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Route 66 News

North Springfield suffers from a drop in tourism

Shea's Route 66 Museum closed

The north side of Springfield, Illinois, is struggling economically because of a decrease in Route 66 tourism there, reported WRSP-TV.

Apparently the situation has declined so much, alderman John Fulgenzi has met with the mayor’s office and congressmen to figure out what to do about Peoria Road, aka Route 66.

In the mid-20th century, if you ever planned to motor to Springfield’s north end, it was bustling. “They have people lined up in the drive through way down Peoria Road past my house to get their pizzas there,” said Debbie Tilling, who lives right near Route 66, talking about Vic’s Pizza. But now those lines at Vic’s Pizza are gone. The restaurant closed. Shea’s Gas Station Museum shut down too. “There is less traffic I’ve noticed down Peoria Road and down my street,” said Tilling. […]

“We’re probably doing 75 percent what we did 10 years ago,” said Jim Davison, who owns Jungle Jim’s Cafe. Gina Gemberling, executive director of Springfield’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said she’s not surprised by the drop off in tourism, but couldn’t give a figure on just how bad the north end is hurting.

Interestingly, the drop in business on the south end of Springfield hasn’t been nearly as severe. City officials think it’s because that part of Route 66 is closer to the interstate.

It seems the closing of Shea’s Route 66 Museum — and the city’s inaction in buying the site when it had the chance — played a sizable role in Springfield’s decline. The city underestimated the impact it would have.

Other nearby cities on Route 66 stepped up their game in recent years. The once-sleepy downtown of Atlanta, Illinois, has become a full-blown tourism destination. Litchfield built a Route 66 museum and visitors center. Bloomington overhauled its downtown history museum in a Route 66 theme and is reaping the benefits economically.

Meanwhile, Springfield stagnated. An arms race for Route 66 tourism developed, and Springfield fell behind.

(Image of a closed Shea’s Route 66 Museum by Brad via Flickr)

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5 thoughts on “North Springfield suffers from a drop in tourism

  1. Rich Henry

    True you still have the Cozy Dog on Springfield’s South edge on Route 66. I feel the city of Springfield shot themselves in the foot by not doing something with Bill Shea’s Museum. They could have used it for an info/travel center or something. Once all the auctioning is over, you will have nothing but a vacant lot with the gas station buildings without all their former glory of artifacts. True you could not replace Bill Shea, but the City of Springfield could have kept his memories alive their and kicking on their Route 66. Other area need to take heed. At City of Edwardsville Route 66 Conference “Miles of Possibilities”, Swa Franzen from Belgium summed it up in his session there yesterday. You can preserve and restore, but you can overdo it. Also, you cannot replace it !!

  2. CuriousTraveler66 (@CuriousTravel66)

    It’s true that the city of Springfield goofed badly when it didn’t buy Shea’s museum — that was just stupid — but the Shea family didn’t do itself any favors, either, by asking an initial price of $1 million for the property and its contents. No wonder they had no takers. It’s extremely unlikely that they’ll get anywhere near that much through the auctions, especially as the state is still barely recovered form the Great Recession. Meanwhile, any reason for Route 66 roadies to stop in north Springfield has now vanished. Both sides share some blame for this.

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