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Dwight

"First stoplight from Chicago"

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Dwight is a village on Route 66 in Illinois. Its has two original Route 66 alignments, and several US 66 classic sights and historic landmarks.

Don't miss these sights in town:

Stop in Dwight IL during your Route66 roadtrip!

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Village of Dwight on U.S. Highway 66

Marathon Oil, a historic gas station from the 1920s

canopy, pumps and office of old Texaco station under the snow
Historic Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station Dwight, IL. Credits

Index to this page

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Dwight IL

Facts, Information and trivia

Elevation: Elevation 631 ft (192 m). Population 4,206 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Dwight is a village that is mainly in Livingston County and that also has a small portion in Grundy County.

History of Dwight

See the History of Pontiac for a description of the early history of Livingston county, and Gardner's History for that of Grundy County.

Although some settlers arrived at the time that Livingston county was created in the 1830s, settlement would have to wait for the railroad in the 1850s.

The Alton & Sangamon Railroad that later became the Chicago & Alton Railroad passed through this area in 1854 and the station named "West New York" was built, but shortly after it was renamed Dwight by Richard P. Morgan Ir., then an engineer and later general superintendent of the Chicago & Mississippi Railroad.

A community sprang up beside the railroad depot. In 1879 Dr. Leslie Keeley opened his institution to treat alcoholism in Dwight. After his death his partner John Oughton continued with the operation, and his house is still standing in Dwight, it is a Historic site.

The name: Dwight

It was named for Henry A. Dwight Jr. who was the main financier of the railroads (C&M and the Alton and Sangamon) chartered in 1847 and 1852 respectively but stunted due to lack of funds.

Dwight floated bonds, raised the money and built the tracks from Springfield to Joliet. He ended up going bankrupt and left the company.

Dwight, as a name for girls probably comes from the medieval English female name Diot (pet form of Dionysia), a surname derived from the Latin name Dionysius, meaning 'follower of Dionysus' (the Greek god of wine).

For boys it apparently comes from Germanic and means "white or blond".

How to get to Dwight?

You can get to Dwight by driving along Historic Route 66 or if you are using the freeway, leave I-55 at Exit 209 and heat into Dwight.

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Dwight: Hotels and Motels nearby

There are several hotels in Dwight and in the neighboring towns along Route66.

> Book your Hotel Dwight

Find More Accommodation near Dwight along Route 66

Hotels east of Dwight

More hotels, heading West

>> See the RV campground nearby in Pontiac

The Weather in Dwight

Route 66: Dwight, Illinois location map

Map showing the location of Dwight, Illinois on U.S. 66

The climate of Dwight is classified as humid continental and has clearly marked seasons with hot and often humid summers, cool and wet springs, mild autumns and cold winters.

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).
Precipitation: Rainfall is between 3 and 4.3 (78 and 110 mm) inch per month between April and November, falling to around 1.7 in. monthly (28 mm) during winter. Average rainfall is 36.82 inch (936 mm).

Snow: The city gets 28 inches of snow per year (71 cm), with the first snowfall usually taking place in November and the last one happening in April (with less than a quarter inch -8 mm). You shouldn't see snow from May to September.

Tornado risk

The region where Dwight is located gets hit by 6 tornados per year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk on US 66.

Map of Route 66 in Dwight, IL

Check out Dwight on our Route 66 Map of Illinois, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.

The map below was published in 1924, two years before Route 66 was created. It displays the "Auto Trails" or roads that were suitable for cars. The ones in Dwight are marked with numbers: as "13" and "26" with white numbers inside black squares, these are the "trails", standing for "Mississippi Valley Highway" and "Blue Grass Road" respectively.

The number "4" inside a white circle is what originally was the Pontiac Trail created in 1915 between Chicago and St. Louis. In 1918 the state issued a bond to improve the roads, and the Pontiac Trail became SBI 4 (State Bond Issue) highway number 4, as shown in the map.

1924 roadmap of Illinois from Wilmington to Pontiac
1924 roadmap Illinois, showing Dwight (middle of the map), See large sized map
USGS map of Dwight from 1950

1950 USGS map of Dwight
Click on map to enlarge

The thumbnail map (click it to enlarge) was published in 1950, at that time I-55 hadn't yet been built (or even planned). You can follow Route 66 as it curves around the town.

Maps with the alignment of Route 66 through Dwight

Route 66 across 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.

Dwight's Route 66 Landmarks and Attractions

What to see in Dwight

yellow diamond shaped sign with red arrow by roadside

Pancake House sign, Dwight. Click for St. View

US 66 in Dwight: historic context

After his drive from Chicago to Los Angeles, Jack DeVere Rittenhouse published his memorable "A Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946. It has the following entry for Dwight:

"... few tourist cabins; small hotels; Boyer Bros. Garage; stores... the town of Dwight is quiet and pleasant." He also mentions the "famous Keeley Institute and the large veterans' hospital" (both of which are still standing and we describe them below).

