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East St. Louis

City of Champions

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East St. Louis in southwestern Illinois is located on several US 66 alignments. The town looks ravaged, full of empty lots and boarded, vacant, decaying buildings. It isn't one of America's safest towns so be careful when you visit its Route 66 sights:
There are two Gull wing Phillips 66 gas stations (Gull Wing station #1 and Gull Wing station #2), and also two 1950s former gas stations on its eastern approach from Collinsville: Former Gas Station #1 and Former Gas Station #2.

Don't miss the Historic Majestic Theater, and the former East St. Louis Holiday Inn; the impressive Gateway Geyser, the Site of Hillcrest Motel (gone), the historic Historic Broadview Hotel and the Historic Eads Bridge

Be alert and act safely when you drive through East St. Louis IL because it is not a safe city, it has a high crime rate.

City Route 66 in Illinois
< West - Venice ¦ Madison ¦ Granite City ¦ Mitchell - East >

Bypass Route 66 Around St. Louis
<SW - Kirkwood ¦ Creve Coeur ¦ Maryland Heights ¦ Bridgeton ¦ Hazelwood ¦ Mitchell ¦ Edwardsville ¦ Hamel - NE >

The Main Alignment of Route 66 (after 1954) at East St. Louis

< Head West
Crestwood ¦ Marlborough ¦ St. Louis (Missouri)

Head East >
Fairmont City ¦ Collinsville ¦ Hamel

A city with many empty lots

Index to this page

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All about East St. Louis, Illinois

Trivia, Useful Information & Facts

Elevation: 417 ft (127 m). Population 27,006 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus -6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

East St. Louis is St. Clair County, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri.

History of East St. Louis

Humans have lived in Illinois since the retreat of the glaciers at the end of th last Ice Age some 12,000 years ago.

There were up to 50 "Indian Mounds" in the area most lost to development and road building. They were ceremonial and burial sites of the local "Mississippian culture" which flourished from 900 to 1500 A.D., their capital was located at Cahokia Mounds in neighboring Collinsville. They were farmers and hunter-gatherers. Famine due to drought led to their demise.

During the 1600s Illiniwek natives (Peroria, Kaskaskia, Kkahokia and more) moved here escaping war with the Iroquois.

This region was first mentioned by French Jesuits in 1656; they had heard about the "Illinois" natives from a party of Algonquins.
Father Marquette reached the area in 1673 and settled in Kaskaskia and Cahokia.

The territory was a French posession but France ceded it to Britain in 1763. It became part of the US after its independence in 1776.

Arthur St. Clair the governor of the Northwest Territory created St. Clair County in 1790 (naming it after himself!) It was the first county established in what nowadays is Illinois, the county predates the state!

In 1801 it passed to the Indiana Territory, and back to Illinois when the territory was created in 1809.

Illinois became a state in 1818. What is now East St. Louis was founded in 1797 by Captain James Piggott, a Revolutionary War veteran; he named it "Illinoistown".

The Name:East St. Louis

The municipality was established in 1861 and the residents voted on a new name for the town: East St. Louis, after the large city on the western bank of the Mississippi River.

The town grew after the Civil War with stockyards, meat packing and the railroad. It grew into an industrial town with cheap labor that suited the employers and this led to the tragic events of 1917:

The 1917 East St. Louis Race Riot

Black workers were eager to move into the industrial area around St. Louis, to flee from discrimination and poorly paid farm jobs in the Deep South. At the same time, white workers were striking to pressure employers to pay better wages. The companies hired black workers as strikebreakers. This created racial tension between whites and blacks. The former fearing blacks would work for lower wages and displace them from their jobs. The situation came to a head with several thousand white men marching into the city and attacking African Americans in the streets. They burned buildings, mudered 100 to 200 blacks, left 6.000 of them homeless when the rioters burned rail cars on the tracks next to the place where many African American families lived. A shameful situation compounded by the inaction of the local police and the National Guard who were ordered not to shoot white rioters, therefore enticing them to continue.

At S. 5th St. and Railroad Avenue there is a marker that remembers the Race Riot (street view), it was erected on the Centennial of these tragic events.

A vanishing city

The bustling industrial city like many industrial suburbs across the US, was hit by loss of jobs in the 1960s as industry relocated and disinvested. This hit the blue collar workers, mostly black residents. White flight added to the problem, white residents left the city, moving out of racially mixed neighborhoods into all-white suburbs. East St. Louis' poulation which had peaked in 1950 at 82,336 plummeted to one third of its former level nowadays.

