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Springfield, Illinois - Page 2

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Sheas Gas Station Museum, Springfield, Illinois

Shea's Gas Station Museum,  Springfield,  Illinois, before it was closed and auctioned off, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, October, 2010.

Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.

 

 

 

On down the road was Shea’s Gas Station Museum, which was at one time an original Texaco station. Owner Bill Shea, a Route 66 Hall of Fame Member, passed away at the age of 91 in December of 2013. Welcoming visitors from all over the world, the old gas station contained over a half century of gas station memorabilia. The museum land, located at 2075 Peoria Road, and all of it's contents, where auctioned off in the fall of 2015. The historic gas station that Shea restored into the museum was purchased by Jeff Fulgenzi who owns a Pizza & Pasta restaurant at 1168 Sangamon Ave. Fulgenzi told a newspaper in November, 2015 that the building would be moved to the east side of his eatery.

 

Soon, the route will take you through Springfield's historic downtown. In addition to Springfield's Route 66 icons, you can’t forget that the city is the capitol of Illinois, as well as Abraham Lincoln’s long time home and burial site.

 

Downtown, the historical district provides many examples of preserved nineteenth century architecture, where you can walk through the very same streets as did Abraham Lincoln. The home he lived for 17 years has been meticulously preserved and is well worth the visit at 8th and Jackson Streets.

 

 

 

Illinois Capitol Building in Springfield, IllinoisCheck out the Old State Capitol Building where Lincoln delivered his famous "House Divided" speech. The Old State Capitol Historic Site was the center of Illinois government from 1839 to 1876 and is considered among the most important 19th century public buildings in the United States. After his assassination, President Lincoln's body lay in state in the second–floor House of Representatives. The Old State Capitol Building is located at 2nd and Capitol.

Also, visit the Lincoln Tomb Monument, where Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary and three of their four sons rest in the tomb of this 320-acre cemetery. Standing 117 feet tall, the exterior of the tomb is constructed of dressed granite.

The vintage Coney Island Restaurant at 210 S. 5th Street is located downtown as well.

 

As you continue on, you’ll come to the 1956 Sonrise Donuts Building at 1101 S. 9th St. Though Sonrise Donuts has been out of business for years, the 1956 building is once again home to a restaurant. With its neon sign still topping the building, Gibby’s Orbits, opened in July, 2010.

 

Jack and Pam Gibbons, have been selling mini doughnuts, corn dogs, shakeups and other fair favorites since 1985. Setting up their trailer at a long list of fairs, shows and events in the region.

 

Finally, the constant travel and set-up got to be too much and they decided on a permanent location at the old Sonrise Donuts building.

 

Here, the Gibbons 'continue their tradition of mini doughnuts, corn dogs, and deep-fried hot dogs, as well as expanding into full breakfasts and lunches. Keeping with a diner theme, it features a black-and-white checkerboard floor, the original Formica counter and red-and-chrome swivel stools and tables in the 1956 building. In the meantime, they franchised their old trailer and route who will continue their old tradition at fairs and events as Li’l Orbits.

 

Bel Aire Manor in Springfield, Illinois On down the road used to be the old Bel-Aire Motel at 2636 S. 6th Street. Built in the 1950's, the motel was another icon on the Mother Road, but after Route 66 was decommissioned, the property was sold in 1986 and began an immediate decline. According to Route 66 News, the new owner tried selling it for a time, but there were no takers. In the meantime, for years the motel suffered through hundreds of code violations from the city. After the owner died in September of 2014, it was finally decided to teardown the motel, with demolition beginning in June of 2015. Luckily the famous "sputnik" sign was salvaged and as of this writing is expected to be restored for display in the Ace Sign Company's neon museum, also in Springfield.

 

When is a corn dog not a corn dog? When you're at the Cozy Drive In along Route 66 in Springfield, Illinois. This first fast food of the road was introduced by Ed Waldmire at the 1946 Illinois State Fair. In 1950, he opened the Cozy Drive In. This Mother Road con still stands today at 2935 S. 6th Street in Springfield, Illinois, but when you order their "Cozy Dog," don't call it a corn dog, or you might be met with little more than a steely eyed stare.

 

Though Ed Waldmire passed away in 1993, the business is still run by his former daughter-in-law, Sue Waldmire. Ed was the father of Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire, who passed away in December, 2009.

 

Pre-1930's Route 66 Alignment south of Springfield, IllinoisAs you continue your travels southward along the Mother Road out of Springfield, you will have to make a choice between two alignments, which are both still intact today.

 

The pre-1930's two-lane alignment meanders through Chatham and Auburn -- where you can see a piece of brick alignment -- before moving on to Thayer, Virden, Girard, Nilwood, Carlinville, Gillespie, Benld, Sawyerville and Staunton. South of Staunton, the road rejoins with the later alignment.

 

The newer alignment (1930-1977) begins as a four lane road in Springfield closely following I-55 and will take you to Glenarm, Divernon, Farmersville, Litchfield, Mt. Olive, and Livingston.

 

If you travel the older alignment (pre-1930), you will see the Route 66 Drive-in at 1700 Recreation Drive, which still shows movies nightly.

 

As you travel on down the Mother Road you’ll pass over Lake Springfield. A manmade lake in the 1930’s, it now covers parts of the original two lane alignment of Route 66. When the water level is low, glimpses of the old road can still be seen. You might want to plan your trip to Springfield the last week in September when the enthusiastic Route 66 city holds the Route 66 Mother Road Festival every year. Join thousands of others to relive the good old days, see dozens of vintage automobiles and celebrate the Rock and Roll era.

Or as an alternative, travel through the city in late August when Springfield hosts the Illinois State Fair each year. Regardless of when you visit this historic city, plan on taking your time here, as there is much to see.

 

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June, 2016

 

 

 

 

Also See:  Ghosts of Historic Springfield

 

Springfield Slideshow:

 

 

All images available for photo prints & downloads HERE.

 

 

Lincoln Tomb Monument

Lincoln Tomb Monument, October, 2005, Kathy Weiser.

This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.

 

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