U.S. Route 66 in Illinois
U.S. Route 66 in Illinois connected
St. Louis, Missouriand Chicago, Illinois. U.S. Route 66had previously been Illinois Route 4and the road has now been largely replaced with Interstate 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 milehighway would cross through eight states on its way from Chicagoto 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.Seratt and Ryburn-Lamont, "Historical and Architectural Resources of Route 66 Through Illinois," pp. 3–20.]
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 Waukeganand 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 Railroadtracks 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 IIerupted 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.
The highway crossed the
Mississippi Riveroriginally at the McKinley Bridge, and later across the MacArthur Bridge, the Martin Luther King Bridge, and the Poplar Street Bridge. Bypass US 66 crossed on the Chain of Rocks Bridge.
The original alignment passed through Venice, Madison, and Granite City on
Illinois Route 203. Other alignments passed through East St. Louis on surface streets, eventually turning north to join Illinois 203. At Mitchell, Historic 66 crosses Interstate 270.
Girard to Nilwood
Route 66 from Girard to Nilwood was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on
May 23, 2002.
Litchfield to Mount Olive
The alignment from Litchfield to
Mount Olive, Illinoiswas added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 29, 2001. The segment of road is a 9.35 mile stretch that begins about one mile north of the intersection of U.S. Route 66 and Illinois Route 16in Litchfield and ends northwest of Mount Olive, Illinois in southeastern Macoupin County. The road passes through North Litchfield, South Litchfield, Cahokia and Mount Olive Townships. The terrain through the area is mostly flat and this is continued in the terrain the roadway passes through. Unlike other sections of Route 66 in Illinois that are listed on the National Register, the segment from Litchfield to Mount Olive does not include any contributing structures such as bridges or culverts.
The extreme demands put on the road by
World War IIand the increased military traffic along U.S. 66 caused the road to be replaced along this stretch in 1943. When the northbound lanes were constructed in the mid-1950s, this stretch of U.S. 66 became a four lane road with two lanes in each direction; the 1943 lanes became the southbound lanes. For 2.15 miles, south of Litchfield, the southbound lanes still carry two-way traffic.Newton, David. " [http://gis.hpa.state.il.us/hargis/PDFs/218438.pdf Route 66, Litchfield to Mount Olive] ," ( 7 August 2001), HAARGIS Database, "Illinois Historic Preservation Agency". Retrieved 1 October 2007.]
North of Auburn
A section of Illinois Route 4 north of Auburn, and south of Springfield, which was also part of the original span of U.S. 66 when it was designated was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 6, 1998. This is the last brick alignment in Illinois.
At Springfield, the two different alignments unite. There have been multiple alignments through Springfield itself, one of which is Business I-55. From Springfield to Gardner, Historic 66 is now frontage road for I-55 (except for
business loops for Lincoln and Bloomington-Normal). A small section of Route 66 by Carpenter Parkin Springfield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 9, 2002.
Chenoa to Springfield
While none of the road segments from Chenoa to Springfield, Illinois are listed on the National Register of Historic Places a number of communities pertinent to Route 66 heritage are located along the stretch. In
Towanda, Illinoisthere is a trail along the abandoned highway that highlights all eight states Route 66 travels through. There are also " Burma Shave" signs displayed along the trail." [http://illinoisroute66.org/pdf/entirecorridor%20final.pdf Illinois Route 66 Corridor Itinerary] ," "Illinois Route 66 Heritage Project, Inc.", retrieved 2008-09-17.]
Two communities south of Bloomington are also closely affiliated with the road. In
Funks Grove, Illinois, settled by the Funk family in 1891, pure "maple sirup" is made. McLean, Illinoisis home to the famous Dixie Travel Plaza, a truckstop that was established as the Dixie Truckers Home in 1928.
Of the original four lane roadway there are several segments that are still extant along this stretch of Route 66. In Logan County, a 10.35 mile four-lane segment extends from the north, west and south sides of
Lincoln, Illinoisto Lawndale northeast of Lincoln. Construction on this section of highway began in 1940 and was finished by the early 1950s. There is a shorter four-lane segment of the highway around Elkhart and Atlanta, both in Logan County. Further extant stretches of the original four-lane road are found in Williamsville, Sangamon County and Lexington, south of Chenoa, in McLean County.
Cayuga to Chenoa
The 18.2 mile stretch of road from Cayuga to Chenoa, Illinois was added to the U.S.
