Dec 142011
 



The ‘addition’ to the Route 66 Association of Illinois Museum…


This one was a huge story this year. Everyone knows the man, everyone knows his legend, and now everyone can see what made Bob Waldmire ‘tick’ with a collection of his personal belongings.

Since the addition of the different pieces, tourism numbers have been through the roof! The museum always did well – but this just made things, well, a little better! They are always good about posting (on their Facebook page) numbers of travelers coming into the museum and where they are from. I applaud the museum on their effoerts!

Below is the original stoy I posted about the addition of the Waldmire pieces:

Pontiac IL will dedicate its Red Carpet Corridor Festival to the memory of a Route 66 icon, the late Bob Waldmire.

The festival, Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 8, will include the painting of a mural designed by Waldmire, tours of the Waldmire school bus mobile home, a fine arts show and sale on the Livingston County Courthouse Square and a display of some of the classic cars that will be included in the new Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum and Resource Center.

Waldmire was born near Springfield in 1945 and died in December 2009. His passion for Route 66 began in 1962 when his parents took the entire family on a motoring trip to California via Route 66.

He later spent the rest of his life traveling along Route 66 in either his school bus mobile home or 1972 Volkswagen van. Both the van and the school bus are on display in Pontiac at the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Pontiac. During the Red Carpet Festival, the Waldmire school bus home will be opened to the public for the first time.

Waldmire supported his nomadic and eclectic lifestyle by painting and drawing for clients along Route 66, the “Mother Road.” His artwork is famous worldwide and Pontiac has one of his Route 66 road maps painted inside the Route 66 Museum.

During this year’s festival, Waldmire’s last commissioned mural project will be painted. He was asked to design and paint a mural for downtown Pontiac, but his illness prevented him from completing that task. Instead, he designed the mural and the public will be invited to come downtown during the festival to help paint the 66-foot map of the entirety of Route 66. The Diaz family, owners of Diaz Sign Art, will oversee the project.

In keeping with the festival’s theme of art and the Mother Road, the Livingston County Courthouse Square will be the scene of an art show and sale. Artists from around the Midwest, including some Walldogs, will display and sell original art.

For more information, contact Ellie Alexander, director of Pontiac Tourism, at 815-844-5847.

Make sure not only to visit them on their website by clicking HERE and following them on their Facebook page by clicking HERE – but PLEASE show your support by becoming a member and help supporting the associations work in preserving and promoting the route throughout the state of Illinois!

Nov 042011
 



I had the privilege on working on the streetcar when it was in a ‘secret location’ before it was moved into its current location. I will tell you this – it was in rough shape last time I saw it, and it looks like (from the picture at least) they have done quite a bit of work on it. I would have to say this is probably in the ‘Top Ten Oldest Items’ on the route – right next to the jailcell which would also be included in that list! The next time I will be anywhere close to Gardner will be in January – so I will try to stop out and see it in person – hopefully without 14 inches of snow around it!

GARDNER, Ill. — On Nov. 11, 2011, a two-part Veteran’s Day Program will honor veterans and dedicate a historical diner that dates back to the late 1800s.

The program, themed upon the Gettysburg Address, begins at 11 a.m. and includes the Gettysburg Address, given by Don Phillips, as well as remarks from Mayor Tom Wise; a war story read by Linda Tyler; guest speaker Russell Santerelli, who is currently serving in the U.S. Army; a balloon release; and other speeches to recognize the veterans.

The second part of the program will include the re-dedication of The Diner, a restaurant that began as a horse drawn-streetcar operated by the Kankakee Transit System. It first was owned by George Kaldem. His mother and the cook, Minnie Springborn, was praised as the woman whose pies, stew, fried chicken and homemade bread were considered some of the finest that could be found anywhere.

Later, it was moved behind a residence and was used to house workers at the armory during World War II. Then it was moved to the rear of the Riviera Roadhouse, where it was used as a place for family reunion picnics, a house for local fishermen and a storage shed.

The Diner has never had toilet facilities or even running water. Water for cooking and washing equipment was carried in with containers supplied by local residents.

