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The town of Lyons is best known for the Historic Hofmann Tower Museum yet it is the site of the ancient Chicago Portage, which later became part of the Plank Road and eventually Ogden Avenue.
It has its share of Classic Motels, such as the Chicagoland Motel, the Plank Road Inn, the Former Chalet Motel now Rodeway Inn and the Presidential Inn & Suites Motel.

Lyons Illinois

1926-39 US 66 & 1940 -77 ALT US 66

< West     Gardner ¦ Braceville ¦ Godley ¦ Braidwood ¦ Wilmington ¦ Elwood ¦ Joliet ¦ Romeoville     East >

The Main Alignment of Route 66 in Lyons

< Head West
Willowbrook ¦ Countryside ¦ McCook

Head East >
Berwyn ¦ Cicero ¦ Chicago "Road Begins"



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Lyons IL

Facts, Information and trivia

Elevation: Elevation 703 feet (215 m). Population 10,729 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

The town of Lyons is a suburb of Chicago located in Cook County, Illinois; this is a Map of Lyons.

History of Lyons

The area around Chicago was inhabited when the ice sheets retreated some 11,000 years ago forming the Great Lakes. Later, in historic times, the Potawatomi people lived here and were encountred by the French explorers in the 1600s.

France ceded the land to England as part of a peace treaty in the mid 1700s and after the American Independence they became part of the U.S. Fort Dearborn on the Chicago River was established in 1803.

After the 1812 War with Britain, Ft. Dearborn was rebuilt in 1816 and two years later, the territory became the state of Illinois.

David and Bernardus Laughton opened a trading post here in the 1820s on the Chicago Portage and Cook County was established in 1835 and named after Daniel Pope Cook (1794 - 1827) a lawyer and politician as well as newspaper publisher. He was Illinois' first Attorney General, and an anti-slave advocate Congressman.

Cook County is after Los Angeles County, the second-most populous county in America.

Then in the 1840s workers building the Illinois and Michigan Canal came to the area. German settlers farmed in Lyons and a brewery opened here in 1856. By the 1880s a large inflow of Polish immigrants began and the town incorporated as Lyons in 1888.

The name "Lyons"

The origin of the name is uncertain but it may be due to Lyon in France, which was named Lyon (Lion) in the thirteenth century.

The owner of the brewery, Hoffmann built an electric power dam and the Historic Hofmann Tower iin 1908, and Ogden Avenue was paved in 1914 linking Lyons with Chicago and the streetcar service of the Chicago & Joliet Electric Railway made travel easy.

Routes 66 and 34 were aligned through Lyons in 1926. The post WWII brought a residential development boom to the area.


Lyons: Hotels and Motels nearby

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>> See the RV campground to the south, in Joliet

Tip: It is not easy to find RV parking areas in Chicago it is not a very RV friendly city. Choose the outskirts.

The Weather

weather in Lyons, Il

Where is Lyons?

map of Lyons Illinois showing where it is on Route 66
Map showing the location of Lyons IL on Route 66

The climate of Lyons is classified as humid continental and has clearly marked seasons with hot and often humid summers, cool and wet springs, mild falls 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 around Lyons experiences about 4 tornados per year.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk on US 66.

How to get to Lyons?

You can get to Lyons driving along Historic Route 66 ⁄ I-55, from the freeway exit at Exits 282 or 283. There are other freeways in the area (I-355, I-294, I-57 and I-88) US 34 passes through Lyons and US 45 just west of it.

Map of Route 66 through Lyons, Illinois

See the alignment of US 66 in Lyons, on our Illinois Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.

Color key for Lyons:

Pale Blue: marks the 1929 - 1977 US 66 from Chicago through Lyons and the 1926-77 alignment west of Lyons. It is the 1940 - 1977 ALT US 66 from Romeoville to Gardner.
Blue: a 1926 - 60s alignment in Willowbrook.
Orange: is the 1926 to 1928 Route 66 through Lyons.
Green Line: (to the west) is US 66 from 1940 to 1958. After that date and until 1977 it became part of I-55.
Black are the sections that are missing.

