Facts, Information and trivia
Elevation: Elevation 571 ft (174 m). Population 39,581 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
The Village of Plainfield is located on the 1940-1958 Route 66 in Will County Illinois. (A Map of Plainfield).
History of Plainfield
The French explored the Great Lakes, Illinois and the Mississippi River in the 1660s. They met the Illinois, Potawatome and Kickapoo people there. In the mid 1700s France ceded the land to England, who in turn lost it during the American Independence wars. The territory became the state of Illinois in 1818.
Home of the First Ice Cream Sundae
A Plainfield druggist whose German surname was "Sonntag" (Sunday) topped ice cream with syrup and nammed it after himself. The "sonntag" soon became the "sundae".
At that time, there was a settlement of Potawatomie Indians along the DuPage River. In the 1820s James Walker settled there; his father-in-law, Rev. Jesse Walker evangelized the natives. In 1828 James staked a claim and built a sawmill. In 1830, the first settlers at "Walker's Grove" arrived: Reuben and Betsey Falagg.
The village was platted by Chester Ingersoll in 1834 as "Plainfield". In 1836 Will County was created, and named after Dr. Conrad Will who had been a member of the first Illinois Constitutional Convention and later a member of the Illinois Legislature.
The name: Plainfield
At the end of the last Ice Age, what is now the area surrounding Plainfield was the bed of Lake Wuponsee, a glacial melt lake that drained into the Illinois River. It dried up, leaving a very flat (or "Plain") landscape.
This verdant prairie that extended west of the thickly wooded DuPage River was indeed a "Plain Field", which gave the village its name.
The Illinois and Michigan Canal was built in the 1840s and it bypassed Plainfield. It became a farming community as industry established itself at communities located on the canal.
The transcontinental Lincoln Highway which was created in 1913 passed through town. It became the first paved transcontinental highway to link New York with San Francisco.
Route 66 in town
When Route 66 was created in 1926 it didn't pass through Plainfield, instead it ran further east, through Romeoville and Joliet. However, in 1940 a straighter course was built for Route 66 and this one went through Plainfield until the late 1950s, when US 66 moved east, sharing the freeway with I-55 until it was decertified in 1977.
Plainfield: Hotels and Motels nearby
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Where is Plainfield?
The climate of Plainfield 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.
The 1990 F5 Tornado
On August 28, 1990, the "Plainfield Tornado", which was very powerful F5 tornado struck Plainfield, Crest Hill and Joliet, killing 29 people and injuring hundreds.
Will county around Plainfield experiences some 5 tornados each year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk on US 66.
How to get to Plainfield?
You can get to Plainfield via Historic Route 66 or former ALT US-66 (and then Lincoln Highway from Joliet) and also by using I-55 and taking either of these exits: 263 (east) or 257 (west).
Map of Route 66 through Plainfield, Illinois
Display Plainfield Route 66 Map
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Color key for Plainfield:
Pale Blue: marks the 1926 - 1939 US 66 and the 1940 - 1977 ALT US 66.
Red line or gaps in alignment, is I-55, where it overlaps the old alignment.
Green Line: 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.
Check each individual city for its specific color key.
Route 66 in Illinois: Historic U.S. 66 in Plainfield
Route 66 across 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 Plainfield.
Plainfield's Route 66 Landmarks and Attractions
What to see in Plainfield
US 66 in Plainfield: historic context
The "Guide Book to Highway 66" published by Jack DeVere Rittenhouse in 1946 described the Mother Road from Chicago to Los Angeles; he drove past Plainfield and wrote this:
The town had "Gas; stores; Ferd's Motor Sales Garage..."; he then described the highway south of Plainfield as "... an Illinois 'freeway'" built under the 1943 act and that when completed from Chicago to St. Louis would allow safe and quick driving as it skirted small towns and placed cafes, motels and service stations off the road (like modern freeways).
He continued with his description of the highway, mentioning cafes and gas stations at the junction of US 66 with US 52 (they are now gone). He also mentioned the Kankakee Plant of the Joliet Arsenal, that produced weapons during WWII; and that 21 miles south of Plainfield was a gas station and one mile ahead another one with a cafe and cabins. (all of them have vanished).
Driving Route 66 in Plainfield a City Tour
Begin on the north side of town, driving from east (Chicago) to west, where IL-126 branches off from I-55. This is a map with directions, it is a 3.5 mile drive to visit all of Plainfield's Route 66 attractions:
At N. Divison St. take a left southwards along Historic U.S. 66 and then at Lockport St. turn right and visit the Historic Downtown District:
Plainfield’s Downtown Historic District
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Lockport St. Plainfield
Plainfield's Downtown Historic District runs along Lockport Street (Lincoln Highway) between Route 59 and James Street. It includes 53 properties of differenty styles and building types that span 120 years, from the 1840s to the 1960s in Plainfield, Will County's oldest community. Below is just one example of the historic district, the "Opera House Block" in a "Then and Now" sequence:
The Opera House Block on 502 W. Lockport Street was built in 1898 in the Queen Ann Style and the copper roofed turret is its distinctive feature. It replaced the original Opera House which burned down in the 1898 fire.