The Route 66 of Illinois Preservation Committee, headed by chairman John Weiss, has restored The Diner with a new cement block foundation, new windows, painting, cleaning, repairs and installation of many donated artifacts of the diner.

“We started the restoration on it, but volunteers and Tom Perkins and his sons worked hard on it,” Weiss said. “The restoration is complete, and I will be speaking at the re-dedication of the diner, talking about the connection between Route 66 and Gardner.”

“We have the streetcar to re-dedicate and, at the same time, it is the 85th birthday of Route 66. I will also mention Rev. Christian Christensen, who is the man that saved the world from nuclear destruction. There is a plaque dedicated to him in the two-cell jail.”

The historic jail, which is located in the same area as the streetcar, is always open. Visitors can press a button, the “message repeater,” and hear about Gardner, which also includes the streetcar information.

“The streetcar is not always open, but you can still go peek in the streetcar and see what travel was like back in those days,” Weiss said. “It’s a great piece of history for a little town like this. Not many people know about it.”

Peggy and Bob Kraft, who owned the diner that had been located at the site of the former Riviera Restaurant before the restaurant burned, donated the diner to the village and are happy that the structure is now being restored. They will be present at the program.

“We refurbished the diner all up and got it all ready,” Mayor Tom Wise said. “It certainly is a good thing. I gave Peggy and Bob the key to the city and we have a memorial plaque for the re-dedication.”

Coffee and donuts will be served at the diner by Auxiliary No. 663 Unit the day of the dedication.

Contributions and donations towards continuing preservation efforts are greatly appreciated.

By Genevieve Toussaint — news@morrisdailyherald.com

Oct 132011
 



Received an Email from the Route 66 Association of Illinois about the ceremony and relighting of the Cafe Luna sign.





The Luna Cafe neon sign in Mitchell, IL has been restored!

Please attend the Luna Cafe Neon Sign Relighting Ceremony!

Join your fellow Roadies and Route 66 Preservationists for this exciting event, celebrating these icons of the Mother Road – the Luna Cafe and her historic neon sign!

Saturday, October 22, 2011
6:30 PM (approximate time – actual time of relighting depends upon when dusk falls)

Luna Cafe
201 East Chain of Rocks Road
Mitchell, IL

Aug 262011
 



About a year ago – I took (4) folks who are in a Mini Cooper Car Club pretty much the entire drive of Route 66 in Illinois – I ended up finishing ‘my part of the tour’ in Edwardsville as they continued to St. Louis the next day.

When we drove it back then, the street car was ‘in hiding’ and the pad had not yet been poured…

Fast forward to today – and my friend decided to take another mini ‘MINI’ trip and took this pic of the street car.

As you can see – the pad is finished, the ‘skirt’ or base is in place, a plaque is up and the stairs are put back in it’s correct place (even though the door is nailed shut).

This is how I remembered it looking as we painted it with primer and then a coat of white exterior paint while it was located in its hiding place.

The roof was supposed to be completed this year – but the year is still not over and they still have a good month or two before the weather starts going south.

If not, there is always next year!!

For those of you who may not remember where the street car was relocated to after the Riviera Restaurant fire – it is right next to the Historic Jail Cell in downtown Gardner.

Aug 092011
 



Below is a liting of the (10) properties / businesses who were awarded Preservation Grants. PLEASE keep in mind these places do not get this money upfront – it is a ‘cost share program’ which means they need to spend a dollar to get a dollar. So, they still need help!! Either you can donate your dollars and/or time. They get a ‘cost per hour’ charge for every hour of work from volunteers – which turn into dollars they get from these grants. Check with the local proerty to see how you can help!!

