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Normal

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Site of Sprague Super Service Station

Normal is a city in Illinois, located on Route 66, between Towanda and Bloomington. Its main attraction is the Route 66 Hall of Fame inductee and Historic place, the Sprague’s Super Service. Other landmarks are the Normal Theater, a cottage style Vintage Gas Station and the very First Steak ’n Shake from 1934.

Normal Illinois

The Main Alignment of Route 66 in Normal

< Head West
Funks Grove ¦ Shirley ¦ Bloomington

Head East >
Towanda ¦ Lexington ¦ Chenoa

 

Normal Illinois

Facts, trivia and information

Elevation: 869 ft (265 m). Population 52,497 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

The city of Normal is located in McLean County, central Illinois. It is, with Bloomington a set of twin cities with a combined population that exceeds 130,000 residents.

See this Map of Normal.

Normal, its History

The ancestors of the Illinois and Kickapoo Indians inhabited this region for over 11,000 years. During historic times, it was the French who reached the area in the 1600s, exploring it and trapping furs as a living.

Normal Theater in Normal, Illinois

Normal Theater in Normal Route 66
Normal Theater in Normal, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

The Territory was ceded to the US government by Virgina in 1781 and organized into a state in 1818. It was then, in the early 1800s that the first white settlers arrived. What is now Normal would have to wait until the creation of McLean County in 1830.

McLean County was named after John McLean who had been a local pioneer lawyer, a territorial judge, the first Representative in Congress from Illinois (1818) and the United States Senator for Illinois(1824-1825).

Bloomington, to the south of Normal was formally created the following year.

Joseph Parkinson platted the town of North Bloomington in 1854 at a strategic point where two railroads intersected, the Chicago and Alton Railroad and the Illinois Central Railroad. The place was known as "The Junction". Jesse Fell expanded the original plat in 1857 and planted trees across the town.

Governor William Bissell signed a bill in 1857 that created a "normal school" in Illinois. Bloomington and Peoria competed for the school, which would be located in the place that provided the most convenient conditions. Bloomington secured a sound financial backing -Abraham Lincoln gave a hand in drawing up a bond to guarantee the funds- and the university was located in Bloomington.

Normal schools

The "École Normale" or "Normal school" was a college system concevied in France in 1794 during the French Revolution to prepare professors and teachers. Reformed by Napoleon and reorganized in the 1840s, it was adopted in many countries around the world to provide a steady flow of trained teachers to educate their illiterate populace.

The place where it was built was North Bloomington, work was quick, ant the university's main building was completed in 1861, but there were only 20 houses in Normal by 1862.

The town was renamed as "Normal in 1865, it incorporated in 1867.

The Name: Normal

Named after the Illinois State Normal University, now known as the Illinois State University

When Route 66 was created in 1926, it was aligned through Normal. Later, in 1941 a four-lane "Bypass" was built around the eastern edge of Normal, which remained as US 66 until it was decertified in 1977.

Normal, its Hotels and Motels

Accommodation in Normal

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>> See the RV campground in Normal

The Weather

weather in Normal, Il
a map of Normal Illinois showing where it is on Route 66
Map with the location of Normal, Illinois on Route 66

The climate in Normal is a "Humid Continental" one, so it has very humid and hot summers and cold winters.

Its average temperatures are the following: during summer (Jul) the hig is 85°F (29.7°C) while the low is 63°F (17.2°C). During winter (Jan) the avg. lows are a freezing 17°F (-8.3 deg;C) while the high is a chilly 30°F (-1 °C).

Rainfall is around 38 in. (965 mm) per year, and the sunny days are, on average 194 days per year.

Snowfall is 26 inches (66 cm) each year and falls from Nov to the first days of Apr.

Tornado risk

McLean county, where Normal is located gets hit by some 7 tornados annually.

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

Map of Route 66 through Normal, Illinois

Display Normal Route 66 Map


  Click Map will appear below
 

These are the color keys for Normal:

Pale Blue: marks the Historic Route 66 alignment (1941 -77) Beltline around Normal and Bloomington
Red line or gaps in alignment, is I-55, where it overlaps the old alignment.
Orange line: marks the 1926-40 alignment.
Brown line shows the 1930-40 Route 66.
Black are the sections that are missing.

Check each individual city for its specific color key.

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

Getting to Normal

You can get to Normal by using Old Route 66 or the freeeways: I-39, I-55, I-74; or Highways US 150 and US 51.

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

Route 66 logo

Route 66 across Illinois

Read this detailed description of Route 66 in 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.