It became a live and movie theater in 1915 (the Alamo Theater) and later it was a dance hall (The Blue Goose). It has been restored and is still standing:
Opera House Block, "Turret" vintage photo in Plainfield, Illinois
Opera House Block, "Turret" nowadays in Plainfield, Illinois
On the next block, to your left, is the Historical Standard Oil Gas Station:
Historical Standard Oil Gas Station
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
600 W. Lockport Road
Designed in the "House with Canopy" style: a white stucco building with a red metal tile roof, it was built in 1928 on a corner location on the Lincoln Highway.
In 1932 it became "Overman's Certified Texaco Station" and from 1956-1962 it was Allen Hall's Texaco. More recently (as shown in the photograph below) it became the Welco Gas Port which closed in 1983. It was renovated and enlarged by the Andreasen's as "The Courtyard" retail complex built with a similar design.
Historical Standard Oil Gas Station in 1977 in Plainfield, Illinois
A more recent view, now as a repurposed building:
Former Historical Standard Oil Gas Station nowadays in Plainfield, Illinois
Retrace your steps back to US 66 and turn south (right); from this point and for the next three blocks, Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway overlap:
The Lincoln Highway Meets Route 66
Like the National Old Trails, the Lincoln Highway was a private initiative: cars needed decent roads, the dirt trails that became quagmires when it rained were not suitable for automobiles.
Carl Fisher owner of the Prest-O-Lite Headlight Co. and founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway canvassed his fellow automobile industry entrepreneurs and founded the Lincoln Highway Association in 1913. The objective was to build a highway across America from New York to San Francisco and it was dedicated to Abraham Lincoln.
It became the first paved transcontinental highway, 3,400 miles-long. It was paved through Plainfield in 1921.
Marker: Lincoln Highway Meets Route 66 in Plainfield, Illinois. This marker is south of town, where US 30 and IL-59 meet
The Illinois portion of the Lincoln Highway was designated as an Illinois State Scenic Byway in 2000 and a National Scenic Byway.
In Plainfield the Lincoln Highway follows: (from east to west): US Route 30, Joliet Road, Illinois Route 59, Lockport Street, former US Route 30, 135th Street and Heggs Road.
Route 66 and Lincoln Highway
Both highways meet twice in Will County. The first, took place in 1926, when a brand new Route 66 was aligned through Joliet, crossing the Lincoln Highway there (read more about Lincoln Highway and Route 66 in Joliet).
Then, in 1940 when U.S. Route 66 realigned through Plainfield it crossed the Lincoln Highway here.
The two longest highways in the world at that time met in Plainfield Illinois.
Old gas station
15204 IL-59, Plainfield
To your right is a box-shaped former gas station with a two-bay garage and office. No canopy or pumps have survived, but it was strategically located at the point where The Lincoln Highway and Route 66 met, on the south side of town. Now it is "Plainfield Automotive" an auto repair shop.
Old gas station in Plainfield, Illinois
Historic Route 66 in Plainfield, Illinois
Route 66 was created in 1926. It ran along the recently paved State Hwy. 4 east of the Des Plaines River and Plainfield. It went through Romeoville, Joliet, Wilmington and Braidwood along what now is IL-53.
In 1939, traffic had grown on US 66 so a straighter alignment was built, it branched off from the older one along IL-126, and turned south through Plainfield along a new highway (present IL-59) in a straight north-south course all the way to Braidwood, where it met the old alignment but ran parallel to it, on the west side of the tracks that separated both alignments. The two roads old and new met finally south of Gardner.
The original alignment was renamed ALT US 66 and the new one became the "main" US 66 in 1940.
1969 Illinois State Roadmap
US 66 1940 to 1958
Route 66 remained aligned through Plainfield until 1958 when US 66 was moved further west to a brand new freeway that bypassed all the towns north of Gardner, including Plainfield, Plainfield. US 66 and I-55 shared the newfreeway.
You can see this in the 1969 state roadmap shown above. I-55 (with US 66) bypass Plainfield -on the left side of the map. Further east, Route 66 and I-55 fork when they meet I-294, with US 66 continuing east north of I-55.
Alternate US 66
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) created the "Alternate" designation in 1959. Its purpose was to designate a route that branches off from the main highway, passes through given towns or cities and then connects again with the main numbered route. The idea is to accommodate a high traffic demand. When the Alternate and Main highways followed a similar course, the shorter and better built highway would be marked as main and the other as alternate.
By 1945, Route 66 north (east) of Plainfield, all the way to present Wellco Corners had been designated as ALT 66.
And Route 66, the main highway now ran along a new highway parallel to the old one, on the western side of the railroad, between Plainfield and a point just north of Plainfield. Here it turned sharply and took a straight course northward, crossing the Kankakee River and passing by "Blodgett", then it crossed the Des Plaines River and intersected US 6, passed by "Birds", intersected US 52 and finally reached Plainfield where it met US 30 and turned with a northeastern course towards Cicero and Chicago. It met the ALT 66 at Wellco Corners.
Drive from Plainfield to Braidwood on Route 66
It is a 24.5 mi drive from Plainfield to Braidwood; this is the Map with directions.
> > See the previous segment Willowbrook to Plainfield (east)
> > See the next segment Braidwood to Godley (west)
Outdoors, National and State Parks
For those who love nature oand outdoors, you can drive south of Plainfield to Channahon State Park and trek the Illinois and Michigan Canal (I&M Canal) Trail. You can start here, just south of US 6 and I-80, a short distance to the SW of Route 66 (I-55).
It is a 61.5 mile-long trail from Rockport to LaSalle. Read more at its Official website.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.