15 minutes in Dwight: Ambler-Becker gas station on Route 66

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on 15 minutes in Dwight: Ambler-Becker gas station on Route 66
Jun 242016
 

Ambler Becker Station - Dwight










Dwight’s restored Texaco station, on popular Old U.S. Route 66, comes to life each year in May. More than 60 volunteers take shifts here, meeting curious motorists from around the world. The following account covers approximately 15 minutes in the lube bay, the office and the old pumps out front.

Ding! A visitor wants to make sure that little black hose works, the one that used to announce a car pulling into a gas station. They don’t need those now at self-service stations.

A driver from the Czech Republic wanted to talk about Donald Trump. A film editor and a sound engineer from Rome talked of creating a movie about their experience. They plan to post it online.

“We want to discover the old America, the real America,” said Luigi Mearelli, 39. “We spent three years planning this vacation.”

Ding! Florian Niederhuber, 33, of Munich, was assisted by volunteer Alex McWilliams. The hosts always ask visitors to place a pin in one of their maps, marking the hometowns of each visitor.

The pins from 2015 were removed, but the European map already was filling up. The U.S. map was busier than expected. You could see other pins in Japan, New Zealand and parts of the African continent.

“We have had visitors come in and discover that they live only 10 miles apart in Germany,” McWilliams said. “I guess they wound up traveling together the rest of the way to California.”

Ding! It seems like like most of the motorists here are coming from Chicago and heading for an overnight stay in Springfield. This stop usually includes photos out front and questions about the next stop, usually in Pontiac.

On this day, the station was missing its celebrity attendant, Paul Roeder, of Kankakee. He wears a Texaco attendant’s uniform and surprises guests with another part of history. There really was a guy who pumped your gas and cleaned the windshield.

Attention always shifts back to the driveway here. The next couple rode up on a motorcycle dressed up to look like a 1957 Chevy. And the trailer it pulled was also tricked out like that Chevy icon.

Ding!

By Dennis Yohnka – Daily Journal

Ace Sign Co. restoring iconic Bel-Aire ‘Sputnik’ for local museum

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Ace Sign Co. restoring iconic Bel-Aire ‘Sputnik’ for local museum
May 182015
 

sputnik-sign







Sputnik will twinkle again. Crews from Ace Sign. Co. of Springfield removed the iconic satellite over the weekend from its decades’-long perch atop the soon-to-be-demolished Bel-Aire Motel building.

The fiberglass ball of spikes, frayed wires and burned-out, multi-colored bulbs was in pieces Monday on a warehouse floor at the Ace Sign headquarters, 2540 S. First St.

Plans are to restore Sputnik for inclusion in a company museum of vintage Springfield signs.
We spoke with the owners, and they were very gracious,” said Dennis Bringuet, president of Ace Sign Co. “We told them we had a little museum here, and we were just getting started. They thought it would be a nice home for it and donated it.”
The last of the residents moved out of the Bel-Aire, 2636 S. Sixth St., early this year. The property is scheduled for demolition as part of settlement with the city of chronic code violations.

Sputnik won’t be ready for Tuesday’s dedication of an Ace Sign Co. museum through Local First Springfield, a shop-local business organization. The museum resulting from 75 years in the sign business is a neon who’s who of the city’s retail-commercial history from The Hub clothing store downtown to Reisch Brewery.
The best guess, according to the Bringuet family, was that Sputnik went up at the Bel-Aire in the early 1960s. Sputnik signs’ were common across the country as a way of grabbing traveler attention in the years after the former Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, into space in 1957.

After years of neglect and exposure to the elements, restoring Sputnik to its twinkling, multi-color glory likely will take a little creative tinkering, according to Bringuet.
“The electronics are antiquated,” he said. “The flasher made all the bulbs twinkle. They’d all come off and on at different times. We may have to do some searching to try to find that device.”
“Flashers aren’t used these days. A lot of municipalities have outlawed flashing signs.”

