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Mitchell Illinois

Route 66 Reaches the Mississippi

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Mitchell, is the last village in Illinois on Route 66, ahead are some motels, but this is the last "town" on Illinois' 66.
Don't miss its famous Luna Cafe with a great classic neon sign, and also the site of the now gone Bel Air Neon Sign.

It has a handful of classic motels: the Greenway Motel and the Apple Valley Motel. A Picnic Spot (Gone) mentioned by Rittenhouse in 1946, Town and Country motel (Kaiser-Frazer neon sign -gone), the site of a Motel, gas station and tavern, the classic Glen Carbon 1940s gas station, and an archaeological site, Mitchell Indian Mounds.

Visit Mitchell IL on your Route 66 road trip.

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 Mitchell

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

Head East >
East St. Louis ¦ Fairmont City ¦ Collinsville

The Gateway to Chain of Rocks Bridge

Index to this page

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All about Mitchell on Route 66

Trivia, Useful Information & Facts

Elevation: 419 ft (120 m). Population 1,356 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

The small hamlet of Mitchell is an unincorporated census-designated place in Madison County, Illinois. Part of the Metro East region of greater St. Louis.

History of Mitchell

Humans have lived in Illinois since the retreat of the glaciers at the end of th last Ice Age some 12,000 years ago. Just to the south of the town, halfway to Long Lake are "Indian Mounds" these are known as The Mitchell Archaeological Site, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, comprising a platform mound and the remains of a village dating to 1150-1200 A.D.

The mounds were ceremonial and burial sites of the native "Mississippian culture" flourished here from 900 A.D. to 1500 A.D., their capital was located at Cahokia Mounds (near Collinsville). They were farmers and hunter-gatherers. Famine due to drought led to their demise.

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

First mentioned by French Jesuits in 1656 who heard about the "Illinois" natives from a party of Algonquins. Father Marquette reached the area in 1673, settling in Kaskaskia and Cahokia. At that time it was a French posession.

France ceded it to Britain in 1763 and then it became part of Virgina after the American Independence, as the County of Illinois in 1778. Ceded by Virginia to the US government in 1784 it became part of the vast North Western Territory in 1787.

After being part of the Indiana Territory in 1809 it became a separate entity: the Illinois Territory which entered the Union as a state in 1818.

Madison County was created in 1812 and named for President James Madison.

Mitchell's post office opened in 1869 (named Long Lake) which changed to Mitchell in 1892. It grew into an industrial region in the 1900s, with steel, oil refining, Granitware and heavy industries. Loss of industrial jobs has reconverted the region into a semi-rural area with a low population.

The Name:Mitchell

Named after John J. Mitchel, who worked on the Alton and St. Louis Railroad. Two brothers, John Jay and William H. Mitchell, from Alton Illinois bought land here, draining the swamps and lobbied with the railroads to build a depot there.

Reaching Mitchell

Get to Mitchell driving along Historic U.S. 66 or take the freeways: I-270 or I-55. advertisement

Mitchell: its Hotels and Motels

Lodging & accommodation in Mitchell

> > Book your hotel in Edwardsville

More Accommodation near Mitchell on Route 66

There are plenty of lodging options in the cities and towns along Route 66 close to Mitchell. Click on the links below to find your accommodation in these towns:

Hotels to the West in IL and MO

East along old Bypass US 66

Hotels to the East, Illinois

>> Check out the RV campground in Mitchell

Mitchell's weather

Route 66 in Mitchell; location map

Location of Mitchell on U.S. Hwy. 66, Illinois

Mitchell's average temperatures for Summer (Jul) are 90°F (32.2°C) -high, and 70°F (21.1°C) -low. While the winter averages are (Jan) 36°F (2.2°C) and a chilly 19°F (-7.2°) respectively.

Rainfall his fairly even throughout the year with peaks of 4.2 inches in April and May. With a minimum of 2 inches (51 mm) in January.

