Facts, Information and trivia
Elevation: Elevation 700 feet (214 m). Population 56,657 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Berwyn is a city, located in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, in Cook County, Illinois. See this Map of Berwyn.
History of Berwyn
This marshy area near Chicago was inhabited around eleven thousand years ago, when the ice sheets retreated north after the end of the last Ice Age leaving the Great Lakes in their wake.
More recently, the Native American Potawatomi tribe lived in this area. During the mid 1600s, the French explored the area and the natives disclosed the Chicago Portage to them.
After a war with England, France ceded the territories in the 1750s, and shortly after it became part of the U.S., following its independence from Britain. Fort Dearborn was established on the Chicago River in 1803 but burned down during the 1812 War with Britain. The fort was rebuilt in 1816.
In 1818, this territory incorporated into the Union as the state of Illinois. There was trading along the portage, but the roads were terrible. In 1835 Cook County was created: it was named after Daniel Pope Cook (1794 - 1827) newspaper editor and politician, he was the first Attorney General of Illinois, and later a congressman.
Cook County is the second-most populous county in America after Los Angeles County.
In 1856 Thomas Baldwyn bought 347 acres of land which he subdivided into 10-acre lots to form "LaVergne" a upper-class community, in 1862 he sold a strip of land so that the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad could extend their tracks into the area, and in 1870 the neighbors built the railway station.
After Baldwyn's death in 1876 his daughter sold part of LaVergne to a realtor group led by Marshal Field. To the north a group of Swedish immigrants settled in what was later known as "Swedetown".
But the real origin of Berwyn was the real estate business plan of Charles Piper and Wilbur Andrews who bought part of Field's land and developed it, built another station on the CB and Q Railroad and named the town Berwyn after seing the town on a railroad timetable and recorded its name as such in 1890.
The name "Berwyn"
The town in Pennsylvania after which Berwyn Illinois was named, in turn got its name from the Berwyn mountains in Wales.
The Welsh name comes from "bar" (summit) + "gwyn" (white)", for the snow capped mountain tops.
The post office opened in 1891 it offered all the modern services (sweage, water, electricity, schools and churches), the community grew and in 1902 it incorporated as a village and in 1908 it became a city.
It was a city of commuters who worked in Chicago. In 1921 a new development began and a large inflow of Czechs arrived. Berwyn was completely built up in a few years.
The newcomers worked in Cicero and in 1926 Route 66 was aligned along Ogden Ave. and Cermak Road was named "The Bohemian Wall Street".
Berwyn: Hotels and Motels nearby
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Tip: It is not easy to find RV parking areas in Chicago it is not a very RV friendly city. Choose the outskirts.
Where is Berwyn?
Berwyn's climate is humid and continental; with very well defined seasons: Spring is cool and wet; summer is hot and frequently humid. Winter is cold and has on average 28 inches (71 cm) of snow, while autumn is very mild.
Temperatures: Average high in Jan (winter) 31°F (-0.3°C) and the average low is 17°F (-8.6°C). Average high in Jul (summer) 84°F (29°C), with an average low of 64°F (17.7°C).
Rain averages 36.82 inch (936 mm) per year and it is heighest - 3 to 4.3 inch monthly (78 and 110 mm) from Apr. The rest of the year has an average of 1.7 in. (28 mm) per month.
Snow: Berwyn may get snow from October to April, however usually the first snow falls in Nov. and the last happens in April (usually one quarter inch -8 mm).
Cook County may experience about 4 tornados each year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk on US 66.
How to get to Berwyn?
You can get to Berwyn driving along Historic Route 66 or I-55, from the freeway exit at Exit 283 There are other freeways in the area (I-355, I-290, I-57, I-90, I-94 and I-88) US 34, US 20 and US 45 also bring you to Berwyn.
Map of Route 66 through Berwyn, Illinois
See the alignment of US 66 in Berwyn, on our Illinois Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.
Color key for Berwyn:
Pale Blue: marks the 1926-77 alignment of Route 66 in Berwyn. It is also the 1940 - 1977 ALT US 66 from Romeoville to Gardner.
Red line or gaps in alignment, is I-55, where it overlaps the old alignment after 1950s.
Blue: a 1926 - 60s alignment in Willowbrook.
Orange: is the 1926 to 1928 Route 66 through neighboring Lyons.
Green Line: (to the west) is US 66 from 1940 to 1958 through Plainfield. After that date and until 1977 it became part of I-55.
Black are the sections that are missing.
Route 66 in Illinois: Historic U.S. 66 in Berwyn
Route 66 acro ss Illinois
Route 66 is a Historic highway and has also been designated as a National Scenic Byway and an All-American Road in the state of Illinois.
Read this detailed description of Route 66 in Illinois.
Below you will find More information on Route 66 in Berwyn.
Berwyn's Route 66 Landmarks and Attractions
Some tours in Chicago
What to see in Berwyn
US 66 in Berwyn: historic context
The WPA published a guide to the state of Illinois in 1939 and in its Route 66 tour ("Tour 17"), it tells us that it was created in 1890 by two businessmen, Charles Piper and Wilbur Andrews who laid it out with the essential facilities as a "ready-made" viillage, where the homes were sold as one-floor buildings with flat roofs under the assumption that the owners would later add a second floor -which almost never happened.
