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

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.

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 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 RoadsideAmerica.com. 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.