Route 66 in Illinois: Historic U.S. 66 in Lyons

Route 66 logo

Route 66 acro ss 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.

Below you will find More information on Route 66 in Lyons.

Lyons's Route 66 Landmarks and Attractions

Some tours in Chicago


What to see in Lyons

US 66 in Lyons: historic context

The WPA guide to the state of Illinois published in 1939 describes Lyons in its "Tour 17" along Route 66; it tells us that it was built at the portage between the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers and that "today Lyons is largely residential, its working population finding employment in nearby manufacturing towns and in Chicago".

Driving Route 66 in Lyons

Drive along Historic Route 66 from Lyons westwards at its border with Berwyn on Ogden Avenue and Harlem Avenue. First let's brush up on the history and the origin of Ogden Avenue:

Ogden Avenue

Ogden Ave. Chicago, Cook County

This avenue runs for 37.5 miles (60.4 km) from Chicago (Chestnut St. near Milwaukee and Chicago Avenues) all the way to Naperville, Illinois.

It was named after the first mayor of Chicago: William Butler Ogden.

When Chicago was merely an outpost on Lake Michigan named Fort Dearborn in the early 1800s , there was a muddy trail used by trappers, the "Ottawa Trail" that went west to what is now Lisle. Read all about the Chicago Portage at Lyons. It improved gradually and in the 1830s a stagecoach service was established, stopping at what now is Hinsdale.

Cart traffic made deep ruts in the dirt trail and rain made the road a muddy bog, impassable. So some entrepreneurs built the "Plank Road":

Plank Road

Construction began in 1848 and it was known as "The Southwestern Plank Road", it was the first of many that would radiate from Chicago. This one followed the trail to Lyons and in 1851 it was extended through Lisle to Naperville.

The road was built with wooden planks with log stringers on their outer edges. The boards were 3 in. thick and 8 feet wide -rather narrow.

Toll fees were charged ranging from 3¢ for one hog or sheep, 12¢ for a horse and rider to 37¢ for a cart drawn by four hourses.

When the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad began operating in 1863, the traffic along the plank road declined.

It was re-named in 1877 as Ogden Avenue., planks gone it was a gravel surfaced road. But by the early 1900s the first cars appeared and by 1914 it had been paved becoming a main throughfare.

Route 66 and US 34 were aligned along it in 1926 and in the 1930s it was widened to four lanes.

Chicago Portage National Historic Site

National Historic site

Lyons and Riverside Illinois

The Des Plaines River runs with a north to south course parallel to the coast of Lake Michigan, near present Lyons the river received the inflow of Portage Creek and turned west to flow with a NE-SW course, meet the Kankakee River and form the Illinois River, which in turn flows into the Mississippi River.

Des Plaines River

The river runs through Lyons. It has a course 133 miles (214 km) long and its water reaches the Mississippi River via the Illinois River.

The French explorers called it the "River of the Plane Trees" as the trees along it resembled the French plane tree.

To the east, ran the Chicago River with its northern and southern branches, it flowed into Lake Michigan, reaching the Atlantic eventually along the St. Lawrence River.

Between Portage Creek and the S. Fork of Chicago river was a gap on the "continental divide", a marshy area known as "Mud Lake". When it rained heavily or if there were ice dams downstream, the Des Plaines River could back up and flow east, across Mud Lake and into Lake Michigan via the Chicago River.

The Native Americans used these rivers and portaged their canoes across the divide. When the French explorers reached the area in 1673, rowing upstream along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers their native guides showed them the portage point.

Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were the first Europeans to use it. The portage was a muddy slough 8 mi. long (13 km). La Salle explored the area later and realized its strategic importance.

The Indians ceded the mouth of the Chicago River to the US by the Treaty of Greenville (1795), in 1803, U.S. soldiers erected fort Dearborn at the river's mouth, rebuilt it in 1816 (the natives had burned it down during the War of 1812).

The Illinois and Michigan Canal built in 1848 cut through the divide and linked with locks both rivers Chicago and Des Plaines. 1900 the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal enlaged the original canal. Now water can flow from Lake Michigan via these locks into the Mississippi River.

