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Bill Shea’s Route 66 Museum put up for sale November 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Museums, Preservation.
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14a Springfield IL - Bill Shea's Petroliana Museum 22

Bill Shea’s Route 66 Museum in Springfield, Illinois, has been put on the market after the property cleared probate following the longtime owner’s death in December, reported the Springfield State Journal-Register.

The newspaper noted the museum’s Facebook page had this message a few days ago:

According to the newspaper:

[Bill] Shea Jr. said last week that for-sale signs likely would go up soon as he begins to more actively market the property. He said he has not yet decided on an asking price.

“If someone comes along, we’ll work it out,” Shea said.

The museum, long operated by former gas-station operator and memorabilia collector Bill Shea, closed except for appointments in late 2012 after Shea became too frail and was moved into a nursing home. He died at age 91 about a year later.

Bill Shea Sr. started his career in the filling-station business after leaving the military in 1946 — the latter which included the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach. He owned Marathon and Texaco stations. Shea later converted a Marathon station on Route 66 into a museum of gas-station memorabilia that included a 1920s gas station moved from Middletown, Illinois. Shea greeted thousands of Route 66 travelers from dozens of countries at his museum.

Shea was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1993.

The city of Springfield has long talked about establishing a Route 66 visitors center, including the now-fading possibility of buying the decrepit Bel-Air Motel and converting it. But this opportunity may be better for all parties involved — if the city is wise enough to grab it. And there may be more urgency for Springfield to make a move — especially when Bloomington, Illinois, is building a Route 66 visitors center that’s slated to open in the spring.

UPDATE: Here’s a report by WICS-TV in Springfield:

(Image of Bill Shea’s museum by John Hagstrom via Flickr)

A glimpse at the future Billboard Museum November 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums, Preservation, Signs.
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Rio Siesta Hotel

If you’re a longtime traveler on Route 66 who wonders what happened to the old neon sign for the Rio Siesta Motel in Clinton, Oklahoma, we have an answer.

It — along with several dozen other signs and billboards — are safely in a storage warehouse in the Oklahoma City area until the Billboard Museum eventually is built.

Former Oklahoma Route 66 Association president Kathy Anderson now is president of the Billboard Museum Association, which is based in the Route 66 town of Bethany, Oklahoma. Anderson said by email the group hasn’t yet settled on a location for the museum.

“We do know our preference is the greater OKC metro area, preferably on or very very close to 66,” she wrote.

A recent article in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog gives some details about what the museum will be like, when built:

The museum plan calls for a building to house the vintage pieces that will give a thorough history of sign-making as well as a driving loop to showcase examples of old advertising. […]

Among the recent pieces that the group has acquired are a sign from the Rio Siesta Motel along Route 66 in Oklahoma; a Ralph’s Drug Store sign from Oklahoma City dating back to 1947; and a Taft stadium sign from Oklahoma City. Located along historic Route 66, the stadium was completed in 1934 as a New Deal-era Works Progress Administration project.

The group also recently acquired a doctor’s buggy dating back to the early 1900s.

A photo from the museum group’s newsletter shows many of the signs in storage, including the Rio Siesta:

Jim Gleason, vice president of the group, told the National Trust he believes many people hold other signs in garages and warehouses who would be happy to donate them to the museum.

Memberships to the museum are here. The museum publishes a newsletter, and has a Facebook page.

(Image of the Rio Siesta Motel sign in 2008 by Kris via Flickr; image from the Billboard Museum warehouse courtesy of Kathy Anderson)

Rancho Cucamonga station may reopen by July November 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Museums, Preservation.
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The historic Cucamonga Service Station along Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga, California, may reopen next year as a museum — perhaps by July, in time for its centennial, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

The article details the work the nonprofit Route 66 IECA group has done since taking over the property in January:

When the group moved in January, the gas station was in disrepair. The windows that surround the building were broken; there was a large hole in the roof and the walls, and the electrical wiring needed to be replaced. […]

More than 50 volunteers are helping to bring it back to its glory days.

