Springfield plans to reopen Bill Shea’s Gas Station Museum

The City of Springfield, Illinois, recently accepted a $623,000 state grant to reopen Bill Shea’s Gas Station Museum along Route 66.

According to the Springfield State Journal-Register, Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau director Scott Dahl wants to make the closed station on Peoria Road (aka Route 66) an “Instagram-able stop,” especially for international travelers.

Dahl elaborated on the plans for the station in an email to Route 66 News:

“[T]he goal is to restore the exterior as close as possible to how Bill Shea left it before his passing in 2013.  Plans are to remove the front fencing, repave the front and side lots, freshen up the blue & white paint scheme and restore the exterior signage including decals on the garage doors. 

“Also, a Bill Shea life size cut out with a QR code linking to audio and video will be present providing both a photo opportunity and immersive experience for travelers.”

Shea started his gas station business shortly after leaving the military in 1946 that included his surviving Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion. He owned Marathon and Texaco stations in Springfield. Shea was old enough to remember when his section of Route 66 in Springfield was paved with bricks.

Later in his life, Shea converted the Marathon station on Route 66 into a museum filled with memorabilia. It included a 1920s gas station he moved from Middletown, Illinois. Shea greeted thousands of Route 66 travelers from dozens — perhaps even hundreds — of countries while running 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.

The increasingly frail Shea was admitted to a nursing home a year before his death. His son, Bill Jr., continued to periodically reopen the gas station at 2075 Peoria Road by appointment.

Much of the station’s memorabilia later was sold at auction, though some still can be found locally.

Route 66 Motorheads Bar and Grill re-created the museum’s front entrance using original items. Ace Sign Co. Museum houses memorabilia from Shea’s. The 1920s station was relocated to Fulgenzi’s Pizza & Pasta in 2015.

(Image of Shea’s Gas Station Museum in Springfield, Illinois, in 2013 courtesy of Scott Dahl)

3 thoughts on “Springfield plans to reopen Bill Shea’s Gas Station Museum

  1. Surprising development. The collection was sold and scattered. What will be the draw to stop there?

  2. I was thinking the same thing. It was him and his collection which made stopping there a must. We spent about 2 hours there looking and talking with him and Bill jr.

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