Sputnik completes an orbit in the sign business for Bringuet’s parents, Joe and Louise. The sign museum is named in their honor.
Joe Bringuet recalled installation of the original wooden and metal signs at the Bel-Aire, followed a few years later by Sputnik. He said the then-Bel-Aire owners purchased the Sputnik from a manufacturer in California.
“They made them as a specialty. They had salesmen on the road that would really target motels,” he said. “That (Sixth Street) was city Route 66.”
The Springfield Sputnik, said Bringuet, was a low-end model for its time. More expensive models, he said, would rotate. Bringuet also recalled seeing the real Sputnik in the skies over central Illinois in 1957. Historians credit the launch of Sputnik 1 with kicking off the space race and the eventual U.S. landing on the moon.
“In the evening, right at sundown,” said Bringuet, “it would shine on the bottom side of Sputnik, as it took its orbital flight around the world. You could sit in the yard and see it, because it wasn’t real high.”

Ace also installed a large, metal sign on the roof and a wooden “town crier” sign on the lawn of the Bel-Aire.
“It had a colonial man with a colonial hat,” said Joe Bringuet. “He had three bells on a flasher, and the bells would go up and down with an arm that would go with it. It was pretty neat for its time.”
Joe, 85, and Louise, 86, continue to work five days a week at the company now headed by their son. Louise Bringuet’s parents, Franklin and Alvina Horn, started Ace Sign Co. in 1940 with one truck and a handful of paintbrushes, according to a company history. Early company signs are part of the museum.

Joe Bringuet does much of the vintage-sign restoration work, while Louise works in the front office. Both said they had no plans to retire.
“There’s nothing to do at home but work,” Louise said with a smile.
In Joe’s case, 2015 marks 65 years at the company.
“She’s the boss’s daughter, and it was job security,” he said. “I married her.”
His next restoration, a vintage Anheuser-Busch neon sign, is in the works, said Joe, who speaks with detailed enthusiasm about his projects.
Why sit at home on the porch waiting to die,” he said, “when we can die here.”

By Tim Landis – The State Journal-Register

Route 66 to welcome nine new statues in Illinois

 Daily, Illinois  Comments Off on Route 66 to welcome nine new statues in Illinois
Aug 312014
 

IL-route66-small








Shadows of the past already line Route 66, but the historic highway is about to gain nine more.

This year, a silhouette of Shirley Temple drinking a soda at an old Elkhart cafe and a figure of a Gillespie miner will appear among the collection of memorable stops along the Mother Road. The Illinois Route 66 National Scenic Byway has introduced iron silhouette statues depicting moments from history at nine Illinois communities along the highway.
Locally, Sherman in Sangamon County, Elkhart in Logan County, as well as Benld, Staunton and Gillespie in Macoupin County are preparing to install the interpretive statues.

Bill Kelly, executive director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, said the initiative will allow tourists to create connections with the towns along the route through the visuals. The interpretive statues will help visitors imagine the dancers on the floor at the dance hall in Benld and visualize the children at a wayside park in Sherman.
“What they’re looking for is a unique experience,” Kelly said. “It strikes a mythic chord with people. … It’s the most famous road in the world, and people are looking for their own experiences.”

The Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program and the Illinois Office of Tourism funded the roughly $130,000 project. Each silhouette comes with an informational kiosk that gives a glimpse of the town’s history. Kelly said he’d like to see all of the exhibits on display by the end of 2014.

Memorable moments
While the grant money paid for the statues, the individual communities are responsible for installation costs. Many are still trying to determine display locations and ribbon-cutting days.
Elkhart, for its part, is trying to raise $500 to pay for the concrete that will help support its 300-plus-pound Shirley Temple statue.
Peggy Lee, an alderman in Elkhart, said the town’s exhibit focuses on the restaurant stops there during the 1930s and ’40s. The silhouette of Temple and a waitress commemorates the iconic actress’ stop at the House by the Side of the Road Cafe in 1938. She had used Route 66 on her way to Springfield for the “Little Miss Broadway” movie premiere.

