Facts, trivia and information
Elevation: 764 ft (233 m). Population 378 (2000).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Shirley or Shirley is a tiny unincorporated community located next to Route 66 in McLean County, central Illinois.
In historic times, when the French explored the area in the early 1600s, the met the local native tribe, the Illini (Illinois).
The first settlers arrived Central Illinois during the early 1800s but the actual settlement of the prairies took place after the arrival of the railroad in the early 1850s. McLean county was created in the 1830s.
The St. Louis Chicago and Alton Railroad had reached this area around 1853 and a small siding was built here. Some lots were platted but nothing more happened until John M. Foster platted the town in 1866. He opened a store close to the station on the south side of the tracks and the town was built on the north side.
The name: Shirley
The town was named by Mrs. Croydon Weed for the heroine in a novel that she was reading, very probably Charlotte Brontë's novel Shirley (1849).
The name (originally a male name) comes from an Old English place name "scir" Shire or bright, clear and "leah": wood, clearing, medow. It is also a common Hebrew name meaning "son unto me".
The town had a mill and by 1895 the church and a hotel. Route 66 was aligned along the road that ran on the south side of the tracks in 1926.
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Shirley has a humid continental climate: hot, humid summers and cool to cold winters.
The average high for winter (Jan) is 34°F (1 °C); the average low for winter is 18°F (-7.8 deg;C).
The summer average high (Jul) is 85°F (29.7°C) and its low is 65°F (18.1°C).
Precipitation is lowest in January (1.93 in. - 49 mm) and peaks at 5.08 in July (129 mm).
Yearly rainfall is 36.7 inch ( 1008 mm). Snow falls from November through March and averages 22 inches (55 cm).
Shirley is located in Mc Lean County, which is struck by around 7 tornados per year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk on US 66.
Map of Route 66 through Shirley in Illinois
See the alignment of US 66 in Shirley, on our Illinois Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.
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Route 66 in Illinois: Historic U.S. 66 in Shirley
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 Shirley.
Getting to Shirley
Drive along Historic Route 66 into Shirley or use the freeway I-55 (take exit 154). To the north is I-74 and US 150, to the east is US 51, and US 136 runs south of Shirley.
Attractions on Route 66 in Shirley
Shirley US 66 in 1946
Jack Rittenhouse mentions the town in his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" published in 1946: "Garage. No tourist facilities in this small community, with its grain elevators surrounded by smaller cribs to hold extra grain. A few homes and a few stores".
The community is still a tiny one and not much has changed since Rittenhouse drove by:
Shirley Christian Church
202 Meridian Stree
This is the old wooden building from the late 1800s., it is a nice building
Christian Church in Shirley, Illinois
Funk Prairie Home and the Funk Gem and Mineral Museum
10875 Prairie Home Lane, Shirley
Just 2.6 miles south of Shirley (map with directions).
The restored home of Lafayette Funk, built in 1864. He was a local cattle man and a politician. His home has many antiques and memorabilia from the mid to late 1800s.
The museum has a collection of petrified wood, rocks and fossils as well as Native artifacts.
Old section of US 66 Roadbed
At the junction of the access road to Shirley (Quinn St., IL-34) with Historic Route 66 is a stretch of old roadbed: But it isn't Route 66.
It is the old and now abandoned State Highway 41, which runs south until it stops at a dead end, cut off by I-55. It continues south of the freeway all the way to U.S. 136.
Route 66 was a four-lane highway here, but without overpasses. The two northbound lanes are now beneath the "Constitution Trail" for joggers and bike fans.
North of Shirley you can see a very small segment of these two lanes as shown in the image below:
Old section of US 66 Roadbed in Shirley, Illinois. The road is now under the grass both left and right of the concrete strip now used as part of a road that heads transversal to the US 66 alignment.
The dashed line marks the former alignment.
Historic Route 66 in Shirley, Illinois
When it was created in 1926, the U.S. Hwy 66 was aligned next to the railroad, with a parallel course from Shirley to Funks Grove. During the 1940s it was upgraded with the addition of a second set of northbound lanes. These were later removed when I-55 was built in the late 50's and they lie under the southboun lanes of the freeway. Only the former southbound lanes of US 66 have survived.
From Shirley to Funks Grove
Drive 4.2 miles down Historic Route 66 southwards and reach Funk's Grove; see this map with directions.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat.