Museum Fun Facts

Route 66 in Illinois

Posted by on Feb 2, 2014 in Museum Fun Facts | Comments Off on Route 66 in Illinois

Route 66 in Illinois

U.S. Route 66 (US 66, Route 66) connected St. Louis, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois. The highway had previously been Illinois Route 4 and the road has now been largely replaced with Interstate 55 (I-55). Parts of the road still carry traffic and six separate portions of the roadbed have been listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. 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 an 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. U.S. Route 66 has come to stand for the collective, American tourist experience and holds a special place in American popular culture. There is a certain nostalgic appeal to Route 66 that is associated with the thrill of the open road which has contributed to its popularity. Looking at the historic roadway through Illinois from a different perspective it reveals a unique history which tells the story of movement across the prairie and road building across the same terrain. Study of the highway in Illinois also reveals the evolution of the interstate highway system and the growing popularity of automobiles. Aside from the six sections of the route in Illinois that have been listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places the entire stretch of 66 through Illinois...

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Litchfield and Route 66

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Litchfield and Route 66

As with Alternate Route 66 from Wilmington to Joliet and Route 66 from Cayuga to Chenoa, the Mother Road’s stretch from Litchfield to Mount Olive was transformed as a result of World War II. By 1942, the original alignment in this area had significantly deteriorated under the stress of wartime traffic. Authorized by the Federal Defense Highway Act of 1941, the approach to constructing this segment shows both the pressures of wartime conditions and the long-term postwar vision (already present in 1941) of transforming Illinois Route 66 into a modern, limited access freeway between Chicago and St. Louis. The new two-lane road, with a pavement of Portland cement 24-foot wide and 10 inches thick, was set down just to the west of the older route, which had been constructed in 1930-31. The older, deteriorated pavement was kept in service until the new alignment was complete. When the new Route 66 southbound lanes were completed in 1943, the older alignment was designated Old Route 66 and remained open to local traffic. Construction of the northbound lanes had to wait until after the war, but when completed in 1954-55, they formed, along with the 1943-44 southbound lanes, a state-of-the-art four-lane highway with a center median–-a veritable precursor to the Interstate freeway. This segment received a Cost-Share Grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in...

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History of Route 66

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History of Route 66

Before 1926: The Origins of Route 66 United States Highway 66 followed in the wake of the nation’s first trans-Mississippi migration. In 1853, Congress commissioned Captain Amiel Weeks Whipple of the Army Topographical Corps to conduct a survey for a proposed transcontinental railroad. Congress ultimately opted against the railroad and instead subsidized a network of wagon roads to improve military and civilian communications throughout the western frontier. In 1857, Congress commissioned Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale to chart a wagon road following the 35th parallel from Fort Defiance close to the New Mexico/Arizona border to the Colorado River. Beale’s Road established a vital military transportation and communication link between Fort Smith near the Arkansas River and the westernmost reaches of the Southwest. In underwriting the $200,000 expense to establish what Lt. Beale felt certain would become “the great emigrant road to California,” the Federal Government provided the impetus for the creation of the transcontinental railroad and the establishment of Route 66. Beale’s Road was the frontier antecedent of Route 66. Interest in the route resurfaced under the National Old Trails Road Movement, when motorists began to discuss the need for an ocean-to-ocean thoroughfare in the first decades of the 20th century. Promoters hoped to capitalize on the national appeal of the Panama-Pacific Expositions scheduled to open in San Diego and San Francisco in 1915, as justification for Federal subsidies of a continuously paved transcontinental highway. As conceived in 1912, the National Old Trails Road was to originate on the east coast with branches to Baltimore and Washington, DC, and terminate on the west coast in San Diego. During its lifetime, the road’s promotional arm, the National Old Trails Road Association, promoted improvement of the proposed ocean-to-ocean corridor as it retraced the nation’s historic trails.  The association also championed good roads in America by advocating direct Federal involvement in road construction in lieu of Federal aid to State agencies. This concept became a part of Federal highway policy in 1916 that continues today. The first leg of the ocean-to-ocean highway that the National Old Trails Association proposed in 1912 originated in Washington, DC and traced the Cumberland Road, a well-established historic avenue, to St. Louis. From Missouri, the highway followed the Santa Fe Trail to Albuquerque and Santa Fe before taking a more southerly course through Arizona to Flagstaff, gateway to the Grand Canyon. Flagstaff’s pioneer lumberman, Matthew J. Riordan, detailed the final leg of the route that most closely approximates the 1927 orientation of U.S. Highway 66. Christened the “Grand Canyon Route,” the road was eventually constructed from Williams to Ashfork and Seligman in Yavapai County to Topock, Arizona on the Colorado River, where automobiles could be loaded on railway flatcars and transported across an expansion bridge that the Santa Fe Railroad built to Needles, California. From this desert community, the road proceeded 164 miles across the Mojave to Barstow and the desert communities of Bakersfield and San Bernardino terminating in San Diego. The official origin of Route 66 was the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921. A road assessment of a decade earlier estimated the total mileage of rural roads in America at approximately 2.5 million miles, 10.5% of them surfaced. Of those 257,291 miles, only 32,180 had pavement of bituminous material, brick, or concrete. The intent of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921, successor to the earlier highway appropriations legislation of 1916, was to create a coherent highway network by requiring that Federal aid be concentrated on projects that would expedite completion of an adequate and connected system of interstate highways. A minimum of 60% of Federal...

