Motel operator is driven to keep Route 66 culture alive and kicking

 California  Comments Off on Motel operator is driven to keep Route 66 culture alive and kicking
May 122014
 










Kumar Patel grew up along Route 66, a highway long celebrated in literature, song and film. He was not impressed.

On his first long road trip, about six years ago, he found himself bored by the route’s decaying monuments, mom-and-pop diners and dusty museums.

“I hated it,” he said. “But I didn’t understand it.”

The journey to understanding started soon after that trip, when his mother started having health problems. She had been running the family’s Wigwam Motel, a clutch of 20 tepee-shaped rooms on Route 66 in San Bernardino. She could no longer run it alone.

So at 26, Patel took over, giving up a career in accounting to run an aging tourist trap that struggled to cover its costs.

Kumar Patel operates the Wigwam Motel, a clutch of 20 tepee-shaped rooms on Route 66 in San Bernardino. He has become a tireless promoter of the highway’s culture. He sees that as a way to keep the history of Route 66 alive and fill his motel rooms.

Now, as a 32-year-old entrepreneur, he stands out among the typical Route 66 merchants, who promote such roadside curiosities as a Paul Bunyon monument, a blue whale statue and the Petrified Forest National Park. Such sites now are operated and visited mostly by white, middle-aged travelers, whose numbers are dwindling.

Unless Patel and other Route 66 business owners can attract a younger and more diverse crowd, one that matches the evolving demographics of America, the shops and oddball attractions along the route will shut down for good.

“If it doesn’t happen, we are not going to keep all of this alive,” said Kevin Hansel, the caretaker of another struggling Route 66 business, Roy’s Motel and Cafe in Amboy. “It will be history.”

That history started in the 1920s, when the road was built to handle a surge in automobile ownership and a push by business owners to link the small towns and merchants of the Midwest to big cities. Route 66 became the nation’s main east-west artery.

In his novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck called it the “mother road” because it beckoned and delivered the refugees from the Dust Bowl exodus to jobs in California in the 1930s. Bobby Troup penned his biggest hit song, “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” in 1946.

But by the 1950s, the narrow, slow-moving route was replaced in pieces by multilane, interstate freeways, designed for high-speed travel. Federal workers removed the freeway markers and decommissioned Route 66 in 1985, effectively killing business for the jukebox-blasting diners and neon-rimmed motels.

Today, with the future of the Wigwam at stake, Patel has immersed himself in that history, driving Route 66 himself, stopping to chat with his fellow shopkeepers and travelers. He set out on a search for insight into how to promote his business but ended up with a more personal appreciation of the route’s culture.

“That’s what grew on me: The people who shared with me their stories of the road,” he said.

When the Wigwam Motel went on sale in 2003 for nearly $1 million, Patel’s father, an Indian immigrant who ran another small hotel in San Bernardino, saw it as a good investment. It has yet to pay off.

Like many Route 66 businesses, the Wigwam struggles to squeeze out enough money to pay for improvements. It took five years to save up to renovate the pool area. Last year, Patel was finally able to afford a full-time maid for the motel. Before then, Patel and his mother cleaned and changed sheets while selling souvenirs and booking rooms.

“We still run it on a thin line,” he said.

With the Wigwam’s success tied to Route 66, Patel has become a tireless promoter of its culture. He sees that as a way to keep the history of Route 66 alive and fill his motel rooms.

He set out recently on a drive to show off some of its peculiar attractions along California’s stretch of the 2,400-mile highway that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica. He started from a rundown roadside hotel in Needles, in the Mojave Desert near the Arizona border.

Stars twinkled in the darkness. The only sound was the hum of big rigs bouncing off the blacktop. The best way to experience the road, he said, is by driving east to west. It’s the way the Dust Bowl refugees saw it and later Midwesterners, heading for vacations in Los Angeles.

“On Route 66 you find real people, real food,” Patel said.

He rattled off history and trivia as the car zipped past telephone poles on National Trails Highway — the name now given to the portion of Route 66 that runs through much of the Mojave Desert.

A downed palo verde tree about half a mile outside of Amboy is called the “Shoe Tree” because it toppled under the weight of hundreds of shoes tossed on the branches by visitors. It’s a tradition that locals say was started by an arguing couple and continues today.