Drive US 66 through Dwight

We will begin our City Tour of Dwight on its northeastern tip, on Route 66. This is where both 1926-43 and 1944-77 US 66 alignments meet. Here the "Bypass 66" continues straight, and the older "City 66" forks to the left as South Brewster Rd. Take it.

The 1926-43 alignment runs beside the railroad tracks and just ahead merges into Illinois State Hwy 47. Take a short detour along IL-47 by turning right and driving to "Pete's Restaurant and Pancake" (Map with directions).

Former Coffeehouse, now Pete's

This was a diner, the "Coffeehouse" and Texaco gas station on Bypass 66, now Historic US 66 and IL-47

The Coffeehouse was one of several in Illinois, now it became a restaurant (Pete's). At the northern side of the property is the yellow sign shown further up, which is a repurposed Sunoco sign (yellow diamond with the bulges where the S and the O of Suonoco went, and the red arrow), now it is advertising the Pancake House.

Below is a "Then and Now" sequence showing the three steel poles that held up the Texaco sign (red arrow). The gas station stood on the north side of the premises.

former Coffehouse nowadyas, cars, building and 3 poles of the Texaco sign
Current view of the former Coffeehouse in Dwight, click for Street view.
early 1960s postcard, coffehouse and Texaco sign
Early 1960s postcard of the Coffeehouse in Dwight, credits

Turn around and head back to where Dwight Rd. meets IL-47. Head southwest along it as it runs parallel to the railroad tracks. Ahead IL-47 will split to the left, crossing the tracks, stay to the right and continue straight, now the road name changes to McNamara Ave. 2.6 miles from your original starting point, the road curves to the right, shifting away from the railroad and become W Waupansie St. (Map with directions) here, to your right is a US66 sight.

Big Al’s Hot Dogs

302 E Waupansie St. Dwight. Right on the curve. Big Al’s Hot Dogs & Beef was located where McNamara Ave and N Chicago St. met, at the entrance into Dwight's urban area on Route 66.

This restaurant is slowly vanishing, first its red and white decor, with the man-sized hot dog went. Whitewashed and sober it sported its flat canopy -without its roof- for some time. Now that has gone too. Below is a photo sequence showing the changes and the vanishing canopy (red arrow).

Big Al’s Hot Dogs as it was in 2006 with a canopy and painted red and white

Big Al’s Hot Dogs in 2006, Dwight, Il. Credits

Big Al’s Hot Dogs in 2012 now white and no roof on canopy

Big Al’s Hot Dogs in 2012, Dwight, Il. Credits

white building by the street
Big Al's nowadays, canopy gone, white and fading away. Click for street view

Thye place has finally closed as you can see in the images above, time is inexorable and forgives nothing.

Continue your tour. Route 66 bypassed the downtown area by heading west along E Waupansie St and then curving sharply to the south on Dwight's western edge (Map with directions).

But first take a short detour: at N. Franklin St., turn left and drive south for 2 blocks to visit a historic church.

Pioneer Gothic Church in Dwight US66

Pioneer Gothic Church, Dwight, Il. Credits

Historic Pioneer Gothic Church

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

201 N Franklin St, Dwight
This is a wood framed Carpenter Gothic Church. It was built in 1857 by the local Presbyterian congregation.
It has the unusual honor of having been visited by the Prince of Wales, Edward, son of Queen Victoria in 1860. He became King of England, as Edward VII in 1901.
It also survived several blazes that razed the town during that period.

Return to Old Route 66 and continue west. Follow it as it curves south and stop at the spot where US66 meets W. Mazon to visit the Route 66 landmarks there, to your left. Here is one of the best known sight in Dwight "The Historic Ambler's Texaco Service Station".

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station

Northeast corner of Old Route 66 and IL-17 (W Mazon).

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

This service station operated longer than any other one on Route 66. From 1933 to 1999.

This gas station is also known as Vernon's Texaco Station and Becker's Marathon Gas Station. It was built by Jack Shore in 1933 but it was ran by Basil "Tubby" Ambler for almost 30 years, hence its name Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station.

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, Illinois

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station green canopy and gabled roof, red gas pumps, Texaco sign
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station in Dwight, Illinois. Credits, click for street view.

The structure was a "Domestic style" gas station adopted by Texaco to blend into the urban neighborhoods. In the 1940s with a gabled canopy and a wood clapboard house-like office.

1950s style billboard that welcomes you to Dwight US66

Welcome to Dwight Billboard, Dwight, Il. TripAdvisor

The garge bay on the west side of the building was added in the 1940s. The station later sold Marathon Oil brand. It closed as a service station in 1999 and continued as a repair shop until 2002. Now it is Dwight's Visitor Center.