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

Sights and Attractions in Normal

Route 66 Landmarks Normal

Normal and Route 66 in 1946

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse mentions Normal in his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" which he published in 1946. He says that Normal and Normal are "virtually one community... city limits adjoining along one side" and adds that Normal was the location of the "Illinois State Normal University" and also that the town had "stores; hotels; Broadway Garage", howver he drove around it using the "beltway" alignment.

Drive through Normal

Begin your tour on the north side of Normal.

As you enter the town from the north, coming from Towanda, you will have to take Shelbourne Dr. and then turn left along Henry St. to bypass the cutoff:

Cutoff

The original alignment from Towanda into Normal ran parallel to the railroad, but is now cut by the N Towanda Avenue the eastern section has been removed after the curve (Shelbourne Ave) that now links Old Route 66 with N Towanda Ave., but the western section is still there, as the Frontage Rd., which ends with a dead end at the N Towanda Ave's viaduct. Below is a view from the viaduct looking west towards Normal:

1926 roadbed of Old Route 66 in Normal, Illinois

1926 roadbed of Old Route 66  in Normal Route 66
1926 roadbed of Old Route 66 in Normal, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

When you reach Pine Street, to your left is the old alignment (Frontage Rd.) pictured above. Turn right towards Normal alon E. Pine St. Just ahead to your left is the Historic Sprague’s Super Service:

Historic Sprague’s Super Service

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places -Local Landmark - Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame

305 East Pine St., Normal

William W. Sprague built his "Sprague Super Service Station" in 1931 in a Tudor-Revival style brick building. The two-story structure looked like a manor house in England.

The upper floor was the home of the owner and and it had a separate room for the gas station employee and the ground floor housed the café, garage and a service station that sold City Service gas

In 1940, the Route 66 bypass, with four lanes opened east of Normal and Bloomington, so traffic along Pine St. dwindled.

It was modified in 1948 and 1967. In 1976 it closed and its pumps were removed in 1979.

Historic Sprague’s Super Service in Normal, Illinois

Historic Sprague’s Super Service in Normal Route 66
Historic Sprague’s Super Service in Normal, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

An information center and gift shop opened in Summer 2017; it is now owned by the Town of Normal. Don't miss the signs next to the building.

Just ahead, on the following corner is Another Oldie gas station:

Vintage Gas Station

NW corner of E. Pine St. and N. Oak St.

This home was, at one time a gas station. The steep gabled canopy over the area where the pumps once stood is a remnant from its service station days.

Former Gas Station now a home in Normal, Illinois

Former Gas Station now a home in Normal Route 66
Former Gas Station now a home in Normal, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

Keep west one block and turn left (south) along N. Linden St., at E. Willow take a right (there is a sign just before the intersection marking the way). Ahead at N. Main Street turn south (left) and drive through Normal.

At W College Ave. turn right to visit the Theater (see this Map with directions).

Normal Theater

Local Landmark

209 W North St, Normal

It opened in 1937 with a outstandign Art-Deco & Art Moderne facade (it is pictured above) It was designated a local landmark in 1991. And has been restored to its original appearance. Visit its website: normaltheater.com for more information.

Return to Main St. and keep south, but as Main becomes northbound, you will go down Kingsley St which is southbound.

After crossing Sugar Creek, turn left, and on the next corner, to your right, on the NW corner of S. Main and W Virginia Ave. is a Route 66 Classic:

First Steak ’n Shake

1219 S. Main Street, Normal

What is now Monical's Pizza was at one time the first "Steak 'n Shake", opened in 1934 by Gus Belt. The original building has survived!

Gus owned a Shell service station and turned it into a restaurant. He served his "Steakburger" there for the first time. It became a chain restaurant with over 500 locations.in 27 states.

Gus died in 1954 and his wife Edith ran the company until 1969.

Original building of the First Steak ’n Shake in Normal, Illinois

Original building of the First Steak ’n Shake in Normal Route 66
Original building of the First Steak ’n Shake in Normal, Illinois. Click to enlarge image

This is where your drive through Normal ends, head south Bloomington into Bloomington.

Historic Route 66 in Normal, Illinois

1926 to 1940

The Mother Road was created in 1926 and it entered Normal from the north east, from Towanda along E Pine Street (see above the description at Entering Normal), the highway crossed a residential district via Pine, Linden and Willow Streets and then headed south bypassing the Commercial district along N Main St. and Kingsley, to enter Bloomington via Center Street. This alignment is shown in Orange in the map above.

1941 - 1977 "Beltline"

The town was bypassed when a four-lane highway was built to avoid congestion and accidents. This is shown with a Pale Blue line in the map above.

> > See the previous segment Towanda to Normal (east)

> > See the next segment Bloomington to Shirley (west)

Sources

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

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