“The purists love this stuff because they don’t want to see things that are renewed,” Patel said. “They want to see the original stuff.”

Take tiny Amboy (population 17), once a bustling pit stop. Today, the only commerce happens at Roy’s Motel and Cafe. The cafe sells only soft drinks and snacks. The motel is closed because of a lack of water. The drop-off in business no longer makes it practical to ship in water by train. The ground has long been saturated with salt, making well water undrinkable.

Kevin Hansel, the caretaker, dreams of the day someone drills a well deep enough to reach drinkable water.

“Once we get the water, we can open the restaurant and the bungalows,” he said.

As Patel visited, about a dozen Volkswagen vans pulled in under the cafe’s giant boomerang-shaped sign. The VW road warriors were meeting at Roy’s before driving east to Lake Havasu.

Among them was retired welder Joe Stack, 71, of Costa Mesa. He has been taking this road trip for 10 years. When Stack’s daughter was a girl, she rode shotgun in his van.

But she is now 22 and not interested in the retro architecture of Route 66.

“Young kids don’t want to come out here,” he said, squinting in the morning sun. “Young kids are on a computer wearing their thumbs out.”

Route 66 travelers today have a median age of 55 and 97% are white, according to a 2011 study by David Listokin, a Rutgers University economics professor. Only 11% of the travelers on the road are ages 20 to 39, according to the study.

A few months ago, Listokin read the highlights of his study to a group of Route 66 business owners who met at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim to discuss the road’s future. Patel was there — among the few people in the room under age 40.

Patel stood at the front of the brightly colored Magic Kingdom Ballroom, urging his fellow Route 66 merchants to reach out to young travelers, the way he has done.

He hosted hip-hop, end-of-summer festivals at the Wigwam Motel, with DJs and strobe lights. During a recent Christmas, he threw a doughnut party and decorated the tepee-shaped motel rooms to look like Christmas trees. He’s volunteered his motel as a stop for a classic car show to raise money to restore a historic gas station in Rancho Cucamonga.

His work has won him the respect of older Route 66 advocates.

“We absolutely need that kind of thing that he is doing,” said Linda Fitzpatrick, 73, who is leading a campaign to restore the Needles Theater, a 1930s-era Masonic temple that was converted to a movie house.

Back on the road, just outside Barstow, Patel pulled up to an attraction known as “Bottle Tree Ranch.”

The forest of metal trees, adorned with colored bottles, was built by Elmer Long, a 67-year-old retired cement worker who, with his long white beard and floppy hat, looks like a ’49er-era gold prospector.

During the busy summer months, he said, his bottle trees draw as many as 1,000 visitors a day. But most of the visitors are international travelers. Each day, visitors leave Long a few dollars in a tip can.

“To them, the U.S. is a magical place,” he said, as traffic rushes past his ramshackle home.

The sky began to dim as Patel pulled up to the Wigwam Motel. His mother, who still helps Patel with the business, told him that two motel guests — young ones — were finishing a long road trip.

At the door of one of the tepees, Patel introduced himself to Emily Mills, 28, and her sister Anna, 25, from North Carolina. Emily Mills was starting a new job managing a Culver City restaurant. For the move west, the sisters decided on a Route 66 road trip.

They hit all the big stops, including the Cadillac Ranch, west of Amarillo, Texas, where junk Cadillacs have been thrust nose first into the earth. A few miles south of the ranch, the sisters stopped to see the statue of a giant pair of legs, more than 20 feet tall.

The Mills sisters also spent the night in another Wigwam Motel, in Holbrook, Ariz. — one of seven built across the country by architect Frank Redford. Only two Wigwams remain on Route 66.

“We wanted to tell our friends we slept in a wigwam and saw a giant pair of legs,” Emily Mills said as the sun set behind her tepee.

Guests like the Mills sisters are a good sign for the Wigwam, Patel said. Most Route 66 travelers zip through San Bernardino to reach the end of the route in Santa Monica, 78 miles away.

Patel can’t yet say when — or if — the Wigwam will ever become the moneymaker Patel’s father envisioned. But now he’s grown attached to the road, and sees himself as more than just a motel operator. Patel has become a curator of the Route 66 legend, a proud member of its cast of characters.

