A local tourism bureau and a committee overseeing the restoration of The Tropics neon sign that once stood near Route 66 in Lincoln, Illinois, plan to erect the sign in the parking lot of a McDonald’s that will replace the original Tropics restaurant.
The proposal was presented during a meeting of the Lincoln City Council. According to The New Herald-News, the city will use about $17,000 in motel-tax money for electrical work and concrete for the The Tropics sign’s new site. The city council also approved the sign’s proposed new site.
Bill Thomas, speaking on behalf of the sign committee, said officials are working on securing an easement for the sign’s new site from McDonald’s corporate headquarters and the franchise’s owner. Officials also are working out a memorandum of understanding among the city, tourism bureau and the Johnson family that once owned the The Tropics restaurant.
Thomas said the total cost of the project would be between $59,000 and $69,000. Officials plan to apply for a $24,500 cost-share grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, plus use donations and other local grants to cover the rest of the costs.
The newspaper reported:
According to Thomas, the old Tropics building is scheduled to be demolished in March. Once the final permitting is complete, construction of the new McDonald’s restaurant is expected to take just 90 days. Bricks from the Tropics building will be salvaged from the demolition for potential use in fundraising for the sign restoration. […]
The Committee anticipates submitting grant applications and doing private fundraising through the summer, with actual restoration work beginning after the NPS grants are announced in September. Potentially the sign would be completely restored and installed just a few hundred yards from its original location by spring 2018.
The neon sign was taken down in April 2014 after the The Tropics property changed hands and put into storage.
The Tropics opened in 1950. Original owner Vince Schwenoha once lived in California and drew inspiration from its palm trees when he dreamed up of his business in Illinois. The restaurant went through a spate of closings and reopenings after Interstate 55 bypassed the town.
More about the history of The Tropics restaurant may be read here.