ARIZONA

Project: Route 66 Motel Sign and Roof Rehabilitation
Recipient: Private Owner
Amount: $10,319 NPS, $10,319 match

The Route 66 Motel has been a welcoming stop on Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona for more than 50 years. Its towering red and yellow neon sign remains a beacon in the night for travelers stopping to photograph the sign, stay the night, or visit the Route 66 gift shop. Built in 1963 as the “Pony Soldier”, the motel is a two-story, brick building with decorative, extruded mortar joints.
An aging electrical system has caused many portions of the sign to stop working, and the flat roof on the motel building needs repair. Grant funds will assist with these priority preservation needs, so it can continue to serve as an important Route 66 landmark in Kingman.

ILLINOIS

Project: Ariston Cafe Rehabilitation
Recipient: Private Owner
Amount: $10,000 NPS, $10,000 match

The Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Illinois opened in 1935 and has been continuously operated by the Adam family ever since. A standing tradition for locals and travelers alike, the cafe offers favorites such as toasted ravioli and homemade red velvet cake. With its distinctive curved parapet, finely crafted brickwork, and its original Art Deco-style dining booths, this beloved Litchfield landmark was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. In 2008, a preservation plan was prepared for the cafe, and rehabilitation work has been ongoing since. Grant funds will assist with the current phase of the project, which will focus on structural repairs to the exterior brickwork.


Project: Dell Rhea Chicken Basket Rehabilitation
Recipient: Private Owner
Amount: $7,000 NPS, $7,000 match

Dell Rhea Chicken Basket has its origins in the 1930’s as a lunch counter attached to a service station in Hinsdale, Illinois. Oral tradition has it that two local farm women offered to reveal their excellent fried chicken recipe to the owner if he would promise to buy their chickens. The recipe was so good, that by 1946, the service station was closed and the new Chicken Basket was born. Built adjacent to the lunch counter site, the building reflects the nononsense,
utilitarian, commercial style of the post-war years. After being bypassed by the Interstate in 1962, the business fell on hard times. The Dell Rhea family purchased the Chicken Basket in 1963, and through savvy marketing and its famous fried chicken recipe, the business flourishes today. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Grant funds will assist with much needed structural repairs to the exterior brick walls.


Project: Luna Cafe Neon Sign Restoration
Recipient: Private Owner
Amount: $11,000 NPS, $11,000 match

The Luna Cafe in Mitchell, Illinois was built in 1926, the same year Route 66 was commissioned as a highway. With over 85 years of continuous service, the Luna has reportedly had many famous visitors including Al Capone, Elvis Presley, Hank
Williams Sr., and Ike & Tina Turner. Local memory recalls it serving variously as a Route 66 cafe, piano bar, boarding house, brothel, upscale restaurant, and meeting spot for gangsters. The neon sign with its iconic ruby red cherries lit up the night for over 40 years before going dark in the 1990s.The Missouri and Illinois Route 66 Associations are partnering with the owner of the Luna to oversee the restoration of the sign. Grant funds will assist with this effort.


Project: Sprague Super Service Window Rehabilitation
Recipient: Private Owner
Amount: $10,000 NPS, $10,000 match

In 1931, William W. Sprague built a two-story, Tudor Revival style building on Route 66 in Normal, Illinois to meet the
burgeoning demands of automobilists. Although Sprague opened the business during the Great Depression, he could count on travelers and local residents who needed food, gasoline, and car repair to stay in business. By providing on-site housing in the upstairs portion of the building for himself and a gas station attendant, he could readily meet the needs of his customers while lowering his housing costs. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, the current owner is restoring the building for use as a visitor center. Following a preservation plan prepared in 2009, a new roof and ADA accessible bathrooms have been installed. Grant funds will now assist with rehabilitation of the historic, wood frame windows.

MISSOURI

Project: Meramec River Bridge Historic Structures Report
Recipient: Landmarks Association of St. Louis
Amount: $15,000 NPS, $30,000 match
Constructed in 1931-1932, the Meramec River Bridge is a 1,009’-long, three-span, steel deck truss and girder structure located near Eureka in the Missouri Route 66 State Park. The bridge carried Route 66 traffic until it was bypassed by I-44 in the 1960’s. Today it serves as a centerpiece of the Route 66 State
Park, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Now closed to traffic and under threat of demolition due to its deteriorated condition, it has been listed on Missouri Preservation’s Most Endangered Historic Places list for two years in a row. As part of a larger master planning effort, grant funds will assist with the preparation of a Historic Structures Report to evaluate preservation options and rehabilitation costs for the bridge.


