Visit wayside exhibits, experience hubs, interpretive statues and must-see Route 66 monuments along The First Hundred Miles. With the help of a brand-new web app, which can be found at heritagecorridorcvb.visitwidget.com/tours/the-first-hundred-miles, you can travel to 27 family-friendly roadside informational stops located between bustling downtown Chicago and historic small-town Pontiac.
Powered by Visit Widget, the convenient pre-made road trip can be accessed via desktop or mobile. Simply visit the link and you’ll be greeted with a linear map highlighting over two dozen bits of interpretive signage along the Mother Road. Erected by the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Association, these photo-illustrated informational boards help travelers of all ages understand the historical significance and lasting impact of Route 66, roadside restaurants and attractions. Join us as we explore a few of the signs awaiting you along the Route.
Route 66: The Traveling Showroom - A Car Culture Is Born
Route 66 was a traveling showroom for new cars in the 1950s. Bold design, streamlining, chrome and flaring fins captured people’s imagination. Ogden Avenue became a hub for automobile businesses in the Chicago area. In its heyday, the strip boasted over a dozen car dealerships. Today, Berwyn continues to celebrate its car culture. Henry Ford made cars affordable in the 1920s, but, by the 1930s, General Motors made them fashionable and introduced new car designs every year. By 1960, Americans owned more cars than the rest of the world combined. Ogden Top & Trim has provided nationally award-winning custom work since 1919, when Frank Nesdladek opened the firm. Three generations have helped auto lovers restore and customize their cars. Many dealerships have closed, but Berwyn still celebrates its car culture. Each September, Ogden Avenue is closed to vehicle traffic as thousands flock to see the Route 66 Car Show.
Eating On The Run – Fast Food On Ogden Avenue
Looking for a quick bite? After World War I, fast-food restaurants sprang up along Route 66, offering cheap and speedy meals for people on the go. Ogden Avenue is still home to many restaurants that were popular during the heyday of the Mother Road. Opened in the 1960s on Ogden Avenue, Bunyon’s Hot Dogs featured an oversized fiberglass hot dog man. In 2003, when Bunyon’s closed, the statue was transferred to downtown Atlanta, where you can see it today. Opened on Jan. 14, 1939, this is the oldest White Castle still operating on Historic Route 66. Here, you could get a 5 cent slider to eat at the counter or take some along for the open highway. White Castle was the first food chain in the nation to standardize buns, burgers and buildings. Spotless buildings, interiors and uniforms reassured customers that the food was clean and pure in an era when people feared poor meatpacking sanitation. Henry’s Drive-In on Ogden Avenue is a fixture on Route 66. Customers have enjoyed its famous hot dogs topped with fries since the 1940s. Henry’s 1950s-era oversized hot dog neon sign still stands proudly next to the drive-in.
Good Eating – White Fence Farm Story
A prominent Chicago citizen, Stuyvesant Peabody, had a theory: “People would enjoy a simple menu of superior food served in an attractive farm atmosphere.” In the early 1920s, he built White Fence Farm in present-day Romeoville on 12 acres of a 450-acre farm. It was an instant success with suburban Chicago. In 1926, Joliet Road was designated Route 66, and the farm became a favorite stop for travelers. Chicagoans could take a 40-minute drive on Route 66 for fine dining in a country setting. " … I am sure you will like this place to eat. One of the pleasant features is that while awaiting a table or after eating, you can play shuffleboard, croquet, ping-pong, pitch quoits, or simply sit on the terrace and enjoy the music … " commented Duncan Hines, food critic, in 1935. Stuyvesant Peabody, president of Peabody Coal Company, founded the White Fence Farm. The Currier and Ives prints in the restaurant are from his private collection. Robert and Doris Hastert bought the business in 1954. Their son, Robert Jr., continues the tradition. The menu still features “The World’s Greatest Chicken” served family style.
Full Service On Route 66 - A Friendly Refuge In Dwight
The Ambler-Becker Texaco Station operated longer than any service station on Route 66. It was run by local families for 66 years, from 1933-99. Flats were fixed, breakdowns towed, and, at times, the spirits of weary travelers restored. This quaint “house and canopy” cottage-style building blended with neighborhoods where filling stations were just becoming common. It evoked a sense of comfort and home for travelers. The Ambler era’s Basil “Tubby” Ambler owned the business from 1954-66, when it was known as Ambler’s Texaco Station. He kept a couch in his station to invite folks to feel at home. The Becker era’s 14-year-old Phil Becker was hired by Tubby Ambler to do odd jobs at the station in 1964. He bought his old friend’s business in 1970, and operated it for over 26 years as Phil Becker’s Texaco and, later, Marathon Gas Station. Phil and Deb Becker donated the station to the citizens of Dwight in 2004. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and in the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame. Today, the station continues to serve travelers as the Visitor’s Center for the village of Dwight.
To explore more wayside exhibits along The First Hundred Miles of Route 66, visit heritagecorridorcvb.visitwidget.com/tours/the-first-hundred-miles. To start planning your own fall road trip, be sure to visit thefirsthundredmiles.com.