The 1750s French map of the western regions of "New France" (Canada), show the "R(iviere) et Port de Checageu" (River and Port of Checageu) the Checageu River and, (Red arrow) the "Portage des Chenes" (Portage of the Oaks) that linked it to the R. des Illinois (Illinois' River) see map below:

Chicago Portage map in Lyons US66

Chicago Portage map, Lyons, Il. A. Whittall

Chicago Portage in a 1700s map in Lyons US66

Chicago Portage in a 1700s map, Lyons, Il. Click for larger image.

Here at Ogden and Harlem Avenues, two US 66 alignments meet:

  • 1926-28 US 66: In Orange in the map above. It went west along Ogden Ave., across the Des Plaines River into Lyons and then turned south along Lawndale Ave. to then head west again at Joliet Rd. (Map of the alignment).
  • 1929-77 US 66: Pale Blue line in map above. It turned south along Harlem Ave., skirted central Lyons, crossed the Des Plaines River, curved south and then west as Joliet Rd. meeting the other alignment at Lawndale Ave. (Map of the alignment).

Head west along Ogden and to your right just ahead is a classic Motel:

Chicagoland Motel

7225 Ogden Ave, Lyons

The postcard of the Chicagoland Motel below dates back to 1931. A more recent postcard from 1960 tells us that it had "28 Ultra Modern Units - Open Year Round - Television - Telephones - Radio... Chicagoland's Finest Motel... Minutes from Downtown Chicago"

The place is still open and operating as a motel and has had some modifications but the gabled roof rectangular building is clearly visible:

Chicagoland Motel 1930s postcard in Lyons, Illinois

Chicagoland Motel 1930s postcard in Lyons Route 66
Chicagoland Motel 1930s postcard in Lyons, Illinois.

Same building today:

Chicagoland Motel nowadays in Lyons, Illinois

Chicagoland Motel nowadays in Lyons Route 66
Chicagoland Motel nowadays in Lyons, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

Chicagoland consists of the Chicago metropolitan area in northeastern Illinois, including Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. Lyons forms part of it.

Keep westbound and to your left just past the Chicagoland Motel is another motel:

Plank Road Inn

7307 Ogden Ave, Lyons

It is one of several built in Lyons with a Swiss chalet look, the style dates back to the 1960s and consists of shallow-pitched roofs, brick or rough limestone walls, overhangs and wood railings. Built to convey a feeling of warmth and coziness during the tough freezing Lyons' winters.

This hotel during the 1980s was "Sullivan's Motel" and it has a gabled overhang covering the drive-in entrance. It's name is a refrence to the Plank Road built in the 1840s to link Chicago with the world across the bogs and soft prairie soil that surrounded it.

Plank Road Inn in Lyons, Illinois

Plank Road Inn in Lyons Route 66
Plank Road Inn in Lyons, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

Drive west, into Lyons, crossing the river and as the higway curves at Joliet Ave. take a right towards the river to visit the historic tower:

Hofmann Tower Museum

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Village and State Landmark

7930 Riverwalk Drive, Lyons

A local brewer, George Hoffmann Jr. built a dam on the Des Plaines River to generate electricity and also added this tower in a park as a tourist attraction back in 1908.

The stone tower was built by H. W. Sauber using German plans on Hoffmann's property; it cost $400,000. The first dam was built in 1830 for a mill, and improved over the years.

People would picnic there and row in the river.

Hofmann Tower Museum in Lyons, Illinois

Hofmann Tower Museum in Lyons Route 66
Hofmann Tower Museum in Lyons, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

Continue westwards and just ahead, at Lawndale, turn south along US 66. You can take a short 1⁄2 mile side trip along US 34: to visit another example of the Swiss chalet style in a 1960s motel on the right side of the highway:

Former Chalet Motel now Rodeway Inn

8640 W. Ogden Ave., Lyons

It was built in 1962 by D. Hedg (builder) and it has a clear Chalet style -hence its name. The building is still there, untouched and still operating as a motel. The postcard below proclaimed it was the "Nearest motel to the Brookfield Zoo", and dates back to the 1970s (based on the cars depicted in it).

