Girard, Illinois: all about it
Trivia, Facts and Useful Information
Elevation: 668 ft (204 m). Population 2,103 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Girard is a sity in Macoupin county, south central Illinois. Map of Girard.
The History of Girard
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.
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.
At that time the first settlers were arriving to the area where Girard is now located.
The first pioneer in Macoupin was John Woods, who came from Virginia in 1817. Macoupin County was created in 1829; it was named after Macoupin Creek, in turn a native- Miami ⁄ Illinois word for the American lotus (Nelumbo lutea).
At that time, a Frenchman named Girard set up a sawmill on what after then was known as "Mill Creek". By 1831 Girard, Warren, Ashlock, Cox and Harlan were living in a site known as "Girard Township". The stage line between Springfield and Alton followed the old indian trace through Girard and in 1835 Henderson built a "stage stand" roughly one half mile north of modern Girard. This route would become IL-4 and later Route 66.
In 1834 and again in 1835 a town was platted by Edwards and Mather but it was unsuccessful. But almost 20 years later, in 1853, Barnabas Boggess and Charles Fink laid out a town on the Chicago and Alton railroad that occupied the same area as the failed 1834 platt. They used the old name (Girard). It was incorporated in 1855 by the state Legislature.
The name Girard
Girard is named after the first settler in the area Mr Girard. Surname which like Gerard or Gerald comes from the Grmanic personal name Gerhard which means "brave spear".
State Highway, SBI 4 was built after 1918, paved in the early 1920s and in 1926 it became part of US 66. However it would not last long: in 1930 Route 66 was shortened, straightened and realigned to the east through Litchfield and Mt. Olive, bypassing Girard.
The Girard Coal Mine dug its first shaft in 1869 and closed in 1922 with a negative impact on the local economy. The new "Coal Mine No. 2" opened in 1976 between Girard and Virden.
Girard, its Hotels and Motels
Lodging & accommodation in Girard
> > Book your hotel nearby, in Springfield
More Accommodation near Girard 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, in Sprignfield
Girard 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.
In Girard snow may fall for over four months with an average 22 inches (56 cm) of snowfall yearly. Rainfall averages some 35.2 in. (893 mm) yearly.
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).
The countryside near Girard is hit by some 7 tornados per year.
Tornado Risk: learn more about the Tornado Risk on US 66.
Getting to Girard
Reach Girard along the 1926-30 U.S. 66,which is current Illinois State Highway 4. You can also reach it from I-55 and Histroric Route 66 alignment using IL-12.
Map of Route 66 through Girard 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 Girard
Route 66 across Illinois
Read this detailed description of Route 66 in Illinois.
Below we provide More information on US 66 in Girard (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 the one that runs from here in Girard to Nilwood.
Girard: classic US 66 Sights
Landmarks & Attractions
Drive into Girard along the "old" Route 66, which is N 3rd Street. In the central district, on the left side of the road is a 1950s gas station:
Former Standard Station
227 S 3rd St, Girard
This is a rectangular building from the 1940s. Its former two-door garages are clearly visible. The original windowed office is untouched. It was located on the strategic intersection of 3rd and W Center St. in downtown Girard.
Accommodation Search box:
former Standard Station in Girard, Illinois
Take a left along W Center St. and visit the town's main square, turn right along S 2nd St. and see the Classic Drug store and Soda Fountain:
Doc’s Soda Fountain
133 South Second Street, Girard
The original drug store opened back in 1884 as Deck's Drug Store. Then in 1929 (3 years after Route 66 was aligned through the town), the soda fountain was added.
The last generation of Beck's (Bill and Bob) retired in 2001 and closed the shop. In 2007 it reopened, now it is run by Robert & Renae Ernst: Enjoy some ice cream, lunch or ice cream sodas.
The Bob and Bill Deck Pharmacy Museum displays artifacts from the late 1800s.
Below is its current appearance. See this 1913 postcard of the drug store.
Doc’s Soda Fountain in Girard, Illinois
Turn right along W Madison and then turn left along Route 66 (S 3rd St.). Ahead, on the second block, just past W Monroe St., to your right is Whirl-A-Whip:
309 S 3rd St, Girard
It has a great Classic Sign pictured below. It opened originally in 1957 and it got its name from the special ice-cream maker it used (the Whirl-A-Whip).
It reopened recently and still uses dhe 1950s ice cream machine (which whips each cup of ice cream individually).
WhirlAWhip Restaurant in Girard, Illinois
Your tour across Girard ends here, continue south along the Historic segment of Route 66 that links Girard with Nilwood.
Route 66 in Girard
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.
In 1915 an association was created to build a decent "Hard road" from Chicago to St. Louis, which was to be named the Pontiac Trail after the famous Ottawa Indians chief.
The private backers of this initiative got the B.F. Goodrich tire company to mark its milage posts and even designed a custom shield sign (see picture).
Shortly after, Illinois stepped in and floated a bond (1918): the State Bond Issue (SBI) and a highway, the SBI 4 which was more or less aligned along the Pontiac Trail.
This state highway was paved between 1921 and 1926, and that same year, 1926 when U.S. Highway 66 was created, it was aligned along the new IL-4 roadbed.
Route 66, Girard to Nilwood (1919-1931)
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
This was a period of transition from cart, horse and mule to truck and cars. The old dirt track was replaced by a state of the art highway (by early 1920s standards): it was a concrete highway that had two eight-foot wide lanes and gravel shoulders 7 feet wide. The Portland concrete slab was 6 inches thick.
The original Illinois Route 4 in this area was paved between 1920 and 1922, it ran south of Springfield and had a winding course as it followed the former county lanes and lot demarcation trails. It had many sharp 90° curves. This made it unsafe and also longer. It continued through Girard, Nilwood and passing Staunton went through Hamel. This winding alignment is shown in Orange in the Google map above.
It has survived the wear and tear for almost 100 years and although it has cracks, it still has its original concrete paving plus the concrete box culverts.
The historic segment runs between Girard and Nilwood. In 1930 US 66 was moved further east and, after 1932 IL-4 was also shortened and adopted a straighter course.
Route 66 1930 - 1977
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. It bypassed Girard.
Original 1926-1930 alignment Virden to Girard
It is a 4.5 mile drive between both towns, and it is shown in this Map of US66 from Virden to Girard. Note how the later IL-4 built in 1932 eliminated the 90° sharp turns south of Girard.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat.