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Mitchell

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The westernmost spot on US 66 in Illinois

Mitchell, is the last village in Illinois on Route 66. Don't miss its famous Luna Cafe and the Bel Air Neon Sign.
It has a handful of classic motels: the Formerly Canal Motel, the Greenway Motel, Midwest Motel and the Land of Lincoln, now Budget Motel.
And finally, the historic Chain of Rocks Bridge that carried US 66 across the Mississippi River
.

Mitchell Illinois

City Route 66 in Illinois

< West     Venice ¦ Madison ¦ Granite City ¦ Mitchell     East >

Bypass Route 66 Around St. Louis MO
< Southwest     Kirkwood ¦ Creve Coeur ¦ Maryland Heights ¦ Bridgeton ¦ Hazelwood ¦ Mitchell ¦ Edwardsville ¦ Hamel     Northeast >

The Main Alignment of Route 66 (after 1954) at Mitchell

 

All about Mitchell, Illinois

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., (Map of Mitchell).

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, Kkahokia 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. Another version has it that Mitchell owes its beginning as an actual community to two brothers, John Jay and William H. Mitchell, who dreamed of creating and operating a cattle ranch.

Mitchell, its Hotels and Motels

Lodging & accommodation in Mitchell

> > Book your hotel nearby, in Edwardsville

More Accommodation near Mitchell on Route 66

See some more hotels & motels nearby

Hotels to the West in Missouri

Hotels to the west, in Illinois

Hotels to the East, Illinois

Book your Route 66 hotel
Book your Hotel along Route 66

>> Check out the RV campground in Mitchell

Mitchell's weather

weather in Mitchell, Il
Mitchell map on US Highway 66
Here is Mitchell, on U.S. Hwy 66 in Illinois

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, Illinois

Display Mitchell Route 66 Map


  Click Map will appear below
 

This is the color key for Mitchell:

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 to the east.
Red line or gaps mark where I-55 overlaps the original roadbed.
Blue, Green, Gray, Yellow, Violet show different alignments of Route 66
Brown is the BYP US-66.
Salmon is US 66 east of Mitchell and Pink is the highway west of town.
Orange: the 1926-32 aligment in St. Louis.
Black: lost segments.

Google Maps. Terms. Nicolas Mollet, CC BY SA 3.0 License

Route 66 in Illinois: Historic Route 66 in Mitchell

Route 66 logo

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.

Below we provide More information on US 66 in the neighborhood of Mitchell.

Mitchell: its classic Route 66 Sights

Attractions & Landmarks

Reaching Mitchell

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

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse published his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946 and he mentions the mother road here as follows, from east to west, beginning at its junction with US BYP40 (US 40 BYP is now under 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", both are now gone. Three miles west he mentions, at the "Junction with state road 111. Gas station, cafe and garage", followed 2 mi ahead by "MITCHELL... Paul's Garage; gas stations; no cabins)". He adds that here "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 BFIDGE and the "belt line" route skirting the city."

He warns that the bridge is a toll bridge ("Tolls: auto and occupants -25¢).

The "village" 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. Head west along Chain of Rocks Rd.

Illinois Route 157 originally ended at Glen Carbon but in 1965 its northern terminus was moved to Hamel, passing through Edwardsville, and it replaced U.S. Route 66 Bypass (US 66 Byp.), which itself had been the main US 66 mainline prior to 1954. Route 66 was realigned to the west via Troy.

The first landmark is a classic Neon Sign:

Bel Air Neon Sign

NE corner of IL-111 and Historic Route 66

Slowly falling apart in this field. The Bel Air was a Drive In that closed in 1986 and was converted into an industrial site after being torn down five years later. The Drive In could fit 700 cars. It opened in 1953 and another screen was added in 1979. Its sign survived (for now) and is pictured below:

Bel Air Neon Sign in Mitchell, Illinois

Bel Air Neon Sign in Mitchell Route 66
Bel Air Neon Sign in Mitchell, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

Ahead in the village were two motels, one of them, the Apple Valley burned down, so only the Greenway Motel remains:

Greenway Motel

701 E Chain of Rocks Rd

On the north side of the road, it is a classic "L" shaped motel with a nice and well kept neon sign, probably dates back to the 1950s.

Greenway Motel in Mitchell, Illinois

Greenway Motel in Mitchell Route 66
Greenway Motel in Mitchell, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

Head west into the central part of town. To your left is an old wood-frame building with an attractive neon-sign, a historic café:

Luna Cafe

201 E Chain of Rocks Rd

The restaurant opened in 1924, two years before Route 66 was created. It is said to be a stopping point for Al Capone when he visited the local gangsrers.

The name "Luna" is Spanish for "Moon".