Welcome Billboard & Wayside Exhibits

Just a few feet north of Ambler's, on the north side of the property is a very photogenic billboard that says: "My family's destination is Dwight Illinois" with a 1950s look to it.

modern stainless steel sign with writing and photos about Dwight

Wayside Exhibit at Ambler's, Dwight, Il. Credits

Route 66 Experience Hub

To the left of the billboard is Dwight's Main "Experience Hub" with two display panels. On one side it has a map with Route 66 across Illinois, with trivia and interesting information about the Mother Road.

On the other side are to exhibits, one about "Route 66 Attractions in the Dwight Region", including the other Dwight Wayside Exhibits and the towns of Odell and Cayuga. The other exhibit tells you what you can see in Dwight itself (we describe these sights in this page too).

There are fourteen of these nine foot tall "experience hubs" along Route 66 in Illinois. They were erected by Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway.

It has a Passport Station, a stamp on the bottom panel, so you can collect a passport stamp by placing a piece of paper over the rubbing stamp and rubbing it with a pencil. (Read more about Illinois' Wayside Exhibits).

"Full Service" Wayside Exhibit

To the left is a "Wayside Exhibit" about the old service Station, with photographs and written information.

mural showing car, whighway,Chicago and open countryside on US66

Mural at restaurant, Dwight, Il. Credits

Old Route 66 Family Restaurant Mural

Across the street, on the SW corner of Old Route 66 and W Mazon Ave is a restaurant with murals.

Besides the murals, you can enjoy classic home cooked food (old style milk shakes, wraps, burgers, melts, and salads).

Drive south down the Old Route 66 for 3 blocks, and to your right, just past W. Chippewa St. is a faux gas station.

Faux Gas Station

By "faux" we mean a replica, a reproduction that evokes the spirit of a real roadside gas station from the heyday of Route 66. It looks good, and by the way, there are quite a few of them along Route 66.

replica of a gas station with red car painted mural on facade and yellow vintage Shell gas pumps
Faux gas station, US 66 in Dwight. Credits

Two blocks south, on the NE corner of US 66 and W South St. you will find another marker.

Mom and Pop Motels Marker

Another wayside marker with a plaque, pictures and text. Most motels in the golden days of Rote 66 were family owned and operated. Here stood the old "Paulsen-Strufe Motel". Marlin and Metha Pauylsen opened a gas station here in 1935. and they later added cabins, they cauled it "Paulsen Couort. built in 1935 and ran by a local family. In 1952 it was bought by John and Dorothy Strufe, they refurbished it, and in 1959 renamed it "Arrow Motel". Now it has gone.

Head east to visit downtown Dwight and its other attractions, many of them linked to the "Keeley Institute" (see this map with directions).

Keeley Institute, the days before Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Dr. Leslie Keeley, in the 1880s came to the conclusion that alcoholism was a disease, and as such, could be treated. He opened an institution in Dwight, Illinois to treat alcoholic patients in a humane manner.

By the early 1900s his "Keeley Institute" (he was associated in it with John Oughton and Curtis Judd) had become world famous.

The "Keeley Cure" (or Gold Cure) though controversial, attracted thousands of patients to Dwight. It was costly and many wealthy people stayed in town. Keeley built many landmarks to impress his customers: the Oughton Estate with its Windmill, the railway Depot, the Livingston Hotel, parks, and even cemteries.

After Keeley's death Oughton, and later his son kept the business running. The Gold Cure had a secret formulation and those who tried to analyze it reported that it contained a weird mix of chemicals such as alcohol, ammonia, strychnine, atropine and apomorphine.

The Windmill (Keeley Institute)

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

ancient sepia postcard showing windmill

The windmill in a 1907 postcard. Credits

The windmill and mansion is at 101 W South St. It is part of Oughton's estate, it was built in 1896.
It was originally known as "the pumping tower", it is the work of the US Wind, Engine & Pump Co., Batavia, Illinois.
It pumps up water from a depth of 840 feet and stores it in an 88-barrel cypres tank. The windmill is part of the Historic John R. Oughton House.

The property covers 7.2 acres (2.9 ha.) and the Victorian stle house (known as The Lodge or Keeley Estate) was built between 1891 and 1895.
It was designed by Julian Barnes.
John R. Oughton, associate of Dr. Leslie Keeley lived here until his death 1925. Five years later it became part of the Keeley Institute an institution for the rehabilitation and treatment of alcoholism. It became a restaurant, but closed in 2017 (Country Mansion).

The historic Windmill in Dwight.