– By The Los Angeles Times

Outlook uncertain for Shea’s Museum, Joe Rogers Chili in Springfield

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on Outlook uncertain for Shea’s Museum, Joe Rogers Chili in Springfield
May 112014
 










Two Route 66 landmarks in Springfield face an uncertain future.
Hours at Shea’s Route 66 Museum, 2075 Peoria Road, ended following the 2012 death of founder Bill Shea Sr., whose name was synonymous with the museum and Route 66. Family members are considering what to do next.

A “closed for repairs” sign went up more than two weeks ago at Joe Rogers’ The Den Chili Parlor, 820 S. Ninth St.

Shea’s and Joe Rogers’ are fixtures in local, state and national tourism promotions of the Route 66 experience in Illinois. Both are on the Ninth Street-Peoria Road corridor that was among the routes followed through Springfield by the historic road.
“It’s such an important part of our marketing, including international marketing,” said Gina Gemberling, acting director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Gemberling said word of the uncertainty facing Shea’s spread quickly among Route 66 communities and preservation groups.
“They are continually asking us, ‘What’s going to happen toB?’” Gemberling said.

Considering options
“I hate for anything on Route 66 to close,” said Bill Shea Jr., who now watches over the Shea’s Route 66 Museum operated for decades by his father.
William “Bill” Shea Sr., who died in 2012 at age 91, was as much an attraction on Route 66 as his gas station-museum. The visitor logbook contained signatures from across the globe.

Dressed in his vintage Marathon attendant uniform, Shea walked visitors through life on Route 66 when the road was dotted by service stations that still checked oil and cleaned windshields, all night café-diners and neon-lit, mom-and-pop hotels.
He was inducted into the Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1993. The building is packed with Route 66 memorabilia.
Shea Jr. said the property went to probate court after his father’s death and that it could take until this fall to resolve legal issues. While regular hours ended in 2012, the younger Shea said he occasionally hosts special visitors. A group from Germany was scheduled to visit last week.

“I finished up all the appointments that he had,” said Shea, who is 65 and retired. “People were still coming by the bus loads.”
He said he has no specific plans for the museum while probate continues, but that there have been offers for pieces of his dad’s Route 66 collection. Shea said his preference is to keep the building and the collection together.
“I’d like to see it turned into a Route 66 visitors center,” said Shea, “and maybe have my dad’s name on it.”
There have been informal discussions, said Gemberling. But as with past ideas for a Route 66 visitor center, there is no money.
“It comes down to funding,” Gemberling said. “We know how important it is (Shea’s). We’d like to save it, but where are the dollars coming from?”

Joe Rogers’ The Den Chili Parlor has been closed for two weeks, with no indication of when, or if, it might reopen. Owners Ric and Rose Hamilton didn’t return calls requesting information about the status of the business.
Efforts to reach Marianne Rogers — daughter of Joe Rogers, who founded the chili parlor in 1945 — also were unsuccessful. Rogers has proprietary rights to the special spice blend used in the chili.

Emilio Lomeli knows a business can’t run on nostalgia alone.
Lomeli and his wife, Rosa, blended two Springfield greasy-spoon legends — The Coney Island and Sonrise Donuts — in 2012.
The Coney IslandSpringfield’s second-oldest restaurant — operated from the 100 block of North Sixth Street from 1919 to 2000. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum now occupies its original site.
The Lomelis moved the business to 1101 S. Ninth St., the home of Sonrise Donuts. The diner with its original Formica counter and red stools opened in 1947 as Springfield’s first doughnut shop with a coffee counter.
The hybrid — now known as Emilio’s New Coney Island — blends menus and motifs from both businesses, as well as the Lomelis’ own Mexican dishes.
“We try to keep the spirit of The Coney Island alive,” Lomeli said. “But we need the people to help us, keep coming. Many still don’t know we’re here. They’ll see me at the store and say, ‘When are you opening?’
“I’m open now.”

Lomeli said business has picked up a bit since The Den has been closed.
“We’re not really competition. Some people go there, some here,” he said. “I try to help them for now. Maybe they’ll go back when it reopens. We’ll wait and see what happens.”
Bill Klein is another person waiting.
He has spent the past two Saturdays discombobulated. The landmark chili parlor has been Klein’s Saturday lunch haunt for four decades.
“This has created a devastating hole in my Saturday because, as night follows day, I could be found at The Den on Saturday at noon,” he said. “I’ve watched kids grow up, talked about marriages. I send chili to my son in Tampa, (Fla.). When someone comes home for the holidays, it’s a tradition to go to Joe Rogers for chili.
“I hope they open soon.”