Abandoned upper middle class homes, East St. Louis

three empty, derelict, boarded-up and vacant houses, overgrown with weeds
Vacant houses along 10th Street in East St. Louis IL. Click image for street view

Vacant Lots, empty city

You will see an empty city with few people walking along the sidewalks. Many vacant lots. At one time factories, homes, shops filled East St. Louis. Many were in ruins, overtaken by weeds, decaying and crumbling, boarded up.

As the white residents moved out, the industry vanished, the toll bridge was replaced by a freeway and the town lost its tax base and was unable to provide basic city services. This led to more white flight and disinvestment.

Violent crime is a problem; the city is not a safe place. Be careful. advertisement

East St. Louis, its Hotels and Motels

Lodging & accommodation in East St. Louis

> > Book your hotel in East St. Louis

More Accommodation in the area along Route 66

Hotels to the West in Missouri

Just North on old Bypass US 66

Hotels to the East, Illinois

Book your Hotel in neighboring St. Louis

>> Check out the RV campground in neighboring Granite City

Weather in East St. Louis

Route 66 in East St. Louis; location map

Location of East St. Louis on U.S. Hwy. 66, Illinois

Rainfall is, on average 41 in. (1.041 mm). The most rainy months are from May through July with more than 4.1 in per month (104 mm). Snow falls from Nov. to Apr.: 17.8 in. (45 cm).

The town has four well marked seasons. It is located in the area where humid continental climate shifts towards a humid subtropical climate, so summers are hot and humid while winters are cold. It gets cold Arctic air and hot damp tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. Spring is wet and may have extreme weather (tornados, thunderstorms and even winter storms). Fall is sunny and less humid, with mild weather.

The average winter high (Jan) is a chilly 39.9°F (4.4°C) and the winter low is on average 23.7°F (-4.6°C). The summer (Jul) average high is 89.1°F (31.7°C) and the average low is 71°F (21.7°C).

Tornado risk

East St. Louis is in an area that is hit by about seven tornados per year.

The Great Cyclone of 1896

A tornado struck both St. Louis and East St. Louis on May 27, 1896 it was the deadliest event in the area, killing a total of 255 people in 20 minutes.

Tornado Risk: learn more about the Tornado Risk on US 66.

Map of Route 66 through East St. Louis

Click on the Map to see a large sized map showing Route 66 alignments that go into St. Louis MO from Illinois.

Map of US66 alignments into Saint Louis from Illinois

Map showing Route 66 from Illinois into St. Louis MO
Click on Map to Enlarge

This is the color key for this map is the following:

Orange: is first, it shows the original 1926-32 aligment of US66 into St. Louis MO; this one didn't go through East St. Louis.
Pink is the Bypass US-66 that crosses the Chain of Rocks Bridge further north and the Pink line marks its approaches from Hamel.
Green and Yellow are other alignments that went through East St. Louis.
Violet, the latest 1954 alignment from Hamel through Troy to East St. Louis.
Black: missing segments that can no longer be driven.

1954 USGS Map of US 66 into St. Louis

Map of US66 alignments into Saint Louis from Illinois in 1954

Map with 1954 US 66 alignments into St. Louis
Click on Map to Enlarge

Click on the thumbnail map image to see a full size version. Main Route 66 coming from Collinsville (blue arrow right side of the map) reaches the old City 66 from Granite City (now ALT US 67 -green arrow upper right side of the map), it heads toards the Mississippi Rive (blue arrow lower right) crossing the Bridges into St. Louis. On the left-center side US 66 reaches St. Louis and the original City 66 coming from Chain of Rocks Bridge (blue arrow upper left). It turns to head westwards out of St. Louis (blue arrow lower left). You can also see how US 40 and US 66 shared the same alignment into St. Louis.

Below are the maps showing how the Main 66 crossed the Mississipi from East St. Louis.

  1. Map a Route 66 crossing Eads Bridge
  2. Map b Route 66 original crossing Martin Luther King bridge
  3. Map c current access from Route 66 to Martin Luther King bridge

The Route 66 alignment in East St. Louis

Visit our pages with old maps and plenty of information about US 66's alignments.

Route 66 across Illinois

Historic Route 66 has been designated as an All-American Road and a National Scenic Byway in the state of Illinois.

Click for a description of Route 66 in Illinois.

East St. Louis: its classic Route 66 Sights

Attractions & Landmarks

Safety Tips: Be very careful in East St. Louis

East St. Louis is a very unsafe and dangerous area. Avoid visiting this area unless absolutely necessary.

Drug abuse and crime rates are high. Keep off the streets at night. Don't walk around. Keep an eye on your valuables. Know exactly where you are going. Don't get lost or end up in a bad neighborhood.

