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Illinois Route 66

Litchfield
Route 66

Illinois Route 66

 

Litchfield is an old coal mining town. It was originally incorporated in 1859. Litchfield also has the distinction of being the site of the first commercial oil production in Illinois. The small pocket of oil at Litchfield was soon exhausted over one hundred years ago but Litchfield lives on in part thanks to Route 66. There's a lot of community pride in this town and the Litchfield folk realize what Route 66 meant and still means to the economic life-blood of their town. For the nostalgia buffs Lichfield still has a fully operational Drive-In Theater! Of course it doesn't hurt to have one of the finest cafes on all of Route 66 located in your town. Five star food anyone? I'm not Duncan Hinds but I'd say so in my humble opinion. Further more I would drive hundreds of miles to eat at the Ariston Cafe. In fact people drive from Chicago and St. Louis to do just that!

Hungry? Try the Ariston in Litchfield

Ariston Cafe in the 1930s

The Ariston has been a favorite for great food since the earliest days of Route 66. In 1924 Pete Adam started a family restaurant and a tradition of fine food that continues to please travelers today. Here we are in the 21st Century and the name Ariston still conjures up images of excellent cuisine and unbelievable desserts.
     

Ariston Sign

The Ariston Cafe

     

Ariston Vintage Marlin
This old Marlin reminds me of my childhood in the 1950s.

     
In 1924 Pete built his first restaurant in Carlinville, Illinois. With the rerouting of Route 66 Pete knew he needed to go where the highway went so in 1929 he leased some property in Litchfield and built his new restaurant. The original Litchfield restaurant was located across the street from the present location. With the success of his Litchfield restaurant Pete built a new building on the present site in 1935 - and the rest is history. The Ariston's motto has always been "Remember Where Good Food is Served" and the Ariston's customers have done just that. It is still going strong today!

This is so right!

     

Nick and Demi

Demi and Nick Adam still own and operate the Ariston Cafe, and provide the service and quality that Pete started so long ago. Walking into the Ariston is like stepping back to the 1940s. I was so impressed by the Marlin on the back wall. I haven't seen one of those in decades, and it brought back memories of my childhood. I remember that as a young tike it seems every restaurant had one of those. If I recall correctly the barbershop my mom and dad used to take me to had one also!
     

This old vintage sign is all that is left of the gas station that once stood across the street from the Ariston Cafe. What is notable is that the gas station stood on the very site of the first Litchfield Ariston Cafe!

Old Gas Station Sign

 

Mount Olive and the Soulsby Station

     
Mount Olive is another coal mining town along Route 66 in southern Illinois. Perhaps Mount Olive's fame lies in the fact that it was the center of union activities at the turn of the last century. The Miner's Union Cemetery is located here on the northwestern edge of the city. There is one grave in the cemetery that is often visited, the grave of Mary Harris, better know as "Mother Jones." Mother Jones was a fierce advocate for the rights of miners and children alike. She once led a march of children on the city of New York to protest the deplorable conditions associated with child labor. Mount Olive's coal mines have disappeared, and the traces of old Route 66 are fading away. Fading away except at the Soulsby Shell Station.
      
Soulsby Shell Station In 1926 Henry Soulsby and his son Russell built this Shell Station. Today it ranks as one of the oldest filling stations still standing on Route 66. The original 1926 station was a mere 13 by 20 feet wide and had just enough room for a desk, cash register, battery charger and a few supplies. The Soulsbys doubled the size of the station in the 1930s, but it was never big enough to be called a garage. There is a drive up ramp located outside of the station that was used for oil changes and minor repairs. Looking at it today it appears the last oil change was a very, very long time ago.
          
After W.W.II it appears the station was enlarged enough to accommodate a TV repair business. Russell learned about radios and electronics in the Navy during the war and put that knowledge to use by starting the TV repair business in the 1950s. After Henry died, Russell and his sister Ola ran the station until 1991. When it couldn't keep up with the new EPA regulations for gas stations Russell and Ola had to close the station. The Soulsby family had run this station for 65 years! They continued to greet visitors though until 1997 when Ola passed away and Russell finally sold the station. Russell passed away in 1999 heralding the end of an era on Route 66. The new station owner is working with the Soulsby Station Society to maintain this classic filling station as a historical and educational attraction for the Route 66 explorer. It has been refurbished and is a wonderful example of the old time stations that could be found along the highway 75 years ago.

Soulsby Shell Gas Pumps

     

It's Been a Long Time Since the Last Oil Change!

The old repair and oil change ramp at Soulsby Station hasn't been used in years. This oak tree can attest to that fact. It grew up between the ramps!

 

Photographs taken September 2002 and 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 Staunton

To Springfield

 

Select the Route 66 State to Visit

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