Pontiac ‘Hall of Fame’
Operators of the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum in Pontiac are among those watching Shea’s from afar.
The community is on a section of old Route 66 about 100 miles north of Springfield.
“We’d be honored to have some of the pieces in our museum,” said museum treasurer Martin Blitstein, who lives in Tinley Park. “They (the Shea family) are personal friends of ours and of the corridor.”

As in Springfield, said Blitstein, money is the issue. The Pontiac museum relies on donations, including for Route 66 collections. He said the museum drew at least 50,000 visitors in 2013.
Lillian Ford, owner of Ray’s Route 66 Family Diner in Sherman, said she could attest to the drawing power of Route 66.
“We have people from Australia, England, Ireland, Brazil and China,” said Ford. “They come from all over the world.”
Sherman is working on its own promotions of Route 66 connections, including a wayside park and exhibit at the north edge of the community.
“We get car and motorcycle tours,” Ford said. “There are so many things to make it popular. It’s the ‘Mother Road.’
Bill Shea Jr. said, in addition to resolving the probate case, he must have the museum property appraised before making decisions. But he said he remains hopeful of maintaining at least a piece of his father’s Route 66 legacy.
“I’d like to have it there in memory of my dad,” Shea said. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Route 66 landmarks
* Shea’s Route 66 Gas Station and Museum, 2075 Peoria Road: Named for Bill Shea. Shea, who was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1993, worked in the Springfield gas-station business for nearly 50 years before converting the Marathon station to a Route 66 museum. Regular hours ended following Shea’s death in 2012 at age 91.
* Joe Rogers’ Den Chili Parlor, 820 S. Ninth St. Joe Rogers opened the original chili parlor in 1945 at 1125 South Grand Ave. E. Became known for “Firebrand” chili and allowing customers to custom-order. Moved to Ninth Street location in 1997. Rogers family sold to current owners, Ric and Rose Hamilton, in 2008.

Sources: Illinois Route 66 Associaton; archives of The State Journal-Register

‘On the Third day of Christmas, Route 66 gave to me…’

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on ‘On the Third day of Christmas, Route 66 gave to me…’
Dec 142013
 

auburn-brick-road









The original Route 66 brick road in Auburn

I have traveled the Illinois section of Route 66 literally dozens and dozens of times. I am guilty of taking the section running along I-55 to St. Louis all the time and always bypassing the ‘other‘ route.

Boy I am glad I decided to go this way!

It is a 1.4 mile long piece of restored hand-laid brick road which was done in 1931 and it is placed over a concrete roadbed. The Illinois Route 66 Association keeps it up to good condition and to drive on it just puts you back into the 1930’s.

The great thing about it is you also get to go through other Route 66 towns which one would normally pass through and it is a must see for everyone who is driving the route in Illinois.

Also, it passes RIGHT in front of Becky’s Barn which I did have a chance to stop at and visit Becky and Rick and showed me around and talked shop – Check them out at http://www.beckysbarn.com

So next time you are planning a trip on the route in Illinois – take a moment and plan on hitting this historical part of Route 66!!

2013 Route 66 Cost-Share Preservation Awards Grants

 Missouri  Comments Off on 2013 Route 66 Cost-Share Preservation Awards Grants
Aug 162013
 






The National Park Service (NPS) Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program announced last week the awarding of six cost- share grants to assist with the restoration of significant historic properties along Route 66. The old Milan Motel, today known as the Kachina Country Trading Post, is one of the recipients, according to a press release from the National Park Service.

Grant funds will assist with the electrical rehabilitation of the trading post to address serious fire and other safety concerns. The private owner will match the $10,000 NPS grant with an equal amount.

The Milan Motel and Trading Post has a rich history on Route 66. The motel complex was built in 1947 by the Milan family, for which the town was named. The family also managed a booming carrot industry in the area, which became known as the “Carrot Capital of the United States.” Although a second story was added to the trading post in the 1970s, the motel and trading post retain much of their historic integrity today and are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Plumbing and electrical system issues have forced the closure of the motel units, but the trading post remains open today.

Long-term goals are to restore the motel units to operating condition.

