How It Works?
National defense priorities during the war, however, tabled MacDonald's proposal until the surrender of Germany and Japan. The Federal Aid Highway Act of incorporated both civilian and military highway needs into a single piece of legislation, the legal embodiment of the MacDonald Plan. The act incorporated the idea of a 40,mile national system of interstate highways, but Congress failed to appropriate funds for its construction.
Not until the s, and the War Department's prediction that the Korean Conflict was merely a prelude to a more widespread involvement in Asia, did the dream of an interstate system of expressways linking all regions of the United States become a reality. Ironically, the public lobby for rapid mobility and improved highways that gained Route 66 its enormous popularity in earlier decades also signaled its demise beginning in the mids.
Mass support for an interstate system of divided highways markedly increased during President Dwight D. Eisenhower's second term in the White House.
General Eisenhower returned from Germany very impressed by the strategic value of Hitler's Autobahn. Congress responded to the president's commitment by passing the Federal Aid Highway Act of , which provided a comprehensive financial umbrella to underwrite the cost of the national interstate and defense highway system.
In accord with the legislation, Interstate 40 west from Oklahoma City through the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, northern Arizona, and finally ending in Barstow, California would replace the major segment of U.
By , each of the States along the original U. By , two equally modern four-lane highways, Interstate 55 between Chicago and St. Louis and Interstate 44, which absorbed the old diagonal section from St. Louis to Oklahoma City, replaced the remaining segments of the original Route The committee noted that "U. Various Route 66 alignments, many still detectable, illustrate the evolution of road engineering from coexistence with the surrounding landscape to domination of it.
One outstanding example of the highway in its early form is the 3. Many of the original segments of Route 66 have been either abandoned or modified for secondary use. Modern improvements such as widened shoulders, adequate swales, gentler curves, resurfaced pavement, and brightly painted safety stripes have not been able to keep the highway from becoming obsolete.
The last outdated, poorly maintained vestiges of U. Highway 66 succumbed to the interstate system in October when Interstate 40 at Williams, Arizona, replaced the final section of the original road. In , the highway was officially decommissioned. Soon after, members of the public, private organizations, and local, State, and Federal agencies who understood the historic and social significance of the road began campaigns to preserve and commemorate the highway.
As part of these efforts, many historic resources associated with Route 66 have been nominated and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Numerous associations developed to promote travel and preservation of the road. Businesses along the road began catering to tourists who continued to seek out the alignments of the route. This program provides financial and technical assistance to individuals; nonprofits; local, State, tribal and Federal agencies; and others to help preserve the most significant and representative historic resources along the route for people to learn from and enjoy.
Return to top List of Sites The sites are listed in the geographical order driving from east to west along Route 66, starting in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles.
Nowhere is it more so than in downtown Chicago, where the quintessential American corridor begins, or ends, depending on your perspective, at Grant Park. Located in close proximity to Lake Michigan, Grant Park is one of the oldest parks in the city and had its beginnings in the s, but the World Exposition was a catalyst for its historic significance. Running from May to October of , the fair covered acres and attracted numbers equal to nearly half of the United States population.
The fair introduced several firsts, including Cracker Jacks, Aunt Jemima syrup, diet soda, and Pabst beer. It also introduced the idea of making Grant Park a major civic and cultural landmark. Grand promenades, groomed lawns, and numerous bridges and fountains, along with modern installations of art and three major historic cultural institutions for the public--the Art Institute, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History--all distinguish the park.
Statues of Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, and various other equestrian sculptures provide visual focus for various areas.
Built in , the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain is a monumental focal point. The park hosts public appearances of famous people, special events, and festivals and serves as a neighborhood park used for baseball games, ice skating, tennis, walking, jogging, and other amusements.
Pairing Grant Park with Route 66, the major east-west automobile artery, was a natural choice. In , Illinois began paving the road. By the time Route 66 came along, the entire Pontiac Trail had pavement. Chicago sported numerous services to accommodate travelers, including its parkland gem, Grant Park.
The park is bounded on the north by Randolph Dr. The park is open Monday-Friday 9: For information on visiting the Shedd Aquarium, see the aquarium website. For information on visiting the Field Museum, see the museum website. The Grant Park National Register nomination form can be found here. A visit to this crowded, urban establishment is not your average main street experience. It serves to remind us that the hundreds of small towns strung along the great arc of the Mother Road were connected to the two metropolitan giants of Los Angeles and Chicago.
Visitors immediately focus on the original aluminum and glass storefront. The dining room retains its original black and white terrazzo flooring, and most of the dining and counteareas are unchanged. The booths have their original wood tables, coat racks, and seats, although the seats sport new upholstery.