New custom-made windows have been installed; the wiring and the walls have been replaced and primed. The exterior is entering the final stages and is ready for a three-color paint scheme. The lower half of the building will be blue, with a red stripe in the middle, and topped with yellow, akin to the past. […]

In September, Gonzalez was able to acquire key historical items. Two gas pumps from that era — one from 1914 and another from the 1920s — and a Richfield sign will eventually be placed on the station’s roof.

Inside, the service station display cases will line the walls and be filled with historic artifacts and car memorabilia.

To raise money, the group hosts a monthly breakfast buffet at Sweeten Hall the first Saturday of each month. The next one is Dec. 6.

Many photos of the gas station restoration work may be seen here.

The gas station opened about 1915 and closed during the 1970s. A billboard company used the property for storage until Route 66 IECA came with its offer in 2013 to buy the property. The Rancho Cucamonga City Council gave historic landmark status to Cucamonga Service Station in 2009.

Route 66 — a jobs creator November 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Museums, Towns.
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During a formal introduction Wednesday of the logo for the new Route 66 Visitors Center in Bloomington, Illinois — which we already reported months ago — local officials revealed some eyebrow-raising statistics about the economic value of the Mother Road.

Bloomington, which long seemed indifferent to Route 66 for years, suddenly has embraced it. And this excerpt in the Bloomington Pantagraph’s report partly explains why (boldface is my emphasis):

By the third year of operation, Koos said the tourism center is expected to bring $6 million in new revenue to the county and could create an estimated 100 jobs by bringing 20,000 people into the center of the city.

“I think this center is a huge catalyst for economic development,” said Bloomington Alderman Karen Schmidt, who was acting as mayor pro tem in Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner’s absence.

Jen Hoselze, director of the Illinois Office of Tourism, said travelers spent $352.8 million in McLean County last year.

As I predicted, the Route 66 Economic Impact Study from 2012 — including the revelation the road generated $127 million in tourism spending annually — was going to change the way many cities viewed the route. Money talks — in a big way.

As for the seemingly incongruous logo of Abraham Lincoln cruising 66 in a car, you had this take from a local official:

“He loved humor, enjoyment and a good time,” Koos said. “He’d be happy to be remembered in such ways.”

The state Office of Tourism already created a “mini Abe” for commercials promoting Illinois and recently started working on “big Abe” commercials with hopes of capturing attention in Asian countries where such characters are often idolized.

The Illinois Office of Tourism awarded a $249,000 grant for the project. Bloomington hopes to have the visitors center open by spring.

Future of Shea’s Route 66 Museum likely won’t be known until next year October 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Gas stations, Museums, Preservation.
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What’s in store for the closed Shea’s Route 66 Museum in Springfield, Illinois, likely won’t be known until sometime early next year, reported the State Journal-Register newspaper.

The museum, long operated by former gas-station operator and gas memorabilia collector Bill Shea, closed except for appointments in late 2012 after Shea became too frail and was moved into a nursing home. Shea died at age 91 about a year later.

Bill Shea Jr. told the newspaper he now has station in his name after five months in probate court. Now that’s settled, the younger Shea said he’ll discuss the future of the property.

Nearing age 66, O’Shea Jr. said he plans to discuss the future of his father’s museum with his three adult children before making a decision. He added that there have been off-and-on discussions with city and local tourism officials about the future of one of Springfield’s biggest Route 66 tourism draws.

He said he would like to see Shea’s Route 66 Museum preserved but that he would not be part of day-to-day operations.

“I worked heavy equipment for 40 years and would go there after work,” Shea said. “It’s time to let them (his children) have it, or if they don’t want it, maybe sell it.”

Springfield had long discussed having a Route 66 visitors center at the Bel-Aire Motel, but backed away from the potential deal because of lack of money. Perhaps there’s another opportunity at Shea’s.