Neighborhood Scout's crime report reveals that East St. Louis has a very highest crime rate.

Having said this, and considering that most of the historic Route 66 buildings in the city have gone we suggest (at your discretion and caution) to avoid the first alignment to the Municipal Bridge that runs along 10th Avenue.

Former Gas Station

We will tour the town driving west from Fairmont City along Collinsville Rd. to your right at 1323 N 9th St. is a former gas station that now is tire shop. You can still see the outline of the pumps island in the paving in front of it.

Former Gas Station in East St. Louis, Illinois

three bay flat roof long building with gable roof over the office
Former Gas Station on Route 66, East St. Louis, Illinois. Click for street view

The gable roof is an addition, not part of the original brick structure. Notice the brickwork over the office's windows and the vertical decorations on both sides of the office.

Site of Hillcrest Motel (gone)

Ahead, at 1110 N 9th, on the NE corner with Exchange Ave stood the "Hillcrest Motel" torn down in 2010. Click on image to see more full size images of the old motel at

dilapidated two story ruins of a building

Ruins of Hillcrest motel US66 East St. Louis MO
Click thumbnail to enlarge. (See St. view)

gable roof two story house next to flat box-shaped brick gas station with pump island visible

Another old gas station on Route 66 East St. Louis MO. Click for St. view

Another old gas station

To your left at 1000 N 9th St. next to a two-story red-brick gable roof house is a former gas station, the service bay on the left side has been walled in, the concrete pumps island and the base of the station's sign can still be seen (red arrow in the image above).

Welcome to East St. Louis billboard

Ahead, after crossing I-64, to your left along St. Clair Ave. in a park is the current "City of Champions" billboard. The original streamline-moderne sign has stood here for decades, with different texts written on it over the course of the years. Back in the 1940s (pictured below), the sign proclaimed that the city was "Nations 2nd largest rail center".

black and white photo from 1940s9 of a park with trees and a 
billboard with the words "Welcome to East St Louis. Nations 2nd largest rail center. Chamber of Commerce" in dark letters on white background
Welcome to East St. Louis billboard 1940s. Credits

As you can see below, by 1959 it had changed, and proclaimed that it was an "All-America City", named by the National Civic League to honor its civic excellence and the cooperation between citizens, government and businesses. Sadly, the downward spiral of urban decay had already began.

black and white photo from 1959 of a park with trees and a 
billboard with the words "Welcome to East St Louis. ILL. All-America City, Chamber of Commerce" in dark letters on white background
Welcome to East St. Louis billboard in 1959. Credits

Same spot, but the billboard's text has changed:

green lawn in a park with a red billboard with the words "Welcome to the city of East St Louis. IL City of Champions" written in white letters
Welcome to East St. Louis "City of Champions" billboard nowadays. Click for street view

The original alignment of N 9th was moved slightly when the bridge was built across the freeway. At St. Clair Ave, turn right, and then left along Collinsville Ave. This is the original Route 66 alignment.

The city looks as if it had been bombed, empty lots of land and solitary decaying red brick buildings, most of them boarded up.

At Martin Luther King Ave. take a left and on the block following the railroad grade crossing, to your left is a Gull Wing gas station:

Gull Wing station

601 Martin Luther King Dr. on the SW corner with N 6th St.

This is a former Phillips 66 gas station from the 1960s. At that time, Phillips Petroleum Co. standardized their filling stations across the US, adopting a modern design.

This consisted of a triangular "gull-wing" canopy which was supported at its narrow tip by a pole designed to look like an oil derrick. The pole was capped with a Phillips 66 revolving sign.

Gull Wing station in East St. Louis, Illinois

Gull Wing station in East St. Louis Route 66
Gull Wing station in East St. Louis, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

> > Learn more about Phillips 66 Gull Wing stations on Route 66

Retrace your steps to Collinsville Ave. turn right and, one block east, closer to downtown, to your left is a Historic Movie Theater:

Historic Majestic Theater

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

At 240 Collinsville Ave. The historic Majestic Theatre is a movie theater built in 1928 in Spanish Gothic style. It could seat over 1,750 spectators and its first owner was Harry Redmon (the postcard below is captioned "Redmon's Million Dollar Majestic Theater". The facade is tiled with patterns. It was the first in town to have air conditioning but it closed in the 1960s.