Others recipients include: Hilltop Motel, Kingman, Ariz.; Vic Suhling Neon Sign, Litchfield, Ill.; DeCamp Junction, Staunton, Ill.; Santo Domingo Trading Post, Santo Domingo Pueblo, N.M.; and, Whiting Bros. Gas Station, Moriarty, N.M.

The cost-share grant program provides financial assistance for eligible historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative, and educational projects. Grants are offered through an annual, competitive grant-cycle.

Since the program’s inception in 2001, 114 projects have been awarded $1.6 million with $2.7 million in cost-share match, totaling $4.3 million in public-private investment toward the preservation and revitalization of the Route 66 corridor.

By Cibola Beacon

‘Mother Road’ Visitors Key to Putting Joliet on Tourist Map

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on ‘Mother Road’ Visitors Key to Putting Joliet on Tourist Map
Aug 152013
 




The Illinois 53 corridor plan calls for, among other things, creating attractions that would be “photo opportunities” luring Historic Route 66 travelers.

When you get right down to it, there are few day trip or weekend destination spots in Illinois other than Chicago, Galena and, maybe, Springfield.

But one untapped possibility, the magic key to the economic engine known as “tourism,” is right in Joliet’s back yard.
Some people refer to it as the “Mother Road.” Joliet folks know it better as Route 53, aka Historic Route 66.

Ten months ago, Ginkgo Planning & Design Inc. was hired to by Will County come up with a plan to turn the Illinois 53 corridor between Joliet and Braidwood into a magnet for day-trippers with money in their pockets and escapism on their minds.

What they’ve come up with was presented to the Joliet City Council’s Land Use Committee Wednesday, and is nearing the point at which it will be drafted into a blueprint for implementation, Ginkgo Principal Zerhat Zerin said.

It still lacks a name, but the working concept is “6 Stops on 66,” Zerin said.

“Just like we think of Door County (as a destination), we want to think of this as one place,” she said. “We have this challenge of how do we tie it all together?”

Essentially, the Orland Park firm, working with a steering committee of representatives from the communities along the route, cataloged the corridor’s “assets” and divided them into six areas.

The key to each is to establish a “photo opportunity” — something large, iconic or quirky that makes drivers want to stop and take their photo in front of it, Zerin said. Wilmington already has theirs with the Gemini Giant, the huge spaceman holding a silver rocket outside the now-closed Launching Pad Drive-In.

Think of a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln in front of letters spelling out “Mother Road” or maybe a dozen cars stacked on a spindle (similar to the now-gone Berwyn landmark) or set into the ground a la the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, Zerin said.

Joliet is the “North Gate” — the trip’s starting point and home to the Route 66 Visitors Center at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. Train overpasses under which Illinois 53 traffic drives could be painted to alert motorists that they are entering the historic corridor, Zerin said.

Other existing or potential attractions include Joliet’s Union Station and Brandon Lock and Dam, the Illinois & Michigan Canal and Wauponsee Glacial trails and a former quarry that could one day be used for zip-lining, cliff-climbing and other recreational uses, she said.

Another key destination would be Chicagoland Speedway, which draws as many as 150,000 visitors on race weekends but offers few reasons right now for people to stop otherwise, Zerin said. Speedway officials are very interested in working with the group to make it part of the Route 66 tour, she said.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood are two sites that have the potential to draw huge tourist numbers but currently are little known to people outside of the area, Zerin said.

Midewin will be adding bison to their grounds next year, she said, and that will be a great lure. Another would be a proposed lookout tower incorporating an existing pedestrian bridge giving visitors a panoramic view of the hundreds of acres of restored prairie, Zerin said.

It’s estimated the tower would cost $5 million, and officials at the Illinois Department of Transportation have already been briefed on the idea, she said.

“They did not say no,” she said. “That’s a good thing.”

The bottom line is as many as 30,000 people a year, many from foreign countries, seek out Historic Route 66 and follow it from Chicago to California, Zerin said. The goal now is to capitalize and expand on that, she said.

Kendall Jackson, the city’s director of planning and economic development, sits on the group’s steering committee. Many things, such as improved signage and painting the railroad overpasses, can be done relatively easily and for not a lot of money, he said

“A lot of these things are already in the works,” Jackson said. “I think that the crucial thing about this plan is that it ties all of these assets all together. I think this is a plan that has a really good chance of being implemented and working.”

