Route 66, Illinois

Construction on the U.S. Route 66, known as the "Mother Road", began in 1926 and eventually the 2,448 mile highway would cross through eight states on its way from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. In Illinois, and the Midwest in general, the construction of U.S. Route 66 was important to the economies of small, rural towns, which saw a burst of activity when the road finally passed through.The earliest known Chicago–St. Louis road was named the Pontiac Trail in 1915. The route began in Chicago and traveled through several cities and towns on its way to St. Louis, some of those included, Joliet, Odell, Bloomington, Lincoln, Springfield, Edwardsville and East St. Louis.

In 1916 the Federal Aid Post Road Act, known as the Shackleford Bill, passed Congress and appropriated $75 million to be distributed to the states over the next five years. The funding was provided on an ongoing basis, over the period of five years, and the law made the federal government and active partner in road building for the first time.Five roads in Illinois were designated to receive federal money under the legislation, they were: National Old Trails Road (National Road, present-day U.S. Route 40), Lincoln Highway, Dixie Highway, the road from Chicago to Waukegan and the road from Chicago to East St. Louis, including portions of Illinois Route 4, which was the actual predecessor to U.S. 66 in Illinois.

Illinois Route 4 closely paralleled the Chicago and Alton Railroad tracks running from Chicago to East St. Louis. The roadbed for Route 4 was prepared in 1922 by teams of horses dragging equipment behind them. Laborers received 40 cents per hour for performing backbreaking labor on the roadbed.In 1923, in Bloomington-Normal, concrete was poured along the road's path along much the same route U.S. 66 would take on its original route through the area. By 1924, Illinois Route 4 was almost entirely paved between Chicago and St. Louis.

By the 1940s U.S. Route 66 extended from Chicago, through Springfield, to St. Louis and much of the original pavement was still in use. When World War II erupted the road, already the heaviest trafficked highway in Illinois, saw an increase in military traffic and importance to defense strategy. The aging road's deterioration was hastened by the increase in military truck traffic. The Defense Highway Act of 1941 provided Illinois with about $400,000 in funding and by 1942 plans were in place to make much needed road repairs.

Quote from: Wikipedia

 Rich & Creamy
Joliet IL

The “Rich & Creamy” ice cream stand within Route 66 Park is the official starting point for historic Route 66 in Joliet! You can stroll the pathway to an overlook where you’ll see the historic and infamous Joliet prison that was made famous by the Blues Brothers movie and television show, Prison Break.

Quote from: Joliets Kicks On 66

Launching Pad Drive-In and Gemini Giant statue
Wilmington IL

Founded in 1960, the Launching Pad at first sold only hot dogs and ice cream, but now has a full service menu. It is also home to the Gemini Giant, a fiberglass “muffler man” sporting a space helmet and rocket ship, a remnant of our fascination with space travel. This is a friendly little establishment where travelers feel welcome and can easily chat with locals. It is reminiscent of drive-ins before corporate chains standardized them.

Quote from: Illinois Route 66

Braidwood IL

The Polk-a-Dot Drive In was founded over 50 years ago. The Drive-In was originally a school bus painted in Rainbow Polk-a-Dots. Lunch was served from a mini-sized kitchen inside the bus.

Today, it is a beautiful 50's Style Drive-In that has become one of the most memorable attractions along Illinois Route 66.

Quote from: Polk-a-Dot

Riviera Roadhouse Restaurant
Gardner IL

Constructed in 1928 out of a church from Gardner and a mining office from Sourt Wilmington, the Riviera hosted many famous customers, including Gene Kelly, Tom Mix and Al Capone. A freezer in the basement with a heavy iron door was supposedly built to hide gambling operations and alcohol during Prohibition. The unique bar in the basement provided a cool environment in the days before air conditioning and is decorated like a cave. In its heyday, the Roadhouse featured a zoo, picnic area, swimming hole and gas station.

The Riviera Roadhouse was lost to a fire on June 8, 2010.

Quote from: Illinois Route 66 Association

Ambler's Texaco Gas Station
Dwight IL

Ambler's Texaco Gas Station, also known as Becker's Marathon Gas Station, is a historic filling station located at the intersection of Old U.S. Route 66 and Illinois Route 17 in the village of Dwight, Illinois, United States. The station has been identified as the longest operating gas station along Route 66; it dispensed fuel for 66 continuous years until 1999. The station is a good example of a domestic style gas station and derives its most common names from ownership stints by two different men. North of the station is an extant outbuilding that once operated as a commercial icehouse. Ambler's was the subject of major restoration work from 2005–2007, and reopened as a Route 66 visitor's center in May 2007. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

Quote from: Wikipedia

Standard Oil Gas Station
Odell IL

In 1868, John D. Rockefeller formed the Standard Oil Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was the beginning of the Standard Oil Trust Company that would soon dominate oil refineries and gas stations around America. In 1890, the Standard Oil Company set up its first company in Illinois.