It was designed by two brothers, Carl Boller (1868-1946) and Robert O. Boller (1887-1962) who had also designed another Route 66 theater, the Kimo Theater in Albuquerque NM.

color postcard c.1930s of a active bustling castle-like three story theater lit-up theater
Redmon's Million Dollar Majestic Theater in the 1930s, Route 66, East St. Louis, Illinois. Credits

Historic Majestic Theater in East St. Louis, Illinois

decaying boarded-up castle-like three story theater with empty lots around it
Historic Majestic Theater nowadays, Route 66 East St. Louis, Illinois. Click for St. view

Ghost Sign

white letters on a red brick wall of a two story building advertising stoves and hardware for cooking

Ghost Sign on Route 66 East St. Louis MO. Click for St. view

Don't miss the Ghost Sign on the red-brick wall of the next building advertising "Chas Mauer Hardware & Stoves".
A ghost sign is an old hand-painted advertising sign that has survived the ravages of time. These signs were popular in the late 1800s.

Broadview Hotel

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

At Broadway turn left. On the next street, at 415 E. Broadway on the SE corner with Barack Obama Ave. is a classic hotel.

It was built in the boom period that preceded the Great Depresion, in 1927. In the mid 1940s it rented rooms as apartments and in 1957 leased a floor to the Southern Illinois University, by 1978 the University owned the whole building but left it in 2004. Since then it has been vacant. It is being redeveloped by the City of St. Louis, its current owner. It is the work of Arthur J. Widmer. Below is a "Then and Now" set of images:

color postcard c.1940s of a six story red-brick hotel with cars parked and US flags flying
Broadview Hotel in its heyday (1940s), Route 66, East St. Louis, Illinois. Credits
6-story red-brick building, vacant, with grafitti, on an empty street
Broadview Hotel in its heyday nowadays, East St. Louis, Illinois.

East St. Louis Holiday Inn

One block south, on the SE corner of 5th and Broadway is the site of a Holiday Inn. The motel, now in ruins, was built in the late 1960s. Its amenities included a swimming pool and restaurant with cocktail lounge. Its "Now and Then" photos are shown below:

East St. Louis Holiday Inn 1960s

East St. Louis Holiday Inn, East St. Louis, Il. Credits

neon sign of the E St. Louis Holiday Inn nowadyas

East St. Louis Holiday Inn and nenon sign today, East St. Louis, Il. Click for street view

In the image above you can see a newer sign (not the original Holiday Inn one), faded with the words "City Centre" on it. To the right of the picture is the old motel, and on the left in the distance, the Broadview.

Another Phillips 66 Gull Wing station

Facing the old motel across the street, on the SW corner of Broadway and 6th St.

This late 1950s Phillips 66 Gull wing is clad in stone, which gives it a curious appearance:

Another Gull Wing station in East St. Louis, Illinois

Another Gull Wing station in East St. Louis Route 66
Another Gull Wing station in East St. Louis, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

Visit the final sight in town, just barely 1.4 miles away (this is the Map with directions):

Sponsored Content

Malcom W. Martin Memorial Park

At 185 W. Trendley Ave., facing the Mississippi River. It is open 7 AM to 10 PM, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Gateway Geyser

May to September (Memorial Day to Labor Day) Daily eruptions at noon, for 10-minutes. It hibernates the rest of the year.

It is the tallest water fountain in the US and second tallest in the world with a rise of 630 feet (192 m) which matches the height of the Gateway Arch, across the river in St. Louis MO. It opened in 1995 as a landmark on Illinois' riverfront that complements the Gateway Arch in Missouri (you can see it across the Mississippi River).

It blasts 7,500 gallons of water per minute (28,125 l).

The Mississippi River Overlook

It is 40 ft. tall (12 m) and is located at the western end of the park. It gives you a great view of the Mississippi River, St. Louis, its skyline, and the Gateway Arch.

Gateway Geyser in East St. Louis, Illinois

Gateway Geyser in the foreground, the Mississippi beyond, and the Gateway Arch and St. Louis skyline in the background
Gateway Geyser in East St. Louis, Illinois and St. Louis and the Gateway Arch beyond the Mississippi River. Credits

From the park you can reach Eads Bridge (Map with directions) and use it to cross the Mississippi, into Missouri.

Eads Bridge

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

It was named after its designer and builder, James Buchanan Eads. It is very old, built between 1867 and 1874. Eads was the first bridge across the Mississippi south of the Missouri River. It is an arch bridge with a total lenght of 6,442 ft (1,964 m). It has three steel arches and is almost 46 feet wide (14 m).
It carried Route 66 together with neighboring MLK bridge. The automobile deck was closed between 1989 and 2003 for repairs.

This marks the end of this leg of your Route 66 road trip in Illinois and East St. Louis, continue westwards in St. Louis Missouri. advertisement

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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat

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