Driving through Pontiac IL in 1915

September 14th, 2011

Pontiac Trail SignYou have just bought a brand new 1915 Studebaker and you want to drive from Chicago to Bloomington, Illinois. This is a daunting journey in the early decades of the 20th Century, since you never know what roads to take. Few rural roads are marked with names and most are unimproved dirt surfaces (that turn to mud after even a moderate rainfall).

Motorists did have a few tools to help them find the best available roads in those days. Some named auto trails were beginning to get marked. Those wishing to travel from Joliet to Iowa could follow the Lincoln Highway whose red-white-blue symbols with a large “L” had been painted on posts and trees all along the way. From Chicago to Bloomington, you could theoretically follow the signs for the Pontiac Trail, whose sign is shown here.

Or could you? A 1915 article in Illinois Highways, a publication of the state highway department, discussed the plans and general routing of the Pontiac Trail. The Trail was also included on the state’s “Map showing Marked Through Routes in Illinois” published in February 1917. However, other sources from the era do not mention the Pontiac Trail at all.

Several years ago, I started a page on my website titled “The Mystery of the Pontiac Trail.” I detailed some research into a primary source: the 1914 Automobile Blue Book, where detailed turn-by-turn directions are given for a trip between Chicago and Bloomington, with NO mention of the Pontiac Trail along the way. This is not surprising since it depicts the state of the roads a year before the trail was described in Illinois Highways.

1915 King's Official Route Guide, Section Four for Illinois & Iowa

1915 King's Official Route Guide, Section Four for Illinois & Iowa

On that page, I promised to add more information from a 1915 guide, King’s Official Route Guide. That promise remained unfulfilled until I recently got a call from a gentleman in Pontiac that asked about the routing of the trail through his home town and namesake for the trail. This shamed me into pulling out the guide and resurrecting my research. I will soon add a new page to the website that will have scans from the book covering the entire route from Chicago to St. Louis–the way folks could get between those points 11 years before the birth of Route 66. I see no mention of the Pontiac Trail in the King’s Guide, but the Lincoln Highway and the Alton Way do get mentioned in the appropriate sections.

Click here to see 1915 routings through Pontiac Illinois

Click above to see 1915 routings through Pontiac Illinois

Until I get that page up, here is a little taste of the routing through Pontiac, Illinois. The description through town is familiar to anyone that has driven through Pontiac: from north-to-south, it is Aurora St to Indiana St to Main St to Washington St to Vermilion St to Reynolds St. Today, you can drive this same route by crossing the tracks south into Pontiac adjacent to the Old Log Cabin Restaurant. Click on the image here and you can see a .pdf of three pages–the first two are the north-south directions, and the last is the south-north directions. Enjoy and stay tuned for the full routings from Chicago to St. Louis!

Recap of Berwyn Route 66 Car Show

September 13th, 2011

…from Saturday September 10th. Thanks to the hospitality of the Berwyn Route 66 Museum folks, I was able to take a portion of their table and tent at the Car Show to meet & greet the patrons and offer my books for sale. I was also able to meet Bill Kelly for the first time. Bill is the director of the Illinois Route 66 Heritage Corridor and Scenic Byway, and prior to Saturday we had only met via phone and email. It was a fun and busy day at the booth, meeting old friends and making new ones, while talking up Route 66 and the new museum in Berwyn.

I was so busy that I could not take any photos of the amazing cars on display. Thus, I was happy to see this slide show on the Time Out Chicago website. I especially enjoyed the photo of the 1960 Buick Electra (6th picture in the slide show) since our family car from 1963-1970 was a black sedan 1960 Electra.

AASHTO says state “DOTs Are Ready to Work Now”

September 9th, 2011

In reaction to President Obama’s speech last night, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has issued a press release stating that “transportation infrastructure can quickly create jobs in every corner of the country.”

Read the press release here:


Or download a .pdf of the release here

The roads in this country are crumbling faster than they can be repaired. They need attention for the safety of us all.

Oct 6 Stroll 66 on the 6th Chicago Walking Tour

September 9th, 2011

October 6 2011 tour begins at Dearborn Station in Chicago

October 6 2011 tour begins at Dearborn Station in Chicago

…will begin at Dearborn Station and end with a bar crawl from the Berghoff to Miller’s Pub! It will begin at 6:06 p.m. (exactly 66 minutes after 5!) Along the way we will walk a street that was a notorious red light district at the turn of the 20th century (as far as I know, all the brothels are long gone). We will discuss many of the early skyscrapers of Chicago along Dearborn from Congress to Jackson, including the magnificent Monadnock Building.