Project: Sunset Motel Entrance and Exit Signs Restoration
Recipient: Private Owner
Amount: $7,100 NPS, $7,100 match

The Sunset Motel was built just after World War II in the “Hi-Way Hills Subdivision” of Villa Ridge, Missouri. Built in a distinctive Vshape, it had a twin-sister property known as the Pin Oak Motel just two miles west on Route 66. The motel featured a spacious lawn and central garden, a circular driveway around the rear of the property, and front and back entrances to each room. Since 1971, the property has been owned by the same family, and is currently operating on a weekly rental basis. Restoration was begun in 2009 to replace the roof, repoint exterior brick work, restore the interior floors, and return the neon sign to operating condition. Grant funds will assist with restoration of the damaged
and missing neon Entrance and Exit signs.


Project: Wagon Wheel Motel Roof Replacement
Recipient: Private Owner
Amount: $17,500 NPS, $17,500 match
Built in 1935 in Cuba, Missouri, the Wagon Wheel Motel, known originally as the Wagon Wheel Cabins, is a rare example of the transition in roadside lodging from individual tourist cabins to attached units. A well known local mason built the motel using local stone that farmers brought to him. While stone was a common building material for motels in Missouri, the Tudor Revival styling was not. Today, the motel is still locally owned and operated, and is the earliest tourist court on Route 66 in Missouri that still accommodates nightly travelers. Ongoing restoration work has included porch and soffit repairs, window repair, floor refinishing, and heating/cooling improvements. Grant funds will assist with roof replacement on two of the motel units.

OKLAHOMA

Project: Arcadia Round Barn Siding Restoration
Recipient: Arcadia Historical and Preservation Society
Amount: $21,000 NPS, $21,000 match
The Round Barn has stood sentinel in Arcadia, Oklahoma, since 1898. During construction, boards were soaked in water to make them pliable enough to bend into the round shape of the barn.
The barn was used variously to house stock and hay, but it is the dances on the second floor of the barn that people remember most. In 1914, Oklahoma County obtained a right-of-way and built a crude dirt road between the barn and the railroad tracks. In 1926, this unpaved road was designated U.S. Highway 66, part of the new national highway system. The barn has been a landmark on the route ever since and today serves as Route 66 and local history museum. The barn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Grant funds will assist with much needed repair of rotted siding boards and trim.


Project: Firestone Station Restoration
Recipient: Private Owner
Amount: $25,000 NPS, $25,000 match
In July, 1929, the Bristow, Oklahoma Daily Record reported that
Firestone had purchased lots on Route 66 for the purpose of constructing a building that “will be one of the most modern in the state”. The store opened in May, 1930, and included an Art Deco design with six large service bays, a wash bay, an office and sales area with large display windows. The station prospered through the 1950’s, relying on its premier location and national brand recognition, as well as is distinctiveness as a full service station. Now under extensive and meticulous restoration for use as an auto body shop, grant funds will assist with site improvements including the exterior lights, sign, and concrete driveway repairs.

Aug 012011
 



The legendary Coliseum Ballroom in Benld, Illinois was gutted by fire Saturday night, leaving nothing but a charred shell.

Officials say the fire broke out sometime between 9 and 10 p.m. in the Macoupin County antique mall, about an hour northeast of St. Louis. A band was playing to a full house when the blaze started.

One of the band members said he noticed a burning smell hours earlier around 7:30 p.m.

Nearly every surrounding department responded to the fire. Flames reportedly rekindled Sunday morning, and crews returned to the scene.

Three people suffered injuries during the blaze. No word yet on their condition.

In its heyday, the ballroom was seen as a historic hotspot on Route 66.
It was built in the 1920s, and hosted many celebrities over the years. It was reportedly one of Al Capone’s favorite hide-outs.

