Springfield, Illinois: all about it
Trivia, Facts and Useful Information
Elevation: 558 ft (170 m). Population 116,250 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Springfield is the capital of the U.S. state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County. This is a Map of Springfield.
The History of Springfield
The central area of Illinois has been inhabited for over ten thousand years since the last Ice Age finished.
Sonrise Donuts Neon sign in Springfield, Illinois
In the mid-late 1600s the first French explorers and trappers reached the area and encountered its Native American inhabitants.
The first white pioneers settled in Sangamon around 1810. And John Kelly built his cabin in what is now Springfield in 1820. At that time it was known as Calhoun.
Its good location made Calhoun the county seat of Sangamon County in 1821. The town changed its name and incoporated as Springfield in 1832.
Calhoun was named after Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. But when he fell out of favor, the local citizens changed it for Springfield, after the prosperous town in Massachusetts.
The town became the stat's third capital in 1839 thanks to the efforts of Abraham Lincoln and his colleagues.
It prospered during the Civil War (The war's first official death claimed the life of Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, from Springfield).
Route 66 was aligned through the capital city in 1926 and was realigned over the years until its decertification in 1977.
Springfield, its Hotels and Motels
Lodging & accommodation in Springfield
> > Book your hotel in Springfield IL
More Accommodation near Springfield on Route 66
See some more hotels & motels nearby
Hotels further East, in Illinois
Heading West in Illinois, more accommodation
Hotels, Westwards in Missouri
>> Check out the RV campground nearby, Springfield
Springfield's climate is a "humid continental type", its summers are humid, long and hot. Its winters are short, very cold, with a lot of snow and quite windy.
Its average yearly temperature is around 52.4 °F (11.3°C). The winter averages (Jan) are: low 21°F (-6°C) and high 35°F (1.7°C). The average summer (Jul) high is 86°F (30°C), and a low is 68°F (20°C).
Snow falls during more than 4 months with an average snowfall of 22 inches (56 cm) yearly. Precipitation is 35.3 in. (895 mm) per year.
Sangamon county, where Springfield his hit by some 7 tornados per year.
Tornado Risk: learn more about the Tornado Risk on US 66.
Map of Route 66 through Springfield
Static Map showing Route 66 alignment through Springfield Illinois
Color Key to the Map of Route 66 in Springfield.
Pale Blue: South of town, it is the Historic Route 66 alignment (1930-77). North it is the 1935-77 alignment.
Blue: by Lake Springfield is the pre-freeway alignment
Green is the 1930-35 US66 into Springfield
Red line or gaps in alignment, is I-55, where it overlaps the old alignment.
Brown: Bypass or Beltway 66 in Springfield
Orange: the 1926-32 aligment near St.Louis and the 1926-30 alignment from Springfield through Staunton.
You can always check out our Route 66 Map of Illinois, with the complete alignment and all the towns.
A Map showing Springfield
Route 66 in Illinois: Historic Route 66 in Springfield
Route 66 across Illinois
Read this detailed description of Route 66 in Illinois.
Below we provide More information on US 66 in the neighborhood of Springfield where it is a Historic Site.
Springfield: classic US 66 Sights
Landmarks and Attractions
Getting to Springfield
Reach Springfield driving along Historic U.S. 66, U.S. 36 or driving along the freeway: I-55 or I-72.
Springfield US 66 in 1946
Jack Rittenhouse drove through Springfield on his journey while compiling information for his iconic "Guidebook to U.S. 66", which he published in 1946. In it he records Route 66 during its Golden Days after World War II and its two alignments through the city:
As he crossed the Sangamon River the outskirts of Springfield began. There was the "Main route of US 66" which passed through the town close to the business district and was taken by those visiting the city. He mentioned the Fair Grounds 3 mi. north of the downtown district.
He mentions the "By-pass 66" which is encountered south of town before reaching Lake Springfield with its "bathing beaches" .
He mentions the main hotels: "Lincoln, Leland..." the latter has survived, and Maldaner’s Cafe: "A good cafe is Maldaner's". And several motels and hotels now vanished (Poland's Modren Ctgs., Sabattini's Cabins, Bedini's Lakeview Cabins...).
Of course he includes information on Abraham Lincoln, his tomb and home.
