Sunday, September 23, 2012

Route 66 - Day 2 - Chicago, IL to Joliet, IL

Route 66 - Part 1
Day 2 Chicago – Joliet

46 miles

Holiday Inn Route 66 Banquet & Conference Center
411 S Larkin Ave
Joliet, IL

There is a strong Illinois-California connection that predates Route 66, extending back to the early 1900, when the road which would become US 66 was cobbled together from existing pathways. Trails, traces, fence-row tracks, farm-to-market roads, and even some private drives were linked with stagecoach routes further west to create something resembling a continuous roadway. Business and personal connections were already well established. One of Hollywood’s very first moviemakers came not from New York, but from Chicago. The harsh early winter of 1907 threatened to run Francis Boggs’s tiny film company out of business. Only the interior scenes of Bogg’s 12-minute epic, The Count of Monte Cristo, had been shot when the snows ended any hope of outdoor filming. Boggs, his crew, and his players headed west in search of better conditions and a light more suited to the slow film speeds of the day. They found what they needed in Los Angeles—bright sunshine, cheap land, and free scenery.

            The following year Boggs moved production to the West Coast for good. Vitagraph, Mark Sennett, Cecil B. DeMille, and others followed, of course, but Chicagoan Boggs led the way. Even the name Hollywood came not from the holly trees that were planted later, but from an upstate neighborhood in Illinois.



Art Institute of Chicago - Situated near the easternmost end of Route 66, the Art Institute serves as a useful landmark for beginning one's Mother Road adventure. The institute has been a training ground for numerous well-known American artists over the years, and it has a prestigious collection that includes works by such artistic luminaries as Edward Hopper, Frederick Remington, and James McNeill Whistler.

Grant Park

                                          Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park at night

Sears Tower – The tallest building on Route 66
Castle Car Wash – 3801 Ogden Avenue – defunct but with unique architecture is being restored after years of neglect and will be converted into a Greek Restaurant.

1934 FBI photograh of the Biograph soon after the shooting of Dillinger
Biograph Theater - at 2433 North Lincoln Avenue, was originally a movie theater but now presents live productions. It is famous as the site of the killing of gangster John Dillinger on July 22, 1934, by the FBI agents led by Melvin Purvis when he attempted to pull a pistol and flee into the crowd. Dillinger had just viewed the gangster film Manhattan Melodrama with brothel madam known as Ann Sage, also known as Ana Cumpanas. Dillinger's whereabouts had been leaked by Cumpanas under the threat of deportation back to her birthplace of Romania.. 
            Chicago Water Tower - The Great Fire that consumed most of Chicago in 1871 and which is popularly said to have been caused by Mrs. O'Leary's cow. It is partly to the Great Fire that Chicago owes its rebirth as a center for architecture. The famous Chicago Water Tower, built in 1869, is one of the few structures to have survived the blaze and which still stands to this day and houses a visitor center.

            SMC Cartage Company - 2122 Clark Street – The infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred in 1929. That building was demolished shortly after its use as the set for a film based on the event starring Jason Robards and George Segal.
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             Lou Mitchell's Restaurant - 565 W. Jackson Boulevard - A restaurant in downtown Chicago (Jackson Street) on an eastbound only section of Route 66. Formerly known as Mitchell's Cupboard, it has been in its present location since the early 1940s. They serve breakfast all day and still give free Milk Duds to each woman customer.
 Maureen N prepares to start her adventure
 The riders just before they depart the Travelodge Downtown Chicago enroute to Joliet, TL
 Some of the riders just before they arrived in Romeoville, IL
I thought this was a unique billboard to find in Romeoville, IL

Frank Lloyd Wright - [June 8,1867 - April 9, 1959] American architect known for developing his “prairie style" of architectural design and for having achieved significant fame and notoriety even during his lifetime-- a rare achievement. His studio was located in Oak Park, IL (Greater Chicago) where there is a large concentration of residences he designed, and there are quite a number of buildings of his design still standing in several Route 66 cities, including Dwight and Springfield, IL and Tulsa, OK.


            Bunyon's - formerly a restaurant specializing in hot dogs and featuring a "muffler man" figure out front holding an oversized hot dog and bun. After the restaurant closed its doors, the muffler man was moved to Atlanta, IL, where it remains on display.

Cicero prides itself on having been a haven to Al Capone and other mobsters during the Prohibition era. Cicero’s streets were honeycombed with tunnels allowing gangsters and bootleggers to move unseen from speakeasy to brothel, with even Eliot Ness and his Untouchables none the wiser.
Henry's Drive-In 

Henry's Drive-In - 6031 W. Ogden Avenue (708-656-9344) Excellent Polish hot dogs smothered with a pile of French Fries.

             Incorporated in 1888, Lyons is steeped in earlier historical roots. In 1673 French Explorer Louis Joliet and Jesuit missionary Father Pierre Marquette left Green Bay, Wisconsin by canoe in search of a western passage to the Pacific. As they traveled into the Spanish controlled area of Louisiana, they realized that the mighty Mississippi River drained into the already well knwn Gulf of Mexic. With winter approaching, they headed north as quickly as possible. To save time, the Potawatomi Indians who were with them encouraged changing their route to the  Illinois River. The short cut led to the Des Plains River and caused the French travelers to discover “Le Portage.” This half-mile wide area of land connecting the Chicago River and the Des Plaines River, over which they could carry their canoes and supplies, was to become the discovery for which they would both become famous. Later known as the Chicago Portage. This small area became the “Gateway to the West” and was used by thousands of early settlers and traders traveling both east and west. The discovery of “Le Portage” was part of the impetus that led to Chicago becoming a center for the world trade.
             Hoffman Tower - An eight-story tower castle-like structure built in 1908, beside the Des Plaines River currently housing a museum operated by the Lyons Historical Commission. The building was constructed circa 1908. There is also an adjacent Riverwalk.