You can check out a video of the fire by clicking HERE.

Jun 222011
 



The mission was to get from Chicago to Scottsdale as fast as possible – with minimal stops. Now – add in the fact we follow Route 66 for 85% of the drive – there are several people and places I have to / want to see, and 1800 miles is tough on just about anyone – ‘as fast as possible’ turned into ‘whenever we get there….’

I started our trip by making a quick stop over to the Sprauge Super Station in Normal IL to say ‘hi’ to Terry Ryburn and check on her progress with the station.

She updated me and we walked around the property for 20 minutes as she was pointing out what still had to be done. She mentioned the Route 66 Association of Illinois were coming out in Aug to do some interior work – if you want to help them / her in Aug – contact them association – I am sure they would love for you to stop out! If you want to help by sending a few dollars to further her progress – click HERE for more information.

After I said my ‘good-byes’ – we headed south. Now – I will almost NEVER travel throughout the southern part of Illinois on the route without stopping in and seeing Rich Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch! Although he was closed and he was running around bar-b-queing he took 15 minutes and spoke to Juliana about the property, Big Red and Montana. She enjoyed the time and thought Rich was nothing but a ‘sweet man’.

So, for the first time of all the times I have been at Rich’s place, I hoped on the Giant Rabbit and took a picture!











We continued our way thru St. Louis and stopped the night in Springfield MO. We wanted to stop short of Joplin so we can tour it in the daytime.











Low and behold – we listening to air raid sirens and the hotel asked everyone to gather in a conference room for the fear of possible approaching tornados.











All was good – for the time and we decided to turn in and in the morning drive the 60 minutes to Joplin to check out the damage.
More on that tomorrow…

May 072011
 



Three men sat at a long table at Weezy’s Route 66 Bar & Grill in Hamel during a midafternoon lull.

Farmers Roger Wilkening and John Green and retiree Ken Hedger were eating mostaccioli and sharing local gossip.
“I come here for the intelligent conversation,” said Ken, 55, of Edwardsville, prompting his two friends to burst out laughing. “No, seriously, this is called the ‘liar’s table.’ If anybody’s got a problem, they get it solved right here.”

Not all Weezy’s customers are as colorful as the farmers, but the restaurant has plenty of regulars.
Mail carrier Jim Knecht, 62, of Rosewood Heights, stops by almost every day for lunch and sits at the horseshoe-shaped bar.
“The food is always good,” he said. “I don’t have any complaints.”
Jim orders the daily special, which ranges from fried chicken to smoked pork chops, prime rib to cod.

The restaurant also is known for charbroiled burgers, homemade pies and hearty breakfasts, particularly biscuits and gravy made with fresh sausage from locally produced hogs.
“Everything’s made from scratch,” said co-owner Karen Wiesemeyer, 49, of Glen Carbon.
She formerly worked at Randy’s Restaurant in Troy, Stonebridge Clubhouse in Maryville and Diamond Mineral Springs in Grantfork.

Karen bought the Hamel restaurant two years ago with her companion, Coleman Wiessman, 49. He’s a carpenter, so his main involvement with the food is eating it.
“It’s all good,” he said. “But I like the ribeye sandwich.” That’s also a favorite of Karen’s parents, Joe and Shirley Toenyes, of Alhambra.

Weezy’s is at the intersection of Illinois 140 and 157. The restaurant’s name is a derivative of their names. The brick structure was built as a home in the late ’30s, but it has housed a restaurant as long as most people remember.

It started as Tourist Haven, catering to motorists getting their kicks on Route 66. The old sign still hangs in the main dining room.

“I don’t own it,” Karen said. “I wish I did. The owner just lets me borrow it.”
The restaurant later was known as the Village Inn, Ernie’s and Scotty’s.

Karen and Coleman saw its value as a tourist attraction for modern travelers rediscovering Route 66.
“They come from all over, but Europe mainly,” Karen said. “(The Europeans) find freedom here. They don’t really have a Mother Road that will take them everywhere.”
The restaurant has a guest book for visitors to sign and a world map with push pins that mark hometowns.