“The owner of the cafe roped off the place where she had eaten, and no one ever sat there again,” Lee said.
Benld’s statue features dancers from the Coliseum Ballroom, which burned in 2011. During the Route 66 era, the ballroom was known as the biggest dance floor between Chicago and St. Louis, as well as a hot spot for gambling and bootlegging. The dance floor welcomed large crowds and, at the height of its popularity, hosted musicians such as Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, and Ike and Tina Turner.

In Sherman, the statue of two children sitting at a picnic table highlights something many have forgotten. John Swinford, village administrator, said Sherman is home to one of Route 66’s last remaining wayside parks. While the space today is empty land with a flag pole, the park once welcomed crowds needing a place for lunch as they traveled the famed highway.
“It’s nostalgic, kind of, with two kids sitting at a picnic table as you might have found back in the day,” Swinford said. “Just to kind of point to the fact to remind people how it used to (be) before there was Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s on every corner.”

‘Part of road’s DNA’
The silhouette of a miner in Gillespie identifies how the town began.
Councilman Dave Tucker said towns like Gillespie popped up around mines. His town only had four years on Route 66, a fact hardly noted in town history or old newspapers. Most people in Gillespie walked to work and didn’t use the highway. Yet Kelly noted that the coal that came from these pop-up towns used the Mother Road extensively.
“Coal is part of the road’s DNA,” Kelly said.

The Staunton statue portrays the Illinois Traction System, also known as streetcars.
Bill Bechem, who served on a committee for developing the Staunton statue, said both streetcars and the highway took a hit with the evolution of transportation. Streetcars eventually became obsolete with the use of personal cars, just as the interstate highway system robbed Route 66 of its travelers.
“My thoughts were that the streetcar was kind of a rise and decline that was similar to Route 66, and both suffered when Interstate 55 came,” he said.

While nostalgia for Route 66 has declined locally, international tourists still embrace the old pavement. Swinford said it’s not uncommon to see a visitor taking a picture of their feet standing on the old concrete. It always amazes him that European tourists leave behind structures more than 1,000 years old to take pictures of 80-year-old pavement.
He hopes the statues along the Illinois corridor bring a little more tourism but also a little more local awareness.
“There are a great number of people in this community that just don’t remember or know how much of Route 66 they have,” Swinford said of Sherman’s wayside park. “Some people don’t even recognize that park was part of Route 66. That really is America’s Main Street, and it is such a vital part of our town.”

By Maggie Menderski – The State Journal Register

Ciesler family sad to see Bel-Aire Motel deteriorate

 Illinois  Comments Off on Ciesler family sad to see Bel-Aire Motel deteriorate
May 302014
 










Whenever Sandra Brunner returns from Montana to her hometown of Springfield for a visit, if she must pass the Bel-Aire Motel, she looks the other way.

Whenever Sandra Brunner returns from Montana to her hometown of Springfield for a visit, if she must pass the Bel-Aire Motel, she looks the other way.
The Bel-Aire, 2636 S. Sixth St., is different things to different people. Some think of it as home, at least temporarily. People who don’t know it’s a mess think of it as a Route 66 attraction with cool neon and the Sputnik flying overhead. But most of us think of it as a rundown eyesore and breeding ground for crime.

For Sandra, the Bel-Aire means family. Her father, Charles Ciesler, built it. Sandra and her family had great times there when she was a little girl. She and her cousin, Chuck Ciesler of Springfield, have watched with dismay the deterioration of the motel that has taken place since 1986, when the family sold it to Gopal Motwani, absentee co-owner who lives in Florida.
“I saw (the Bel-Aire) start to go downhill two weeks after it was sold,” Chuck Ciesler says. “That’s when they let a bunch of the maids go.”

