The Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau will soon be getting to work on spending a $919,000 grant from the state. Revitalizing the Last 100 Miles of Route 66 in southwest Illinois will fund community murals, a new Route 66 Interpretative Visitor Center in Edwardsville, Mother Road monuments in several communities and reopening the historic Cannonball Jail in Carlinville.
Those projects are all interlocking pieces of a revitalized Route 66 envisioned by the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau of Southwest Illinois, according to Cory Jobe, President/CEO of the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau. He speaks about the former service station that will be converted into a visitor’s center:
Jobe says the interlinking projects support the regional approach to tourism the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau has promoted over the years. The project also includes sites strategically located in small town business districts which will in turn drive visitors to restaurants and retail storefronts and increase the amount of time and dollars travelers spend in Illinois communities prior to crossing the state line to Missouri.
Route 66 projects include:
• The West End Service Station, 620 St. Louis St., Edwardsville, retrofitted in to a new interpretative and educational museum and Route 66 Visitor Center. The building was once a service station along Edwardsville’s portion of Route 66 and serving as a stop for travelers to re-fuel and make small purchases. When Route 66 bypassed Edwardsville in 1965, the building was transformed into a dental office until it was sold to the Illinois Department of Transportation in 2021.
• Development of a Mural Trail to create 12 postcard-style, matching murals that highlight Route 66 facts. These would be placed in 12 southwestern Illinois communities including Virden, Girard, Gillespie, Carlinville, Litchfield, Staunton, Hamel, Edwardsville, Collinsville, Livingston, Granite City and East St. Louis.
• “Six on 66” Monuments. These monument attractions will be unique metal structures clearly visible on Route 66 and designed to draw visitors into the communities. The monuments will serve as a photography waypoint in each town and will be a beacon for instate social media sharing. Monuments would be placed in Carlinville, Litchfield, Edwardsville, Collinsville, Granite City and Hamel.
• Historic Macoupin County “Cannonball Jail”. Grant funds would be used to complete structural updates and parking lot repairs needed to reopen the historic jail to Route 66 visitors. The jail, located across from the famed “Million Dollar Courthouse”, was constructed after the American Civil War with surplus cannonballs placed between stones to make prisoner escape impossible.