CHICAGO -- Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn promoted awareness of historic and heritage-based tourism in Illinois by driving in a classic 1954 Chevy Sedan through eight designated stops aligned on legendary Route 66. Quinn first saluted Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant on its commitment to preserve what is known as “the first stop on the Mother Road.”
“I commend Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant on its ongoing efforts to maintain this remarkable old-fashioned restaurant as a symbol of Americana,” Quinn said. “The memory of this restaurant has gone a long way to revitalizing the downtown area and invigorating this community’s soul.”
Lou Mitchell's restaurant, which predates Route 66, opened its doors in 1923 and has been serving meals and coffee ever since. It moved to its current location in the 1950s and has been a Chicago and Route 66 landmark for decades. It remains a vibrant monument of classic diner-restaurant architecture and style that embodies the Route 66 experience.
“A breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s was a traditional start of a Route 66 trip for generations of drivers who ‘Got there kicks’,” Quinn said, referring to the classic 1946 song, which has been recorded by at least 20 performers. For a complete “Get Your Kicks” discography, see www.LtGovernor.il.gov
The Lieutenant Governor’s tour of Route 66 continued to Buckingham Fountain where he joined a convoy of vintage cars to drive Route 66 through six designated Main Street communities and capped the 198-mile tour in Springfield at the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival – Route 66 City Nights Parade.
“Known as ‘America’s Main Street,’ Route 66 has provided travelers and tourists alike a unique view of Illinois’ natural and well-preserved landscape,” Quinn said. “A two-to-three day trip will give anyone enough time to enjoy the economic, social and cultural attributes along the way.”
Buckingham Fountain was the traditional starting point to Route 66. For over 40 years, Route 66 ran through Grant Park as an extension to Lake Shore Drive, giving anyone with a car an opportunity to travel westward. Route 66 became obsolete with the construction of the Interstate Highway system.
Quinn recognized members of the Illinois Route 66 Association and Route 66 enthusiasts for their support of nostalgia-based tourism and promoting Illinois’ cultural and historic heritage. Quinn then traveled through the designated Illinois Main Street communities of Plainfield, Dwight, Pontiac, Bloomington, Lincoln and ended the Route 66 tour in Springfield. Route 66 passes through 85 Illinois communities.
“As more motorists and tourists today rediscover the historic route, they also have a unique opportunity to travel through America’s Main Street communities,” Quinn said. “Each town offers its own unique history with vintage gas stations, old farm vehicles, giant fiberglass statues and classic American architecture.”
Quinn arrived in Plainfield to honor this Main Street community with an official State of Illinois sign identifying Lincoln Highway (Route 30) and Route 66 as the only place where the two roads merge into one. Lincoln Highway was built in the early 1900s and stretched 3,300 miles from New York to San Francisco. It was a busy route, which carried travelers and freight from the Atlantic to Pacific coasts.
The Lieutenant Governor’s tour of Route 66 continued to Feddersen’s Pizza Garage in Dwight where he recognized restaurant owners Bill and Annette Patchett, and the Route 66 Association Members and Riders. Several of these riders also toured with the Lieutenant Governor to Springfield.
Quinn continued with a caravan of vintage cars to the Route 66 Museum & Hall of Fame in Pontiac where he will celebrated the opening of the museum. The museum will house Route 66 artifacts, pictures and literature capturing years of adventure on the “Mother Road.”
A Bloomington police escort met the Lieutenant Governor’s convoy at the corner of Henry and Pine streets in Normal and led them to the Bloomington Police Station where they continued to the McLean County Museum of History. This museum once housed the McLean County Courthouse, but now tells the stories of those who live in this county, providing valuable resources to the community via its library and genealogical resources.
The next stop on the tour was Lincoln where a police escort led the Lieutenant Governor’s tour to the reenactment of Abraham Lincoln christening the town of Lincoln. Lincoln is the only town in Illinois named for and by Abraham Lincoln prior to his presidency. Having assisted with the platting of the town, Lincoln was asked to participate in a ceremony that gave the town its name. “On August 27, 1853, Lincoln chose a ripe watermelon from a wagon near the christening site, broke it open and squeezed juice on the grounds as he christened the town,” Quinn said. “Lincoln has the distinct privilege of utilizing its unique historic assets to raise awareness of heritage tourism, which economically impacts this Main Street town.”
Capping off the 198-mile adventure in Springfield, Quinn will led the convoy of classic cars to the 3rd Annual International Route 66 Mother Road Festival – Route 66 City Nights Cruise Parade. Leading the cars were the Lieutenant Governor and Springfield Mayor Timothy Davlin.
“I commend every Main Street town aligned on Route 66 on their ongoing efforts to maintain these remarkable old-fashioned restaurants, historic properties and unique icons as a symbol of Americana,” Quinn said. “The memory of these historic and cultural sites have gone a long way toward driving vitality back to the downtown area and invigorating the souls of these communities.”
The Illinois Main Street Program, a program administered by Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, is designed to enhance all aspects of the downtown or central business district. Improving economic management, strengthening public participation, and making downtown a fun place to visit are as critical to Main Street’s future as recruiting new businesses, rehabilitating buildings, and expanding parking.