You can Book a Room in the Rodeway Inn

Former Chalet Motel in a 1970s postscard in Lyons, Illinois

Former Chalet Motel in a 1970s postscard in Lyons Route 66
Former Chalet Motel in a 1970s postscard in Lyons, Illinois.

Just see how that tiny pine tree has grown into a great specimen!

Former Chalet Motel in today is the Rodeway Inn in Lyons, Illinois

Former Chalet Motel in today is the Rodeway Inn in Lyons Route 66
Former Chalet Motel in today is the Rodeway Inn in Lyons, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

Keep south until meeting Joliet Road. And here turn left along the 1929-77 Route 66 it will go through southern Lyons, cross the Des Plaines River and the White Eagle Woods, turning north (left) at Harlem Ave. Just ahead, to your left is the Presidential Motel:

Presidential Inn & Suites Motel

3922 S. Harlem Avenue, Lyons

A fine example of Lyons' Swiss chalet style (see the overhang across the entrance and the stone and brick facade). This motel opened in 1961 as a family vacation motel and is still lodging guests.

Presidential Inn & Suites Motel in Lyons, Illinois

Presidential Inn & Suites Motel in Lyons Route 66
Presidential Inn & Suites Motel in Lyons, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

And here, where you began your drive, is also the end of your drive through Lyons you can turn around and continue south (west) along Route 66 into McCook.


Historic Route 66 in Lyons, Illinois

Route 66

Illinois State Highway 4 went along Ogden Avenue into Lyons in 1918. In 1926 it became part of U.S. 66 (Orange line in the map above).

The 1929-1977 the road was realigned south of Lyons (marked with the Pale Blue line in the map above).

During the late 1950s and early 1960s I-55 was completed in Chicagoland and the new freeway was used by US 66 until its decertification in 1977, west of Countryside. Eastwards it used Joliet Rd. and Ogden Ave.

Below is a 1934 map of the highway in the area around Lyons:

1934 road map of Route 66 showing Lyons

1934 map of Route 66 in Chicagoland
1934 map of Route 66 in Chicagoland, Illinois.

Route 66 into Chicago

The 1928 Illinois State Roadmap shows no urbanization along US-66 heading north into Chicago east of Joliet (which overlapped State Highway 4 and US "T"45) all the way into Lyons, the first town on the alignment. To the north lay Hinsdale and Lagrange, but the first town was Lyons, followed by Berwyn, Cicero and Chicago.

By 1945 (according to the Illinois state's official Highway map), things had changed, not oly had US 66 moved to a new alignment through Plainfield, now "Romeo" (yes, not "Romeoville") appeared on ALT 66 north of Lockport on the former 1926-1939 US 66 through Joliet. The urban sprawl reached Lyons, which appeared next to Berwyn and Cicero. To the west no other towns until Plainfield.

The 1954 map shows the same picture but now US 66 from Berwyn to IL-53 and then south as ALT 66 through Joliet and all the way to Wilmington was a "Four Lane Pavement" the main US 66 west of this point, through Plainfield and Braidwood was merely a "Two Lane Pavement".

There are changes in the 1959 state highway map: US-66 south (west) of its junction with ALT US 66 has become an "Expressway" with "highway separation" (overpasses and limited access). This freeway bypassed Plainfield and the former 1940 to 1958 US-66 alignment became state hwys. 126 and 59.

During the 1960's, the suburbs expanded and the 1969 state highway map (see image below) now shows I-55 and US 66 running together eastwards all the way to the exchange with I-294. Splitting here: with I-55 taking a more southern course and US-66 a northern one.

Lyons is located between Berwyn and Brookfield in the upper central part of the following map:

1969 Illinois State Roadmap into Chicago

1969 Illinois State Roadmap in Lyons Route 66
1969 Illinois State Roadmap, Lyons, Illinois. Illinois State Highway Maps

Drive from Lyons to McCook along Route 66

It is 3 miles from Lyons to McCook; see this Map with directions.

> > See the previous segment Berwyn to Lyons (east)

> > See the next segment McCook to Countryside (west)

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Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.

Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.