1973 plaque
Chicago Portage National Historic Site – 4800 S. Harlem Avenue – Sometimes referred to as “Chicago’s Plymouth Rock.”

Snowflake Drive-In


            The town has lined old Route 66 with a series of glass-block markers but didn't do much to save its most remarkable work of art: The Spindle, a tower of ruined cars impaled on a 50-foot steel spike, which stood in the parking lot of a shopping mall until mid-2008, when it was removed in the middle of the night to make way for yet another Walgreen's. You may have seen The Spindle in the 1990s comedy Wayne's World.

Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket - 645 Joliet Road [630-325-0780] It is a welcoming old roadside tavern, with famously fabulous chicken dinners and frequent live music.

White Fence Farm - A large dining room complex specializing in chicken dinners that dates from the 1920s. There is a large, attention getting fiberglass chicken by the highway side, and the grounds also include a petting zoo, antique car museum, and several other tourable collections Since its beginning in the early 1920's, White Fence Farm, located near Romeoville, Illinois, has been recognized throughout the mid-west for its outstanding chicken dinners. "The World's Greatest Chicken" is certainly a statement that has stood the test of time. White Fence Farm has earned a reputation over the years among diners as a truly unique, friendly, and courteous place to have dinner.
Isle a la Cache Museum


                       Isle de la Cache - 501 E. Romeo Road – A Cultural history museum. "Island of the Hiding Place" - this title is the translation of the French phrase "Isle a la Cache." It refers to a time when the French voyageurs traveled down rivers deep into the wild unknowns; a time when the native Potawatomi lived off the land for food, shelter, clothing, and medicine; a time when it was stylish in Europe to wear hats from beaver fur found plentiful in the new land, the Illinois Country. The 18th century was a time of change and the creation of a "Middle Ground" between Europeans and Native Americans. Learn all about this period in history at Isle a la Cache Museum.


           A little piece of highway history happened when the original version of Route 66 crossed the even older Lincoln Highway, America's first transcontinental road. Notable people who hail from or live in Plainfield, IL include:
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  • Ernie Banks, shortstop and first baseman with the Chicago Cubs
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  • Lisa Chesson, Olympic defenseman with the U.S. Women's Ice Hockey Team
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  • Mellisa McCarthy, actress -- McCarthy first garnered recognition for her role as Sooke St. James on the WB network television series  Gilmore Girls. She portrayed Dena on the ABC sitcom Saantha Who?. Mccarthy was then cast as Molly Flynn on the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly.
  • Don Swayze, actor -- Swayze was born in Houston, Texas, the middle son of Patsy Yvonne Helen (nee Karnes, a choreographer, dance instructor, and dancer, and Jesse Wayne Swayze, an engineering drafter. He is a younger brother of the late actor Patrick Swayze and of sister Vicky Lynn, and the older brother of Sean Kyle and adopted sister Bora Song (nicknamed Bambi). He is a sixth cousin once removed of commentator John Cameron Swayze, and a relative of noted Texas Revolution soldier HenryKarnes.

            The "City of Steel and Stone" has a rough reputation that doesn't really reflect its welter of historic attractions.

            “City of Spires” - Nickname for the city of Joliet, IL, said to derive from the plethora of churches in the area.

            Old Joliet State Prison – 1125 Collins Street – Now closed state prison from which John Belushi ( aka "Joliet Jake") is released at the beginning of the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers. The first prisoners were received here in 1858. It is also the location for the first season of FOX Network's Prison Break television show and the movie Let's Go to Prison
           Dairy Queen
           Dairy Queen - A well-established chain of restaurants, originally specializing in soft-serve ice cream that had its first location in the Route 66 town of Joliet, IL, in 1940.

             Rialto Square Theater - 102 N. Chicago -- A truly sumptuous theater, which was built in 1925 and celebrated its opening May 24, 1926, the Rialto early on attained unofficial status as the "Jewel of Joliet." the theater's decor includes bas-reliefs depicting scenes from classical mythology, as well as a lobby area modeled after the Hall of Mirrors at the world renowned Palace of Versailles. Contains the largest hand-cut chandelier in the US.

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             Route 66 Raceway [815-722-5500] - Where NHRA drag races, NASCAR stock car races, and occasional pop music concerts are held.

Joliet Area Historical Museum
Joliet Area Historical Museum - 204 N. Ottawa [815-723-5201] Route 66 Welcome Center and Gift Shop.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Preserve - Along Route 66 between Joliet and Wilmington, a unique undertaking is working to re-create the natural ecosystem on one of the most environmentally damaged areas: 19,000 acres of the old Joliet Army Ammunition Plant is being converted into the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. Since 1996, when the land was transferred from the Army to the Forest Service, the change from producing TNT to regrowing the native tallgrass prairie has been slow and steady, and after more than 10 years of toxic cleanups and careful husbandry it now offers hiking and biking trails and frequent guided tours of the site.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Judy,
    Thanks for posting your blog. I'll look forward to following you to Amarillo. Anyone from the cross country ride there besides Rich and Bill. I thought I saw Vicki in your photos. Please tell Rich and Bill hello for me.