Side Trips Along The Mother Road: Rt. 66 Signs And Statues To Spotlight Towns

Sep 9, 2014

Credit Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway
A new project will spotlight some points of interest along the Mother Road in Illinois. A series of interpretive signs and statues will be placed in several communities, calling attention to events, locations and the heritage of those towns. Bill Kelly is Executive Director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway. He spoke with Illinois Public Radio's Sean Crawford about the effort. 

From a statue of Rosie the Riveter in the Will County town of Elwood recalling the days when a major ammunitions plant was in operation to Staunton's electrified interurban railway that pre-dated Route 66.  It's all aimed at getting people to pull off the road and spend some time, and maybe some money. But there is more to it.

"The first generation of the pioneers, the people who had the businesses along the road, we have lost that generation. We've also lost some of the iconic buildings, " said Bill Kelly, Executive Director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway.

One of those structures lost was the Coliseum Ballroom in Benld, in Macoupin County. From the days of bootlegging through the 20th Century, it brought in top entertainers and boasted the largest dance floor between St. Louis and Chicago. It burned in 2011.

Another location that will be pointed out is in Sherman. It will show a picnic at Wayside Park. A depiction of a miner will show Gillespie's ties to that industry.  And the iconic Dixie Truckers Home in McLean will be recalled with a gas attendant statue.

And a special moment in the Logan County town of Elkhart will also get special treatment. Shirley Temple stopped at a cafe there in 1938. A statue of the famous child actress being served by a waitress will be installed.