on the local Chicago 10 p.m. newscast. As part of their ongoing Friday segments titled “Your Chicago,” news anchor Kate Sullivan recently interviewed me about the history of Route 66, why the highway begins in Chicago, and why it originally began at Jackson and Michigan (Chicago’s traditional “route center”). As part of the segment, CBS also interviewed Heleen Thanas, owner of Lou Mitchell’s restaurant, and some New Zealand tourists that had traveled the Illinois section of Route 66 and ended their Mother Road journey with a walking tour on the route in Chicago’s Loop.
The segment will air during the 10 p.m. newscast on Friday, 30 September 2011. It will then be posted on the CBS2 website on their “Your Chicago” page: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/tag/your-chicago/
You 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.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. 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!
…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.
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:
The roads in this country are crumbling faster than they can be repaired. They need attention for the safety of us all.
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).
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.
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!
…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:
…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!