The exact date when the Cieslers opened the Bel-Aire Manor Motel is at least temporarily lost to history. We have a file of stories on it that date back to the 1960s, but if we ever printed a story when the Bel-Aire opened, it’s not there. The Sangamon Valley Collection, repository of local history, doesn’t have one either. And the closest the Cieslers can pin it down is 1949 or 1950.
The first appearance of the Bel-Aire Manor Motel in any Springfield City Directory is 1951, so it had to open in late 1949 or sometime in 1950.
It began as a collection of small cabins and grew from there. Charles Ciesler and his brother, Emil, had greater plans for the motel. In 1966, Emil attended a meeting of the Springfield City Council with blueprints for an $870,000 construction project that would make the Bel-Aire a six-story motel with 64 rooms, a restaurant, bar and convention facilities.
Though it was not within the city limits of Springfield at that time, the Cieslers had to go before the council because zoning laws that covered the perimeter of the city imposed a height limit on buildings.
At the council meeting, the Cieslers were given the OK for an 85-foot height limit on the Bel-Aire. I don’t know why they never followed through with those plans, but they didn’t. Charles and Emil have died, taking the explanation with them.
The Bel-Aire won a national reputation because of its Route 66 connection, a reputation that lingers today since most travelers down the highway don’t know what it has become. Which leads us back to Sandra Brunner, Charles Ciesler’s daughter.
“I remember my mom, 60-some years ago, would clean the cabins,” she says. “She would take me along in a little wagon, all bundled up. There was a gas station out front and a little bar not far from the motel.”

“After my dad sold it, it went right down. Every time I come home from Montana and have to drive there, I cringe. It used to be such a beautiful place. There was not a piece of litter in that parking lot back then.”
Now, the Bel-Aire is the butt of jokes. People post satirical reviews of it on Web-based travel sites.
The city of Springfield has been dealing with the deterioration of the Bel-Aire under Motwani’s ownership for more than 20 years. Mayor Tim Davlin wanted the city to buy it and renovate it into a Route 66 museum. There was no money for that.
We thought the ordeal was finally over in 1995. That’s when the city ordered it closed because of numerous fire code and other safety violations. The Circuit Court, on Sept. 20, 1995, granted the city’s request to close the Bel-Aire — until a fire alarm system was installed, damage from a previous fire was repaired and other safety improvements made. Not many people expected the owners to ever be allowed to reopen it. But somehow they did, and it continued to worsen.

The police reported being called to the motel 82 times in 2003. In 2004, Bel-Aire neighbors attended a meeting with the neighborhood cop at Ward 6 Ald. Mark Mahoney’s office to air their complaints. Everyone had their say, and nothing came of it. Three years later, 12 people were busted for drugs at the Bel-Aire.
Motwani was fined $114,600 in 2011 for 386 violations. He appealed, and that’s still tied up in court three years later.
About a month ago, Motwani was hit with another fine (file all these fines under “I” for “ineffective”) when the city found 700 building code violations. What does a person have to do to be shut down, their property condemned or be hauled into court? Motwani’s Bel-Aire is as hard to kill as its cockroaches. So you can expect to read the same story again in the future.
There must be some financial advantage to owning a place like this. I’m just not savvy enough to know what it could be.
But really, how toothless are Springfield’s ordinances to allow this situation to fester for so long? It’s nuts. I feel bad for the Ciesler family, and I feel embarrassed for Springfield.

By Dave Bakke -the State Journal-Register

Eagle Scout Plaques Dedicated At Litchfield Museum

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May 192014
 











The official Eagle Scout pledge reads, “On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to God. On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to my country. I reaffirm my allegiance to the three promises of the Scout Oath. I thoughtfully recognize and take upon myself the obligations and responsibilities of the rank of Eagle Scout.”

Less than four percent of all Boy Scouts ever attain the rank of Eagle, which is the highest honor of the Boy Scouts of America.
Three newly refinished plaques with the names of all of the Litchfield Eagle Scouts, dating back to 1935, were dedicated to the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center in a special ceremony on Saturday morning, May 17 at the museum.
To open the ceremony, members of Boy Scout Troop 89 led the “Pledge of Allegiance” outside the museum.

Once returning inside, Sharon Wood, a member of the museum committee, served as the master of ceremonies.
“We are here today because you, the Eagle Scout, are very important, and we are blessed to recognize each of you with your names on these plaques,” Wood said.
The original plaques were created in 1990 by John and Linda Thull, who wanted the citizens of Litchfield to see the achievement of the young men who attained this honor. They hung in Litchfield City Hall for many years.