Tall blue windmill with wood walls, windows and doors
The historic Windmill, Dwight, Illinois. Ivo Shandor

Drive north into downtown Dwight, park and stroll along both East and West Main Streets, on both sides of the railroad tracks (map with directions). These are the downtown sights:

Keeley Institute & Livingston Hotel - Veteran's Hospital

On the corner of W Main Ave. and E Mazon St. The hotel, which is still standing, was built to lodge patients who came for treatment at the adjacent Keeley Institute treatmet center.

Prohibition (from 1920 to 1933) reduced the flow of alcoholics, so the building next to the hotel, at 134 W Main became the "Veterans' Administration Hospital" (mentioned by Rittenhouse in 1946) from 1926-1966.

The former Institure and Veteran's hospital is currently the "William W. Fox Development Center" which operates as a specialized medical institution.

Below is a then and now sequence. In the current view, the blue arrow marks the former hotel and the red one, the Veterans' hospital. West Main is on the left, and Mazon on the right.

sepia color postcard of the hotel from the early 1900s

Dwight's Livingston Hotel ca. 1910. Credits

former Livingston hotel and Veteran hospital nowadays

Old Livingston Hotel & Veterans' Hospital now. Click for St. view

Walk south, half a block along Main and stop at a Historic Bank building designed by a great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Historic Frank L. Smith Bank

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

122 W Main St, Dwight. The original bank opened in 1906, but it doesn't have the classic Bank facade of the early 1900s, the solid and simple cut limestone blocks give it a contemporary look (but it was built in 1906!).

Frank L. Smith Bank in Dwight, by Frank Lloyd Wright

Stone facade of the Frank L. Smith Bank in Dwight Route 66
Facade of the Frank L. Smith Bank in Dwight, Illinois. Ivo Shandor

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the building in 1904. It was built the following year. The structure housed not only Frank L. Smith's bank but also his realtor office. It was renovated in the 1950s.

In the 1960s its present owners, the First National Bank of Dwight removed the partition unifying bank and real estate sections. In the 1990s it was expanded to the left with a new structure that blended in with the original one.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959): an American architect, interior designer, educator and writer. He promoted "organic architecture" which harmonized design with the environment and the people who would use it and see it. More than 500 of his 10,000 designs were built.

Across the street, to your left is the historic railroad depot.

Historic Railway Depot

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

111 W Main St, Dwight. Dwight railway station was built by the Chicago & Alton Railroad in 1891. It was designed in the Richardson Romanesque style by Henry I. Cobb.

Don't miss the fossil shells in the blue stone walls, they were brought from Indiana. It houses the Dwight Historical Society's museum and the local Chamber of Commerce.

Further west, at 401 S. Columbia St. is the brand new Amtrak passenger station finished in 2016.

Historic Railway Depot in Dwight, Illinois

platform, tracks, stone building with gabled roof and people
Historic Railway Depot in Dwight, Illinois. Ivo Shandor

Pontiac Trail and StateRoute 4

The Pontiac Trail built in the early 1910s, was paved and became State highway #4, went through downtown Dwight (map with its alignment). It followed Odell Rd. southwards. Head South to the point it meets the 1926-43 Route 66.

The road now curves to the SW running beside the railroad. Ahead this alignment meets the later four-lane Route 66 that opened in 1944 and remained in use until 1977.

Here, at the junction, on the west side of the highway you will see "Lions Lake".

Lions Lake and Wayside Exhibit

Odell Rd. and Historic US 66. There is another "Wayside Exhibit" here next to the parking area. It is the "Shifting Roadways Marker", which tells all about the different alignments of US 66 in Dwight.

The lake was the borrow pit, which was excavated to provide road fill when the Bypass 66 was built around the town in the early 1940s. It later filled with water and became a community park in the 1990s.

Your city tour of Dwight ends here. Head south towards neighboring Odell.

Four Lane 1944-77 Bypass Route 66 in Dwight

The outbreak of World War II led to an increase of heavy truck traffic that detriorated the original roadbed. A new and improved alignment was decided upon (Bypass 66). It would be wider, with a stronger roadbed -for the trucks- and would also reduce the traffic congestion in the town, by routing it around Dwight.

This road was built in 1944 and it became a four lane alignment with the addition of a second set of lanes in 1954. It remained in use until the freeway, built to modern Intersate highway standards replaced it. It reverted to the state, and as the maintenance costs of a divided four-lane highway were high, it opted to upkeep only two of them, and let the others lie unkpet. You can still see the remains of the abandoned lanes to the west of the present highway (Street View) between the points where I-55 curves around Dwight. North and south of those points these lanes are now buried beneath the current northbound lanes of I-55.

> > See the previous segment Gardner to Dwight (east)

> > See the next segment Odell to Cayuga (west)

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Credits

Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
City website collinsvilleil.org

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