Chatham, Illinois: all about it
Trivia, Facts and Useful Information
Elevation: 599 ft (183 m). Population 11,500 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Chatham is a village located in Sangamon county. This is a Map of Chatham.
The History of Chatham
People have been living in what nowadays is the state of Illinois for over 11,000 years, since the last Ice Age ended. Later, when the first European explorers (French, coming from Canada) reached the area, they encountered the Illinoisian Indians. This took place in the 1600s.
Route 66 Bridge in Chatham, Illinois
The territory was ceded by France to England after the Seven Year War in 1763, and after the American Independence it became a Territory of the U.S.A, it was admitted into the union as the state of Illinois in 1818.
The first settlers reached what is now Chatham (pronounced "Chat-uhm") in 1816 it became a corn farming area. Shortly after (1821), Sangamon County was established. It was named after the Sangamon River, which runs through it. The name Sangamon may be an Indian word of Pottawatomie origin (Sain-guee-mon = "where there is plenty to eat") or name given by the French explorers (St. Gamo, a French saint).
It was laid out in 1836 by Luther Ramson the post office opened in 1840 but was named "Lick Creek" it changed to Chatham in 1841. It incorporated as a village in 1874.
The name Chatham
It was named after the Chatham Presbyterian Church organized in 1835 by the Revs. Dewey Whitney and T. A. Spilman. It was named after the Chatham Presbyterian Church in Pittsylvania, Virginia.
Chatham is a place-name surname for residents of Cheetham, Lancashire, England meaning in Gaelic "Ced" (forest) and Anglosaxon "Ham" (village): Village by the forest.
The railroad reached Chatham in 1852 (read more below: Chatham Depot).
Route 66 was aligned through the cityin 1926 following State Highway SBI 4. However it was short lived because in 1930 it made straighter and shorter and realigned further east through Litchfield, bypassing Chatham.
Chatham, its Hotels and Motels
Lodging & accommodation in Chatham
> > Book your hotel nearby, in Springfield IL
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Hotels further East, in Illinois
On Main US 66 more accommodation
Hotels, Westwards in Missouri
>> Check out the RV campground in neighboring Springfield
Chatham has a "humid continental" climate with wet and hot summers (which are quite long) and short but very cold winters -with plenty of snow and bitter wind.
The average temperature is 52.4 °F (11.3°C). The average winter temperatures (Jan) are: low 21°F (-6°C) and high 35°F (1.7°C). The summer averages (Jul) are: high 86°F (30°C), and low: 68°F (20°C).
In Chatham snow may fall for over four months with an average 22 inches (56 cm) of snowfall yearly. Rainfall average is around 35.2 in. (893 mm) per year.
The countryside around Chatham is hit by some 7 tornados per year.
Tornado Risk: learn more about the Tornado Risk on US 66.
Map of Route 66 through Chatham, Illinois
Display Chatham Route 66 Map
Click Map will appear below
This is the color key for Chatham:
Pale Blue: is the Historic Route 66 alignment after 1930.
Orange: the 1926 to 30 alignment between Springfield and Staunton.
Black: missing segments which cannot be driven.
The approaches into St. Louis Missouri, have their own color coding, check cities in that area for more details.
Route 66 in Illinois: Historic Route 66 in Chatham
Route 66 across Illinois
Read this detailed description of Route 66 in Illinois.
Below we provide More information on US 66 in Chatham (the 1926-30 alignment).
Route 66 is listed in the National Register of Historic Places on two segments of the 1926 alignment south of Chatham: in Auburn and from Girard to Nilwood.
Getting to Chatham
Reach Chatham driving south on IL-4 from Sprignfield, which you can reach using Historic U.S. 66 or I-55 or I-72 or US 36.
Chatham: classic US 66 Sights
Landmarks and Attractions
Drive south from Springfield into Chatham, on the north side of town is the old bridge:
Abandoned US 66 south of Lick Creek bridge, Chatham, Il. Stefan's US66 pictures
Old Chatam Road Bridge
Route 66 and Lick Creek
The original State Highway 4 as shown in the 1924 USGS map below, ran south along Old Chatham Rd., took a sharp 90° turn west on current Woodside Rd. and then a slanting NE-SW course on Old Chatham Rd. to cross Lick Creek using this bridge.
Just west of the south bank of the river it turned southwards into Chatham. This road is shown in Orange in the Google map above.