The multi-sided counters with individual stools are original but have newer laminated surfaces and upholstery. Much of the wood and Formica wall paneling dates to All in all, the stylistic choices made in point not backward but to the future, to the s. In the middle of the 20th century, the Mother Road brought people together from all corners of the country as locals and outsiders rubbed shoulders in countless diners, gas stations, and motor courts.
To ease the wait, the staff passes out its famous freshly baked donut holes to all, and complimentary Milk Duds to all female guests and children, according to an old tradition.
Once inside, diners have the opportunity to sample some excellent breakfast and lunch fare. Founder William Mitchell, whose original restaurant was across the street on the north side of Jackson Boulevard, named his startup after his son Lou, who worked with other family members helping to run the restaurant.
Lou eventually took over operations and ran the restaurant well into his seventies. In , he sold the restaurant to his niece, Katherine Thanas. It remains in the Thanas family today. The restaurant is open Monday-Saturday 5: The restaurant's National Register nomination form can be found here. This establishment also stands out as an impressive example of survival along the Mother Road.
The Chicken Basket began in the s as a mere lunch counter attached to a service station in then rural Hinsdale. This mix and match of functions was typical for Route 66 establishments, which often operated on very thin profit margins that allowed them to be creative in attracting customers. Legend has it that in the late s two local farm women offered a deal to the original owner, Irv Kolarik, who was looking to expand his food menu.
They would reveal their excellent fried chicken recipe to Mr. Kolarik and his customers if he would promise to buy the necessary chickens from them. To sweeten the deal, the women offered to teach him how to actually fry the chicken. Soon, the service station was history and the Chicken Basket was born. It was established at a very special time for Route Built in , the new Chicken Basket opened its doors just as Jack D.
Rittenhouse was putting the finishing touches on his now famous travelogue, A Guide Book to Highway 66, a publication that heralded the great postwar boom in business and travel all along Route Stoyke, who designed several residences and commercial buildings in the vicinity, is also responsible for this one-story brick building constructed in the no-nonsense, utilitarian commercial style of the immediate postwar period.
Over all, the restaurant retains much of its original appearance. A canvas awning typical of the period covers the entire window bay. The restaurant has a flat, steel roof that did double duty in the s. To attract customers, Mr. Kolarik flooded the roof in winter and hired youths to ice skate on top of the building! The large dining room has painted brick walls, carpeted floors, and its original drywall ceiling. A cocktail lounge, added in as business continued to boom, retains its original bar and diagonal and vertical wood paneling.
In front of the building stands the original neon and metal sign. Although the restaurant had flourished since , the coming of the four lane, limited access to I in Hinsdale and in quickly siphoned off traffic and customers from Route Business plummeted, and in that very same year a local bank foreclosed on the property.
The Chicken Basket managed to escape the fate of so many other establishments along the Mother Road in the age of the interstate. Today, the restaurant flourishes under the direction of his son, Patrick Rhea. The restaurant is closed Mondays and open Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, The Blue Rooster Lounge is open every day except Monday and features live music and events. For more information, call or visit the Chicken Basket website. The original building Jack Shore built consisted of an office with wood clapboard siding, an arched roof with asphalt shingles, and residential windows adorned with shutters and flower boxes.
Extending out from the office over three Texaco gas pumps was a sheltering canopy supported by two tapered columns. Shore also constructed an ice house located on the property. But this domestic style, common along Route 66, had a distinct purpose and stems from a time in the early 20th century when gas stations were just beginning to seriously intrude upon the suburban landscape of America.
The oil companies wisely opted to tread lightly on this new, non-commercial territory. Gas stations were consciously styled to be homey and inviting to customers, as well as inconspicuous in their new residential, suburban surroundings. In the early s, following a national trend that saw gas stations evolve to full service garages, Mr.
Ambler added a service bay of simple concrete block to the north side of the original building. Although he left the station in , the station continued servicing motorists until nearly the turn of the 21st century, making it one of the oldest continually operated service stations along the Mother Road. Windows were removed and added, fresh paint applied, and new roofing laid down. The tall, elegant red pumps of the s gave way to the squat dispensers of the s; and Marathon Oil eventually superseded the Texaco Fire Chief brand.
The station operated as a gas station for 66 years until and was an auto repair shop until , when the owner Phillip Becker generously donated the station to the Village of Dwight. For more information, call This was the beginning of the Standard Oil Trust Company that would soon dominate oil refineries and gas stations around America.