Luna Cafe in Mitchell, Illinois

Luna Cafe in Mitchell Route 66
Luna Cafe in Mitchell, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

West of the town, US66 & BYP40 used to cross the tracks in a straight line, but now this link is cut. You will have to take a left along current IL-203 (Which in those days was State Hwy 3), get on the Interstate wesbound and after crossing the tracks, get off I-270.

Take a left to visit the short cut-off section of Route 66, now named Thorngate Road, here is a lonely motel:

Midwest Motel

906 Thorngate Rd

Completely Cut off the Chain of Rocks Road, it is the continuation of US 66 which nowadays is sandwiched between the railway to the east and the freeway to the west.

Turn back, go under the freeway and turn right along W. Chain of Rocks Rd. heading west, after the curve, it becomes the old straight alignment of US 66. Ahead, in the "hamlet" of St. Thomas where present St. Thomas Rd. cuts W. Chain of Rocks Rd., there are more motels.

This was an important junction with US BYP 66 and US BYP 40 crossing US Alt 67 at this point. The freeway (IL-3) didn't exist in those days.

Land of Lincoln, now Budget Motel

3220 W Chain of Rocks Rd

To your right, the building is fairly intact, with its gabled portico and a modern 1960s look to it. The neon sign, alas, has vanished.

Land of Lincoln then in Mitchell US66

Land of Lincoln then, Mitchell, Il. www.66postcards.com, click image to enlarge

Land of Lincoln today in Mitchell US66

Land of Lincoln today, Mitchell, Il. Click for street view

Across the road (3241 W Chain Of Rocks Rd.) is another vintage (?) motel, the Sun Motel (Street View).

But don't miss the Canal Motel which is just ahead:

Canal Motel

3241 W Chain Of Rocks Rd.

The Canal Motel & Restaurant to your right is still standing, its original neon sign is partly there having lost its arrow and 60ish upper part with the word "Canal", its architecture may be late 1950s to early 60s.

Below is a "Now & Then" sequence:

Former Canal Motel in Mitchell, Illinois

Former Canal Motel in Mitchell Route 66
Former Canal Motel nowadays, Mitchell, Illinois. Click for street view

Vintage postcard Canal Motel in Mitchell, Illinois

Vintage postcard Canal Motel in Mitchell Route 66
Vintage postcard Canal Motel (now the Sun) in Mitchell, Illinois, www.66postcards.com Click to enlarge image

Ahead lies the bridge that spans the Mississippi River, it is a dead end as the bridge is closed, but you can walk along it:

Chain of Rocks Bridge

Chain of Rocks Bridge

Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

It is named after the rocky rapids in the river, now submerged by an Army Corps of Engineers dam built in the 1960s. A canal was built to bypass it in the 1940s.

The bridge, 5,353 ft. long (1,632 m) was built in 1929 and consists of 5 steel spans: Subdivided Warren Through Truss with Verticals and Warren Through Truss. The approaches at each end have 3 spans.

The "Chain of Rocks Bridge" (toll) opened in 1936 to provided another Mississippi River Crossing, to the north of the city, as an alternative to McKinley Bridge which had carried US 66 since 1926.

It was a faster way to go around the city via a Bypass which circled St. Louis along its northern and western sides instead of driving through its downtown district.

It closed in 1968 and has reopened again in 1999 for use by pedestrians and as part of a bycicle route.

It has a bend in the middle (22°) to assist navigation along the river, but it made driving complicated, especially for long tucks.

On the Missouri shore of the river, drivers could take a right and head west along BYP 66 towards Hazelwood or a left, towardsSt. Louis. Nowadays, to cross the river you will have to retrace your steps and get onto the freeway westbound.

Mitchell: alignment of Historic Route 66

Ever since it was created in 1926, west of Edwardsville, Route 66 followed what is now State Hwy 157 all the way to present S. University Dr, just north of I-270's Exit 9. From this point it followed what is now Chain of Rocks Rd. west into Mitchell.

It is a two lane highway which at State Highway 203 it turned south towards Madison to cross the Mississippi along the McKinley Bridge.

This would become the City 66 or main US 66 when in 1936 the Chain of Rocks Bridge opened, it allowed traffic to circle around St. Louis (via Bypass 66) or down into the city along CY 66 in MO.

Later alignments shifted the bridges used to access downtown St. Louis (the Municipal Free Bridge -later MacArthur bridge, and then the new Veterans’ Memorial (later Martin Luther King) Bridge. But all the time the main highway BYP 66 passed through Mitchell. Until it was replaced in 1965 when the variant from Hamel through Troy and Colinsville further south, replaced it for good, bypassing Edwardsville and Mitchell.

> > See the previous segment Edwardsville to Mitchell (east)

> > See the next segment Mitchell to St. Louis (west)

Sources

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

Place Names of Illinois, Edward Callary

J. Rittenhouse, 1946, A Guide Book to Highway 66