Atlanta, a stop along Route 66
Enroute to a presentation in Bloomington last week, I was a bit early so I stopped in Atlanta, Illinois to revisit a few Route 66 icons. It had been a few years and I was pleasantly surprised by all I saw! The first thing on my agenda was the Paul Bunyon statue. The statue stands 19 feet tall and is clutching a giant hotdog. This is just one of the Route 66 Muffler Men that lined the Route 66 corridor. To stay away from copyright problems the name is spelled Bunyon rather than Bunyan!
The icon was created in 1966 as a way to create gripping advertisement for a hotdog stand that was first installed on a roof in Cicero, Illinois. The figure is fiberglass and unlike the original isn’t holding an ax, but rather is holding a hotdog. After the hotdog stand closed in 2002, the statue found new life in Atlanta.
The statue sits across the street from another icon, the Palms Grill Café. A panel replicating a portion of the café is also on display next to Paul Bunyan. Near these Route 66 icons is the Atlanta Route 66 Park where visitors can sit and enjoy the mural in the park. I enjoyed just parking the car and walking and seeing the cool old fashioned water fountain like the ones they had back in the 1930’s and the other Atlanta historical markers in this section that is across the street from the beautiful Atlanta, Library and clocktower.
The library is the only 8-sided limestone public library. Built in 1906, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. I have visited the library before, so I just walked past on this visit. I stopped in Arch Street Artisans and visited with the clerk and checked out some of the terrific Route 66 items. She shared that while many people stop that most of the visitors are from different countries especially England and Australia. She had a visitor from Paris the day before.
I noticed that when I parked, I had been the only car on the street. By the time I came out of the store, several cars had stopped and a young couple was posing in front of the Paul Bunyon statue. Atlanta has brought great traffic to their little town with their Route 66 history.
Before heading out I spied the Atlanta Rt. 66 Aracade Museum and the Atlanta Museum. While in the same building, the arcade is in one section, and the Atlanta museum in another. The extensive arcade collection that is chock full of vintage pinball and video games from the 1930’s to 1970’s. Most can even be played. Before heading to either though, I was taken by the amazing Chemical fire truck.
The truck was built by Atlanta native Neil Rice who was well known around the area for his mechanical ability. Rice was a World War I Veteran and a member of the Atlanta Volunteer Fire Department. Seeing a need for the Atlanta Fire Department to have a chemical fire truck, Neil built one from the ground up. The unique chemical fire truck started with the 1914 Model T as a chassis for the truck. The 1914 Roadster had belonged to Dean Hoblit. After modifying the truck, it was used by the Atlanta Fire Department from 1923 until 1948. When the truck needed restoration, Neil did the job then as well.
The history in the Atlanta Museum goes back to the Abraham Lincoln era. One of the displays shows Lincoln practicing a speech for a debate with Stephen Douglas. The story is based on the retelling of a man that overheard Lincoln reading his speech out loud. There is a scene with a figure depicting the story.
There is also information on Lincoln and the Wide Awakes. The Wide Awakes was a teen and young adult organization created by the Republican Party during Lincoln’s 1860 campaign. This was a paramilitary group that supported Lincoln’s campaign
Before heading out of town, I drove over to and walked around the J.H. Hawes Elevator museum. This wooden grain elevator was built in 1903 along the Illinois Midland Railroad. It was used to store locally farmed grain before shipping it to nearby Illinois cities. Along with the museum, there is also the scale house and engine shed. This is the only fully restored wooden grain elevator. There is also a fully renovated 1920’s Wabash Boxcar.
The museum was built by McIntyre and Wykle and is an example of a studded grain elevator with vertical wooden studs. It was open until 1975 then later restored to its original condition.
I thoroughly enjoyed my departure off Route 55 to Route 66. I need to go back when all the shops are open and try out the Palm Cafe. What a fun stop with nothing on the agenda but taking in a bit of fun in this town along the Route 66 trail! For more information, log onto www.atlantaillinois.org.