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Historic Places

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Historic Places

Area Historic Places on Route 66 Springfield, Illinois Cozy Dog Drive-In The restaurant is a shrine to Route 66 and to itself, packed with mementos, clippings, and old signs, as well as with Mother Road souvenirs for sale. The “corn dog on a stick” was invented during World War II by Ed Waldmire when he was in the Air Force stationed in Texas. Cozy Dogs were officially launched at the Lake Springfield Beach House in 1946, and a stand was opened on Ash and MacArthur. The Cozy Dog Drive-In is now situated where the old Abe Lincoln Motel used to be. Auburn, Illinois Historic Brick Road Snell Road and Curran Road. This original 1.4 mile hand-lain brick road was completed in 1931, and curves through corn fields near Auburn. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Farmersville, Illinois Art’s Motel and Restaurant Art McAnamey opened a restaurant and gas station here in 1937 and rented six cabins to overnight guests. In 1952, his two-story building caught fire, and he rebuilt a single- story restaurant. After he died in 1960, his sons replaced the cabins with a 13-room L-shaped motel. The motel and restaurant are still open to travelers. In 2007, the Route 66 Association restored the classic motel sign, including the replacement of neon on the “Art’s.” Litchfield, IL Sky View Drive-In Theatre The Sky View Drive In, in Litchfield on Historic Route 66, is the last operating drive-in on Historic Route 66 in Illinois. The Sky View Drive-In Theatre in Litchfield opened in the Spring of 1950 and has been in operation each season since then. The original owner/operator was Frisina Enterprises. It was then sold to Mid America Theatres and is now owned and operated by Norman Paul and his wife Del. The Sky View Drive-In was constructed in the fall of 1949 and the spring of 1950 and was opened in June of 1950. It was one of central Illinois’ most modern Drive-in’s and is located on old Route 66 west of Litchfield. The Frisina Sky View Drive-In has a capacity of 750 cars. It offers its patrons many conveniences including a snack bar, playground for the kiddies, and at one time, offered dancing on the patio located in front of the snack bar. The policy of the Drive-In has always been entertainment for the entire family. Their patrons could always be assured of the finest in motion picture entertainment, since all productions from all major motion picture studios are under contract for showing at one of the three fine theatres in Litchfield. The drive in is a seasonal operation and is usually open from the first or second week- end in April until the end of September. It is open on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays only. Ariston Cafe Pete Adam started the Ariston Cafe in nearby Carlinville in 1924. When the Mother Road was rerouted in 1929, Pete leased a new building in Litchfield. The Ariston’s great reputation for service, excellent food and unbelievable desserts led Pete to relocate across the street in 1935 to his own building that still stands today. The family still offers the same wonderful food and great service that it has for more than 80 years. It is said to be the oldest cafe on Route 66. The Ariston was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 and is in the Route 66 Hall of Fame. Mt. Olive, Illinois Soulsby’s Service Station In 1926 Henry Soulsby and his son Russell built a Shell gas station. Today it ranks as one of the oldest filling...

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