(Story by Association members John & Lenore Weiss)
From the Fall 1996 issue of The 66 News
We are proud to announce that through our efforts a bridge in Pontiac, Illinois has been declared historically significant. As a result, it has been accepted for listing on the Illinois Historic Bridge Survey and by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency!
This story began a couple of years ago when John & Lenore Weiss were cruising some original alignments of Route 66. Lenore’s eagle eye spotted something unique on a bridge. So they took some pictures of the painted 4 inside an outline of Illinois. It also had a sealed over plaque above it. As it tums out, no one knew about this, but several of us knew what it meant.
Lenore had found the one and only remaining sign, dated 1926, of Route 4 (which was to become the fabled Route 66) painted on that bridge. Back in those early days, many sections of Illinois Route 4 were connected together to become the early alignment of Route 66 in 1926 to 1930.
Completed Preservation Project
At the time of this discovery, the Route 66 Association of Illinois was forming a Preservation Committee. This bridge sign became the first project of that committee. We felt that somehow this sign had survived 70 years, but how much longer could it last?
First, we had secured the necessary legal permission from state and city agencies. Then, on a rainy day in May of 1996, a large group of active members gathered for an early meal at the Old Log Cabin restaurant in Pontiac. This Hall of Fame establishment is only a couple of blocks north of the bridge on the original path of Route 66. The weather cleared up and the group got busy! The plan was to not only preserve the sign and plaque on the bridge, but to also clean up the creek and paint over graffiti on the bottom bridge walls. This became a major project performed with great spirit and enthusiasm. Some local kids came by to see what we were doing. They too pitched in and helped out! Since then, they have done a fabulous job of keeping the creek and area clean. Also, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has declared this sign to be a very rare find in their recent survey of Route 66.
We invite all of you to visit this historic bridge and the surrounding area, and don’t forget to head up the road to the Old Log Cabin for a bite to eat! Re-live history again!!