In , the Standard Oil Company set up its first company in Illinois. There he built a gas station based on a Standard Oil of Ohio design, commonly known as a domestic style gas station.
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 The gas station was in constant use during the heyday of travel on Route It was a welcomed rest stop for weary travelers and a place for the kids to get out and stretch their legs.
The station sold gasoline until the s and then became an auto body shop until the late s, when it closed its doors for good.
It fell into disrepair and would have been destroyed had it not been for the town of Odell and the people who loved their gas station. In , the station was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A Standard Oil sign hanging from the roof swings gently in the warm breeze and an old-fashioned gas pump looks ready to serve the next customer. Owned by the Village of Odell, the station is open daily Contact Odell Tourism and Community Development for information at The station's National Register nomination form can be found here.
Illinois State Police Office , Pontiac, Illinois Built in , the District 6 Illinois State Police office is an example of sleek Art Moderne architecture that reflects the streamlined design of automobiles of the era.
The building has curved corners, smooth surfaces, and structural glass bricks, all elements typical of Art Moderne design. Facing an abandoned two-lane section of old Route 66, the office is modest. Motorists could easily drive right past it without realizing its considerable significance, but slow down two miles south of Pontiac and take a look at the building. They used surplus World War I uniforms pieces included a snug cap, long-sleeved shirt, vest, jodhpurs, and boots to the knee and motorcycles, and they did not wear helmets.
By , 20 officers were on patrol, covering , miles of road. Doing the math, that comes to 5, miles of road per officer per day. Little wonder, then, that the force grew rapidly. Four years later, Illinois State Police employed a chief, 12 sergeants, officers, and six mechanics.
That was the year that troopers got their first patrol cars Chrysler Coupes issued only to sergeants. With bug-eyed headlights, wheels with spokes, wide running boards, and an extra tire mounted on the back, the Chryslers were chunky, squarish cars, much like early Fords. About this time, Illinois began building police headquarters in various districts across the State. By , the Pontiac station was in operation, with one wing for administration and a second wing for garages.
The utilitarian, sleek interior was finished out with terrazzo floors, plaster walls, and built-in cupboards. Traffic along Route 66 continued to increase throughout the s, and the headquarters was busy round the clock.
In , the route was widened to four lanes through this region of Illinois, and two additional highway lanes were constructed directly in front of the building.
Speed limits were imposed during the s. By then, officers drove distinctively marked black and white cars with crackling radios and flashing blue lights. Their work had a clear focus--reducing the rapidly rising death toll from highway accidents The construction of Interstate 55, about a half mile to the west of Route 66 during the s, led to a decrease in traffic on Route The Illinois State Police remained headquartered in the building until when the police moved to a new facility in Pontiac.
The historic headquarters is vacant today, but remains an important local landmark. It was listed in the National Register in Livingston County has plans to develop the site for public use as a park. At its center will be the building that housed for nearly seven decades the officers who maintained a constant and critical presence on this section of Route The building is not open to the public.
The National Register nomination for the building can be found here. By the late s, the Mother Road supported stand-alone gas stations--usually two pumps beneath a canopy with a simple office attached. Over time, gas station buildings became more substantial. Architects for these companies provided functional, standardized station designs.
Drivers could glance at a white building with three green stripes, for example, and know at once that because of the recognizable icon it was a Texaco station. Like other small entrepreneurs of the time, Sprague took a different approach.
A building contractor, he constructed his large, unique, brick, Tudor Revival gas station using high-quality materials and craftsmanship.
Steep gables distinguished the broad, red roofline. Substantial brick peers supported the canopy. Stucco with decorative swirls and contrasting half timbering distinguished the second story. Distinctiveness was important—just like brand-name operators, independent operators had to create brand loyalty, even if their brand was their individual operation.
They also worked to promote their identity as good neighbors and local producers, setting themselves in opposition to corporations, which they defined as large and impersonal. The Tudor Revival style Sprague chose for his station, with its historical and domestic overtones, helped to both establish a local, homey identity and promote a conservative, rural aesthetic.
In the depressed s, when gas far outstripped consumers, independent operators could use this civic persona to help sell their gasoline. Visitors can easily imagine the s, when Chevrolets, Buicks, and Plymouths pulled up under the canopy, and the station attendant pumped their tanks full of gasoline at 10 cents a gallon. These enterprises occupied the ground floor of the building. Upstairs, a spacious apartment, complete with a sun room over the gas pump canopy, housed Sprague and his family.
A second upstairs apartment housed the station attendant. Throughout the s, most people passing through Bloomington-Normal from north or south traveled Pine Street.