By Karen Sorenson – Plainfield Patch

Cruise-In on the Route 66 Square

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on Cruise-In on the Route 66 Square
Jul 092013
 


 

 

 

 

Carlinville, IL
Saturday, July 27

A full day of fun on old Route 66 and the historic Carlinville Town Square!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cruise-In and Car show, 9 AM – 2 PM. Cars, trucks, motorcycles and antique tractors are welcome.
DJ and Live Entertainment. ‘ 50s – ‘ 60s Dress Contest. Many giveaways and prizes. 50/50 drawing, benefits the Carlinville schools.

Sidewalk sales and restaurants around the Square. Top it all off with an old-fashioned Ice Cream Social from 6-8 PM on the square, with a Municipal Band concert at 7 in the Town Gazebo.

Cruise-In $10 entrance fee, Car Show (judging) $15 fee. Fee enters you for door prizes. First 100 vehicles get gift bags and dash plaques. All car event profits benefit the Carlinville schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsored by the Macoupin County Cruisers and the Carlinville Chamber of Commerce.

For more information, contact dpickrel@idcag.org and info@kastengoodman.com.

And to keep up with all they are doing, check out and “Like” their Facebook page, Carlinville Illinois on old Route 66

Joliet takes hard look at soft-serve ice cream stand

 Illinois  Comments Off on Joliet takes hard look at soft-serve ice cream stand
Jul 082013
 




The Rich & Creamy ice cream stand has the historic Route 66 highway in front of it and the bucolic setting of an arboretum behind it.

But it also could have some trouble ahead as Joliet city officials begin to think about whether they want to put any money into the aging building they acquired in the early 2000s as part of the Broadway Greenway project.

Part-owner Bill Gulas, who started working at the stand 38 years ago, says it’s a good location, especially since the city of Joliet played up its place along the historic Route 66 highway.

“We’ve had people from Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium, England and Italy — all over the world. People come to do the Route 66 drive,” Gulas said Friday during an interview at his stand, at 920 N. Broadway.

The soft-serve ice cream stand has Route 66 signs around it and replicas of the Blues Brothers on top of it, coaxing travelers to visit an area that also includes information boards describing Joliet attractions and history.

The neighborhood business is good, too, Gulas said. And the city helped when it built a kiddie park nearby.

And this is from an earlier article I found:

There will be no eviction for the owners of Rich & Creamy, the ice cream stand on Broadway Street/Route 53 with the iconic Blues Brothers figures dancing on its roof.

In May, the city of Joliet obtained a court order that told operators Bill Gulas and Richard Lodewegen they would be evicted if they could not put a substantial dent in the nearly $18,000 they owed in back rent.

Since then, City Manager Tom Thanas told the Joliet City Council Monday, they’ve done far more than that. Not only did they make a $6,000 down payment on the arrearage, they’ve started to make double payments on their $1,210 monthly rent, he said.

If they continue, they will be caught up on what they owe by year’s end, Thanas said.

“We did have an option of looking at eviction but we thought keeping the store in business and not trying to find another operator made more sense,” he said. “It’s a good location.”

Gulas and Lodenwagen have a 30-year lease with the city, which acquired the 920 N. Broadway site when it was creating the Broadway Greenway in the 1990s and decided to keep the business as an amenity rather than tear it down, Thanas said.

Since then, it’s become one of the local highlights for people who follow what used to be Route 66, the cross-country roadway that once linked Chicago and Los Angeles. Next to the ice cream stand is a small city park area and parking lot.

In May, Gulas said things had been going well for the business until it was felled by a one-two punch in the last few years.

“A couple years back, the economy went bad and business took a hit,” Gulas said. “When July (2012) hit, (Joliet) closed the Ruby Street Bridge and that hit us harder than even the economy.”

Although things appear to be on more solid footing, Thanas told the council the building in which the ice cream stand is located is not in great shape and it may not be worth the city investing a lot more money into it.

“It’s an old building,” Thanas said. “It needs a new roof. It needs some other improvements that we, the city, would be responsible for. We’ve patched it along the best we can and we’ll continue doing that, but we don’t think that site merits a lot of investment of city dollars at this point.”

Also of concern is the building’s close proximity to the street, making it potentially dangerous to pedestrians and drivers.

