Gillespie, Illinois: all about it
Trivia, Facts and Useful Information
Elevation: 663 ft (202 m). Population 3,319(2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Gillespie is a city in Macoupin county; see this Map of Gillespie.
The History of Gillespie
The first inhabitants of what is now Illinois, arrived when the ice sheets retreated some 11,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. These Paleoindians were the ancestors of the modern Kickapoo, Illinois and Miami natives that were the historic natives encountered by the first European explorers in the mid 1600s.
France claimed the region as part of "New France" (now Canada) but lost it to Britain during the Seven Year War (1763). The independence of America (1776) saw the land change hands again; it became a territory of the U.S.
The first settlers arrived to this part of the prairies the mid 1810s and early 1820s, around the time that Illinois gained statehood (1818). The first settler in this region was John Woods, who came from Virginia in 1817. Macoupin County was established in 1829 and was named after Macoupin Creek (the word is a Miami-Illinois term for the American lotus Nelumbo lutea).
The original community was known as"Prairie Farm" but changed to Gillespie in 1854. The town was platted in 1851 in advance of the arrival of the Chicago & Alton Railroad.
The name Gillespie
Named for Judge Joseph Gillespie (1809-1885) an Illinois state politician who founded the Illinois Republican Party, was representative in the local Legislature and Senator in the Illinois Senate.
Gillespie is the Anglicised form of "Mac Gille Easbuig" (Scottish Gaelic for "servant of the bishop").
Originally a farming community, the discovery of coal led to an influx of European migrants to work in the mines during the 1880s.
Route 66 was aligned through the city in 1926 but only four years later it was moved eastwards through Litchfield and therefore it bypassed Gillespie.
Gillespie, its Hotels and Motels
Lodging & accommodation in Gillespie
> > Book your hotel in neighboring Staunton
More Accommodation near Gillespie on Route 66
See some more hotels & motels nearby
Hotels further East, in Illinois
On Main US 66
Hotels, Westwards in Missouri
>> Check out the RV campground nearby, Springfield
Gillespie's climate is a "humid continental type", its summers are humid, long and hot. Its winters are short, very cold, with a lot of snow and quite windy.
Its average yearly temperature is around 52.4 °F (11.3°C). The winter averages (Jan) are: low 21°F (-6°C) and high 35°F (1.7°C). The average summer (Jul) high is 86°F (30°C), and a low is 68°F (20°C).
Snow falls during more than 4 months with an average snowfall of 22 inches (56 cm) yearly. Precipitation is 35.3 in. (895 mm) per year.
The are around Gillespie may get around 7 tornado strikes each year.
Tornado Risk: learn more about the Tornado Risk on US 66.
Map of Route 66 through Gillespie in Illinois
See the alignment of US 66 in this town, on our Illinois Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.
Route 66 in Illinois: Historic Route 66 in Gillespie
Route 66 across Illinois
Read this detailed description of Route 66 in Illinois.
Below we provide More information on US 66 in Gillespie (the 1926-30 alignment).
Route 66 is listed in the National Register of Historic Places on two segments of the 1926 alignment: in Auburn and from Girard to Nilwood.
Gillespie: classic US 66 Sights
Landmarks and Attractions
Getting to Gillespie
Drive to Gillespie along State Highway 4, which is the 1926-30 Route 66 U.S. Or come from I-55 and Historic Route 66 further east along IL-16 from Litchfield.
Enter the town along Springfield Road from Carlinville (IL-4), which meets IL-16 on the north side of the town, then turn right along E Elm St. and finally, left along the town's main street, Macoupin St.
To your left (101 Macoupin St) is a monument crowned by an eagle (street view) it is next to the City Government Office.
Keep eastbound and don't miss the Historic Route 66 sign to your left, on the NW corner of Walnut and Macoupin:
Historic Route 66 sign in Gillespie, Illinois
On the next block, to your left, is the Coal Museum (more on coal further down: it is an important part of Gillespie's history):
Illinois Coal Museum at Gillespie
121 S Macoupin St., Gillespie
The Illinois Coal Museum At Gillespie has collections and exhibits that stimulate the appreciation and knowledge of role of coal mining in Illinois.
