Route 20 from Chicago to Bloomington, Illinois is described as starting at Jackson and Michigan Boulevards, taking Jackson west to Garfield Park, then continuing west on Washington Boulevard, Ausin Avenue, Madison Street, and Des Plaines Avenue to LaGrange. The directions continue through Lockport to Joliet, where the travel is described along Collins, Cass, Chicago and Exchange Streets, across the Des Plaines River and the Illinois & Michigan Canal, then through Minooka to Morris, Illinois. The route guides included mileage readings, and in Morris, the directions guided the motorist along Washington Street, then at 70.6 miles along the journey,"turn left across long bridge over Illinois River. Road is almost straight south over 17 miles" although jogs/curves are noted at the 76.3, 76.6, and 79.5 mile readings.
"88.2--End of Road; jog left and take first right across RR 89.0.
89.2--4 corners; turn left and take first right onto Prairie Street.
89.6--DWIGHT--RR straight ahead. Avoid RR crossing by turning right on Chippewa Street.
89.8--Washington Street, turn left and bear right just beyond along RR. Follow along tracks into ODELL 97.5"
Into Bloomington, the routing is given along Willow Street, Oak, Ash, Beaufort, then left on Main to Jefferson. In most cities and towns besides Chicago, the beginning and ending points of the routes usually were oriented at the local courthouse, as is the case here with the ending point of Route 20 at the McLean County Courthouse at Jefferson and Main.
The reverse trip of Bloomington-to-Chicago is detailed in Route 121, where we learn of the "Road Condition--via Pontiac, Dwight, and Joliet. First part to Morris good dirt roads in dry weather. Rest of way mostly gravel and macadam." Route 127 from Bloomington to Springfield is described as "via Lincoln and Williamsville. Good natural dirt roads in dry weather." From the courthouse at Main and Washington in Bloomington the driver is directed west on Washington, left on Morris, "bear right at 6 corners, left at 4 corners, left before RR to SHIRLEY STA."
At the 69.0 mile point nearing Springfield, "Caution for sharp down grade across Sangamon River bottoms, over 3 bridges running upgrade."
"71.4--Curve right and left just beyond, under RR 72.9
73.9--At far side of State Fair Grounds turn right across tracks on brick pavement.
74.3--At western edge of fair grounds turn left on 8th Street; cross RR 75.1 to
75.3--Grand Avenue; turn right on pavement 3 blocks, recrossing RR
75.6--5th Street small church of right; turn left across RRs 75.7 & 76.3 to Court House.
76.5--SPRINGFIELD, Washington and 5th Street."
Route 164 from Springfield to St. Louis is described as "via 'The Alton Way' over mostly good dirt with some stretches of gravel." "Just south of Alton the route passes through the closely allied cities of Granite City, Madison and Venice. These are located almost opposite to St. Louis and are all important manufacturing towns." "The new McKinley Bridge offers convenient means of transportation across the Mississippi River."
An advertisement on page 208 of the Blue Book exhorts the reader to "Travel 'The Alton Way.' Follow the White-Black-White Markings." "Chicago Springfield St. Louis." "Better Roads, Better Hotels, Better Garages & Better Cities. A really attractive trip with fewer grades than any other route between Springfield & St. Louis." A map in the ad shows the Alton Way passing through Springfield, Chatham, Auburn, Thayer, Virden, Girard, Nilwood, Carlinville, Chesterfield, Challacombe, Medora, Piasa, Brighton, Godfrey, Alton, E. Alton, Oldenburg, Granite City, Madison, Venice, and St. Louis.
Route 164A took travelers from Springfield to St. Louis "via Litchfield and Edwardsville over level country on Natural Dirt Roads." (Curiously, the text indicates "see route 165 for complete option via the Alton Way." This might be a typo, with actual intention to reference route 164, as described above. Route 165 adds considerable distance to the trip, running through Quincy with a longer route along the Mississippi down to Alton, so it is difficult to understand why this would be given as an "option" for driving from Sprinfield to St. Louis.) 164A indicates a drive through Cotton Hill, Litchfield, Mt. Olive, Staunton, Hamel, Edwardsville, Marysville, and Collinsville. The directions indicate Missouri Avenue into East St. Louis, then 3rd and Broadway to a river crossing on the Eads Bridge into St. Louis.
SUMMARY--The 1914 Blue Book gives a fascinating look at travel conditions in the period twelve years prior to the creation of 66 and the other US Highways. Jackson and Michigan in Chicago is already the "Route Center" due to the superiority of the Chicago Boulevard system and lack of viable alternatives for through-traffic. The roads from Chicago to Morris are described as "mostly gravel and macadam," which matches with the Illinois Highways August 1915 description of the Pontiac Trail following "stone roads the entire distance from Chicago to Morris." Illinois Highways goes on to indicate conrete road "at Morris," and 5 miles of "asphalt, stone and concrete" south of Pontiac. The 1914 Blue Book only indicates "good dirt roads in dry weather" between Morris and Bloomington. Natural dirt roads continue south into Springfield in the 1914 description, while the August 1915 Pontiac Trail account indicates "4 miles of concrete and crushed stone fhrough Funk's Grove," "2 1/2 miles of concrete" at Lincoln, and "3 or 4 miles" of the same at Springfield. Clearly, road improvements were in a dynamic state in the state of Illinois! Interestingly, the only named trail mentioned in the 1914 Blue Book along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor is the Alton Way.
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