Route History store combines Route 66 souvenirs, local African-American history

Route History opening

The Route History store in Springfield, Illinois, held a soft opening Friday. It’s a combination Route 66 souvenir store and a tribute to African-American history in the area.

It sits at 737 E. Cook St. (map here) in the former Just Off Route 66 Sandwiches & Souvenirs building, about two blocks west of the Ninth Street alignment of Route 66. It also sits just a 5-minute walk from the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

Here’s what Route History states about itself from its website:

Route History is a space to experience and learn about the tragedy, resilience, and excellence of Black people along the Historic Route 66 and in the city of Springfield Illinois. These experiences serve as a reminder of struggles and consistent perseverance towards excellence in spite of overwhelming systemic racism and injustices.

Route History is a collective of social entrepreneurs that lend intellectual and financial resources to aid in the implementation of sustainable and transformative community projects. Using digital media, events, and collectible items, Route History, seeks to educate, train, and engage all ages using positive and relevant images and experiences.

Gina Lathan, co-owner of Route History, said in a telephone interview the store’s focus will remain on Route 66. She said the store offers Route 66 T-shirts, shot glasses, wine glasses, piggy banks, quilts, pillows, pens, pencils, postcards and more.

She said part of the store’s proceeds will be used to help renovate the Lincoln Colored Home at 427 S. 12th St. in Springfield so it eventually can serve as a national landmark and tourism site. The 1904 building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was one of the first orphanages for African-American children in the United States.

Lathan said Route History will give proceeds to other local causes in the future.

The walls of the store also have displays about the Negro Motorist Green Book, Jim Crow laws, the Great Migration, black-owned businesses in Springfield, and the Springfield race riot of 1908.

Lathan said she also wants the store to host special events such as author book-signings, lectures and meet-and-greets tourists can have with area officials.

You can follow Route History on its active Facebook page. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

(Image from Route History’s opening via Facebook)

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