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Springfield, Ill., considers yet another site for Route 66 museum March 12, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums.
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With the razing of a century-old icehouse, city leaders in Springfield, Ill., are considering yet another site for a Route 66 visitors center, reported the Springfield State Journal-Register.

The long-vacant Central Illinois Power Co. icehouse at 918 E. Edwards St. (map here) is being torn down by owner Joe Chernis. Due to the site’s proximity to Ninth Street (aka Route 66), the city is ramping up talks again to set up its stalled Route 66 museum.

Chernis said he has had discussions with city and tourism officials about possible uses for the property, including the on-and-off idea of a Route 66 visitor center and museum. Ninth Street is among the routes followed by the historic route through Springfield.

But as with past efforts — including the proposed conversion of the Bel-Aire motel at 2636 S. Sixth St. — there is no money for construction. […]

City economic development director Mike Farmer said officials agreed to discuss the Route 66 concept at Chernis’ request, but Farmer agreed there is no money to pursue the idea.

The fact the property lies outside a tax-increment financing district doesn’t help. But one of its big assets is it’s close to the historic Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

But it’s probable that Springfield’s window to establishing such a museum has passed. Litchfield, less than 50 miles away, soon will open its own Route 66 visitors center. And with Route 66-related museums already running in Berwyn, Joliet, and Pontiac, one has to wonder whether the number of such museums in the Land of Lincoln has reached a saturation level.

Comments»

1. DynoDave - March 13, 2013

Ron, you have a wonderful way of making me want to disagree with you! LOL Just kidding of course, but I find myself in the awkward position of being the guy who always questions the need for yet ‘another’ Route 66 museum, but thinks Springfield should have one!

Speaking as an ex-Springfieldian, I’m glad to see they have not abandoned the idea of adding a Route 66 Welcome Center and Museum. With the many other tourism opportunities available in the Springfield area, the distance from Chicago (for those starting their Route 66 travels there), and access to other amenities, I believe Springfield is well positioned to become that “first night out” stop once leaving Chicago (which it already is for many, if not most, 66 travelers). The more there is to do, the better chance you have holding tourists for a day, or overnight (which from my understanding is the key to seriously “upping” the amount of tourist dollars you take in…the overnight stay).

I can certainly understand the desire to concentrate the cities attractions. But 66 took many paths through town over the years. Perhaps they could locate the museum on another branch of 66? The old Fleetwood on “the bypass” comes to mind. Lot’s a parking and easy access there. Or perhaps something out toward the Fair Grounds? They could partner in a museum with the State Police, who have long awaited promised funding for nicer facility? Or maybe even have it in a building IN the Fair Grounds?

How have other towns, with multiple 66 paths through their towns, dealt with this? Are any others attempting to cultivate Route 66 along multiple paths?

Ron Warnick - March 13, 2013

You make good points, Dave. I also want to make it clear that I don’t necessarily oppose a Route 66 visitors center in Springfield. In fact, I would welcome it. But these other museums that have popped up in Illinois in recent years make it a tougher prospect.

2. DynoDave - March 14, 2013

I understand that, Ron. And I’ve never been against any one particular museum either. But imagining myself as a traveler driving the length of the route, with only 2-3 weeks to take it all in, how many times will I want to stop and spend an hour+ in a Route 66 heritage museum (even if each one has a local tail to tell)? Like you, I’m concerned about over-population. At least the one in Springfield seems to have the support of the city, where the one in Litchfield seems to be dragging the city into participating.


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