In 1932, a contractor, Patrick O’Donnell, purchased a small parcel of land along Route 66 in Odell, Illinois. There he built a gas station based on a 1916 Standard Oil of Ohio design, commonly known as a domestic style gas station. This “house with canopy” style of gas station gave customers a comfortable feeling they could associate with home. This association created an atmosphere of trust for commercial and recreational travelers of the day.

The station originally sold Standard Oil products, but after O'Donnell leased the property to others, the station began selling Sinclair and the now famous Phillips 66. In the late 1940s, O’Donnell added a two-bay garage to the building to accommodate garage and repair services, which were necessary in order to stay competitive with the nine other stations that occupied the short stretch of Route 66 through Odell. The gas station was in constant use during the heyday of travel on Route 66. It was a welcomed rest stop for weary travelers and a place for the kids to get out and stretch their legs.

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Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum
Pontiac, IL

In 1985 the Mother Road was banished from the roster of U.S. highways. It was still there, but the government no longer acknowledged its existence. That effectively killed Route 66, but it also unexpectedly revived people's interest in it. Route 66 has flourished in its afterlife, a luxury usually only enjoyed by gods and zombies.

A good place to indulge in Route 66's resurrection is the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, the first big Mother Road aggregate attraction heading west out of Chicago. Opened in 2004, it is housed in the entire historic fire house. The War Museum and city hall shops are located adjacent to the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame Museum in the historic Pontiac City Hall. Size-wise it seems appropriate for a museum devoted to one road in one state.

Quote from: Roadside America

Memory Lane
Lexington, IL

Lexington has a section of the Mother Road that has been turned into an interpretive walking trail called "Memory Lane." Old signs and original pavement great the Route 66 visitor. A section of Old Route 66 is preserved as a walking trail and park. This is a nice place to take a stroll or sit and reflect on the old road. This section of original Route 66 is quiet now, the better to hear the faint whispers of all who have traveled this celebrated highway of dreams before you.

Quote from: The Road Wanderer

“A Geographic Journey"
Towanda, IL

The start of this road side atraction is at Old Rt. 66 and Mc Lean County Highway 29 in Towanda. This park is along the old southbound lanes. There are eight displays along the park. They give some details of the states that U.S. Rt. 66 passes through. Besides the displays for the states, there are also exibits for some of the highways history at Towanda.

Quote from: Bill Burmaster

Funk's Grove Country Store
Funk's Grove IL

Funks Grove Illinois’ Grand Prairie was spotted with groves, small patches of land where local terrain discouraged prairie fires and allowed trees to reach maturity. One such grove on Timber Creek was homesteaded by Isaac Funk in 1824 who tapped the maple trees to make sirup. The family has been selling sirup commercially since 1891. The grove, for which the settlement is named, is a National Natural Landmark. Funks Grove, with its historic buildings and beautiful grove landscape continues to be a favorite stop and photo opportunity for Route 66 travelers.

Quote from: Illinois Route 66

Dixie Truckers Home
McLean IL

The Dixie Truckers Home is almost as old as Route 66 itself. In 1928 J.P. Walters and John Geske rented a quarter of a mechanic's garage on Route 66 to sell sandwiches to truckers and passing motorists. The fledgling restaurant had a counter and 6 stools when it began. By the mid 1930s things had changed.

By the 1930s the Dixie Truckers Home was a full-fledged restaurant. It also had cabins in the back and a cattle pen. The cattle could get their exercise while the trucker ate his food. The Dixie Truckers Home was a popular place during the thirties. On weekends they would provide live entertainment and music.

Quote from: Route 66 Caravan

Atlanta’s Bunyon Giant (Hot Dog Man)
Atlanta IL

For 40 years the hot dog man stood in front of Bunyon’s on Ogden Avenue in Berwyn, Illinois, but when the eatery closed the fate of the Hot Dog Man was up in the air – - until it was loaned to the town of Atlanta to be on Route 66.
As the Jolly Green Giant stands outside of Blue Earth, Minnesota the Hot Dog Man stands in Atlanta, Illinois to show the history of the area and to draw people to the famous Route 66.
The Bunyon Giant, holding an enormous hot dog, once drew customers into the Bunyon Drive In.
The Hot Dog Man had to be moved from Berwyn to Atlanta and then repaired due to such things as bullet holes and archery piercings done over the years. Being totally fixed up the giant is now in the proud location on Route 66.

Quote from: Illinois Tourism

The Mill
Lincoln IL

The Mill in Lincoln opened in 1929 under the name of the Blue Mill, on Stringer Avenue. It’s proprietor was Paul Coddington, who would serve patrons grilled sandwiches at any hour of the day or night. A Dutch themed building with blue trim, it featured at revolving windmill and waitresses dressed in blue with white aprons. In 1945, Albert and Blossom Huffman purchased the building, added a barroom and dance hall, and then painted the building barn red. Over the years, the restaurant became famous for it’s fried schnitzel, originally made of veal, and later of pork. By the mid 1980’s the Mill had lost most of the Dutch themed interior, and was becoming a museum of rather strange objects, including a mechanical leg protruding from a hole in the ceiling. The Mill closed in 1996, however the building is still standing in its original location.