“Many times, I had Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts come in the building to sell popcorn,” said Wood, who worked in the clerk’s office.
“I would take them by the hand and show them the plaques and suggest they work really hard and become an Eagle Scout with their name added to the plaque.”
When Wood became involved with the new museum, she thought it would be nice to move the plaques since so many visitors from all over the world stop in to see the museum. Due to their age, the plaques needed some refinishing and updating, which was done by Wood’s husband, Mike.

The Boy Scouts of America office in Springfield helped the Woods to update the records, and the Litchfield Knights of Columbus provided a monetary contribution to the project. Also helping were Cub Scoutmaster Lisa Francis and Connie Beck, who did the engraving.
“The Thulls’ idea has grown, and what better way to honor our hometown Eagle Scouts through the years than by adding their names to a plaque that will be seen by many visitors to our museum,” Wood said. “We are proud of the hard work these young men and their families endure to accomplish each rank on their way to Eagle Scout.”
After her remarks, Wood opened the floor to others present, and Litchfield resident Will Tackaberry, who earned his Eagle Scout in 1947, spoke. He talked about how the skills he learned in scouting helped him have a successful military career with both the Navy and the Air Force.
“What you learn in scouts will help you no matter what kind of a job you have,” Tackaberry said.

Following the ceremony, the plaques are now on display inside the museum.
Litchfield Eagle Scouts
Ray Prange, 12-7-1935
Don Lee Brubaker, 12-1-1936
Irving Nathason, 12-1-1936
Russell Eppinger, 12-7-1937
Fred Griffith, 12-7-1937
Charles Napier, 12-7-1937
Philip Rainey, 12-7-1937
John Ritchie, 12-7-1937
Bernard Schoen, 12-7-1937
James Griffith, 8-11-1938
Richard Savage, 11-29-1938
Melvin Kellenberger, 11-21-1939
Billy Griffith, 6-1-1941
John Morris, 3-12-1942
Herbert Perkins, Jr., 3-12-1942
Fred J. Carll, 8-23-1946
Fred Hammond, 4-25-1947
Warren L. Roach, 12-3-1947
Wilbur Tackaberry 7-9-1947
Carl Bierbaum 6-17-1949
Ross Schweppe, 12-10-1949
Paul B. Ulenhop, 7-25-1951
Chris McClurg, 9-24-1952
Patrick McClurg, 5-31-1953
Fred Barringer, 1-6-1953
Mike Ulenhop, 4-15-1956
Bruce C. Wilson, 6-10-1957
Robert Ulenhop, 5-24-1960
Thurman Schweitzer, Jr., 7-30-1963
James E. Gibson, 6-13-1973
John J. Benitez, 6-24-1975
Allen E. House, 6-24-1979
Steven C. House, 2-13-1980
Stephen J. Fiscor, 1-31-1981
David M. House, 2-21-1982
Christopher Thull, 3-21-1985
Brent Harty, 9-22-1988
Lewis F. Harty, 9-22-1988
Steve Jurgena, 12-17-1988
Joshua S. Hardy, 10-3-1990
Randolph T. Harty, 10-3-1990
Clark L. Johnsen, 1-21-1991
James A. Thull, 1-18-1991
Stewart E. Johnson, 12-22-1992
Corey M. Wood, 8-17-1994
Joshua M. Nickles, 8-22-1995
Brian Paul Reid, 5-16-1995
David Hiscox, 5-19-1996
Scott White, 4-21-1996
Nathaniel J. Harty, 10-18-1997
Andrew P. Weick, 11-4-1998
Jason W. Horrocks, 2-3-1999
Chad J. Nickles, 12-16-1999
Brian E. Smith, 12-16-1999
Michael B. Weber, 12-16-1999
Sean R. Donham, 6-20-2002
Nicholas L. Thull, 2-20-2003
Travis J. Pence, 12-2-2004
Ryan D. Bishop, 8-19-2005
Benjamin M. Weber, 8-19-2005
Joseph R. Weber, 1-19-2006
Michael D. Reimer, 2-22-2006
Michael J. Arnold, 3-12-2006
Michael R. Smith, 3-12-2006
Adam J. Fischer, 2-17-2011
Austin Marburger, 11-24-2013
Jacob Cadwell, 11-24-2013
Timothy Francis, 11-24-2013

by Mary (Galer) Herschelman – The Journal News

City to break ground for Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park