“At some point in the future we’re going to have look at a better solution to this,” Thanas said.

Ladd resigns from Lincoln Tourism Bureau

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on Ladd resigns from Lincoln Tourism Bureau
Apr 282013
 






LINCOLN – Geoff Ladd, the executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday.

“After nearly eight years with the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, I have decided to pursue exciting new employment opportunities. I am looking forward to helping the bureau during this transition phase for their organization,” wrote Ladd in an email.

“Tourism remains a vital part of the local economy, and I am pleased that over the last several years we have seen a growth in the hotel tax revenue by over 30%, which means more and more people are coming to visit for the events, sports tournaments and daily attractions we have to offer. I want to thank all my board members past and present, my staff, my industry colleagues, and all our great volunteers. I also want to issue special thanks to Larry Van Bibber, who through his philanthropic efforts brought the World’s Largest Covered Wagon to Lincoln,” continued Ladd.

“Work still continues on The Mill on 66 restoration project, which is owned by the Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County, and I will continue to be a part of that organization. This is an important project, and when fully restored and opened as a museum the attraction will be any even bigger tourism draw to Lincoln and Logan County,” said Ladd.

Tourism board member Ron Keller said Ladd announced his departure which shocked the group.

“It was a surprise and a shock,” said Keller.

“When Geoff took over the bureau was in a huge deficit and the tourism bureau didn’t have the respect by other organizations in the county. Since then he turned the deficit into a surplus by connecting with other tourism agencies and enhanced the Route 66 heritage that Lincoln has,” said Keller.

Keller said with the recent news of the City of Lincoln wanting to take control over the bureau it played a role in his departure.

“I think it had an affect on Geoff and I didn’t expect this to happen,” said Keller.

On an upbeat note Keller said he would still support Ladd’s future endeavors.

“I applaud his effort and wish him only the best,” said Keller.

During Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting alderman Tom O’Donoghue and Melody Anderson said they had completed the expectations of the tourism bureau in order for the City to continue funding the tourism programs. More discussion on the tourism topic will take place at the May 14 meeting.

When called for details Ladd was silent about his future.

“I sent that out to the media and that is pretty much all I have to say at this point,” said Ladd.

He did stress that he will be living and working in the Lincoln area.

City’s Route 66 hub will be uncovered

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on City’s Route 66 hub will be uncovered
Apr 182013
 





Route 66 tourism has become a multimillion dollar business in this country, and thanks to a small group of local historians and city officials, Edwardsville is working to raise awareness on a national and international level. Below are some of the ways Edwardsville will showcase its Route 66 heritage this year.


Route 66 Experience Hub

For several weeks motorists at the corner of Schwarz and West Streets have wondered about the mysterious structure beneath a large blue tarp at the side of the road. Saturday morning at 11 a.m. the cover will be removed for all to see. A Route 66 Experience Hub, one of only 13 in Illinois, will be revealed at the site of the former Idlewood Tourist Camp, a favorite stop for tourists and locals along Route 66.

The public is invited to attend the dedication. Area residents with vintage vehicles that may have driven Route 66 are encouraged to bring their restored vehicles. Brief remarks by Mayor Gary Niebur and William Kelly, director of Illinois Scenic Byway, will be followed by a ribbon cutting and unveiling of the new Route 66 Experience Hub.

Awareness of the Edwardsville Route 66 experience will be raised thanks to the work of City Planner Scott Hanson, Alderman Barb Stamer, the Historic Preservation Commission and other city officials who worked with the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway to design panels for the structure and bring the Route 66 Experience Hub to Edwardsville. Edwardsville is the sixth city along the route to install their exhibit.

The design of the structure was influenced by the fins of 1950s era automobiles. Attached to the “fin” are three panels, a large map showing the path of Route 66 through Illinois and two smaller panels showing local and regional attractions and Route 66 history. While reading about the Route 66 experience in Edwardsville, visitors can listen to Bobby Troup’s “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.”

The experience hubs also feature a tactile station where visitors can make a pencil rubbing of a design unique to each city. In Edwardsville the design is the Centennial Monument in City Park.

