Route 66's Red
Carpet Corridor Communities, Pontiac has much to offer for the
Route 66 Roadie
and the history buff alike.
Prior to the coming of white men, the plains
around Pontiac were home to Illinois, Potawatomie,
There were a few traders of European descent who traveled through the
territories prior to the arrival of the first settlers in about 1829.
Livingston County was established by an act of the
Illinois congress in
February of 1837 and within no time, a commission met and selected a site
that was owned by three early Pontiac settlers.
The three settlers, who included Henry
Weed, Lucius W. Young, and Seth M. Young, laid out a townsite and
agreed to contribute $3,000 for the erection of public buildings, as well as donating land for a public square, a jail and a pen for stray
domestic animals. They also promised to build a bridge across the
Vermilion River. The town was named for the
Indian Chief, Pontiac. Though
Pontiac had waged war on white setters invading
for some 60 years, he was much admired by both whites and Native
Livingston County was organized, a two-story frame courthouse was
completed in Pontiac in 1842 and located on the public square. It
continued to serve the county until a new building was built in 1856.
Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the second courthouse, but a third was
completed in 1875, which still stands today and is listed on the
National Historic Register..
Having some of the richest farmland in the
nation, Pontiac thrived with an agricultural economy, growing wheat,
corn, and other staple crops. Later, it developed a number of
manufacturing facilities, bringing further prosperity to the town.
These included shoe and boot manufacturers and the Allen Candy Company with its famous "Lotta Bar." The advertising slogan for this confection
was, "A Lotta Bar for 5 cents."
Early on, Pontiac developed a rich
cultural heritage, beginning with the Folks Opera House that featured a
number of artists who traveled the circuit from
Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri.
The community grew steadily, but prospered even more
barreled through in 1926. Happily, the community quickly provided services and amenities to the many travelers of the historic
Today, this city of some 12,000 people
provides several historic points of interest including the Livingston
County Courthouse built in 1875, the Jones House built in the 1850's, and
the Old City Hall Shoppes, all of which are listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
Pontiac, make sure you stop by the Route 66
Museum and Hall of Fame, which provides
artifacts, pictures, and literature capturing years of adventure on the
old route. The museum was built inside a
refurbished firehouse, which is also listed on the National Register of
Historic Places. It's also home to the late Bob
Waldmire's bus and van. Waldmire was a noted Route 66 Artist and
Icon who died in late 2009. Also here, is the Old City Hall Shoppes and the
Livingston County War Museum.
It is located at
110 W. Howard Street.
Also take a look at the gun-shaped
State Police District 6 Headquarters. The building is constructed
in the shape of a pistol and served as the base for state troopers who
patrolled roads from Dwight to McLean. In 2003, it was vacated when a new
state police headquarters was built nearby. It was inducted into the Route
66 Hall of Fame in 2000 and listed on the National Register of Historic
Places in 2007. It is located at 15551 Old U.S. 66 on the south side of
The old Log Cabin Inn is still open for
business in Pontiac. This is a classic old restaurant that got its start
back in 1926 and has been entwined with Route 66 ever
since. It used to face the early alignment of Route 66;
However, when Route 66 had it's old alignment changed to the other side of
the building it was jacked up and turned around. Later, a newer building
was constructed right next door. The old building now serves as a
residence. It is located at the intersection of Pontiac Road, which was
once two-lane Route 66, and
the newer four-lane Route 66 on the
north edge of town at 18700 Old Route 66.