When we reach the Federal Center, we will discuss its architecture and controversies about its construction and the structures demolished to build it. We will discuss the famous trial that happened in the old court building on this site in which Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion.

After visiting the breathtaking lobby of the Marquette Building featuring a dazzling Tiffany mosaic, we will next discuss the history of the Berghoff restaurant and its historic buildings dating from 1872–and how a little political intrigue in the early 1960s nearly led to their destruction.

Then, it will be time for libations! We will visit the Berghoff Bar at 17 West, where tour patrons can enjoy the ambiance and if they wish purchase a Berghoff Beer (or a Berghoff Root Beer).

Neon sign at Millers Pub, Wabash north of Adams (Route 66), Chicago

Neon sign at Millers Pub, Wabash north of Adams (Route 66), Chicago

We will end the tour discussing the history of Miller’s Pub, its move from the original location on Adams around the corner to Wabash, and then patrons can enjoy a beverage if they wish at the bar!

All participants in the tour will pay a discounted price equal to 66% of the regular $18.00 per person cost—that is only $12.00 per guest for a 2-hour adventure.

Reservations required. To register, send an email to: dave@windycityroadwarrior.com . Or Contact Me Here: http://windycityroadwarrior.com/Contact.html
Or call me at 312-432-1284.

Tour subject to cancellation if fewer than 6 reservations are received by 10/5/11. The first six people to make reservations will receive a FREE set of five full-color Route 66 postcards!

I hope to see you Strolling Chicago’s Route 66 (and neighborhood) on the 6th of October at 6:06!

Recap of Sept 6 Stroll on Chicago’s Route 66

September 8th, 2011

Misting fourntain at Mary Bartelme Park, where the tour ended on September 6.

Misting fourntain at Mary Bartelme Park, where the tour ended on September 6.

…It was a leisurely, fun, and fact-filled 2 hour tour for 15 happy folks at 1:06 p.m. on September 6th. We walked from Jackson Boulevard and Jefferson Street in Chicago, right across the street from Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant. Along the way we saw Chicago’s oldest church, a stretch of street that was Route 66 for only nine months back in 1953, Greektown’s restaurant row, beautiful restorations and reuses of buildings once part of the West Loop manufacturing district, the home of Bay’s English Muffins, and a visit to beautiful Mary Bartelme Park. To see more details of the tour, click here

I will be posting more info about next month’s Stroll on Chicago’s Route 66, happening on October 6th at 6:06 p.m.! For a sneak preview, click here

New Superman Movie filming on Chicago’s Route 66

September 7th, 2011

…The movie will film from today to next week and will feature shoots around the Willis Tower and the Chicago Board of Trade Building–both prominent features of Route 66 in Chicago. Here’s the story from the Chicago Tribune:

Superman movie sets up shop in the Loop – chicagotribune.com

New Berwyn, IL Route 66 Postcard available

September 6th, 2011

Berwyn Route 66 Postcard available with purchase of Book!…for the first time this Saturday, September 10th, at the Berwyn Route 66 Car Show! It will be given away free with every purchase of one of my books: Route 66 in Chicago, Exploring Route 66 in Chicagoland, and The Roads that Lead to Lincoln

Both of the photos show the same view, just 111 years apart. On the left we see Ogden Avenue in Berwyn as it appeared in 1900 looking east from Home Avenue, and on the right is the current view of 2011.

Ogden Avenue in Berwyn has a long history as a public highway. It became one of Cook County’s first official highways all the way back in 1831. It became part of the Illinois state highway system in 1918 as Illinois 4 and 18. In 1926, U.S. Highways 32 and 66 were aligned on Ogden. 32 was replaced with 34 in 1933. Although there is no current route designation on Berwyn’s portion of Ogden Avenue, it is still under the jurisdiction and maintenance of the Illinois Department of Transportation.

So, this postcard shows the “before” and “after” of Ogden as a U.S. Highway. And it can be yours if you make you way to the Berwyn Route 66 Car Show this Saturday and buy a book (autographed, of course!). I will be at the registration table! See you there!

Update: I have had some inquiries on Facebook from people that cannot come to the Car Show this weekend, but they would like the postcard. I will happily include a Berwyn postcard with any book purchase from this Web site In the next few weeks I will evaluate whether to offer this as a standalone purchase item or perhaps it might be added to the color postcard set I already offer. However, in the mean time, feel free to order a book if you have been putting it off!