 Illinois  Comments Off on City to break ground for Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park
May 152014
 










Nearly 90 years after “U.S. 66” was proposed as the name for the new Chicago-to-Los Angeles highway at Springfield’s Colonial Hotel, City officials will break ground for a roadside park celebrating Springfield as the birthplace of the Mother Road. The groundbreaking will take place at 10 a.m., May 22 at the park’s future site on West College Street, between Fort and Broadway avenues. Parking will be available on site and on the streets adjacent to the site.

Route 66 meandered across Springfield from Kearney to Glenstone to St. Louis Street, through Park Central Square to College Street, then headed west along what is now Chestnut Expressway.

Plans for the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park include incorporating memories of local Route 66 landmarks, sculptures, a filling station replica, a motor court sign replica and a history plaza. The first phase of the park will be complete by August and will include the replica of the Red’s Giant Hamburg sign; park driveway and parallel parking; and landscaping and sidewalk improvements along College Street.

The estimated cost for the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park is about $1 million, according to Director of Planning Ralph Rognstad.

While the City will provide funding to implement certain infrastructure improvements along the College Street stretch of Historic Route 66 between Grant Avenue and Kansas Expressway, it must leverage its investment in the project with private donations and other sources of funding. A larger plan to revitalize Historic Route 66 through other parts of Springfield could roll out in phases, as the City gauges interest and potential funding. The City raised more than $15,000 to build a replica of the Red’s Giant Hamburg sign through local crowd funding company www.Crowdit.com.

We hope to make Springfield THE stop along the famed, historic byway,” says City Manager Greg Burris.

Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park renderings can be viewed at: www.springfieldmo.gov/collegestreet/pdfs/collegeRoadPark.pdf

By Springfield Regional Arts Council

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

Devil’s Elbow Bridge facelift progressing

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Devil’s Elbow Bridge facelift progressing
Apr 092014
 










Construction is progressing on a project to rehabilitate the aging, historic Devil’s Elbow Bridge in rural Pulaski County.

“This is a project that began 10 or 11 years ago, and we are finally seeing the construction phase, so its very exciting,” Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk said. “It’s moving right along, and, so far, it’s been very smooth.”

The Pulaski County Commission took note of the bridge’s deteriorating condition—including severe rusting, cracked substructure and considerable soil loss near the south abutment—several years ago and began working to secure funding for a $1.3 million restoration project.

The funding for the project was found last year when the county commission was able to combine Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Bridge Replacement Off-System (BRO) and MoDOT’s Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds with a mixture of grant funds awarded.

MoDOT BRO and STP funds are covering 80 percent of the project, and the Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program along with a small grant from the National Parks Service and a local match from Pulaski County make up the remaining project funding.

The Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) helped prepare the CDBG, STP and National Park Service grant applications and is serving as the administrator for the $250,000 CDBG grant awarded.
Not only will the rehabilitation of the project address safety issues, but it also maintains the historic significance of the structure.

“We have so many people from all over the country who come down to the bridge while traveling Route 66 because it is historic,” Newkirk said. “Many pictures have been taken of that bridge, and many people in our local communities, too, have pictures taken on that bridge from many, many years ago.”

The pages of the nearby Elbow Inn guestbook indicate that the picturesque place not only draws travelers from other states but from several other countries as well. Entries have included guests from France, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Australia to name a few.

“We are very fortunate here in Pulaski County to have 33 original miles of Route 66, and we are internationally known for that,” Pulaski County Tourism Bureau Director Beth Wiles said, noting that the stretch is also known as one of the most beautiful in the country.

