PONTIAC, Ill. (WMBD) — Our Central Illinois Road Trip continues this week and brings us to Pontiac.
Located about 40 minutes northeast of Bloomington-Normal on Interstate 55, Pontiac at one time was located along one of America’s first major highways, Route 66.
While the route is no longer in use and was eventually replaced by I-55 from Chicago to St Louis, Pontiac is preserving its Route 66 roots.
Nestled in downtown Pontiac is a blast from the past, honoring the ‘Main Street of America.’
“At one time, Main Street was 66 and it just brings thousands of people to town. Everyone knows about 66 even the other countries,” said the docent at the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum, Rose Geralds.
At the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum, visitors can see artifacts found along the Illinois portion of the route from Chicago to the St. Louis border. Geralds said it’s great so many artifacts are on display instead of stored away someplace.
“Everything in here has been donated or on loan, they have never bought anything and I don’t think they ever will because we have plenty here,” Geralds said.
While Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, many still make it a goal to drive the original route.
“I’ve had as many as 777 people in one day. I have had as many as 19 different countries in one day,” Geralds said.
“People just have this wonderful idea of this great American road trip and I think that’s what Route 66 embodies for a lot of people,” said Pontiac Director of Tourism Liz Vincent.
One of the biggest talking points; a large Route 66 shield mural painted on the back of the museum.
“It’s a pretty famous mural, in fact a lot of people when they drive Route 66 this is an ultimate destination just to get their picture with their car in front of it,” Vincent said.
Gerald said in addition to the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum, there’s a Life in the 1940s Museum, and Livingston County War Museum.
“We have never charged to get in, we do have donation box, that’s how we keep going is the donations,” Geralds said.