will find hundreds of artifacts rescued from the area's rich history such as an Atlantic & Pacific Railway box car, a small courthouse which served the Amboy-Ludlow Judicial District in the 1940s, a Fraser-Chalmers 10-stamp mill, a Gilmore gasoline pump, and a miners cannon subject to a variety of claims regarding its origin.

Visitors are welcome at the Cultural Center on certain days or by appointment. For directions and more information call (760) 733-4482 or e-mail

On this, our fifth trip to areas of interest on the historic mother highway, we have now added three more sites to our list: (9 ) The Goffs Cultural Center; (10) The Renovated 1914 Goffs School House; and (11) The Old Mojave Road.