Friday, November 21, 2008
sponsored by Jake's Furnishings

City hears how new Route 66 signage would draw tourists to local attractions

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[November 21, 2008]  "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" is a song not soon forgotten by those who have traveled the Mother Road and felt the thrill of the winding two lanes that meandered through the heart of our country.

If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route 66.

It winds from Chicago to L.A.,
More than 2,000 miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route 66.

HardwareThe 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 Nation's Highway."

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 County.

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 building.

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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