The Wagon Wheel stops rolling

October 1, 2009

Ventura010

It’s confirmed. The Wagon Wheel motel/restaurant/bowling alley that was a Ventura County institution for 50 years, will be torn down, according to a superior court judge’s ruling today.

Those who have lived in and around the Oxnard area may remember the Wagon Wheel as a little slice of pure Americana, a novelty throwback to the pioneer Old West, and “the last stop along Route 66,” during a period when simpler times prevailed.

Still others have viewed it as a major eyesore — run down, falling apart, somehow stuck in a time warp while the rest of the freeway’s structures around it grow, expand, and build up anew.

Simply put, the Wagon Wheel has become another good example of one man’s treasure being another man’s junk.

At what point do we decide to put in the effort to preserving something, or make way for something newer?

We can answer that question with another question: Might the Wagon Wheel’s newer, shinier replacement someday become historic itself?

Developers want to spend about $100 million to erect an Italian-styled commercial/residential complex, combining office space with luxury apartments and condos. Conservationists wanted to spend about 10 percent of that cost to rehab the Wagon Wheel to its Fifties heyday, with intentions to make use of the roadside property to hold events like farmers markets and car shows.

A better question might be: Is this all a matter of profit vs. preservation?

Regardless of the cost, there comes a time when we must move on in life. There’s a difference between appreciating the past for what it was, and simply being stuck in the past.

No amount of spit and polish will immortalize the Wagon Wheel before it starts showing signs of decay again. It’s like spending countless dollars to restore and fix an old car, only for it to break down again, when buying a new car is simply more economical in the long run.

On the other hand, like the Working Artists Ventura project under construction in the city’s downtown, providing a new, work/live space for people actually adds to the local economy.

The real preservation of antique places like the Wagon Wheel, demolished or not, depends on our collective appreciation, not the actual structure. Because, like they say, nothing ever really dies if someone is there to remember it.

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