Route 66 in Edwardsville
Route 66 holds a special place in history and in the hearts of Americans and even travelers from abroad. It's referenced in popular literature (author John Steinbeck dubbed it the Mother Road in his 1939 classic, "The Grapes of Wrath") and in song (Bobby Troup wrote "[Get Your Kicks on] Route 66" in 1946, and it's been recorded over and over since then).
U.S. Route 66 traces its roots back to the national aspiration to connect big and small towns and rural and urban regions in states throughout America in a bid to fuel travel and commerce along the way. It was approved in 1926 as part of the first national highway system, running more than 2,400 miles from Chicago to the Pacific coast in California. In Illinois, it ran diagonally down from Chicago, crisscrossing through numerous towns -- including Edwardsville -- before moving into Missouri at St. Louis. By 1977, it had been rerouted significantly, having been replaced by modern four-lane highways. But for several decades, it ran through Edwardsville. (It was officially decommissioned as a highway throughout the U.S. in 1985.)
For the restaurants, hotels, stores and service stations along or near the original two-lane span of Route 66, the road kept business booming. Several local buildings still exist along that original path, which largely followed Illinois Route 157 through Edwardsville. (Learn more about Route 66 in Edwardsville, including restaurants, events and attractions, via Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau.)
Edwardsville celebrates its role as a town along the original Route 66 with a long-running festival, other events and sites. Here are just a few:
Edwardsville Route 66 Festival
The festival will celebrate its 25th year on Saturday, June 10, 2023. It's held every June, featuring a fun mix of music, food, vendors, classic car show and cruise, trolley rides, a 10k run/walk and more in and around City Park.
Are you interested in being a sponsor, food or market vendor or volunteer? Call 618-692-7538 or email: Parks@cityofedwardsville.com
For a schedule of events, plus details about sponsorships, vendors and volunteers, visit these links:
West End Service Station
From 1927 to 1964, the brick building at St. Louis and West streets -- also known then as Route 66 -- catered to untold numbers of visitors and travelers from near and far as an automobile service station. Once Route 66 no longer cut through Edwardsville, the West End Service Station took on a new role as a dental office. In 2022, the City of Edwardsville bought the now-vacant office. With the help of a state grant secured through the Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau, the former service station is roaring back to life and fueling new adventures as a Route 66 interpretive center teeming with images and information about the famed "Mother Road" and its existence in Edwardsville and beyond! The new West End Service Station opened in June 2023.
The station is open for visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Visit the West End Service Station webpage here.
Route 66 Mural and Monument
With the centennial of Route 66 approaching in 2026, Illinois (and the towns the Mother Road passed through here) and other states are gearing up to honor this iconic piece of American history. Edwardsville is among 11 towns along the southwest Illinois Route 66 Postcard Mural Trail that was created in 2022. The City's mural is on a downtown wall at 100 E. Vandalia Street, and features a neat mix of the old, the new and the enduring aspects that make Edwardsville a great place to live, work and visit. (Learn about all of the towns along the mural trail here.)
Another terrific spot to grab a photo is on Illinois Route 157 near Lincoln Middle School, right along the original stretch of Route 66 in Edwardsville. The giant Route 66 shield there is part of the "Six on 66" monuments. Other shields are in Carlinville, Litchfield, Collinsville, Granite City and Hamel. And don't miss the nearby "experience hub" featuring fun facts about the Mother Road.
The murals and monuments were made possible through a state grant secured by Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau.
Other Route 66 Events in June 2023!
- Get Your Kicks! Musical Travelogue: An all-alumni cast from Edwardsville High School will present a one-night-only production of songs from the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. The event is being produced by the Alumni Players organization and the Friends of the Wildey. The show is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 8, at the Wildey Theatre, 252 N. Main Street. All proceeds will go to the Edwardsville Community Foundation to support the Wildey Arts Scholarship Fund. Tickets are on sale now at www.wildeytheatre.com
- Special Movies in the Park showing of "Cars": Edwardsville Parks and Recreation will present the Route 66-infused animated movie “Cars” at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 9, at Leclaire Park. Admission is free -- all you need is a blanket or chairs to enjoy this family-friendly flick under the stars.
- Getting Your Kicks: Memories of Route 66: Come ready to laugh and reminisce as Len Heine and Gary Sosniecki, the winners of a road trip story competition, share their tales. This free event is being hosted by the Edwardsville Story Project and the Edwardsville Public Library. As a bonus, Tessitura Music students and community members will share a brief performance about Coral Court Motel, a bygone Route 66 fixture outside of St. Louis that opened in 1942. Getting Your Kicks is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, June 11, in the lower level of the library.