Route 66 News

The end and the beginning

As the final hours of 2011 wind down, let’s take a look at the two symbolic end points of Route 66.

The first is Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park in Chicago:

The second is the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica:

Either could be the beginning or end of Route 66, depending on which way you’re traveling.



4 thoughts on “The end and the beginning

  1. Maria R. Traska

    The problem here is that Buckingham Fountain in Chicago isn’t the eastern terminus: it wasn’t there on November 11, 1926 when Route 66 officially opened. The fountain was built the following year. In fact, there was no street connection between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive at the time (meaning, no east-west streets through Grant Park) until the 1930s. The official eastern terminus of Route 66 is at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue (Michigan Avenue was the N-S path of U.S. Route 41 at that time), and U.S. Route 66 ran west on Jackson until the mid-1950s, when a temporary westbound detour to Adams Street was made because of street construction. After construction was completed, Jackson remained one-way eastbound, as it is today. So, even the signs on Adams near Michigan that declare the beginning of Historic Route 66 on Adams are technically incorrect — it’s just that you can’t travel westbound on Jackson unless you’re walking, or on a bike or Segway (and even then, preferably very early in the morning or late in the evening, on a weekend). BTW, the Art Institute of Chicago at the NE corner of Jackson and Michigan *was* already there in 1926. If anything deserves to be the ‘landmark’ of the official eastern terminus, it’s the museum, NOT the fountain.

    1. Maria R. Traska

      I should add that the fountain is a few blocks south of Route 66 at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway, neither of which was there in Grant Park for many years after Route 66 opened — and the statue of Lincoln in Grant Park is even further south, i.e., even further away from the original path of Route 66. Yet another reason to consider the Art Institute as the point of the eastern terminus.

  2. Maria R Traska

    A better symbolic endpoint for the eastern terminus would be the Fountain of the Great Lakes, at the NE corner of Jackson and Michigan in the Art Institute’s south garden. The sculpture is by Lorado Taft, whereas the basin was designed by the architects who did the original section of AIC: Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge. Although design work on the sculpture began in 1906, the installation wasn’t completed until 1913. Thus, it was there and working well in advance of the inaugural of U.S. Route 66. Moreover, it’s as close to the actual terminus as you can get. Next to the Fountain of the Great Lakes, Buckingham Fountain is a mere poseur re: relevance to Route 66.

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