McLean (Home of Dixie) & Atlanta
As you continue your journey down
Route 66 from
you will soon come to
just about four miles down the road. This small town, with a
population of only about 800 residents, still continues to collect
hundreds of visitors at the Dixie Truckers Home, the oldest and best truck
Illinois. Filled with
memorabilia, the truck stop has been serving up burgers and fries since
McLean got its start in June, 1855 when a man
named Franklin Price, the brother-in-law of a Bloomington real estate
developer, laid out the townsite. Price came to Bloomington from
Pennsylvania in 1849, and initially working as a clerk and newspaper
writer. In the same year that he founded McLean, he was elected mayor of
Bloomington, serving from 1855 to 1858. He never lived in McLean, as, for
Price, the development of the town was a business venture.
McLean was laid out when the Alton and
Springfield Railroad was first built through McLean County. The nearby
towns of Atlanta, Normal, and Towanda were laid out at the same time.
A Hardware Store and a few other businesses
operate in small town, McLean, Illinois, Kathy
Weiser-Alexander, October, 2010.
Almost two decades earlier, another town was
established about two miles east of McLean in 1836. This settlement,
called Mt. Hope, was founded as a colony by the Providence Farmers and
Mechanics Emigrating Society of Rhode Island. However, it was not a
success and when McLean was founded, the Mt. Hope church building was
moved to McLean. The first building in the town was the railroad
station, and the first residents, brothers, G.L. and F.A. Wheelock,
who worked for Alton and Springfield Railroad. Before long, a
blacksmith shop and a warehouse were established.
McLean was incorporated as a village in May,
1866, but, it would always remain a small town. By 1900, it was called
home to 532 people.
Route 66 came through in 1926, a number of
businesses were established to service the travelers. One of these was
the Dixie Truck Stop. The business first
began as a mechanic’s garage, that also sold sandwiches. Established by J.P. Walters and John Geske,
it was started with little more than a counter and six stools.
However, it quickly gained popularity and by the mid 1930's had
developed into a full-fledged restaurant complete with cabins in the
Not only popular to travelers, Dixie’s also
brought in hundreds of area locals who enjoyed the live entertainment
and music on the weekends. However, when World War II began, the
festive weekends came to a screeching halt. However, the restaurant and gas station
continued to serve travelers by four generations of the Geske family
until June, 2003. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, it
never closed except one day when it suffered a fire in 1965.
The Dixie Truckers Home has since changed hands and has
an updated look, but, still continues to stand along
serving the truckers and travelers of the
McLean's original downtown business district
still exists; and though there are still a few businesses, it looks a
Several historic buildings can still be seen, as well as the restored
train depot, which
now serves as a train shop selling model
trains and a visitor info center.
Village of McLean
121 S. Hamilton
P.O. Box 84
McLean, Illinois 61754
In just about five more miles, you’ll come to another
Illinois. Here, you’ll find several remnants of vintage eras in this
proud town. Getting its start as the settlement of Newcastle in
1854, the village found itself over a mile from the railroad when the
steam engine bustled through the area a year later. Moving the
town -- lock, stock and barrel, nearer the railroad, the new
settlement became known as
In 1903 the
J.H. Hawes Elevator was built to serve the area farmers and continued to
operate until 1976. In 1988 it was purchased by the City of
and fully restored in 1993. The wooden grain elevator is the only
one of its kind in the State of
and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the building
houses a museum that demonstrates the unique systems used to empty
horse-drawn wagons, and later unload grain trucks. The museum, located at
301 Southwest Second Street, also includes a brick engine house and a
wooden scale house/office.
museum resides at the
Public Library and Clock Tower, built in 1908.
The octagon shaped building is on the National Register of
Historic Places, featuring 1840’s neo-classic details such as high
ceilings, a domed rotunda, high narrow windows, the original solid oak
woodwork, and an old fashioned fireplace. A museum was established
in the basement in 1973 that houses pieces of local history. The
library museum stands on the corner of Race and Arch Streets.
The 1903 J.H. Hawes Elevator now serves as a
museum in Atlanta,
Illinois. Photo courtesy
& Warner Farm
In the downtown area is a new
Park that celebrates the heritage of the
the town that is known as the geographic center of
Route 66. The park is home to the hotdog man who stood for more than
forty years in front of Bunyon’s Hotdog Stand in Cicero,
Illinois. When the restaurant was sold in 2003, the famous Hot Dog Man was placed by
the family on permanent loan to the town of
as part of the park. The 19-foot tall statue, now referred to as "Tall
Paul,” underwent months of renovation and repairs before being placed in
While cruising through this picturesque town,
be sure to check out its many murals on the historic buildings. At
107 Vine Street is a vintage era country market that has long served and a
mom and pop grocery store.
The city has many other
historic landmarks such as The Carriage Shed, where Abraham Lincoln stayed
with the Hoblit family; Turner’s Grove where Abraham Lincoln attended a
July 4, 1859 celebration, and Gold Springs, an 1800’s resort area.
Just four miles west of
is the Eminence Christian Church which was built in 1901. Prior to
the current structure was another built in 1856. It is believed that the
church has one of the oldest congregations in the country.
Their membership hosts many fifty year
members, some of which are eighth generation descendants of the charter
Keep your eyes open and your camera
ready as your journey has just begun. Continue kicking asphalt on
down to the historic cities of
Elkhart and more.
of America, updated September, 2016.
The old train depot in McLean now serves as and
Antique Shop, September, 2004, Kathy Weiser.
The Hot Dog Muffler Man stood for almost 40
years in Cicero,
before it found a new home in Atlanta. September, 2004, Kathy Weiser.
From Legends' General Store
Emporium - Route 66
- ah, what great memories she brings. At
Legends' General Store, you will find all kinds of memorabilia
to bring you more! Our Route 66 Emporium has added dozens of
T-Shirts and more.