National Register of Historic Placeson July 23, 2007. [http://www.nr.nps.gov/ National Register Information System] , National Register of Historic Places, "National Park Service". Retrieved 30 September 2007.] This section of U.S. 66 was commissioned in 1926. The road segment travels from the northeast to the southwest and begins in the southeast corner of Odell Township in Livingston County and ends in the northwest corner of Chenoa Township in McLean County. U.S. Route 66 passes through Odell, Esmen, Pontiac, Eppards Point, and Pike Townships, on its stretch from Cayuga to Chenoa. The road is paralleled on its east by the Union Pacific Railroadtracks and on its west by Interstate 55.Newton, David and Seratt, Dorothy R.L. " [http://gis.hpa.state.il.us/hargis/PDFs/229231.pdf Route 66, Cayuga to Chenoa] ," ( 30 September 2007.] Portions of the northbound and southbound lanes carry still carry traffic, in spots where one of the sections is still in use the other section is abandoned but extant.Along the stretch of highway there are 14 structures and buildings, for the purposes of the National Register and historic preservationeight of those are considered contributing structures to the listing and six are considered non-contributing. There are also 12 highway bridges found along the segment and a box culvert, six of the bridges are contributing to the National Register listing, as is the box culvert. Six of the bridges have been replaced since the historic period, and all of the bridges are constructed from concrete. The bridges have various lengths and support structure. The box culvert along the segment of road measures 15 feet by six inches wide and was built as part of the road's foundation. This particular box culvert, like many, usually went unnoticed by travelers along the road.
The section of pavement from Cayuga, south to Pontiac was part of a larger section of the roadway that began north of Cayuga in Gardner. The entire section was built in 1943 after large parts of Route 66 became badly detiorated during the mid-1940s. The portion of the roadway that extended 27 miles south of Pontiac to the newly constructed bypass at Bloomington-Normal was constructed during the early 1940s.
Alternate route — Wilimington to Joliet
The alternate route section of U.S. 66 from Wilmington to Joliet was added to the National Register of Historic Places on
May 5, 2006. Alternate Route 66 from Wilmington to Joliet travels through mostly agricultural land, although the area does contain the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. Designated as Illinois Route 53, this stretch of U.S. 66 spans 15.9 miles through Joliet, Jackson, Wilmington and Florence Townships in Will County. It begins in Wilmington and ends short of the Interstate 80interchange in Joliet, Illinois.Thomason, Phillip and Douglass, Teresa. " [http://gis.hpa.state.il.us/hargis/PDFs/223414.pdf Alternate Route 66, Wilmington to Joliet] ," ( 9 November 2005, HAARGIS Database, "Illinois Historic Preservation Agency". Retrieved 1 October 2007.]
The roadbed in this area had two periods of construction, the original period, in 1926 and a second period, in 1945. The 1945 roadbed remains. In addition, several structures along the segment of road are included in the listing on the National Register. Contributing structures to the listing include one bridge, one
overpassand four concrete box culverts. The three span, continuous steel multibeam bridge, in the northbound lanes, dates to 1950 and features concrete balusters and top rails. The box culverts were built as part of the 1926 road's foundation and range in width from five to nine feet. There are also four non-historic bridges, constructed in the 1970s and 1980s located along this stretch of U.S. Route 66.
Chicago to Joliet
From Indian Head Park, Old US 66 is Joliet Road, a small section of Harlem Avenue, and Ogden Avenue, passing through Lyons and Cicero before entering Chicago. At Adams Street, US 66 entered The Loop. It was originally Jackson Drive and ended at
U.S. Route 41( Lake Shore Drive) at the edge of Lake Michigan. Later, Jackson would become a one-way street, and the terminus was moved back to Michigan Avenue, which is where the current "End Historic US 66" marker is now located in the Chicago Landmark Historic Michigan Boulevard District.
Filling stations were essential to the success of a trans-national road such as Route 66. Stations evolved their own unique design types and
filling station architecturevaried by period, at one time or another all major design types were represented along U.S. Route 66 in Illinois. The existence of Route 66, and its alignment which ran parallel to much of the Chicago–St. Louis Chicago and Alton Railroad, itself made gasolinedistribution simpler. The earliest gas stations were curbside but these were quickly rendered obsolete because of their tendency to back up traffic when a customer used the roadside pumps. The curbside filling stationwas the first type of business to use the actual term " filling station." Other types of gas stations evolved such as the house or cottage type, the house and canopy, the house and bays, and the oblong box type.Seratt, and Ryburn-Lamont, "Historic and Architectural Resources of Route 66 Through Illinois," pp. 45–49] Examples of extant filling stations along Route 66 in Illinois can be found in varying states of disrepair, and a few have been fully restored.
