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Shea’s Route 66 Museum faces uncertain future May 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Museums, Restaurants.
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Shea’s Gas Station Museum in Springfield, Illinois, faces a cloudy future since its longtime patriarch, Bill Shea, died in 2012 at age 91, according to a story in the Springfield State Journal-Register.

Another Route 66 landmark in Springfield, Joe Rogers’ The Chili Den Parlor, also faces an uncertain future since a “closed for repairs” sign was posted about two weeks ago.

Bill Shea Jr. has sporadically opened the former gas station for bus tours, but its future is mostly up in the air because of legalities.

Shea Jr. said the property went to probate court after his father’s death and that it could take until this fall to resolve legal issues. […] He said he has no specific plans for the museum while probate continues, but that there have been offers for pieces of his dad’s Route 66 collection. Shea said his preference is to keep the building and the collection together.

“I’d like to see it turned into a Route 66 visitors center,” said Shea, “and maybe have my dad’s name on it.” […]

Bill Shea Jr. said, in addition to resolving the probate case, he must have the museum property appraised before making decisions. But he said he remains hopeful of maintaining at least a piece of his father’s Route 66 legacy.

“I’d like to have it there in memory of my dad,” Shea said. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Gina Gemberling, acting director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, made it fairly clear if the city had its way, it would have purchased the building and reopened it. But there’s no money to do so.

As for The Chili Den Parlor, the owners did not return calls to the newspaper since its closing. Efforts to reach Marianne Rogers — daughter of founder Joe Rogers and owner of the rights to the chili’s spice blend — also were unsuccessful.

The restaurant’s website remains up but has this curt message on the homepage: “Thanks for your past patronage, but we are currently closed.” And its Facebook page has had no posts since April 25. Interestingly, the restaurant was looking for a manager about a month ago; one has to wonder whether that was a factor in its closing.

(Image of Shea’s Gas Station Museum by Sandor Weisz via Flickr)

Comments»

1. DynoDave - May 13, 2014

I was very sad to read this. Also sorry to see that Bill Sr. did not have a will more clearly defining what the future of the property should be. It would be sad to see the collection broken up.

It would make a great city-owned welcome center. I’d rather have that than the Bel-Aire Motel that they wanted to buy a few years ago. There would be little or no renovation costs, and less expensive maintenance on this smaller Shea facility.

To me, a welcome center should be on the north side, as the majority (? correct me if I’m wrong) of 66 travelers are traveling south from Chicago, and you’d like to make your pitch for Springfield tourism on their way INTO town, not on their way OUT. Maybe that’s just me. I suppose a case could be made for either end of town, or both.


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