The concrete deck girder bridge was built in 1919 and was part of State Highway 4 at that time. In 1926 Route 66 was created and it too used the bridge until 1930 when US 66 was re-routed to the east through Glenarm, Farmersville and Mt. Olive.
So in 1930 it once again reverted to being Illinois Route 4. The USGS map below, from 1961, shows us that the approach to the bridge had been modified with a (now cutoff) access that avoided the sharp turn on Woodside, and linked Old Chatham Rd. in the north with the bridge using a softer curve.
A new alignment for IL-4 was built around 1976 (the present one sout of Wabash towards Chatham along Veterans Pkwy). Then the bridge's southern access was closed and abandoned (see photo). The road from Springfield now ends at the bridge.
It is said that the bridge is the habitat of an endangered snake, the Kirtland's Snake:
Kirtland's snake (Clonophis kirtlandii) is an endangered North American species of nonvenomous snake with a geographic range that spans Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, southern Michigan, western Pennsylvania and north Kentucky. It likes to live close to water.
1924 USGS map of Lick Creek , Chatham, Il. Click for street view
1961 USGS map of Lick Creek , Chatham, Il. Click for street view
Return to Woodside, head west and turn south (left) along Veterans Pkwy into Chatham. Continue along Main St. turn left on E. Mulberry St., and when you reach State St. to your right is the Museum:
Chatham Railroad Museum
100 N State St, Chatham
The old railway depot built in 1902 is now the local museum wtih displays of the region's railroad history. It is open 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month 2:00 - 4:00 PM.
The Alton and Sangamon Railroad reached Chatham in 1852, and changed names many times (Chicago and Mississippi, Chicago, Alton and Mississippi, Chicago and Alton, Alton Railroad) before becoming the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio RR.
The station closed in 1972 and is now owned by the Village of Chatham, it was restored in 1991 becoming a museum.
Chatham Railroad Museum (1902) in Chatham, Illinois
Drive through the town on the original alignment: From the north (Springfield) use IL-4 southbound and at the corner of W Walnut St. turn right. On the 2nd corner turn south along S. Church St. and follow it until its dead end next to IL-4. You will have to drive north one block to access IL-4 and head south towards Auburn.
Historic Route 66 in Chatham
Historic background: Pontiac Trail
Historic 1926-39 Route 66 sign and shield
The "Pontiac Trail" was born due to the growing use of automobiles during the early 1900s. This led to a public demand for better roads, suitable for cars.
Dirt trails used by carts with deep ruts, which became muddy traps during the rainy periods were not suitable.
A private association was formed in 1915 to promote the Pontiac Trail which became a "solid surface road" that linked Chicago with St. Louis. It was named for the famous Ottawa Indians chief. The B.F. Goodrich tire company marked its milage posts with its custom shield sign (see image).
The state government issued a bond in 1918 creating State Highway 4, also known as State Bond Issue Hwy 4 (SBI-4). This route followed the Pontiac Trail.
This highway was paved between 1923 and 1926, and that same year, 1926 when U.S. Highway 66 was created, it was aligned along the new IL-4 roadbed.
1926-1930 US 66
This first alignment of Route 66 south of Springfield to Staunton through Chatham had a winding course following the former county lanes and lot demarcation trails. It had many sharp 90° curves. This made it unsafe and also longer.
Route 66 after 1930
It is marked in Pale Blue in the map above.
Seeking a straighter alignment the Illinois Division of Highways led by Thomas Sheets moved Route 66 eastwards through Mt. Olive and Litchfield and Divernon.
This new Route 66 ran from Springfield in the north to Staunton (it met the older alignment on the southern side of Staunton), bypassing Chatham.
Original 1926-1930 alignment Springfield to Chatham
From Springfield and Route 66, take a right along E Capitol, and beside the Old State Capitol, turned left along S 2nd St. then a right on S. Grand Ave. W, and a left on S Mac Arthur Blvd. and a right onto Wabash Ave. finally taking a left along Chatham Rd. southwards.
At Woodside Rd. the original alignment has some gaps, but by taking Old chatham Rd to the original old "Schuster Bridge" over Lick Creek you can drive part of it. To continue and bypass the gap go straight to S. Veteran's Parkway, take a left and drive into Chatham. The parkway becomes its Main Street.
The 13 mile trip is shown in this Map of Route 66 1926-30 from Springfield into Chatham. This is also shown in Orange in the Google map above.
> > See the previous segment From Sherman to Springfield (east)
> > See the next segment Chatham to Auburn (west)
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.