It has taken slightly more than a decade, but this
past weekend, organizers and volunteers brought to a conclusion the
long awaited revival of what was once a huge landmark on Route 66 in
The Mill first began as the Blue Mill and consisted only of the
oddly shaped front section seen today with the four sails mounted
predominately on the front. The Blue Mill was a simple sandwich stop
where Route 66 travelers could pull in and enjoy a sandwich and a
drink then head on up or down the road toward Chicago or St. Louis.
Later in its history, the Mill was enlarged with the back portion
being a barracks from Camp Ellis. The eatery then transformed into a
sandwich shop and a bar with some honky-tonk characteristics.
Owned by Blossom Huffman, the restaurant thrived, gaining the
reputation of being the place to go for the best ever Schnitzel, and
also the place to go to meet up with friends and enjoy an evening of
When the Huffman’s were no longer able to manage the business, it
closed. The Mill stood derelict for several years, and over time
became an eyesore in Lincoln. The city council in Lincoln debated
how to go about getting rid of the old worn down building. The owner
of the property had said he would tear down the Mill, and planned to
build self-storage buildings on the lot, but that didn’t appear to
It was in 2006, that a well-known Route 66 restaurant owner in Logan
County, Ernie Edwards, whispered rather insistently in the ear of
Geoff Ladd, the director of the then named Abraham Lincoln Tourism
Bureau of Logan County, that he – Ladd – had to do something to save
Edwards owned the Pig Hip Restaurant just south of Lincoln in
Broadwell. Also a very popular stop on Route 66, Edwards had run the
restaurant for years, and had converted it into a museum in the
final stages of its life. Edwards didn’t want to see the Mill go to
the wayside. He recognized that the quirky and fun little stops
along Route 66 were what the tourists wanted to see, hoped to find.
Edwards knew that Lincoln’s Mill had a rich and colorful history
that would draw people through the doors if were re-opened.
Ladd was up for the challenge, and the then owner of the property
was apparently up for unloading the run-down building and property,
because in that year, he and Ladd met and the property was sold to
Ladd representing the Route 66 Heritage Foundation for a $10 bill.
It took more than a decade, but on Saturday, Ladd and the Route 66
Heritage Foundation of Logan County members and volunteers lived up
to Edwards dream which had become their own, and opened the doors of
the new museum.
Saturday morning, as scores guests milled around the museum, there
were more than a few who commented aloud to their companions and
also to Ladd and the Foundation members that Edwards would be very
proud of what has been accomplished.
As folks walked through the museum, they found that
it is not just about the Mill, it offers a peak into the history of
Route 66 in Logan County by featuring items from places such as the
Tropics in Lincoln, the Pig Hip in Broadwell, and other places such
as the old Crossroads Motel in Lincoln. It also features displays of
colorful parts of the history of the Mill – the foot stuck in the
ceiling, the wooden shoes worn by the son of the original owner on
opening day of the Blue Mill, and Blossom Huffman’s purse – which
Ladd said he felt was about like being able to say he had found
Abraham Lincoln’s billfold!
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Fun items found in the museum include ‘Illie the Robot’ an
eye-catching little robotic figure that was a mascot for Illico Oil
in Lincoln. The little guy has lights and his head and arms are
Another big find was the corner stone of the Mill that says the
original building was built by Shoup Jones of Lincoln. There is also
a core sample from Route 66, given to the museum by the Illinois
Department of Transportation.
And, there is the very special Braille menu that was salvaged by the
late George Dahmn while he and Lincoln Alderwoman Jonie Tibbs were
looking through the building, checking for asbestos, after it had
In the restoration, the foundation was also able to recover one
complete booth from the Mill and it holds a very prominent location
just inside the front door.
These are only a few of the great displays at the museum that will
make it more than worthwhile for tourists to stop in and take a look
In addition to the museum, there is a large portion of the back room
at the Mill that is designated to a Route 66 Souvenir or gift shop.
The shop offers some outstanding Route 66 tee-shirts and
sweatshirts, ceramic trivets, wooden jewelry boxes with Route 66
burned into their lids, and photo art featuring many Route 66
Ladd said that there will also be some interactive capabilities at
the museum. The foundation is working with local website specialist
David Doolin to create a Quick Reference or QR code system that can
be used with ‘smart’ devices. Ladd said there will be QR codes
placed on key items throughout the museum and when scanned with a
phone the QR will bring up additional information and videos
relating to the item scanned.
Finally, the museum acknowledges all those who have contributed to
the restoration project through financial assistance. In the back
room a large display dominates the farthest wall, showing all those
who through the years have given money to the project. There is also
a display from the Salt Creek ABATE recognizing its deceased
members, as well as the plaque given to the organization as Mill
Volunteers of the year in 2016.
The Mill on 66 will be open throughout the summer and early fall,
Tuesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Ladd said that the
Mill would follow the Postville Courthouse schedule, but at the same
time is working toward expanding the hours.