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

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.

Oct 022012
 






Joliet has really stepped up its game in realizing Route 66 is an important part of it’s town…

An illuminated, interactive “hub” directing visitors to Route 66 tourism sites in downtown Joliet will be erected sometime this fall, Assistant City Manager Ben Benson said.

The kiosk is already in hand and it’s likely location will be somewhere along Ottawa Street, near the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center, Benson said.

“Many consider Joliet the gateway to Route 66 through Illinois,” he said. “The need we have is to help direct people to visit local attractions.”

The three-part display is one of about 20 that will be installed in towns that dot the “Mother Road” across Illinois, now designated and Illinois Scenic Byway. The idea is for drivers following the historic trail to stop in towns along the way to learn about the road’s history and what Route 66-related sites each municipality has to offer.

Hundreds of people take the Route 66 journey every year, starting at Buckingham Fountain in Chicago and following the highway sections that remain all the way to Los Angeles. Route 66 was one of the first cross-country interstates in the U.S. Highway system, officially opening on Nov. 11, 1926, and formally removed on June 27, 1985.

Berwyn is the first town to put up their commemorative kiosk, and more will be rolled out over the next year in towns such as Wilmington, Lincoln, Pontiac and Carlinville.

Joliet’s display is being funded with a grant from Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the city will use on-staff workers to do the installation and a local electrical company to hook up the wiring, Benson said.

There has been some debate about where Joliet’s sign should go given that southbound Route 66 follows what is now Route 53/Chicago Street through the city. At one point it was to go in at Bicentennial Park because the Heritage Corridor tourism office located there. Ultimately, however, it was decided the best location was near the Route 66 Visitors Center, where most making the pilgimage are likely to stop, Benson said.

Karen Sorensen – Joliet Patch

Oct 142011
 



The honeymooners from Spain spoke limited English, but that didn’t stop Mayor Bob Russell from giving them a hearty welcome to his community.

“How long have you been here?” Russell asked, posing for a snapshot with the newlyweds by a giant Route 66 mural before moving on to greet a busload of French tourists.

“There are visitors on the street all day long,” he said, smiling. “This has brought new life to our community.”

While many small towns across the country are struggling to keep their downtowns afloat, Pontiac and a string of other Illinois communities scattered along the famed Route 66 are enjoying newfound popularity as foreign tourists roll in by rental car, motorcycle and bus.

The visitors come from Armenia and Ukraine with cameras around their necks, road maps in hand and money in their pockets. They tell locals they heard about the highway on international travel programs and read about it in guide books. Some catch an all-night flight to Chicago, skipping the downtown attractions to head out on the “Mother Road.”

“In Europe, it’s very much the epic American road trip,” said Sonny Dudes, a 31-year-old resident of the United Kingdom who pulled a rental car up to a visitor center housed in a restored Texaco gas station in Dwight on a recent afternoon. “It’s the novelty of a bygone era.”

And the homegrown tourism efforts are getting results. Shops in downtown Pontiac, for example, report an 8 percent increase in business over last year. The number of visitors has grown from 6,900 in 2008 to more than 15,000 so far this year, with representation from 84 countries, according to tourism officials.

The foreign interest gratifies boosters such as John Weiss, a resident of nearby Custer Park who has spent 15 years, he said, encouraging Route 66 communities to play up their ties to the road for their own survival. Weiss says he has sold more than 10,000 copies of his book, “Traveling the New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois,” many out of the trunk of his car.

“It’s so rewarding,” he said. “They’ll take pictures of our cornfields and our soybeans. They spend thousands of dollars just to come here — it’s their dream.”

Anyone familiar with the old Bobby Troup song knows that people get their kicks on Route 66, which ran 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. The 85th anniversary of the roadway’s designation is Nov. 11.

The storied highway began as 300 miles of uninterrupted paved road in Illinois in 1926. By the early 1930s, the entire distance was paved, prompting business owners along the path to create kitschy gimmicks — giant statues, Indian trading posts and neon signs — to entice drivers to stop and spend money, Weiss said.

The construction of Interstate 55 in Illinois replaced the need for Route 66, and in 1977, the roadway was taken off official state maps. Communities began losing touch with its history. Former attractions turned into storage buildings. Once-bustling gas stations fell into disrepair.

Even so, Route 66 consistently drew throngs of visitors each year, and it remains one of the state’s top tourist attractions, said Jan Kostner, state travel director for Illinois’ Office of Tourism.

Last month, more than 50,000 people from 30 countries stopped in Springfield for the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival, she said.

Recognizing the untapped market, Joliet tourism officials in 2006 spent $150,000 in state grant money and city funding to create attractions. They added furniture from the 1950s and ’60s and Blues Brothers statues to the visitors center at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. A neon sign went up on the Rich & Creamy ice cream parlor along the route’s path.

Joliet leaders posted Route 66 signs, printed maps and renovated a parking lot near the Joliet Correctional Center — made famous in the movie “The Blues Brothers” — where tourists often stopped to take pictures.

“They’d been coming through here and we just didn’t have a system for guiding and directing it,” said Rebecca Barker, media and communications manager for Visit Joliet.

About the same time, Weiss and his late wife, Lenore, approached leaders in communities along the former Route 66 path, encouraging them to showcase historic places such as the two-cell jail in Gardner and the iconic Standard Oil Filling Station in Odell.

“All these little towns, they don’t have tourism directors, they don’t have big budgets,” Weiss said. “And yet thousands of people drove by every day.”

