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 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.

May 052011

A fire destroyed part of a historical building connected to Route 66 early Thursday morning on Main Street.

At the time of the blaze the building was unoccupied and no injuries were reported.
Firefighters were called to a structure fire at on the 100 block of East Main Street at about 1:11 a.m.

Barstow Fire Protection Chief Darrell Jauss said the fire started in the attic of the building of what used to be El Rancho Restaurant — currently Cedar Restaurant and Travel Store.

About 20 Barstow Fire Department firefighters arrived at the scene at 1:15 a.m.

According to Jauss, firefighters received help from the Marine Corps Logistics Base Fire Department and from the Barstow Police but by the time firefighters arrived the fire was very big and had consumed most of the building.

“We were able to stop the fire but by the time we did the roof collapsed in,” Jauss said. “We are concerned that the main wall might collapse also.”

The fire was contained in two hours and was completely put out in four hours.

“We wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t spread further to the neighboring business,” Jauss said.

Firefighters are currently trying to stop smaller pockets of smoke that are smoldering in the building.

There is no estimate of the amount of damage on the structure yet.

By FIORELLA CASELLA, Desert Dispatch

Jun 112010

On the way downt o Bloomington/Normal, I thought I would swing by the Riviera Restaurant (or what is left of it) and snap a few pics. The ‘caution’ tape is around the entire property and it was hard to get my car into the driveway.
It is a mess folks. Ironically, the RIVIERA sign is one of the only things left. The streetcar is still standing and tucked away safely in the back.

Jun 092010

I received a call from Bob (new owner of Riviera) and he told me he is vacationing in the North Woods of WI/MI. He told me his cell didn’t work up there (which, ironically, he and I vacation some 20 miles apart from each other so I know that most cells do not work up there!!) and he called me on a payphone to tell me what happened.

He recieved SEVERAL VM’s regarding the fire and told me that there was a cleaning crew in the restaurant Monday cleaning up the place. He is looking into the possibility that someone left something either opened or something caught by one of the halogen lamps.

He told me that he will be cutting his vacation short to come back down and check out the remains. He did say “All I wanted to do was to open the damn restaurant – that was it….”.
He did mention the streetcar and said that the car is his property and will now have to fight for where its new home should be.

I will try to get out there sometime this week/weekend to get pics.

Jun 082010

Fire crews from nearly a half-dozen towns battled a blaze Tuesday night in a historic Grundy County restaurant which was a hangout for Chicago mobster Al Capone, fire officials said.

The fire began at about 8 p.m. at the Riviera Roadhouse, 5650 S. Illinois Route 53, along the historic Route 66, according to an official with the Gardner Volunteer Fire Department.

The fire official said explosions were reported in the restaurant. No one was reported injured in the fire.

The restaurant was built in 1928 and claims to be a former Al Capone hangout, according to The restaurant had its dining area and bar in the basement of a huge old house where people would dance and drink during Prohibition. The owners said there was a vault in the restaurant where Capone and his cronies would hide booze and slot machines during a raid.

Note from Ed Klein – Route 66 World: This is a sad ending to an ugly battle. Now, not only do we lose a piece of history, but the world has literally lost a wonderful tourist attraction that has been around for generations. I spoke with the owner on several occasions and he was truly upset about the fact he simply couldn’t enjoy his ‘hobby’ due to legal battles. It is a sad day for Route 66.