Quote from: Save the Mill

Sugar Creek Covered Bridge
Glenarm IL

South of Springfield Route 66 is, for the most part, the frontage road for the interstate. But at Glenarm there is an interesting side trip to see this old covered bridge. It's been restored and raised a few feet to protect it from flooding. But you can still see the old asphalt paving over the wood planks on the roadbed. It's now closed to all but foot traffic.

Quote from: Exploring Route 66

Ariston Cafe
  Litchfield IL 

The Ariston Cafe is a historic restaurant located in Litchfield, Illinois, USA along Old U.S. Route 66. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

The Ariston Cafe was built in 1935 for original owners Pete Adam and Tom Cokinos, two experienced restaurateurs. Work began on April 4, 1935 by hired contractor Henry A. Vasel and the building was completed on July 5, 1935.

The Ariston Cafe is the longest-operating restaurant along the entire stretch of U.S. Route 66. It is representative of the types of businesses that once met with great success along historic Route 66. Despite a few alterations, including the addition of a banquet room, the building still maintains a historic character from the era of its construction. The Ariston Cafe was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on May 5, 2006.

Quote from: Wikipedia

Soulsby Service Station
Mount Olive IL

The Soulsby Service Station is a historic service station in Mount Olive, Illinois. The station is located along historic U.S. Route 66 and is the oldest usable service station on the highway in Illinois. It serves as an example of the house and canopy gas station design. Henry Soulsby built the station in 1926 and operated it along with his three children. His son Russell later operated a radio and TV repair business out of the station. The station stopped pumping gas in 1991 and closed in 1993, and plans currently exist to reopen it as a museum.

Quote from: Wikipedia

Henry's Rabbit Ranch
Staunton IL

Are you in the mood for some really good times on the Mother Road? If you are you've come to the right place. The place of course is Henry's Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois! Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits ~ and Rich and Linda Henry have both types. The hopping kind and the VW kind! Henry's Rabbit Ranch celebrates Route 66 and the people along the highway with its emporium of highway and trucking memorabilia that includes a collection of Campbell's "humpin' to please" trailers next to a replica of a vintage gas station. Henry's Rabbit Ranch Station and Visitor's Center looks like a real old classic filling station once found all along Route 66.

Quote from: Henrys Rabbit Ranch

Home of Brick 66
Auburn IL

Here you find the bypassed brick portion of old Route 4 that is is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
This segment consists of two sections, a 1932 1.53 mile long brick road and a 1921 Portland cement road. Both are well-preserved examples of Route 66's early years in Illinois, illustrating early highway era construction methods. These sections served as part of Route 66 until 1930, when the realignment of the Route 66 south of Springfield rerouted traffic to the less populated eastern side through Litchfield in order to speed up the flow of traffic by avoiding as many towns as possible.

The concrete section consists of a 1,277 foot long, 16-foot wide Portland cement dating from 1921. After Route 66 was realigned in 1930, this section briefly reverted to its State Route 4 designation before being abandoned in a 1932 relocation of the State road. The second 1.53 brick section was incorporated into the 1932 modifications and resurfaced with brick at the same time. Today known as the Auburn Brick Road, it contains two original single span concrete bridges over Little Panther Creek constructed in 1920 and paved with brick in 1932.

Quote from: Legends of America


World's Largest Catsup Bottle
Collinsville IL

Built in 1949 in this former catsup company town, the World's Largest Catsup Bottle celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1999. It's the water tower at the old Brooks Catsup Plant and headquarters. In the late 70s, Brooks Foods slipped out of town and relocated to Mount Summit, Indiana -- but their Condiment Monolith remained.
Nearly 70 feet tall, atop a 100-foot steel base, the WLCB Could hold up to 640,000 bottles of regular catsup (or 100,000 gallons of water).
The bottle has cast its benevolent shadow over the town like some pagan idol. Legend has it that it can cause red hair in the unborn, as pregnant women passing too close to it have discovered.
The bottle had deteriorated in recent decades, faded and peeling. In 1995, volunteers raised money to repaint and restore it, modeling it after an original 1949 Brooks catsup bottle provided by a sympathetic bottle collector.

Quote from: Roadside America

Luna Cafe
Mitchell IL

The cafe was built in 1924, two years prior to the establishment of Route 66. It is rumored to have been frequented by gangsters like Al Capone. The Luna did operate as a cafe on the main floor, but had a gambling operation in the basement and a house of ill repute upstairs. The neon sign out front, still standing, has a cherry which used ruby glass to enhance its red glow. It is said that if the cherry was lit, the girls were in. At one time, the cafe was a “fine dining establishment” and so expensive that most law-abiding citizens could not afford to eat there. The Luna is now a working man’s bar frequented by locals. There is an ongoing effort to have the neon sign restored to its former glory.

Quote from: Illinois Route 66