To your right, Across the street, on the SW corner of W Chestnut and Macoupin St. is a Route 66 Mural
Michelle’s Pharmacy Mural
120 S Macoupin St, Gillespie
The mural is painted on the pharmacy's east facade facing W Chestnut St. It depicts the old Dippolds Drug Store and a statue of a "Doughboy" a World War I American soldier and a 1920s car with Route 66's shield in the middle next to a "Welcome to Gillespie Illinois" greeting.
Dippolds had a soda fountain and and now became Michelle's. The statue was actually loated on the street next to the drugstore, it is no longer there but you can see it in this vintage photo showing the statue, the pharmacy and the old State Bank (now "Castle's Forgotten Treasures").
Michelle’s Pharmacy Mural in Gillespie, Illinois
Turn left, northwards along Chestnut to visit a Classic Movie Theatre:
110 E. Chestnut Street, Gillespie
It opened as the "Pert Theater" in 1921 and was renamed in 1928 ("New Pert") it could seat 603. Following the crash of 1929 it became the "Lyric Theater" which closed in 1953.
Reborn as the "Canna" in 1956 it later used the old "Lyric" name again. In 2003 it was deeded to the city which renovated it and leased it as a movie theater, it is once again being renovated.
Canna Theater in Gillespie, Illinois
Return to Macoupin St., turn left and go on for two blocks. At the junction of Pine St. and Macoupin are Two Attractions: the Silhouette and an old service station:
Coal Miner Silhouette
NW corner of E Pine and Macoupin St. Gillespie
The Silhouette depicting a miner with his pick axe and helmet is set beside a Wayside Exhibit with a panel describing the relationship of Gillespie with coal mining.
During the late 1920s it was one of the busiest towns in the county: coal was mined at the Little Dog mine (which closed in 1968) and Superior Mines 1 to 4 in Eagerville (No. 1), Sawyerville (No. 2), Mt. Clare (No. 3) and Wilsonville (No. 4).
Many of the miners lived in Gillespie, and here they formed the Progressive Miners of America Union. They faced poor pay, death when they fought for their rights and death in the mines (more than 400 miners perished in Macoupin's mines due to explosions and inhaling coal dust "Black Lung").
Accommodation Search box:
The Annual Black Diamond Days
This is a three-day-long festival held in Gillespie ever year on the first weekend in June. It features a carnival, parades, contests , a Mine Rescue Demonstration, arts and crafts and more.
Across the street from the silhouette is the Vintage gas station:
Former Service Station (1920s)
320 S Macoupin St, Gillespie
Set on the SW corner of this strategic intersection where Route 66 entered the town from the south, the red brick building is clearly recognizeable as a gas station.
Three massive pillars support an imposing canopy of a 1920s style gas station.
Former Service Station (1920s) in Gillespie, Illinois
Turn right along West Pine Street, which was known as the "Hardroad". The concrete state highway that became Route 66 has always been called the Hardroad. At Madison turn right and stop on the next corner:
Post Office Mural, Gillespie, Il. www.livingnewdeal.org
Post Office Mural
200 W Spruce St, Gillespie
The mural in the post office's lobby is actually an oil on canvas, painted by Gustaf Dahlstrom in 1936. It is the "Illinois Farm", and was commissioned by the Treasury Department as a New Deal project.
This marks the End of your city tour through Gillespie. Continue south (westbound) along IL-4 towards Benld.
Historic Route 66 in Gillespie
Historic background: Pontiac Trail
The Pontiac Trail symbol shield
The predecessor of Route 66 was the "Pontiac Trail". The use of automobiles grew in during the early 1900s and 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 took over and issued a bond in 1918 which created the State Bond Issue (SBI) Roiute 4 aligned along the Pontiac Trail.
This state highway was paved after 1921 and in 1926 U.S.Hwy 66 was created and aligned with IL-4.
1926-1930 US 66
This first alignment of Route 66 south of Springfield 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. The highway ran between Staunton and Springfield.
Route 66 after 1930
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 alignment branched from the previous alignment just south of Staunton and met it again, in Springfield in the north. It bypassed Gillespie.
Original 1926-1930 Route 66 Carlinville to Gillespie
The 13.1 mile drive between both towns is shown in this Map of Route 66 1926-30 from Carlinville to Gillespie. And it is shown in Orange in the Google map above.
> > See the previous segment From Nilwood to Carlinville (east)
> > See the next segment Gillespie to Benld (west)
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.