In , the new four-lane Route 66 opened around the east side of Bloomington, siphoning through-traffic off of East Pine Street. Some traffic still took the Business Route 66 into Normal, so the station remained open, but the property changed hands many times as each new owner sought business opportunities with more appeal for local clientele.
The station was vacant for part of World War II when gasoline and repair parts were scarce. Beginning in , immediately after the war, the owners still sold gas and food, but they added other enterprises as well.
So did a bridal store, cake gallery, and catering operation. Since the s, these other enterprises have supplanted the gas station function of the building; the pumps were removed in The present owner purchased the building in and it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in Plans are underway to rehabilitate the lower level of the station for use as a visitor center, restaurant, tea room, and meeting and performance space. The owners would also like to use the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit to help defray the costs of rehabilitating registered historic buildings in the project.
The National Register nomination form for the building can be found here. More information about the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program can be found here. Louis, Atlanta was a natural transportation and commercial center for central Illinois.
By , the site was something of a boom town with more than 40 commercial buildings, all built of wood. Therein lay a problem. During the following few years, several fires razed complete blocks of the commercial district, convincing local businesspeople, including Alexander Downey, who lost a building to one of the fires, to rebuild with brick.
Of Italianate design with distinctive arched windows on both of its two stories, the building helped give Arch Street its flavor and its name. The southern half of the building was first occupied by the Exchange Bank of Atlanta, soon followed by the First National Bank of Atlanta who occupied the space for many years. After the turn of the century, the father and son law firm of J. After Frank Bevan's death in , the local paper Atlanta Argus published there until a fire closed the building in In , after sitting vacant for many years, the heirs of the Bevan family donated this half of the building to the Atlanta Public Library and Museum.
The north half of the building attracted a different kind of business entirely. Used at first as a millenary shop, a hardware store, and a grocery, the north side of the Downey really came to life in when Robert Adams opened the Palms Grill there.
Route Atlanta, Now Open for Business. Plate lunch 25 cents. At the bottom of the sign was a light that, when burning, indicated that passengers were inside the grill ready to board the next Greyhound bus coming through town. The Palms advertised dancing either every night or on certain nights of the week, and during the s, locals played bingo there.
According to local legend, the Palms attracted its share of celebrities. The most famous was boxer Max Baer, then heavyweight champion of the world. Louis where Baer had a theatrical engagement. When the Palms closed in the s, the space remained empty for several years. John Hawkins acquired this north side of the building by and remodeled the first floor for use as a living area and workshop.
In , the Hawkins family donated the north half of the building to the Atlanta Public Library and Museum. Bill Thomas, who was deeply involved in the project to open the museum and library, calls the listing a crucial first step because of the funding opportunities it enabled. Today the Downey Building, located in an historic area, has been restored and houses the Palms Grill and Atlanta Museum. Downtown is also the site of the Atlanta Betterment Fest, not to be missed each summer.
Call for information or visit the Palms Grill Cafe website. The first floor is wheelchair accessible and the museum is free. Upon closer examination, however, their venture was far from rash. During the Depression, even though millions of people were out of work, some pockets of the economy remained afloat. As a veteran restaurateur, he knew the viability of a good restaurant even in hard times. He also seemed keenly aware of the business possibilities of Route 66 in Illinois.
Even during the Depression, traffic on this well paved road remained steady. In , the State of Illinois reported that Route 66 was the heaviest traveled long-distance highway in the State.
Adam installed two gas pumps in front in hopes of attracting more customers, a practice typical of Route 66 restaurants during this period. A full service menu from offered diners porterhouse steak at 85 cents, bacon and eggs or a BLT for a quarter, and a glass of Budweiser for 15 cents. Despite the addition in the s of a banquet wing on the north facade and some new front doors and awnings, the original building--in its stark, utilitarian commercial style of the period-- still stands proud.
Noteworthy is its Alamo-like parapet with glazed terra cotta coping and its finely crafted exterior brickwork.
The original dining section still retains its acoustical tile ceiling. The rear exterior of the restaurant tells an interesting story about the need for adaptation and creative thinking when doing business along the Mother Road. Physically turning the restaurant around was not an option, so Pete Adam simply put up attractive neon signage on the rear of the building, beckoning Mother Roaders to drive around to the front.
It worked, and the restaurant has been open for business since When founder Pete Adam died, his son Nick took over the operation, and he remains at the helm today. In , the Cerollas built a one-room, frame gas station with a single pump, offering oil, grease and fan belts for travelers on Route By ,the Cerollas had expanded their tiny gas station into a one-stop, multi-service, roadside complex.
