Illinois Route 66

Begin (or End?) Route 66 in

Illinois Route 66


People on the move! That’s the name of the game in Chicago. Chicago has been and still is a town directly connected with transportation. Its location on the shores of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago River was a strategic location for trade – a fact not missed by the early explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet when they first came through here in 1673. They recommended a settlement at the site because of the location. Still, more than a century would pass before any serious attempts at a permanent settlement would begin. In 1803 construction was begun on Fort Dearborn at the mouth of the Chicago River. The future site of Chicago was a trading outpost and fort visited by trappers and Indians alike. The fort was burned in the War of 1812 but rebuilt in 1816 were it served the area until it closed in 1837. During those years a steady stream of immigrants moved into the area. In 1818 Illinois was admitted to statehood and in 1829 plans to dig a canal connecting Chicago with the Mississippi River were approved. A year later the plat of a new town called Chicago was surveyed and in 1833 Chicago was incorporated. The days of the wild trappers and indigenous Indians were numbered.
Construction on the new canal finally began on July 4, 1836 and the Illinois and Michigan Canal was finished in 1848. Chicago became the hub in a shipping network that connected the port towns of New Orleans and New York. Chicago’s location was its biggest asset. Chicago linked the east with the riches of the west. Chicago began a period of rapid growth fueled by the Industrial Revolution and paid for by an economic boom in trade as the nation’s crossroads. Chicago soon became one of the most important cities in the United States. Chicago’s fortune has always been linked with people and goods on the move.

Historic Chicago Church

What began with the barge and ship traffic was soon extended to the railroads. When they arrived in the later half of the nineteenth century Chicago became the new hub of an ever-expanding network of track opening up the fabled unspoiled west. After the railroads arrived, to go west was to go through Chicago. Then a little over 75 years after the canal to the Mississippi River was opened, in 1926, Route 66 came to town. It is truly fitting that Chicago became the eastern terminus of the road to California. After all, Chicago was the starting point for many a trip west. Route 66 and Chicago – it was a good fit!

Downtown Chicago

View 1936 Chicago City Map [MAP]

Chicago and Route 66's Lou Mitchells Jackson Street is the original Route 66 into Chicago. Today it is a one way street east to Michigan Avenue and Grant Park. Along the way you will pass throwbacks to the days of Route 66. Perhaps the most famous of all is Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant located at Jackson and Jefferson. The restaurant has been here since the days before Route 66. Lou Mitchell’s opened in 1923 and has been serving great meals and super coffee to customers on Route 66 ever since.

I can only imagine the stories that could be told of all the travelers that have come through the doors of Lou Mitchell’s in that time. This restaurant has seen a lot of history.

   Lou Mitchell's Interior
Chicago's Art Deco Depot Speaking of history, a short distance from Lou Mitchell’s is the impressive Union Train Station located along Route 66. The city of Chicago has preserved this impressive edifice for all to enjoy. Today it is still being used as a station for Amtrak maintaining the greatest traditions of a town known for its transportation heritage.

Depot Interior

Depot Interior Detail

The Architecture of the Union Station is pure elegance and speaks about the optimism of a nation on the move.


End Chicago Route 66

Grant Park is the official eastern terminus of Route 66. At the intersection of Jackson and Michigan you will find the End Historic Route 66 sign. When I finally came across that sign last June 2003 it was with mixed emotions. I had just completed a trip from Santa Monica, California all the way along Route 66 to this point on Jackson Street. The 2448-mile trip was in conjunction with Jim Conkle’s Route 66 Caravan sponsored by Hampton Inns ® Save-A-Landmark® program. I went along as co-pilot and web designer to chronicle this historic trip. You can view the 66 Caravan Road logs from the link provided on the Route 66 Home Page on this site. We had spent 66 days on Route 66 recognizing the individuals and businesses along the Mother Road that keep her traditions alive. We had also assisted in some historic preservation projects along the way.
Now the journey had come to an end. There was a certain sadness in that. In keeping with the "Pier to Pier" theme of the trip we were heading over to Navy Pier. Like the Santa Monica Pier the Navy Pier is not actually on Route 66, but both piers are within site of the end of the Mother Road so are definitely within the Route 66 corridor. Both piers are attractions and Route 66 would have been the road used to get to them.

Navy Pier

End of the Road at Chicago

I had finally made it! I had left Santa Monica with the Route 66 Caravan in April 2003. Now it was June and 2448 miles later. I was in Chicago!


Start Your Cyber Tour of Route 66



From Grant Park you can start your journey west to California on Route 66. This web site is set up with the more traditional east to west view of Route 66. Historically Route 66 is thought of as a highway that starts in the east and heads west and who am I to change that perception? These pages are set up as if you are driving the Mother Road in that direction. From Grant Park Historic Route 66 starts at Adams Street exactly in front of the Chicago Art Institute. For the purist though I have to mention that Adams Street was never really Route 66, it’s just the one way street going west from Grant Park. The Begin Historic Route 66 sign is located here. Travel Adams Street west for about 2.5 miles them make a left onto Ogden Avenue. You are now back on the original Route 66 heading west to Cicero, Berwyn and Lyons. From Lyons Interstate-55 runs along over the old original alignment of Route 66. At Boilingbrook you can leave the Interstate and continue your journey on the original 1940-1977 alignment of Route 66 through the small residential community of Romeoville south of Chicago. The image of the open highway that Route 66 presents becomes a reality once you pass Joliet.

Begin Historic Route 66


Photographs taken June 2003

Click on an area or city of Route 66 on the map below to take a cyber tour of that section of the  Mother Road

Travel Cyber Route 66 in Illinois

Go West on Route 66

NAVIGATION NOTE: Buckle up and hold on to your mouse! These pages are arranged like the map above, from the western state border to the eastern state border. I have set up this site as if you were traveling from EAST to WEST, much like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. You can click on the Route 66 shields to "travel" the Mother Road in either direction though. Or you can select any shield below to take you to that specific state.

Go East on Route 66

To Joliet
Route 66

You Are At the
Eastern Terminus!


Select the Route 66 State to Visit



© Copyright 2001-2004  GRandall Web Design Service