Rainbow over US 34

September 6th, 2011

…one of the other US Highways to begin where US 66 begins in Chicago. This video shows a rainbow from horizon to horizon–the only one I have ever seen. It was 2009 on US 34 in western Illinois. View it at YouTube by clicking here

August 30th was free Gyros day

September 1st, 2011

Wrigleyville Dogs, 3737 N Clark Street

Wrigleyville Dogs, 3737 N Clark Street

…in the metro Chicago area, thanks to an online promotion from Kronos Gyros. Coupons for free Gyros sandwiches were available on the Web, redeemable at dozens of restaurants that get their Gyros rotisseries from Kronos.
I love Gyros sandwiches, but as a Greektown resident I normally walk less than a half-block and get great food at Zeus Diner, Mr. Greek, or Greektown Gyros. These fine fast-food style restaurants are located at Halsted and Jackson (Route 66). (Zeus is my favorite, but the other two have an advantage in being open 24/7). However, none of my neighborhood eateries were participating in the Kronos promotion, so to get my free sandwich I had to take a pleasant drive up to Wrigleyville Dogs.
Wrigleyville Dogs is located at 3737 N. Clark Street, about a block north of Wrigley Field. Their website says they have been there since 1992, but the building is certainly older than that. It is a classic fast-food eatery and it has a fairly large menu for a short-order type of place. Hot Dogs, of course, but also Italian Beef and Sausage, Shish Kebob, Grecian Chicken, Burgers, Soup, and Chili. They also have Ice Cream, Shakes, Sundaes, Splits, Floats, Baklava, and Pies for dessert.
However, I was there for the free Gyros! I was impressed by the nice grill on the pita, the freshly sliced meat piled high, super-fresh tomatoes and combo of white and red onion. There was a little bit of Romaine Lettuce on the sandwich as well–something not normally on a Gyros as served down in Greektown. A nice surprise was that the tzatziki sauce was flavored with a bit of feta.
Whenever I am in Wrigleyville I will definitely consider going back to Wrigleyville Dogs–even if I have to pay for it! And I will keep a lookout next year to see if Kronos repeats the free offer in August 2012!

Come Stroll Chicago’s Route 66 on September 6th…

August 29th, 2011

Tour group Strolling on 66 at Adams and Michigan …the first of a monthly series of special walking tours! What better day each month to celebrate the history and importance of Route 66 in Chicago than the 6th? Explore the Double-6 and its neighborhood every month on the 6th!

Month in and Month out, keep your eye on the 6th and if you are available and in the area, you will find me talking and walking somewhere on or about Route 66 in Chicago!

The time of day that each tour starts will vary, but it will always be 66 minutes after an hour! (The first tour on 9/6/11 will start at 12:66 p.m., a.k.a. 1:06 p.m. to most folks!)

On September 6th, we will explore the sights and history of Chicago’s West Loop and Greektown on and around Route 66. We will walk a street that was part of the 66 alignment for a short nine months back in 1953. We will talk about today’s restaurants and the early 20th century pioneers of affordable dining from which our current favorites evolved. We will discuss the changes in transportation through the decades that transformed this section of Chicago from tall-grass prairie to shipping center to railroad mecca and to highway corridor. Along the way, we will mention Lou Mitchell, architect Alfred Alschuler, Albert Loeb and his infamous son, and so much more!

This tour will explore the Near West Side and Greektown. It will start at Jackson and Jefferson, across the street from Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant. All participants in the tour will pay a discounted price equal to 66% of the regular $18.00 per person cost—that is only $12.00 per guest for a 2-hour adventure. Reservations required. Tour subject to cancellation if fewer than 6 reservations are received by 9/5/11. The first six people to make reservations will receive a FREE set of five full-color Route 66 postcards!

To register, send an email to: dave@windycityroadwarrior.com. Or Contact Me Here: http://windycityroadwarrior.com/Contact.html
You can also send me a twitter message Follow windycityroad on Twitter or call me at 312-432-1284.

Future tours in the Stroll 66 on the 6th series will be scheduled for mornings, some in the afternoon, and some will be during Happy Hour after people are done with their 9-to-5s! (These might even include a bar crawl or two, or SIX!) Ideas in the planning stages include a tour/bar crawl that will start at Dearborn Station and include stops for libations at the Bar at the Berghoff and at Miller’s Pub, LaSalle Street Corridor tour, and a tour including the Hull House area, Maxwell Street, the Chicago Fire Academy, and the site of Grand Central Station. Stay tuned!