The Belvidere had a small dance floor, a juke box, and the occasional small combo. But most of all, the Belvidere had Mary Levy.
Considered a treasure at the Belvidere, Mary played the piano and sang. No customer was a stranger to Mary.
Locals and Route 66 travelers alike felt welcome at the lively Belvidere. By , Vincenzo and Albina had passed away, leaving the business to Edith and Lester. When 66 still went by, you met people—you talked to them. They built a new home on the property and expanded the motel, just in time to take advantage of the increase in Route 66 traffic following World War II.
The s and even the s were good to the Belvidere, but the following decade was not. When use of Route 66 waned, so did the fortunes of the Belvidere. Today the buildings are used primarily for storage, although some still serve as motel rooms, but they are well worth a stop as you travel Route While many motels, cafes, and gas stations have been documented along the historic highway, the Belvidere is one of the best preserved complexes of its type.
It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in , and is a classic example of a family-run roadside enterprise that for two generations and three decades served as a gathering place, a respite, and a memorable stop along the way.
Call for more information. Soulsby Service Station , Mount Olive, Illinois The advent of the national road system in ushered in a golden age for mom-and-pop entrepreneurs.
For Henry Soulsby of Mount Olive, it happened just in time. Soulsby followed his father, an Irish immigrant, into mining, but in the mids an injury forced him aboveground. Understanding that a national highway would soon pass through Mount Olive, he invested most of his life savings in two lots at the corner of 1st Street, now called Old Route With the balance he built a gas station.
The Soulsby Station is an excellent example of a house with canopy form. By the time Mr. Soulsby built his station in , the leading oil companies had been hiring architects to design stations that would blend well with neighborhoods to minimize local opposition to the crudeness often associated with gas stations. Soulsby designed the building himself, taking into account these trends and blending well with the surrounding area. Although the Great Depression soon began, the station thrived.
America was broke, but it was still traveling. Each was as adept as the other at pumping gas, checking the oil, and looking under the hood or chassis to detect and fix problems.
Russell always had an eye for technology. Shortly after coming home, he turned his experience into a second, simultaneous career--radio and television repair.
He used an antenna on the roof of the station to test his work. Route 66 was a great agent of progress and development, but its very success helped spell its doom.
In the late s, Interstate 55 began supplanting it in Illinois. In Mount Olive, the Soulsby Station ended up a mile away from the new thoroughfare. In , the Soulsby Station stopped pumping gas but continued to check oil, sell soda pop, and greet the ever-growing legion of Route 66 tourists.
Sending everyone off with a wink and a wave, Russell and Ola closed the doors for good in and sold the station in to a neighbor, Mike Dragovich. When Russell Soulsby died in , his funeral procession took him under the canopy one last time.
The current owner, Mr. Dragovich, and the Soulsby Preservation Society began preservation efforts in , removing vinyl siding, restoring the original doors and windows, and repainting the exterior. In , the National Park Service provided grant support for restoration efforts. Today, the station looks essentially the same as it did during its post-World War II heyday. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in Plans are underway to open the station as a museum.
For more than three decades, the bridge was a significant landmark for travelers driving Route Multiple rock ledges just under the surface made this stretch of the Mississippi River extremely dangerous to navigate. In the s, the Corps of Engineers built a low-water dam covering the Chain of Rocks. Back in , at the time of the construction of the bridge, the Chain was a serious concern for boatmen. The bridge was to be a straight, foot wide roadway with five trusses forming 10 spans.
Massive concrete piers standing 55 feet above the high-water mark were to support the structure. All that proved true except for one major change--in direction. Riverboat men protested the planned bridge because it was to run near two water intake towers for the Chain of Rocks pumping station. Navigating the bridge piers and the towers at the same time, the river captains argued, would be extremely treacherous for vessels and barges.
Besides, the initial straight line would have put the bridge over a section of the river where the bedrock was insufficient to support the weight of the piers. Either way, the bridge had to bend. Construction started on both sides of the river simultaneously in , and the piers were complete by August of The Mississippi River had other plans. Floods and ice slowed the work, and the Chain of Rocks Bridge finally opened to traffic in July of Then, as now, actual expenditures for construction often exceed projected costs.
The bridge had beautifully landscaped approaches. A park-like setting around a pool and a large, ornate toll booth anchored the Missouri end. On the Illinois side, elm trees lined the approach. The bridge brought travelers into St. Louis by way of the picturesque Chain of Rocks amusement park on the Missouri hills overlooking the river.
