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Illinois Route 66

West Illinois Route 66

and the Mitchell Area

Illinois Route 66

 

Get Your Kicks in Hamel

   
Hamel, Illinois Just before you get to Hamel as you travel west on historic Route 66 you will pass St. Paul Lutheran Church and the historic Neon Cross. This cross has been a landmark on Route 66 since her early days. The soft glow from its neon has comforted drivers for over 50 years. I don't believe it has anything to do with the fact that soon you will be approaching St. Louis and the heavy city traffic. I could be wrong though. As you travel west another two miles on 66 you will enter Hamel. Hamel is a small pleasant village along Old Route 66. The banners in town proudly proclaim the towns affection for the Mother Road.
      
Hamel has a wonderful old roadhouse left over from the busy days of Route 66. It was built by Ernie Cassin, a Route 66 businessman. Ernie had the Farmer's Hudson Dealership here back in the old days. He began to transport cars from Detroit into the area and Cassin's Transport was born. It appears that Ernies daughter was rather rambunctious back then so to give her something to do, in other words - keep her out of trouble - he built this fine old roadhouse for her in the 1930s. Today it still continues operation as Scotty's Roadhouse. The town of Hamel still celebrates its Route 66 heritage. Yes, Al Capone used to come through here quite often from DeCamp Junction on his way to the Luna Cafe in Mitchell.

Hamel Road House

    

Edwardsville

        
Edwardsville Old Motel Sign Edwardsville was founded in 1813 which makes it one of the oldest towns in the region. It was named in honor of  the Illinois' Territorial Governor, Ninian Edwards. Edwardsville is located at the edge of the Mississippi River Valley. From here you will descend towards the famous river. On the outskirts of town, if you look closely you may see the old Town and Country Motel sign. This old sign is all that remains of a motor court located on the outskirts of Edwardsville. Once again I can't help but think of the people who passed this way once, so long ago.

 

Mitchell and the Famous Luna

    
Mitchell is an old Route 66 town. The traveler 50 years ago saw the country change before his or her eyes. It was here that the first hint of urbanization becomes noticeable. Since leaving Chicago Route 66 is primarily a rural route through the countryside and small towns of Illinois. As you drive into Mitchell the landscape changes indicating you are fast approaching a large city, and you are - St. Louis.  It was here at Mitchell that the Route 66 traveler of years past had a choice to make. Route 66 branched off into City 66 and the "belt-line" over the Chain of Rocks Bridge. The "belt-line' was the favored route for those wishing to go around the inner city traffic of East St. Louis and St. Louis across the river. Jack Rittenhouse recommended it in his guide book.

Mitchell's Bel Air Drive-In

       

Bel Air Drive-In Sign

There are still signs of Old Route 66 in Mitchell, but some of them are fading fast like this old drive in movie theater. All that's left today is the old marquee. How long it will survive is anybody's guess.

      

Historic Luna Cafe

Luna Cafe Classic Sign

      
Past the old Bel-Air Drive In Route 66 winds into Mitchell proper. One of the first things I noticed was the colorful and obviously vintage Luna Cafe sign. This place cried out classic roadhouse! I've since come to find out that this beautiful old sign ranks as one of the oldest still to be found on Route 66. The Luna Cafe along old Route 66 has a pretty interesting history. Illinois around here is definitely gangster country. Just across the Mississippi River in Missouri seems like everything is "Jesse James slept here, or hid here, or robbed this" In Illinois we have Al Capone and his friends doing all that stuff. The Luna Cafe is no different. Evidently Al Capone used to frequent this little cafe in the country. The Luna Cafe was built in 1924, two years before Route 66. Though it really was a cafe, it also hosted a gambling operation in the basement and provided female companionship on the second floor. The story goes that if the red cherry on the old neon sign was turned on the girls were in.
     

Larry Wofford

Though I don't have any evidence, I bet that this old roadhouse was a true "speak-easy" during the prohibition era. If these walls could talk I bet we'd hear some pretty colorful stories!

Today the Luna Cafe is still open for business and still has all the charm of a Route 66 Roadhouse from the 1940s and 1950s. It is a pretty popular local hangout. Larry Wofford (left) bought the Luna Cafe six years ago. His friend, David Moore, a.k.a. the Snake, loves this place!

       
Past the Luna Cafe old Route 66 splits. For our cyber 66 purposes we will be taking the old "belt-line" around St. Louis. The old route once went over the Chain of Rocks Bridge. Today traffic over this famous bridge is limited to bikes and your own two feet. But the Chain of Rocks Road leading to the Illinois side of the historic bridge is well worth seeing. It dead ends at the Chain of Rocks Bridge where you can get out and walk. You will have to backtrack on the Chain of Rocks Road to get on the Interstate to cross the Mississippi River. I-270 is the modern incarnation of what once was the Route 66 "belt-line" and it crosses the river within sight of the Chain of Rocks Bridge.

City 66 still is an important part of Route 66 history. Though I don't recommend that the casual Route 66 explorer take the old alignment from Mitchell into East St. Louis as it's easy to get confused and some of the neighborhoods it traverses are rather rough, I will include it here as a Route 66 sidetrip. After all I had a guide when I took these pictures.

 

Take a Route 66 Sidetrip through East St. Louis & City 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 Chain of Rocks
Road

To Staunton,
Illinois

 

Select the Route 66 State to Visit

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