 

Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame

This week word was received that Edwardsville’s nomination of George Cathcart for the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame has been accepted. In 1922 George Cathcart and his wife purchased the Joseph Hotz house at 454 E. Vandalia in Edwardsville and opened it as a tourist home. Two years later, Cathcart built a modest hamburger stand next door at 456 E. Vandalia. As business grew, he expanded the building to include a large restaurant and grocery.

Cathcart’s Café became a popular stop along Route 66. The café building no longer exists, but the house just west of it that most recently housed the Galleria Hearth and Home, has been beautifully preserved. The Cathcarts later built tourist cabins next door to the house, some of which still exist. In the early 1930s the Cathcart Tourist Home and Cabins were sold to the Goddard family who rented rooms to Route 66 travelers for many years.

Cathcart was important to Edwardsville’s story of Route 66 not only because of his businesses, but because he led a successful fight in 1938 against state plans to move Route 66 away from Edwardsville’s business district.

 

Route 66 Festival

The 16th annual Edwardsville Route 66 Festival will kick off on June 6 with a sock hop and continue on Friday night and Saturday, June 7 and 8, with events in City Park. Classic cars, music, great food and family fun have proved to be a winning combination for the festival. The event is drawing people from an ever widening geographic circle of Route 66 fans. A full schedule of events will be published closer to the dates of the event visit www.edwardsvilleroute66.com.

 

New Route 66 Heritage Posters

Members of HPC along with designer Sherrie Hickman of Creative Options Graphic Design are creating posters reflecting the history of ten different Edwardsville buildings along Route 66 (now Route 157). The posters will be on display at the Route 66 Festival and in the store front windows of businesses interested in promoting their Route 66 history. A bright blue Route 66 shield will draw visitors to the buildings.

 

Writing About Route 66 in Edwardsville

Local author and historian Cheryl Eichar Jett has been spreading the word about Edwardsville’s Route 66 story through articles in regional Route 66 publications. During the past year she has written “Along Route 66,” a monthly column in the Prairieland Buzz covering Route 66 in Montgomery, Macoupin and Madison counties, and written specifically about Edwardsville in magazines for the Illinois and Missouri Route 66 Associations. She is the author of two books on the old highway, “Route 66 in Madison County” and “Route 66 in Springfield.” Jett also authored the successful Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame application for George Cathcart.

Until now, Edwardsville has not had a high profile in tourist publications describing historic Route 66. Fortunately, that situation is being remedied by folks with a love for America’s Mother Road and pride in Edwardsville’s heritage.

By Cindy Reinhardt – Intelligencer

Atlanta IL to host Electric Vehicle Cruise-In on Route 66

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on Atlanta IL to host Electric Vehicle Cruise-In on Route 66
Apr 152013
 





ATLANTA — A motorist traveling Route 66 in 1926, the year the highway was officially commissioned, might have had trouble finding a gas station.

“If you wanted gas for your automobile, you had to go to the local hardware or grocery store,” said Bill Thomas, director of the Atlanta Betterment Fund. “You would find a single gas pump the owner had put in to make a little cash.”

Times evolved to the point where automobile traffic increased and service stations were born — and historians point to the Original Mother Road as one of the reasons.

Now, Thomas says, Route 66 is poised to help create the next big transportation infrastructure development: charging stations for electric vehicles. Thomas believes Route 66 can once again lead the way.

With that in mind comes Illinois’ First Electric Vehicle Cruise-In, scheduled 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 8 in Atlanta.

“It is a different spin on an old tradition,” said Joe Mikulecky, chairman of the Bloomington-Normal EVTown Task Force, which is assisting Thomas. “It should be a lot of fun and should draw attention to the goal of creating more charging stations along the Route 66 corridor.”

Thomas said discussion about an electric vehicle cruise-in started about two years ago.

Normal is doing a wonderful job of promoting electric vehicles and we really hope that this event will take it a step further for our efforts,” he said.

According to Mikulecky, there are 140 electric vehicle owners in the Central Illinois area; 18 charging stations will be available at the cruise-in for no fee. All electric and hybrid car owners are invited. There will be hourly door prize drawings, vintage music, food and information on how Atlanta is working to establish charging stations along Route 66.

“Everybody is invited no matter what they drive, but what I would really like to see is some thing different,” he said. “In the early 1900s, there were vehicles that had to be recharged. I am not sure exactly how it worked, but it would be fascinating to see something like that at the event.”

By Kevin Barlow – Pantagraph