On a clear day, crossing the Chain of Rocks Bridge was a real pleasure. That pleasure became an official part of the Route 66 experience in , when the highway was rerouted over the bridge. At the same time, wartime gas rationing reduced traffic. In , the New Chain of Rocks Bridge carrying Interstate opened just 2, feet upstream of the old bridge, which closed in The bridge deteriorated, and during the s, Army demolition teams considered blowing it up just for practice.
In , demolition seemed eminent. Fortunately for the bridge, a bad market saved the day. The value of scrap steel plummeted, making demolition no longer profitable. At that point, the Chain of Rocks Bridge entered 20 years of bridge limbo--too expensive to tear down, too narrow and outdated to carry modern vehicles.
In , film director John Carpenter used the gritty, rusting bridge as a site for his science fiction film, Escape from New York. Otherwise, the bridge was abandoned.
Today you might say that the Chain of Rocks Bridge has completed a historic cycle. During the s, greenways and pedestrian corridors became increasingly popular, and a group called Trailnet began cleanup and restoration of the bridge.
Linked to more than miles of trails on both sides of the river, the old Chain of Rocks Bridge reopened to the public as part of the Route 66 Bikeway in Because the bridge has not been significantly altered over the years, a visit there today conveys a strong sense of time and place, an appreciation for earlyth-century bridge construction, and outstanding views of the wide Mississippi River.
Chain of Rocks Bridge parallels U. Louis Riverfront Trail, and free parking is available in Illinois at the bridge entrance and at North Riverfront Park, south of the bridge along the Riverfront Trail. It is strongly advised to avoid leaving any valuables in your car. Park at your own risk. The bridge is open to bikers and pedestrians daily from 9: Call for information or visit the Trailnet website. The National Register nomination form for the bridge can be found here.
Return to top Illinois Road Segments For the most part, Illinois Route 66 glides evenly and easily through the State in a southwest-northeast diagonal alignment between Chicago and St.
The Illinois section of historic Route 66 has a relatively level alignment. Due to Ice Age glaciers that scraped much of the upper Midwest flat, the Illinois Route 66 roadbed was never to offer motorists the thrilling or terrifying switchbacks, dips, and cuts encountered along the southwestern portions of the Mother Road.
Unlike many other segments of Route 66, Illinois Route 66 runs through a densely populated, highly developed State. By the mid s, Illinois already had a considerable infrastructure, including a modern road network. Due to population and development pressures, Illinois Route 66 received constant ongoing repairs, upgrades, widening, resurfacing, and even rerouting.
A distinguishing feature of the history of Illinois Route 66 was the speed of its evolution. From its very first years, engineers worked to bypass as many rural towns as possible to ensure a speedy and unobstructed flow of the ever-increasing traffic between Chicago and St. Thus from the time of its birth, Illinois Route 66 was already moving away from its classic main street course toward the model of its interstate successor and its own demise.
With the designation of Route 66 as a strategic defense highway during World War II, the process of change accelerated. Even as the war raged, the road received significant upgrading, much of it pointing toward the four-lane limited access interstate system of the s.
The role of the Federal Government, especially its far-reaching Federal Defense Highway Act of , was critical in the funding of these efforts. Every change in the Mother Road type and its route meant something good or bad for the people along the road. A major rerouting could bring welcomed business and travelers to the new corridor, but it also could painfully wound the areas left behind. The modern upgrade to a four-lane, limited access road was a boon to motorists but could spell disaster to the bypassed roadside establishment.
The story of Route 66 is about individuals and businesses adapting, successfully or not, to the winds of change. In the course of its many transfigurations over the decades, the Mother Road gave--but also took away. The Road Segments Route 66 in Illinois is a very tenacious road. The six road segments below are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Individually and collectively they offer the traveler insights into the engineering achievement and evolution of Illinois Route The segments of Alternate Route 66, Wilmington to Joliet, Route 66, Cayuga to Chenoa, and Route 66 Litchfield to Mount Olive, are significant as wartime and postwar upgrades during the years to Road segments are listed geographically east to west.
Alternate Route 66, Joliet to Wilmington This road segment, currently designated Illinois Route 53, stretches for The original s era road served as an Alternate Route 66 around Joliet. Due to the punishing wartime traffic to and from the nearby Kankakee and Elmwood ordnance plants, the original two-lane highway was replaced with a limited access four-lane divided highway constructed between and It was authorized and funded by the Federal Defense Highway Act of In order to sustain the wear and tear of wartime traffic, updated construction methods were applied, including application of a special sub base of gravel and stone on top of the older roadbed, and a divided foot wide roadbed with inch thick Portland cement slab.