Expect snow, ice and sleet in winter.

Tornado risk

Mitchell is in an area that is hit by about 7 tornados per year, so your chances of seeing one are not that large.

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

Map of Route 66 through Mitchell

Alignments of US66

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

In this map is Black lines mark the missing segments that can no longer be driven.

Original 1926-54 alignment

The original 1926 coming from Edwardsville ran through Mitchell: 1926 US 66 map
This alignment is marked in pale pink in the map (click on it to enlarge), and continues to the SW in green through Granite City and Madison into St. Louis.
It was used until the new "Main 66" was built from Hamel through Collinsville and Fairmont City into East St. Louis in 1954. Then the segment from Hamel to Mitchell became the Bypass 66.

Main 66 or Bypass 66

The segment of Route 66 known as "Main 66" or "Bypass 66" built and paved west of Mitchell and through the a place called St. Thomas on the northern part of Granite City existed from 1935 to around 1962 (dark pink in the map). It continued across Madison City's northern side on Chouteau Island to the Chain of Rocks Bridge and crossed the Mississippi into St. Louis MO.

See its alignment, now cut by I-270, in this map (Thorngate Rd) and, west of the freeway Bypass 66 map (Chain of Rocks Rd).

The USGS map published in 1948 below (click on it to enlarge) shows Route 66 reaching Mitchell (black arrow), City 66 heading south into Granite City (green arrow) and Route 66 heading west towards the Chain of Rocks bridge (blue arrow).

In the second map, published in 1955, It is BYP 66 that enters and exits Mitchell (blue arrows), the old City 66 had been eliminated becoming State Hwy 3 and Main 66 ran far to the east and south through Collinsville.

USGS Map published in 1948 of US66 alignments in Mitchell and northern Granite City, St. Thomas IL

1948 USGS map Route 66 Mitchell and northern Granite City
Click on Map to Enlarge

USGS Map published in 1955 of US66 alignments in Mitchell and northern Granite City, St. Thomas IL

1955 USGS map Route 66 Mitchell and northern Granite City
Click on Map to Enlarge

The Route 66 alignment in Mitchell

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.

Mitchell: its classic Route 66 Sights

Attractions & Landmarks

Historic context: the Golden Days

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse published his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946 and he mentions the mother road here, in Mitchell as follows (from east to west), beginning at its junction with US BYP40 (US 40 BYP is now buried beneath I-270 east of this point, and ran with US 66 west into Missouri):

A picnic spot with tables is a the junction, by a gas station... Junction with state road 111. Gas station, cafe and garage ... MITCHELL... Paul's Garage; gas stations; no cabins... City Route 66 forks off to the left into Saint Louis, while main US 66 crosses railroad tracks and continues ahead to the CHAIN OF ROCKS BRIDGE and the "belt line" route skirting the city.... CHAIN OF ROCKS TOLL BRIDGE across the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. (Tolls: auto and occupants -25¢). Rittenhouse (1946)

The picnic spot with tables and the service station east of Mithchell have gone have gone, and alos the cafe and garage at IL-111.

Route 66 Road Trip segment in Mitchell: sights

We will drive through Mitchell starting at the point mentioned by Rittenhouse whish is where modern State Hwy 157 meets S. University Dr, just north of I-270's Exit 9 and Head west along Chain of Rocks Rd.

Picnic Spot (Gone)

Overlay of maps with modern and historic US 66 alignments

Historic Route 66 in 1948 and now (IL-157 & US66)

Rittenhouse mentioned a picnic spot at the junction of what is now Chain of Rocks Rd. (Historic US66) and IL-157. Back in 1946 this was where US 66 met BYP 40 & IL-157.
The map superimposes the current roadbeds with a 1948 USGS map; the same spot can be seen in this aerial photo taken in 1945 as a triangular grassy island between the highways. It was modified in the mid 1960s, and again in the late 1980s to its current configuration (satellite view nowadays): gas station and picnic area have been razed.

