Today Braidwood, with its population of just a little more than 5,000
people, still provides a nostalgic glimpse of the vintage
with icons such as the Polk-A-Dot Drive In.
First started in 1956
in a school bus painted with rainbow colored polk-a-dots, lunch was
served from a mini-sized kitchen inside the bus.
Today this great drive-in at 222 N.
Front Street sports bigger than life statues of James Dean, Elvis, and the Blues Brothers, along with great food.
Several years ago, there was also a statue of Marilyn Monroe, but, she
is gone today.
Polk-A-Dot Drive-In in
Illinois, Kathy Weiser-Alexander,
image available for photo prints & editorial downloads
Polk-A-Dot Drive-In still featured Marilyn Monroe, Kathy Weiser,
This image available for photo prints
& editorial downloads
Braceville was actually once a thriving city with 3,500 residents at
its height in the 1870's. By the late 1880's the town sported six
general merchandise stores, two banks, a hotel, two restaurants and 18
other retail businesses.
Braceville thrived until the summer of 1910 when the miners of the
Braceville Coal Company went on strike. Fed up with the whole
affair, the coal company simply closed and within just a few months the
town was all but abandoned leaving behind an opera house, a large frame
school and many empty businesses. Of these today, there is no sign
other than a few slag heaps along the old highway. However, the
Braceville area still supports some 800 residents.
Braceville is home to Mazonia/Braidwood
Fish & Wildlife Area, which features quality sport fishing lakes stocked
with largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, crappie, channel
catfish, and bullhead as well as areas for waterfowl hunting.
The next town on this coal mining ride is
Gardner. Right after crossing the Mazon River, two miles before reaching the small town of Gardner,
is the location of the once popular Riviera Restaurant. The historic
roadhouse, sadly, burned down in June, 2010. This historic Roadhouse was built in 1928
when a South
Wilmington business man, named
James Girot, moved the buildings from both
Gardner and South Wilmington to form the structure. Reportedly, movie legends Gene Kelly and Tom Mix used to regularly stop
here and it was a favorite out-of-the way joint for
Al Capone during his