ROUTE 66 – The Will Rogers Highway or the Main street of America or the Mother Road.

Route 66 was established in 1926 taking till 1933 to be completed. It became one of the country’s principal roads running from the east to the west and was designed to connect the main streets of the rural small towns and cites between Chicago and Los Angeles. Even before it was completed it had became instrumental in assisting the new trucking industry to rival the railroad as the farmers were able to transport their crops and produce direct from the farm gate.

But the beginning of the allure of Route 66 came with its first claim to fame when the John Steinbeck 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath” was published. In the novel he talks of the road as the Mother Road that transported thousands during the depression, believing it was the road to opportunity away from the tragedy of the Dust Bowl.

Over the years Route 66 has gone on to be a cult symbol in the minds of not only the citizens of the USA but to many around the world. It many quirky road stops, stores, drive inns and signage along the meandering road has only enhanced the myth of the road. Along with many songs and movies based on the or around the Road, In particular the 1946 Nat King Cole classic “(get your kicks on) Route 66”.

So in saying all the above and after visiting the Old Chain of Rock Bridge, as we left St Louis to head towards Chicago, it was a no brainer that we would endeavour to cover as much of Route 66 as we could.

The sad part is that when it was decommissioned as a main highway back in 1985 and Interstate 55 became the new direct route, a lot of Route 66’s classic history as it hopped back and forth across the Interstate was lost. But thanks to the government in 1990 it was recognised for it part in the history of the USA and significant sites along the various Route 66 (as it changed its path a few times) are being preserved.

We thought we would make a couple of stop overs on the way to Chicago to ensure we can see as much as possible. Springfield (the capitol of Illinois) seemed the ideal first stop, and again, as we are finding, there is always so much more to learn. Springfield is the home state for 2 past US presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Barak Obama.

Here in Springfield (the state capitol of Illinois) is the Oak Ridge Cemetery where there is the Tomb of Abraham Lincoln (a wonderful tribute to an incredible man). In town there is the Lincoln Presidential Museum, the home he lived in, the Old State Capitol building (built in 1839) where he was Senator for the State of Illinois and also ran his presidential election campaigns from. Not to forget the magnificent New State Capitol Building (well nearly new as it was completed in 1888). And across the road was the State Museum. Then as you turn a corner there is another piece of Route 66 history. As I walked around this little town I felt like I was tripping over history with every step.

You can imagine my absolute delight as we drove home the first afternoon, to find that also in town was the magnificent Dana-Thomas House. An early Frank Lloyd Wright architectural piece of art, and it was open to view.
The new State Capitol Building so dominated the skyline that it was not possible not to visit here. Again and again, as we have visited so many of these wonderful places, we wonder where the people are. I thought the fresco in the dome in the St Louis Old Court House was magnificent but it seems these domes just keep getting better and better and better.

We walked through the doors and just stood in awe. This building is beautiful. The marble and the paintings. I felt like I just wanted to stand in one spot and turn round and round and round looking up at it all.

Of course as we wandered through the levels of the building, TOH Starts talking to a cleaner about the building. TOH dearly wanted to go to the very top of the dome, but unfortunately that was not open to the public. But the conversation became about the ongoing upkeep and restoration of the building and how they are opening up the basement of the building where there are multiple tunnels running under the town. These tunnels are not open, but the basement was, and he took us down to have a look at the incredible base that is holding this building up. There was no marble to be seen down here, but in itself beautiful and you just have to be amazed at the building processes required to build such an incredible building over 130 years ago.

While here we also caught various Route 66 icons in particular we headed out of town to Aubrun where there is still a 1.4 mile length of the original brick Route 66. To the absolute delight of TOH a 1966 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible pulled up at the same time as we did. We had an enjoyable but short time with the #SassySix on the road before we headed off to view the Sugar Creek Covered Bridge which was also on the original Route 66.

How better to finish the morning off the Cozy Dog Drive Inn Dinner. Apparently this is where the Corn Dog (a battered hot dog on a stick) was invented. The Diner was owned by a Route 66 stalwart Ed Waldmire (it is still in the family). The memorabilia in the Diner certainly made you feel like what it may have been like 50 years ago.

We finished off our visit to Springfield with a visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Dana-Thomas house. This is the largest house that he designed and was done early in his career, just after he started his own architecture business. The house was stunning, the detail in every corner of the house, in particular the cut glass windows just pointed to why he is designs are held in such awe world wide.

He designed this house for Susan Lawrence Dana, who was a socialite who wanted a “party” house. For the 24 years that she lived here it was well known for the incredible parties she held, some with up to 1000 in attendance.

Frank Lloyd Wright believed in simplicity and hated clutter or anything that could collect clutter. One of the stipulations he made of Susan was that no pictures to be hung in the house, as he believed the house was the art work. He also designed the majority of the furniture and fittings in the house, including a beautiful double pedestal cut glass lamp that is currently valued at least $US2 million.

We were not allowed to take photos in the house, which I struggled with as I so wanted to share this amazing place with you all. It was such a wonderful way to end our visit to Springfield.

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