In the early years of Route 66 many motorists brought their own food along with them and cooked it on the road. Constrained by tight finances and a mistrust of the unknown quality of road food, many people were reluctant to eat out. By the 1930s this attitude had eased somewhat and more motorists were eating out along the road. This was aided, in part, by entrepreneurs such as Howard Johnson, who provided predictable, simple dishes. The first roadside
cafes were part of motor camp complexes but others, such as Johnson's started explicitly as cafes and evolved further from there.Seratt and Ryburn-Lamont, "Historical and Architectural Resources of Route 66 Through Illinois," pp. 53–55.] Large companies, such as Johnson's, or the Steak n' Shakechain which began in Normal, Illinoisand was based on the pioneering idea of curbside service at your car, enjoyed success alongside what were mostly " mom and pop" eateriesdotting the Mother Road.Clark, Marian. "The Route 66 Cookbook: Comfort Food from the Mother Road", ( [http://books.google.com/books?id=3mPr1WEUw6gC&pg=RA1-PA14&dq=%22Steak+n%27+Shake%22+Route+66&ie=ISO-8859-1&sig=AHX1UljLyEqdtVn1yk9UQonNhu8 Google Books] ), Council Oak Books: 2000, p. 14, (ISBN 1571781285). Retrieved 1 October 2007.] Some locations along Route 66 in Illinois became known for their cuisine, one example is the state capital, Springfield. Springfield has long had an affiliation with food. The corn dog on a stick was invented in the city under the name "Cozy Dog," although there is some debate to the actual origin of the popular snack.Oral History Collections. [http://www.uis.edu/archives/memoirs/WALDMIRE.pdf Interview with Edwin Waldmire] , Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) [http://www.uis.edu/archives/] , Brookens Library, University of Illinois-Springfield. Retrieved 24 February 2007.] Storch, Charles. [http://www.ulib.niu.edu:4513/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=2W62W62077080026&site=ehost-live Birthplace (maybe) of the corn dog] , "Chicago Tribune", 16 August 2006, Newspaper Source, ( EBSCO). Retrieved 1 October 2007.] The Cozy Dog Drive Inhas been a Springfield Route 66 staple since 1950.Kaszynski, William. "Route 66: Images of America's Main Street", ( [http://books.google.com/books?id=akLftFfA3_0C&pg=PA20&lpg=PA20&dq=route+66+cozy+dog&source=web&ots=79mXD9Dhge&sig=9Ls6j3bIiGquemFY_LqQfMFz9J8 Google Books] ), McFarland & Company: 2003, p. 20, (ISBN 0786415533). Retrieved 1 October 2007.] The first U.S. drive-thruwindow is still in operation in Springfield, along Route 66, at the Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop.Pearson, Rick. [http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/chi-0702080400feb09,1,316033.story A Guide for the National Press] , "Chicago Tribune", 9 February 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2007.] The longest-running restaurant along the entire stretch of U.S. Route 66, nationwide, is the Ariston Cafein Litchfield.Hoekstra, David. " [http://www.route66university.com/study/inthenews/151.php Dining With the Locals on Illinois 66] ," "Chicago Sun-Times", 13 July 2006, via Route 66 University. Retrieved 1 October 2007.] The Ariston is an excellent example of the type of mom and pop operation that flourished along 66 in Illinois.
Camps, motor courts, and motels
Motorists along Route 66 during the 1920s carried the essentials with them, and often simply set up camp on a rural roadside. Eventually tourist camps began to spring up along the highway. At first the campsites and cabins, offered for $.25 and $.50, were unfurnished and the tourist camps offered few amenities. As amentities, such as communal toilets began to appear, travelers began to demand them.Seratt and Ryburn-Lamont, "Historical and Architectural Resources of Route 66 Through Illinois," pp. 49–52.]
bridges along Old Route 66 in Illinois are constructed from concrete, this is the case with very few exceptions. They are simple, lack ornamentation and all of their major components, abutments, piers, floor beams, decks, stringers, and railings were constructed from concrete. The only ornamentation is found in the railings, which sometimes contained balusters. Between 1926–1940 most of the Route 66 bridges in Illinois were built as two lane bridges. Later incarnations of bridges, built after 1940 were paired with two lanes going in each direction.Seratt and Ryburn-Lamont, "Historical and Architectural Resources of Route 66 Through Illinois," pp. 57–59.]
U.S. Route 66 has come to stand for the collective, American
touristexperience and holds a special place in American popular culture. There is a certain nostalgicappeal to Route 66 that is associated with the thrill of the open road which has contributed to its popularity.Seratt and Ryburn-Lamont, "Historical and Architectural Resources of Route 66 Through Illinois," pp. 3–5.] Looking at the historic roadway through Illinois from a different perspective it reveals a unique history which tells the story of movement across the prairieand road building across the same terrain. Study of the highway in Illinois also reveals the evolution of the interstate highwaysystem 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 has been declared a
National Scenic Byway." [http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/58612/ Historic Route 66 — Illinois] ," "National Scenic Byways Program", official site. Retrieved 1 October 2007.] The 436 mile stretch of road was declared a scenic byway on September 22, 2005by the U.S. Department of Transportation.Ambrose, David. " [http://illinoisroute66.org/rt66_pr_byway.php Illinois Historic Route 66 Earns National Scenic Byway Designation] ," "South County News" ( Gillespie, Illinois), 29 September 2005. Retrieved 1 October 2007.]
*Seratt, Dorothy R.L. and Ryburn-Lamont, Terri. " [http://www.nr.nps.gov/multiples/64500208.pdf Historic and Architectural Resources of Route 66 Through Illinois] ," (
30 September 2007.
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