The decor follows a diner theme with a black-and-white checkered floor and red vinyl seat cushions on chrome booths, tables and chairs.
“We got (the furniture) from Johnny Rockets,” Coleman said.
Walls are lined with vintage signs, photos of old vehicles and other Route 66 memorabilia. Coleman built an outdoor patio last summer.

At a glance
What: Weezy’s Route 66 Bar & Grill
Where: 108 S. Old Route 66, Hamel (intersection of Illinois 140 and 157)
Kitchen: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays
Bar: Usually open until midnight or 1 a.m.
Seating: About 75 at tables and booths and another 10 at the bar
Handicap accessible: No
Information: Call 633-2228

On the menu
Traditional breakfast with two eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns or American fries and toast, $4.95.
Belgian waffles, $3.50 or $5 with fresh strawberry topping and whipped cream.
Charbroiled burger, quarter-pound on a toasted bun, $3.95 with chips or $5.45 with sweet potato fries.
Daily specials, ranging from smoked pork chops to mostaccioli, fried chicken on Wednesdays and catfish or cod on Fridays, $4.95 to $5.95.

BY TERI MADDOX – News-Democrat

May 012011
 



LEXINGTON — The owners of a now-shuttered Lexington restaurant are hoping to sell the business to someone who understands what small-town, home-style cooking and homemade desserts can mean to a community.

Owner Jari Riisberg said The Filling Station closed in February just shy of the restaurant’s 29th anniversary. About 15 employees lost jobs.

Riisberg and her husband, Ove Riisberg, have had some inquiries about the site, 905 W. Main St., a popular stop for tourists on historic Route 66, but no sale yet. It’s listed for $295,000 through Coldwell Banker Heart of America Realtors.

Riisberg said the Illinois Department of Revenue “strongly urged” the couple to close the business because they were behind on their taxes and couldn’t get caught up.

“We live right next door to it and so it’s a constant reminder. But, really, we had no choice,” she said. “We made a lot of friends and have a lot of great memories. It’s really sad because Mom and Pop restaurants like this are going to have a hard time with this economy.”
One Lexington resident, Mark Killion, was among those who rose early nearly every day to stop for a cup of coffee at the eatery.

“I hated to see the restaurant close for so many reasons,” Killion said. “It was a special place for this town and it’s really a sad day when a great place like that has to close.”
Copyright 2011 pantagraph.com

Apr 302011
 



The annual Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor on Saturday and May 8 includes Mother’s Day this year, a fitting honor to what was called “the Mother Road.”

One of America’s best celebrations of Route 66, the linear festival stretches 90 miles along Route 66 from Towanda to Joliet. A dozen towns along the way host all kinds of events, from garage sales to live bands.

Chenoa’s Red Carpet Festival will include live bands on Saturday afternoon, a carnival and food vendors. On Sunday, Anjanel Folkens will perform.

Lexington hosts a motorcycle show, a vintage car show and a tractor show, a quilt display, a concert by the Lexington High School band and chorus and the 2nd annual Amazing Bed Race. Add to that flea markets, garage sales, entertainment by an Elvis impersonator and a Hula-hoop contest. Food choices include Route 66 Root Beer Floats.

Pontiac’s festival is dedicated to the memory of Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire. To celebrate Waldmire’s life on the Mother Road, the city will be painting a 66-foot mural designed by Waldmire shortly before his death in 2009. Help paint the mural and receive a commemorative button. The project will be at the corner of Main and Madison streets in downtown Pontiac at 10 a.m. An art sale will be on the courthouse square. There also will be citywide garage and yard sales and a model train display at Evenglow Lodge. A free performance of the Route 66 Musical Revue will be at Chautauqua Park by the Vermillion Players.

Braidwood hosts a flea market, a karaoke/talent show, baked goods and kid’s stuff to do May 7. On Mother’s Day, a spa tent just for ladies will be offered.

Check out more and download a map by clicking HERE.

Copyright 2011 pantagraph.com