There is a cemetery and a there was a coal mine (Sunset Coal Mine, now closed) at the junction.

Motel, gas station and tavern site

black and white aerial photo, forest, cafe, motel and gas station facing US 66 in 1968

1968 aerial photo of the cafe, motel and gas station. Click thumbnail to Enlarge

To your right, just after the old Picnic area, was a cafe (the word "EAT" can be seen in the photo, as a sign over ist entrance) followed by a small gas station with a single service bay and a motel behind it, perpendicular to Route 66.

The cafe had different names over the years: Ray's, Roundhouse bar, The Library and Elsie's Tavern. It was torn down in the early 1970s when the new exchange was built at IL-157. The photograph -click on the image to see a full size picture- was taken in 1968, and this is the current satellite view. All that remains are the gravel driveways.

Was this the gas station mentioned by Rittenhouse?

Town and Country motel (missing neon sign)

Drive 200 yards, and to your right is an old motel, in disrepair This motel had some dual cabins with gable roofs and was built around 1935 by Charles and Otto Baumann. The faded neon sign has peeled away to reveal that beneath the green paint it had been a "Kaiser-Frazer" neon sign. The sign was removed in October 2019 (stolen? sold?). Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was owned from 1947 to 1953 by Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer, they made cars.

peeling faded neon sign words Kaiser-Frazer written in yellow on green background
Peeling neon sign of the Town and Country Motel, US 66, Edwardsville, Il. Click for street view

Head west along Chain of Rocks Bridge (technically this area is part of Glen Carbon, and further west, of Pontoon Beach, but we include it in Mitchell because both towns are distant from the Mother Road, to the south).

Two towns by Route 66

Glen Carbon

The village incorporated in 1892 and adopted the name "Glen Carbon" (Valley of coal).

Pontoon Beach

This town incorporated in 1962 and took its name from a sandy beach on Long Lake.

Glen Carbon 1940s gas station

After 0.7 miles, at 5201 Chain of Rocks Rd. and Idle Acres Ln. To your right, on the north side of the highway is a 1940s concrete block service station. A simple office on the right with a sigle service bay with a multi-pane door. No canopy, only a vintage 1970s gas pump on a half-buried concrete pumps island.

concrete block, single service bay, flat roof gas station with 1970s gas pump
1940s gas station on US66 in Glen Carbon IL. Click for street view

Bel Air Neon Sign (Gone)

Neon Sign in a field, trucks behind it, missing R on the words BelAir

Bel Air sign (2013). Click for large image

Drive west to visit a vanished landmark: the site of a now removed neon sign, it was located on the northeastern orner of IL-111 and Historic Route 66, at this spot Rittenhouse mentioned a cafe aand garage, both have also gone, this aerial photo frolm 1945 shows both buildings on the NW and NE corners of the intersection.

The Bel Air Drive In opened in 1953 and closed in 1987 it was razed in the 1990s and now an industrial park stands on the site. Its classic neon sign was slowly falling apart, and is pictured below in 2017. The other image shows its other side, with the missing final "R".
It was removed in 2018 after being purchased by two sign collectors.

old neon sign in a field, words BELAIR Drive In written a red bell, vintage white marquee below and a green arrow
"Bel Air" neon sign in 2017. Route 66 Mitchell IL. Click for street view

Apple Valley Motel sign

Sign, and beyond it a lawn and driveway, and the main gable roof motel building with trees around it

Apple Valley motel and sign in 2013 (before it burned down). Click for street view

Head west along Route 66, and at 709 East Chain of Rocks Road, to your right is the sign of the Apple Valley Motel.
The motel dated back to 1949 and burned down in June 2016. The billboard with a shingle gable roof is all that remains (and the concrete foundations, futher back from the highway).
It had a linear layout, with gable roof and white woodframe structure. The eighteen units were perpendicular to the highway.
In its final days it offered long-term leasing.

billboard under shingle gable tiny roof with words "Apple Valley motel" written on it
"Apple Valley Motel" sign. Route 66 Mitchell IL. Click for street view

Greenway Motel

red arrow with word MOTEL and in a green box beneath GREENWAY MOTEL VACANCY

Greenway motel classic neon sign. Credits

Just ahead, at 701 E Chain of Rocks Rd, also to your right is the second motel in Mitchell, the Greenway.
It is a classic "V" shaped motel that dates back to the early 1950s (its northern wing appears in the 1955 aerial photos of this area).