Bill Shea Sr. started his career in the filling-station business shortly after leaving the military in 1946 — which included being part of a harrowing D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach. He owned Marathon and Texaco stations in Springfield. Shea was old enough to remember when Route 66 in Springfield was paved with bricks.

Later, Shea converted a Marathon station on Route 66 into a museum of gas-station memorabilia. It included a 1920s gas station he moved from Middletown, Illinois. Shea greeted thousands of Route 66 travelers from dozens of countries at his museum.

Shea was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1993. Dec. 30, 2011, was declared Bill Shea Day in Springfield in honor of his 90th birthday.

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

Fox Theatre light returns to downtown Springfield September 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums, Signs, Theaters.
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A replica of the Fox Theatre’s neon sign in downtown Springfield, Missouri, was installed and lighted Thursday night, reported KLOR-TV.

The relighting was part of History Museum on the Square‘s fall fundraiser. The Fox Theatre is located at 157 Park Central Square.

More from the report:

The Fox Theatre’s iconic sign was lit at 9 p.m., with Hollywood spotlights, a live band and cheering onlookers below.

“It’s just another step in what is going to be a pretty long process, but an absolutely amazing process for the downtown and the citizens of Springfield and Greene County,” Executive Director of the History Museum John Sellars said. […]

“This sign shined on route 66 for decades. Now we’ve brought back after 30 years and we’re so happy about that,” Sellars said. “We’re so happy about all the activities we got going on at the Fox.”

The History Museum, which is undergoing a large renovation, recently acquired the Fox. Sellars said there’s much more to come for Springfieldians, and visitors alike, to enjoy.

According to CinemaTreasures.org, the Fox opened as the Electric Theatre in 1916 — a full decade before Route 66’s existence — and was renamed the Fox after it was renovated after a fire. The theater closed in 1982, although other tenants continued to use the building, including a church.

The Fox was built by M.E. Gillioz, who also built the historic Gillioz Theatre in downtown Springfield, also on Route 66.

(Image of the sign relighting via History on the Square)

Proposed Chicago park may include Route 66 museum September 16, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Highways, History, Museums.
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A small lot on the corner of Wabash Avenue and Adams Street in downtown Chicago that’s planned as a Chicago Symphony Orchestra Park may include a small Route 66 museum to recognize its location on Route 66, according to a story in DNAinfo.

The so-called pocket park would sit just west of the Chicago Symphony building. Vanessa Moss, the symphony’s vice president for orchestra and building operations, said the pocket park would be part of an overall plan to revitalize Wabash. According to the article:

Moss said Friday that the CSO could partner with Blue Plate catering to “enhance dining options there and create a really nice oasis for people in the city, and help bring more traffic to the CSO.”

She said the plaza could include a “Route 66 museum” that will explain the site’s historical significance. In 1926, Route 66 started down the street at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street.

Officials didn’t elaborate on what they had planned for the museum, but a rendering did not appear to show a new building on the site. […]

If funds can be raised on schedule, the CSO hopes to start construction in the early spring and open the park by summer 2015, Moss said.

Based on the artist’s rendering, I suspect it’s not an enclosed “museum” per se, but a few well designed kiosks to tell the Route 66 story in that area.

Swa Frantzen at Historic66.com explains the Route 66 path in that area:

The start of Route 66 has moved a few times. Originally, Route 66 began on Jackson Blvd. at Michigan Ave. In 1933, the start (and end) was moved east onto the reclaimed land for the world fair to Jackson and Lake Shore Drive. In 1955, Jackson Blvd became one way west of Michigan Ave. and Adams St. became the westbound US-66. However the start of US-66 remained on Jackson at Lake Shore Drive.

So, even while currently Adams Street at Michigan Avenue is marked as the starting point, Route 66 never departed from there.

A short distance away in 1977, city workers took down the Route 66 signs at the highway’s eastern terminus at Grant Park at Jackson Drive. Twenty-five years later, Route 66 signs were reinstalled on that spot.

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