Litchfield - Route 66 Proud!
When the Terre Haute, Alton and
St. Louis Railroad announced
that they were going to come through the area, the town of Litchfield
was born. In the late fall of 1853 the County Surveyor, Thomas Gray,
laid out the town in a cornfield purchased by the Litchfield Town
Company. Soon 80 acres of cornfields and prairie grass became 236 lots
About two miles southwest of the site of
Litchfield, another settlement called Hardinsburg was also founded in
anticipation of the coming railroad. However, when it was determined
that the railroad would bypass Hardinsburg’s 50 residents in favor of
Litchfield, its residents began to move their buildings, on runners
over the prairie grass, to Litchfield.
The first to arrive was a man named J.
M. McWilliams, who moved his small store and house from Hardinsburg in
January, 1854. By the time the railroad reached Litchfield in the fall
of 1854, most all of the citizens of the doomed Hardinsburg had
relocated to the new town of Litchfield.
On April 4, 1856, Litchfield formally
incorporated its village, and soon elected trustees and appointed its
first Justice of the Peace and Police Magistrate.
When the Civil War started in April,
1861, Litchfield was the first town in
to respond to the President’s call for men.
In 1875, the first hospital was
established by the nuns from the Order of St. Francis. This has since
grown to a 138 bed facility dedicated in 1971.
the 1880's, two coal mines were started in the area which soon put
many men to work and provided another boost to Litchfield's economy.
Soon, another discovery was made of a small pocket of oil and
Litchfield became the site of
the first commercial oil production in
Illinois. However the oil was
As the years passed, Litchfield
gained five more railroads which gave a further boost the town. Today, two
of those remain, including the
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy and the Norfolk
When the Mother Road came through Litchfield,
the town sprouted a number of cafes, motels and tourist stops. Along
the western edge of Litchfield,
two alignments can be traveled through the town. Parts of both
original highways remain intact and attract many
enthusiasts with their multiple vintage icons.
When you first enter
check to the left at 1200 N Old Route 66 to the see the
Skyview Drive-In, which is still in operation today. The Route 66
Hall of Fame inductee opened in the
spring of 1951 and has been in operation for each season since. The
drive-in opens in April and closes in October, subject to the weather. Holding seasonal hours, the old movie "theatre” is open seven nights per
week from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Prior to and after these
dates, they are open on Friday, Saturday and Sundays only. The Sky
View Drive In Theatre is the last operating drive-in on Historic
Route 66 in
Another vintage icon is the Ariston Café, in business since
1924. Originally, the café was started in nearby Carlinville by Pete
Adam; however, when the
Mother Road was rerouted, Pete leased a new
Litchfield in 1929. But it didn’t take long before the Ariston’s
great reputation for service, excellent food and unbelievable desserts
required another move. Relocating across the street in 1935, Pete
built his own building, that still stands today, providing the same
wonderful food and great service that it has for more than eighty years.
Just across the street from the Ariston
Cafe, you see a vintage sign for the Vic Suhling "Gas For Less Sign.” Now, instead of getting gas for less, you just get "less gas," as the
sign is all that is left of this old gas station. An interesting
note is that the gas station once stood on the very site of the first
Litchfield Ariston Café.
Just down the road is the Route 66
Café, which like the Ariston Café, is still in business. An old
gas station next to it, behind which, on the newer alignment through
Litchfield, is the Belevidere Motel. This old motel operates
more like apartments today, offering weekly and monthly rates.
Litchfield, like many other small towns
Mother Road, has a lot of community pride and celebrates
Route 66 from both a
historical aspect, as well as what it means to the city today. This is evident in the care they spend in promoting the
Mother Road and their
preservation of vintage icons. In June of every year, Litchfield hosts the
Route 66 Classic Car
Enjoy your stay in
Litchfield and if you’re traveling the
Mother Road, keep on heading
south towards another old mining town – Mt. Olive. And, as
always, kick up some asphalt and enjoy the ride!
of America, updated June, 2016.
September, 2004, Kathy Weiser
This image available for
photographic prints HERE!
The old Belevidere Motel, September, 2004,
Old Gas Station next to
September, 2004, Kathy Weiser
Legends' General Store
66 Postcard Coloring Book - If you love
Route 66, enjoy
coloring, and like to share with others, this book is for you! The Route
66 Postcard Coloring Book contains 20 postcards of various places along
America's Mother Road, each ready for your own artistic touch. Then after
you color, remove each and send as a postcard. Complete with stamp
placement on the back and information on each location. Or, keep your
finished work as a reminder of fun times traveling Route 66.