In 2008, it was also operated by the same owners of the neighboring Apple Valley.

It has a memorable classic 1950s neon sign, with the eye-catching arrow enticing travellers to stop and check in.

Greenway Motel in Mitchell, Illinois

Gable roof, single floor Greenway Motel with its classic 1950s neon sign
Greenway Motel & neon sign in Mitchell, Illinois. Click for street view

Red-Brick Route 66

Continue west into the "downtown" Mitchell.
The photograph below, taken in 1933 shows the main local attraction, the Luna Cafe -red arrow, and also that at those days Route 66 was paved with bricks. You can see the 10-inch-wide concrete curbs on both sides of the highway. Paving with bricks was a common practice in the early 20th century.

This is the same spot nowadays, bricks removed.

black and white photo from 1933 to the left to cars on the shoulder, a brick paved road in the middle, a policeman and houses to the right, further away more buildings
Looking west along a brick-paved Route 66 in 1933, Mitchell IL. Credits

Luna Cafe

Ahead, to your right at 201 E Chain of Rocks Rd is this Cafe that is almost 100-years-old.

The restaurant opened in 1924, two years before Route 66 was created. Al Capone is supposed to have stopped here when he visited the local gangsters.

The name "Luna" is Spanish for "Moon". The moon is part of the sign on the building's facade. Its neon sign includes a curved arrow with a martini glass, olive and all!

Luna Cafe in Mitchell, Illinois

Luna Cafe in Mitchell Route 66
Luna Cafe on Route 66 in Mitchell, Illinois. Click for street view

Detail of the smiling moon on the building's sign:

facade neon sign with words Luna Cafe and a smiling crescent moon between them;
Luna Cafe's sign on its facade (notice the smiling crescent moon) Route 66 Mitchell IL. Click for street view

Close up view of the sign, with its martini glass and the "Fine drinks - pkg. goods" wording, also Steaks, chicken and sea food were available!:

neon sign with a martini glass with an olive and a curved arrow and words
"steaks chicken sea food Luna Cafe fine drings pkg. goods"
Luna Cafe's neon sign. Route 66 Mitchell IL. Click for street view

Leaving Mitchell

Just ahead, the highway curves towards the left. But originally there was a fork here:

  • Bypass US66 & BYP40 used to cross the railroad with a grade crossing here, and went westwards in a straight line, but now this link is cut. We describe the motels and gas stations along this alignment in our Northern Granite City Bypass 66 page. (map with directions to get there)
  • Original Route 66 (1926-35) later City 66 (1935-54) turned left and headed down Nameoki Rd (now State Hwy 203) into Granite City

Indian Mounds

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

The Native American people that lived in this area around 1200 AD built earth mounds. The most famous ones are next to the 1954 alignment of Route 66, the Cahokia Mounds in neighboring Collinsville). But, here they also built them at what is known as the "Mitchell Archaeological Site".

It was mostly destroyed when the Interstate I-270 was built across it. At one time a platform mounds and a village stood here.

See them in the 1955 map next to long lake, south of Route 66 as "Indian Mounds" (location map.)

Your Route 66 Road Trip through Mitchell ends here, head west to the historic Chain of Rocks bridge in Madison or go south into Granite City. advertisement

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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
Place Names of Illinois, Edward Callary
J. Rittenhouse, 1946, A Guide Book to Highway 66

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