By October 2006, leaders from 12 communities from Joliet to Towanda agreed to do whatever they could — repaint, add audio narration, post new signs — to promote Route 66 attractions. Clustered along 90 miles of the highway, the towns coined a name designed to promote their offerings collectively: “The Red Carpet Corridor.”

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

Mar 232011
 



Illinois’ 32nd governor, William Stratton, stayed there. Rumor has it that rock star Eddie Van Halen did too.

Today it’s predominately a place for business personnel to attend conferences for the nearby nuclear plants and for refinery tradesmen. But this place also gets frequented by casino clients, race fans and out-of-town guests of Channahon, Minooka and Joliet residents.

Located along the Route 66 alignment in Channahon, Manor Motel has offered travel-weary motorists a comfortable and affordable place to spend the night since 1954.

It all began in 1946 when Walt Anderson, a masonry contractor, bought land and had a vision to build the motel. A year later there was a unit constructed, followed by several others, until the motel officially opened in 1954. Anderson ran the motel until the late 1970s.

“This place is built like a bomb shelter,” said current owner Prakash Silveri, referring to the motel’s structure.

Silveri is the third owner of the motel. He took over the business from Jeff Kowalski in 1998. His current focus is updating all 77 guest rooms, the motel lobby and lounge area. Fresh paint, furniture, carpet and bedding are complete in 52 rooms.

“I want to bring it up to style and get a modern look,” Silveri said.

Rooms with bigger desks are reserved for corporate personnel or job superintendents who need the extra desk space to complete paperwork and other job-related matters, Silveri said.

There are 30 large, spacious — 20-by-14-foot rooms— with 40 king-size bedrooms. Rooms cost between $50 to $60 a night. Jacuzzi rooms run $89.95 during the week and up to $99.95 a night on the weekends. Free, high-speed Internet is offered to all customers.

Virtual tours and information is provided on the motel’s Web site.

Besides the corporate customers, casino clientele and race fans tend to book a room at the Manor Motel because it is close to where they are going for entertainment, Silveri said.

The motel is close to Channahon State Park and to neighboring Joliet, which hosts several events, including Rialto Square Theatre shows and future Joliet Slammers baseball games.

The Hollywood Casino is near Channahon and Rockdale. Harrah’s Hotel and Casino is in downtown Joliet. Chicagoland Speedway hosts NASCAR events and the Indy Racing League, while Route 66 Raceway, next door features National Hot Rod Association events on its drag strip.

Discounts to larger groups are available. Silveri said he has worked with customers and provided discounts for weddings and family reunions. Reasonable, extended-stay rates also are available.

Manor Motel has a concrete pool with radiant heat and underwater lighting but is closed until further notice.

Although Silveri is focused on pouring money into completing the remodeling of the guest rooms, he would like to reopen the pool in the future. The additional expense currently is too much in this economy.

Back in its heyday, the motel pool was used by the Channahon Park District for swimming lessons. Anderson’s son, Carl, recalls the village approaching his father and requesting to use the pool.

“I remember doing maintenance work around the motel grounds and every hour, 20 to 30 kids would be coming in,” Anderson said. “They were coming in by the busloads. It was something for the kids in the community to do.”

Anderson, who still lives down the street from the motel, said his father also built Manor Inn, a restaurant, in 1953.

“The restaurant had a coffee shop, cocktail lounge, dining area,” Anderson said. “It was a pretty classy diner.”
Anderson said his father had a strict dress code for the restaurant on Saturday nights. After 6 p.m., proper attire was required. Men had to wear suits, or they were not allowed to dine.

“I remember a couple of men coming to the restaurant on a Saturday expecting to be served wearing Bermuda shorts,” Anderson said. “My father was pretty rigid, and he turned them away.”

Today the historic building houses Ivo’s Express Bar & Grill. That is where Silveri refers his hungry clients to dine.

Silveri attempted a continental breakfast bar in the past, but some customers were inconsiderate and didn’t clean up after themselves very well. He said he may explore the idea again once the remodeling is completed.

In 1954, Walt Anderson also built a Sinclair gas station and a liquor store across the street from the motel.

“Pops had to build them,” Anderson said. “People needed it”

Silveri plans to preserve the history of the motel through brochures. After he has several framed, he wants to display them in each motel room.

Manor Motel will be remembered by photos and people recalling stories or their visits. And thanks to Silveri, he, too, is keeping the history of Manor Motel alive.

By Vanessa Holloway

Feb 012011
 

It is all about family fun on the most famous road in America – Route 66. This year’s Red Carpet Corridor Festival will take place on Saturday, May 7, from 8 AM to 5 PM, and Sunday, May 8, from 8 AM to 3 PM. Sponsored by the twelve communities which make up the 90-mile linear museum from Joliet to Towanda, the annual festival invites everyone to experience the good life in the slow lane.

Each community will produce its own events. From full-blown festivals to antique and craft sales, art sales, car and motorcycle shows, live entertainments, and plenty of yard, garage, and sidewalk sales along the way, everyone is sure to discover something unique. New this year is the Red Carpet Corridor Passport. Inside the passport are listings with information about each individual town’s weekend events. Travelers can pick up their passport at their first stop and then have their passport stamped in each of the towns they visit.

Food, snacks and treats will be in abundance, and there are plenty of historic sites, outstanding free museums and unique mom & pop businesses to help create a nostalgic journey for all to enjoy. Visitors can simply enjoy the drive, or stop and get out of the car to paint a mural, have their picture taken with Elvis, or do a little shopping in any of the great stores along the Mother Road.

For more information, visit the website at www.il66redcarpetcorridor.org
Or contact Ellie Alexander: (815) 944-5847 or email: tourism@pontiac.org.