“They look at Route 66 as that key component of America,” Wiles said of the international travelers.
The influx of tourists seeking a part of American history is greatest from April through October, and brings tourism dollars not just to businesses near the bridge like the Elbow Inn, but also into the cities of Waynesville and St. Robert.

Built in 1923, the bridge was part of the original Route 66. The portion of the nostalgic highway that passes through Devil’s Elbow, however, proved to be dangerous and soon came to be called “Bloody 66.”

As a result, the Hooker Cut realignment took place in 1940, bypassing the bridge. At that time, it was the deepest rock cut in the country.
According to the HAER Bridge Inventory, a list of historic bridges in Missouri, the Devil’s Elbow Bridge may be eligible for a place on the National Register of Historic Places. It is believed to be one of the earliest examples of Missouri State Highway Department long-span truss design still in existence.

Additionally, Newkirk noted it is also one of only two remaining bridges in the state containing a curve. The second is the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, which was recently converted to a pedestrian bridge. Wiles added that it is the only curved bridge on the original Route 66 still open to traffic.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the rehabilitation project was held in October, and, by the end of March, the 400-foot deck of the bridge began to retake its original shape.

The framing of the new deck is in place and half of the decking concrete has been poured with the remaining half expected to be poured by mid to late April. Once the remaining portion of the deck has been poured, the bridge will be painted and additional structural work will be completed.

Engineering services for the project have been provided by Great River Engineering out of Springfield, Mo. The engineer currently supervising the project, Steve Brown, expects it to be re-opened to traffic by August at the latest. Phillips Hardy, Inc., out of Columbia, is the general contractor for the project. The contractor was selected through a competitive bid process.

For individuals interested in touring the 33-mile stretch of Route 66 in Pulaski County, a turn-by-turn brochure is available for download at visitpulaskicounty.org. Alternately, the brochure is available in audio format for listening as you drive the route.

By Rolla Daily News

Limestone ruins are all that’s left of the community of Plano

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Limestone ruins are all that’s left of the community of Plano
Dec 042013
 

plano-mo-route-66









Driving to Halltown from Springfield on Historic Route 66 (now Missouri 266), you’ve probably noticed the ruins of a building on the northwest corner of the intersection with Farm Road 45.

Through the large arched windows and doorways, you can see the small forest growing inside. Tree branches reach out wildly through the open roof.

I had seen the rock walls a few times before, but only recently when I stopped to photograph it did I see the Greene County Historic Site marker that reads “Plano, a Ghost Town.”

Inside the structure, paths zigzag through the middle. Beer and soda bottles litter the ground. Vines climb the cracked stone walls. In the back, a tree grows at an odd angle through a window.

Standing in the woods within walls was eerie and made me wonder what this place used to be.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about Plano,” said Jackie Warfel, who prepared the historic site nomination.

A quick Internet search turns up many sites — mostly Route 66 travel blogs — that claim the limestone structure was a mortuary and casket factory.

“It was not,” Warfel said.

According to Warfel’s history, John Jackson and his family built the two-story 50-foot-by-60-foot building in 1902 of local limestone “with the help of neighbors as needed.”

The building became a hub of community activity. Two rooms on the lower level were a general store where farm families could sell their produce, eggs and baked goods.

The store was managed by Jackson’s son, Alfred, and daughters Mollie and Quintilla Jackson, who had taken a course on business administration in Springfield.

Upstairs, along with living quarters, was a large room used for club meetings, dances, court proceedings and even church services.

The Jacksons bought a wooden structure across the street, on the northeast corner, from Steve Carter. In this building, which is no longer standing, they operated a “mortuary and undertakers parlor where caskets could be purchased and a horse-drawn hearse was furnished.”

Warfel also noted in her research, “there was no embalming at that time and the families bought the caskets and lay the deceased family member out at their homes before burial.”

Besides the limestone walls of the general store, the only other current indication of the community of Plano is a rock building on the southeast corner, built by Alf Landon. Now a private residence, it was originally a store and Tydol gas station.

Warfel said Plano was a crossroads that served a large community. When the interstate system bypassed Route 66, the town faded into history, too.

By Valerie Mosley – News-Leader.com

‘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