It adds that many of its residents at that time were Bohemians "by birth or descent".
Driving Route 66 in Berwyn
The drive through Berwyn along Route 66 is a short one, along Ogden Avenue, between Cicero in the east and Lyons in the west:
Ogden Ave. Chicago, Cook County
Named after Chicago's first mayor: William Butler Ogden, this throughfare runs for 37.5 miles (60.4 km) from Chicago (Chestnut St. near Milwaukee and Chicago Avenues) all the way to Naperville, IL
When Chicago was a fort on Lake Michigan (Fort Dearborn) in the early 1800s, the trappers used a muddy known as "Ottawa Trail" that linked the fort with what nowadays is Lisle.
The trail was improved and a stagecoach service was established, stopping at what now is Hinsdale in the 1830s, but the cart traffic ruined the dirt road, forming ruts. The trail was a muddy bog during the rainy season. Then some entrepreneurs built a toll road, the "Plank Road", which made traffic flow easily across the quagmire.
Construction began in 1848 and it was known as "The Southwestern Plank Road", it was the first of many that would radiate from Chicago. This one followed the trail to Lyons and in 1851 it was extended through Lisle to Naperville.
The road was built with wooden planks with log stringers on their outer edges. The boards were 3 in. thick and 8 feet wide -rather narrow.
Toll fees were charged ranging from 3¢ for one hog or sheep, 12¢ for a horse and rider to 37¢ for a cart drawn by four hourses.
When the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad began operating in 1863, the traffic along the plank road declined.
It was re-named in 1877 as Ogden Avenue., planks gone it was a gravel surfaced road. But by the early 1900s the first cars appeared and by 1914 it had been paved becoming a main throughfare.
Route 66 and US 34 were aligned along it in 1926 and in the 1930s it was widened to four lanes.
Begin your tour on Ogden and Harlem Avenues, on the western side of Berwyn, where it meets Lyons, here, on the NE corner of the intersection is a Classic attraction:
7155 West Ogden Ave.
On the NE corner of Ogden and Harlem. This is the Oldest Original Site of the White Castle chain on Route 66. (The building has of course been modernized):
The first White Castle opened here in 1939, on Route 66. They were the first hamburger chain to standardize their marketing: from their buns and burgers to their buildings. They imposed strict standards and their premises were clean and spotless, reassuring customers that they were eating good quality food.
McDonald's Ray Kroc wrote about this very restaurant in his autobiography (Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald): "...They used a sort of tiny ice-cream scoop to make a patty about one-inch square, and they sold their burgers by the bagful...". (Source)
The first White Castle in Berwyn, Illinois
Turn eastwards along Ogden Ave. ahead, to your right on the SW corner of Ogden Avenue and Maple Ave. is a "Route 66 Scenic Byway Wayside Exhibit" (Street View).
Keep eastbound and two blocks ahead to your left is another Wayside Exhibit by the Toy Train shop:
Berwyn’s Toys & Trains
Toy train shop and Wayside Exhbit in Berwyn, Il. Click for street view
7025 West Ogden Avenue
At the corner of Wenonah Ave and Ogden. There is also a "Route 66 Scenic Byway Wayside Exhibit" here (Street View marked with the red arrow).
The family-owned shop has many model trains, toys and accessories for collectors and hobbyists.
On the same block, and also to your left, just before Home Ave. is the Route 66 Museum:
Berwyn Route 66 Museum
7003 West Ogden Avenue
Houses a collection of Route 66 stuff from guide books to memorabilia. Pick up your passport and free brochuers here too.
Free admission; open weekdays 9 am to 5pm. May 1st to October 30th, open Saturday 9 am to 3 pm. More information at the museum's website: berwynrt66museum.org
Berwyn Route 66 Car Show
Route 66 Event
Ogden Avenue between Oak Park and Ridgeland
This is "THE" Car Show in the area. It is held every year on the last Saturday in August. It features hundreds of vintage and custom built cars, motorcycles and trucks.
Visit the event's website berwynrt66.com for more information.
Head east, and on the eight block is a car body shop:
Top & Trim
6609 Ogden Ave, Berwyn
Ogden Top & Trim is a three generation business founded by Frank Nesladek in 1919. Restorations of classic cars and customizing automobiles is their forte. The award wining company is a must see stop on Ogden Ave.
Top & Trim in Berwyn, Illinois
On the same block to the west, on the north corner at Clarence and Ogden Avenues is a "Route 66 Scenic Byway Wayside Exhibit" (Street View).
Keep eastbound and next to the parking lot of the LaVergne Education Center (3401 S. Gunderson) to your left is yet another "Route 66 Scenic Byway Wayside Exhibit" (Street View).