This segment remained a major transportation artery until the coming of interstate I after Route 66 by Carpenter Park This short, surviving segment of abandoned roadbed, extending for about one quarter mile in Springfield Township, offers the traveler the sensation of visiting not only a road but an archeological site, for it has not seen automobile traffic since The two-lane, foot wide road reflects the prevailing engineering and design methods of its time of construction in In , this feet wide roadway was paved with a mix of cement and gravel, with expansion joints placed every 30 yards.
Parts of the road are still flanked by its original four-foot gravel shoulders and four inch curbs. The Carpenter Park segment remains largely intact because it has not carried traffic since , although it is missing its bridge over the Sangamon River The Old Iron Bridge. With the decommissioning of the road in , the bridge was dismantled, leaving only concrete abutments.
This segment is now a part of Carpenter Park in Sangamon County. Visitors are welcome to walk on this stretch of Route 66 surrounded by a forest preserve of native hardwood.
Route 66, Cayuga to Chenoa ; The original s state-of-the-art pavement of this segment boasted a width of 18 feet and a Portland cement slab six inches deep. Like the Route 66 Alternate between Wilmington and Joliet, this The excessive weight and volume of wartime traffic wreaked havoc on the thin roadbed, necessitating a serious upgrade.
A wartime makeover included two lanes of foot wide, ten-inch thick concrete. The sections were generally striped for 11 foot driving lanes an extension of two feet over the older pavement. The southbound lanes, constructed directly over the older roadbed, were finished in , and the northbound lanes were completed in , together creating a four-lane highway with a center median. Today the northbound lanes have a new macadam overlay, but the southbound lanes retain, for the most part, their original concrete surface.
The segment retains six historic bridges. Illinois Route 4, North of Auburn This segment consists of two sections: Originally part of State Route 4, both sections illustrate early highway era construction methods. They served as part of Route 66 until , when the relignment of the Mother Road 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 1,feet concrete section of this segment briefly reverted to its State Route 4 designation before being abandoned in a relocation of the State road. Today known as the Auburn Brick Road, it contains two original single span concrete bridges constructed in and paved with brick in Route 66, Girard to Nilwood This segment underscores the fast paced evolution of Route 66 in Illinois. Designated as a part of the Mother Road in , it was quickly replaced in with a major realignment to the east.
Constructed in as part of old State Route 4, this short-lived section of Illinois Route 66 is typical of the engineering and construction methods of the post-World War I era. This was a time of genuine transition in road construction, often combining horse and mule with World War I state-of-the-art trucks and machinery.
The Portland cement slab was generally six inches thick. Although cracked in places, its current concrete pavement is original. The road segment retains five of its original concrete box culverts and an original, single span concrete bridge. By , the original alignment in this area had significantly deteriorated under the stress of wartime traffic.
Authorized by the Federal Defense Highway Act of , the approach to constructing this segment shows both the pressures of wartime conditions and the long-term postwar vision already present in of transforming Illinois Route 66 into a modern, limited access freeway between Chicago and St.
The new two-lane road, with a pavement of Portland cement foot wide and 10 inches thick, was set down just to the west of the older route, which had been constructed in The older, deteriorated pavement was kept in service until the new alignment was complete.
When the new Route 66 southbound lanes were completed in , 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 , they formed, along with the southbound lanes, a state-of-the-art four-lane highway with a center median—-a veritable precursor to the Interstate freeway.
Begin at Patterson Rd. The entire segment is contained within the boundaries of Carpenter Park in Sangamon County. The southern boundary is the abutment of the Old Iron Bridge on the Sangamon River, a quarter mile to the southeast. The National Register nomination form can be found here. From Odell, travel south on Odell Rd. From Cayuga, take Pontiac Road into Pontiac. Follow the gradual curve right, then curve left onto Division Street.
Cross the junction with Howard. At Reynolds, turn right with Highway Turn left onto Bypass 66 and follow the Frontage Road through to Chenoa. To reach the first 1,foot section, travel south on Highway 4 to Alpha Rd. Go west on Alpha Rd. The segment is located on Alpha Rd. The Auburn Brick Rd. Heading south from Chatham on Highway 4, take a left on Snell Rd. Heading southbound on Highway 4 toward Girard, turn right on Madison St.
Continue south on 6th St. Turn right on Wylder, then left past the railroad underpass. Turn right on Morean Rd. Turn left on Pine and right on Morean St. The road segment ends at 4. Traveling westbound, from Interstate 55 take the 13th Street exit into Litchfield.
