The notoriety of the national highway began with that song, written
in 1946 by Bobby Troupe and recorded by Nat King Cole, and grew from
there. With an early 1960s television series entitled "Route 66,"
the road was further anchored in the minds and hearts of America, as
the plot of the show revolved around two young men traveling the
route from Chicago to L.A.
It brought to light a new era in
American history. World War II had taken its toll on the American
people, and it took several years for the nation to recover. With
that recovery came a new generation of young people, excited about
life, looking for adventure and drawn to fast, shiny,
chrome-accented cars and the flickering neon lights from the
drive-ins, gas stations and businesses that sprang up along "Our
With these recollections of a favorite era in our country's
history in mind, the Illinois Route 66 Heritage Project is designing
new roadside signs to be placed along the highway at particular
points of interest.
At the invitation of Alderwoman Jonie Tibbs, Geoff Ladd, director
of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County and a member
of the Route 66 Heritage Project, appeared before the Lincoln City
Council on Monday night. While there he presented an informative
packet about the wayside sign program and the effects it might have
on the city as well as the county.
Ladd announced that the project would include a new travel guide
for Lincoln and Logan County. The guide will be designed to make
navigating to the various Route 66 sites easier with a map of the
area, which will offer marked stopping points and brief descriptions
of each site.
Additional information was provided on the proposed wayside sign
project. The design of the signs themselves will be unique, yet
reminiscent of a time gone by, as they will be constructed to
resemble shapes, styles and colors of the '50s and '60s.
The project proposes 12 larger signs designated as "Experience
Hubs." These signs will be placed all through Illinois at various
locations, including Lincoln. The Experience Hub for Lincoln may be
placed near the Railsplitter Covered Wagon in the "Four Corners"
region of the city.
With a chromelike finish, and a retro shape similar to that found
at many wayside motels and restaurants, the Hub sign will feature a
county map on one side, marking all the Route 66 stopping points,
plus other historically significant landmarks in Lincoln and Logan
On the other side will be an array of panels identifying and
describing various points of interest in the immediate area. For
these particular points of interest, the handout mentions Route 66
attractions such as The Tropics, Werth gas station, Coonhound
Johnny's Roadhouse, Redwood Motel and "Dead Man's Curve," plus the
story of the Railsplitter.
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In addition to the Experience Hub, there will be wayside signage
throughout the county. These signs again will be done with a
chrome like finish. They will call to remembrance the 1950s and '60s
chrome-plated side-view mirrors on automobiles. The supports for the
signs will be wider at the base and grow a bit narrower as they
curve gently upward to the plaque that will be mounted on top. Each
base will feature a Route 66 logo, and the plaque atop it will be
accented with the same logo, racing strips and a chevron.
Ladd said that possible locations for the wayside signs in the
city of Lincoln would be Postville Courthouse, The Mill, The Tropics
restaurant, the city of Lincoln christening site, the Scully
Building and the Logan County Courthouse.
In addition to all the signage, the Route 66 Heritage Project is
proposing a re-purposing of the Bel-Aire Motel in Springfield. The
goal is to turn the vintage motel into a Route 66 Museum and
Discovery Center. Ladd said this would be a "kind of Route 66
equivalent of the presidential library and museum." He indicated
that this could be quite significant for Lincoln and Logan County
tourism, noting that when the presidential library and museum
opened, it did increase tourism traffic in this area, and the Route
66 Discovery Center should have the same effect.
Ladd also gave the council a brief update on the work being done
at the former Mill restaurant. He reported that the building has
almost all of the new windows installed. Those that are not done
have been made secure, and the building is "safely contained for the
winter." Projects that will be going on during the winter will
include foundation work, subflooring and floors. He added that it is
hoped that by next year there will be a limited-access museum in the
The Route 66 Heritage program does have funds available for much
of this project. Ladd said it was a good chunk of money, but it
would have to be spread across several communities. Therefore there
will be some local match involved, which will be the responsibility
of Logan County tourism to seek.
He closed his presentation by saying: "We are extremely excited
about these developments. We'll be working on various sources of
private funding and matching funds through other grants." He also
voiced his appreciation to the city for their support of the
restoration project at The Mill.
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