This ends the tour along Route 66, but there are some interesting landmarks a few blocks away so take this short side trip:
Side Trip into Berwyn
A 4.8 mile-long trip displayed in this map with directions. And these are the main attractions:
- The Swan Sevice Station
- The World’s Largest Laundromat
- Former Phillips gas station
- Spindle site
- Richards Restaurant & Lounge
Turn left along Ridgeland Ave. and at the railroad tracks, to your left is an old gas station:
The Swan Sevice Station
3100 S Ridgeland Berwyn
This was The Swan Sevice Station "Body and Fender Work Auto Painting", now no longer pumping gas or repairing cars, pictured below:
Drive on to Cermak Rd. via W 26th and S Harvey Ave. turning left along Cermak to see a genuine piece of Americana:
The World's Largest Laundromat
6246 Cermak Rd. Berwyn
It is pictured above, and covers 13,500 sq. ft. (1.254 m2). It has 301 machines it was pronounced the The World’s Largest Laundromat by the Coin Laundry Association in 1983.
Turn right along East Ave. and left on 16th St. to see a Former Phillips 66 gas station:
Former Phillips gas station, Berwyn, Il. Click for street view
Former Phillips gas station
6801 16th St, Berwyn
This old Phillips 66 station (see image) is now the J & S Foreign Car, Inc. - Bosch Car Service. The building with its steep gabled roofs has the "cottage style" favored in the 1930s to blend gas stations into their urban surroundings.
At IL-43, turn left southbound and on your way you will pass by the site of the now Gone Spindle:
The (Gone) Spindle
Cermak Rd. and Harlem Ave., Berwyn
The Spindle was a 50-foot spike with eight cars impaled on it.
The work of Dustin Shuler, it was commissioned by David Bermant, a shopping mall developer in 1989 for his Cermak Plaza. Shuler placed his VW beetle and Bermant his BMW in the spindle. It was torn down in 2008 when the Cermak Plaza shopping center, follwoing Bermant's death in 2000 was redeveloped. Its cars were auctioned off.
Continue south and to your left at 30th St. is a 1950s restaurant:
Richards Restaurant & Lounge
3011 South Harlem Ave. Berwyn
The postcard pictured below, from the 1950s tells us that it was located on "Route 42A, 1 mile North of Route 66" that it belonged to Joseph Wilkos whose slogan was "Thou Shalt Not Go Hungry" it also had a mysteriously named "Secret Harbor Lounge". Now it is Lalo's Mexican Restaurant. The basic building is still there, but the large neon sign has gone as you can see in the "Then and Now" sequence below:
Richards Restaurant & Lounge in a vintagepostcard in Berwyn, Illinois
Richards Restaurant & Lounge nowadays is Lalo’s in Berwyn, Illinois
Keep on southbound and you will reach Harlem and Ogden Ave., which is where you started your tour of Berwyn. And here, where you began your drive, is also the end of your drive through Berwyn you can continue south (west) along Route 66 into Lyons or take Ogden eastwards into Cicero, the last town before Chicago.
Historic Route 66 in Berwyn, Illinois
Illinois State Highway 4 was aligned along Ogden Avenue through Berwyn in 1918. When US 66 was created in 1926 it incorporated the roadbed of IL-4. It is shown with the Pale Blue line in the map above.
Route 66 remained on Ogden Ave. until its decertification in 1977. Below is a 1934 map of the highway in the area around Berwyn:
1934 road map of Route 66 showing Berwyn
Route 66 into Chicago
The 1928 Illinois State Roadmap shows no urbanization along US-66 heading north into Chicago east of Joliet (which overlapped State Highway 4 and US "T"45) all the way into Berwyn, the first town on the alignment. To the north lay Hinsdale and Lagrange, but the first town was Lyons, followed by Berwyn, Cicero and Chicago.
By 1945 (according to the Illinois state's official Highway map), things had changed, not oly had US 66 moved to a new alignment through Plainfield, now "Romeo" (yes, not "Romeoville") appeared on ALT 66 north of Lockport on the former 1926-1939 US 66 through Joliet. The urban sprawl reached Lyons, just past Berwyn and Cicero. To the west no other towns until you reached Plainfield.
The 1954 map shows the same picture but now US 66 from Berwyn to IL-53 and then south as ALT 66 through Joliet and all the way to Wilmington was a "Four Lane Pavement" the main US 66 west of this point, through Plainfield and Braidwood was merely a "Two Lane Pavement".
There are changes in the 1959 state highway map: US-66 south (west) of its junction with ALT US 66 has become an "Expressway" with "highway separation" (overpasses and limited access). This freeway bypassed Plainfield and the former 1940 to 1958 US-66 alignment became state hwys. 126 and 59.
During the 1960's, the suburbs expanded and the 1969 state highway map (see image below) now shows I-55 and US 66 running together eastwards all the way to the exchange with I-294. Splitting here: with I-55 taking a more southern course and US-66 a northern one.
Berwyn is shown on the map in the upper central part of the following map, above the I-55 Shield:
1969 Illinois State Roadmap into Chicago
Drive from Berwyn to Lyons along Route 66
It is only 1.4 miles along Route 66 to cross Berwyn from Cicero to Lyons; see this Map with directions.
> > See the previous segment Cicero to Berwyn (east)
> > See the next segment Lyons to McCook (west)
Accommodation Search box:
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.