Continue south on Route 6. James Road, then turn left on Old Route 66 St. For additional information on driving Route 66 in Illinois, visit these websites: Louis County, Missouri After its designation in , the course Route 66 took from Illinois to California did not remain static. As practical and political concerns arose, authorities rerouted it to meet them. The bridge and the road it supported helped to transform the surrounding area from a wealthy retreat center to a working-class town.
More recently, the bridge has become a centerpiece of a State Park devoted to Route Local government mostly funded and maintained highways and bridges before the late 19th century.
Boats and trains were the preferred means of transportation before that time, and roads were expensive. In the lateth and earlyth centuries, bicycle and automobile enthusiasts began establishing good roads associations to lobby for highway infrastructure, and the States and Federal government responded with funding for transportation.
In response to good roads pressure, Missouri established a state highway system in and an inter-county network road system in Missouri responded in by creating a state road fund, State Highway Board, and State Highway Engineer to supplement federal funding. The most far-reaching state legislation occurred in , when the Centennial Road Law made the state solely responsible for road building.
Missouri established a Bureau of Bridges the same year to deal solely with the issue of crossings. Bridge building increased dramatically in Missouri during the s. In , the state funded a mere 35 new bridges. By , the Bureau of Bridges had prepared designs for 2, additional bridges.
Route 66 initially bypassed the lower Meramec River, which late 19th-century hotel and railroad operators had made a destination for well-off area residents. The grandest resort was the Meramec Highlands, established in ten miles upriver from the eventual bridge site.
The World's Fair in St. Louis introduced a new audience to the area as well. In , a working-class resort called Times Beach opened there. Route 66 was rerouted from Gravois Road to Chippewa in southern St. Louis in , requiring a Meramec River crossing. The Meramec River U. Truss bridges use a triangular placement of beams to stiffen and strengthen the roadbed.
Abutments are used to provide additional support. Truss patterns work very well with metal materials, and the type became popular in the middle of the s, when iron was commonly used in bridge construction. James Warren and Theobald Manzani patented the Warren truss, defined by its placement of the chords to create equilateral triangles, in Only four rigid-connected Warren deck truss bridges remain in the state, including the Meramec River U.
The bridge supported subsequent development of the area. During the Depression, Times Beach transitioned into a permanent community because of the relative affordability of its small homes. In the s, as commuting supported by the bridge became a popular option and river-based recreation developed further, more people moved to this section of shoreline. Times Beach incorporated in , and the state added an auxiliary bridge for eastbound traffic two years later.
By the late s, construction of Interstate 44 had begun and traffic was permanently rerouted to the bridge relegating the Meramec River U. By Route 66 was entirely decommissioned in the state. Interest in the road remained, however, and sparked Missouri's creation of the Route 66 State Park. The acre park interprets and showcases the surrounding environment and portions of Route 66 within its boundary, including the Meramec River U.
Although listed on the National Register of Historic Places in , the bridge was recently closed to all traffic due to advanced deterioration. The future of the bridge remains uncertain. The Meramec River separates the visitor center and east side of the bridge from the bulk of the park and the west side of the bridge.
Exit is accessible only to eastbound traffic, so cars traveling west will need to first take exit to reverse direction. Call or visit the park website for more information.
Two stories tall, its white stucco walls, terra-cotta tile roofing, exposed rafter ends, and arcaded front porte cochere are unusual in Wildwood, Missouri. The only original feature missing is a prominent false bell tower that rose from one corner, which was removed during the s. Otherwise, the Big Chief looks and operates much as it did when Route 66 passed by the front door.
One key to the success of the Big Chief was pavement. The section of Route 66 through Pond, once the name of this section of Wildwood, was one of the earlier parts of the Federal highway to be paved. After its commissioning in , Route 66 had sections that remained dirt for years.
It was upwards of 10 years before travelers could drive from Chicago to Los Angeles on pavement. The road through Pond, by contrast, was paved all the way to St. With pavement came cars. In , Americans owned 1. Individual mobility reached a level never possible before, and automobile tourism grew nearly as fast as did the rate of automobile ownership. When autos first began crossing America on Federal highways, drivers tended to camp by the roadside on their own or to stay in tourists camps.
There were few hotels except in major cities. The Big Chief was unusual in three ways: It was one of the earliest cabin courts in Missouri, it offered full service dining, and it was one of the largest cabin courts. In , a guide to Missouri listed only nine courts with more than 30 cabins. The Big Chief had 62, each with its own garage.
Advertisements from the period boasted that the Big Chief cabins had both hot and cold running shower baths. Press enter to search Type to Search.
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