Drive Route 66 in Springfield. We will start our tour on the northern (east) tip of the city and use the Beltway 66 going from N. Peoria Rd. south along Dirksen Parkway. Right there, before turning left along N. Dirksen Pkwy. is a Classic Motel:
Where the City and Beltline Rout 66 alignments meet is a classic Motel from the 1950s: Pioneer Motel:
Pioneer Motel ☆
4321 Peoria Rd. Springfield
Of the 34 motels and tourist courts listed in the 1958 Springfield City Directory for US 66 only a few have survived. We will mark them with a star ( ☆):
This motel dates back to 1951, it has the classic "L shaped" layout with gable roofs. Its main feature is its columnar neon sign.
Pioneer Motel in Springfield, Illinois
Now take the "Bypass or Beltway 66", after 3.5 miles, on your left you will see some more "classic motels":
Shamrock Motel ☆
928 N Dirksen Pkwy,
Originally the Akers Motel. It has 7 units in a 1 story building. From 1953.
Next to it is the former "Caravan Motel":
Caravan Motel ☆
900 N. Dirksen Parkway Springfield
This rectangular building with a gabled roof used to be the Caravan Motel, and the building has survived. Now it serves as apartments and has an extra wing to the south. below is a "Then and Now" sequence:
Caravan Motel vintage postcard in Springfield, Illinois
Caravan Motel nowadays in Springfield, Illinois
Best Rest Inn ☆
700 N Dirksen Pkwy, Springfield
Now the Best Rest Inn sign still hangs on what once was the Dirksen Inn Motel and during the 1950s, the Miler's Motor Court. It was built in 1953 and had 8 units in a rectangular building. This is its Street View.
Cozy Dog Drive-In, Springfield, Il. Click for street view
Continue south, and after another 3.5 miles Dirksen meets A. Stevenson Dr. Turn right along it. It runs west to meet the City 66 Alignment at 6th St. Take a left along Sixth to visit a classic US 66 roadhouse:
Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame inductee
3219 South Sixth Street Rd
Guido Manci opened the tavern - Roadhouse on Route 66 in 1945 (at that time it ran along 6th St.); it had a gambling parlor on the second floor. It is still open and this is its Street View.
Ahead lies the bridge across Springfield Lake. This is the end of the journey across town. Now you will head north along City 66.
Retrace your steps to Stevenson Dr. and turn left and then right onto I-55 Bus.N. just ahead, to your left is the amazing Cozy Dog Drive In:
Cozy Dog Drive-In
2935 South Sixth Street
Not only a restaurant, but also a place full of clippings, old signs, exhibits and also Route 66 souvenirs for sale.
The Cozy Hot Dogs opened next to Lake Springfield in 1946 an sold the invention of Ed Waldmire, who came up with the idea of "Corn dog on a stick" while serving in the Air Force during WW II.
Waldmire retired in 1975 and died in 1993. The original building was torn down and replaced by the current one in 1976.
Its cute neon sign with hugging hot dogs is a classic on Route 66.
Continue along 6th Street into town, this is the original alignment of the Mother Road.
At the 2100 block (E Ash St.) you can take a short detour (1.6 mi round trip - this is the Map with Directions) to visit a Sign Museum:
Ace Sign Company Antique Sign Museum
2540 South 1st Street
The Ace Sign Co. is over 75 years old and their museum has many signs, including those (and artifacts) from the now gone Bel-Aire Motel. More information at their website: acesignco.com
Return to S 6th and head north driving into the Historic Downtown District.
Springfield International Route 66 Mother Road Festival
Historic Downtown Springfield
Learn more at their website: route66fest.com.
Held every year on the last full weekend of September. The event features scores of classic vehicles, food boths, exhibits and live entertainment.
At the 1200 block, turn right along E. Allen St. and on 9th take a left (Map with Directions). On the next corner is a iconic neon sign:
1101 S 9th St. Springfield
The old donut shop is out of business but the neon sign which dates back to 1956 is still there and in good shape. It is pictured at the top of this page See image.
Return to 6th St. and turn right along it, heading north. At the 400 block of South Sixth, if you head west, just 2 blocks away is a historic site:
Historic Jennings Ford Automobile Dealership
431 S Fourth St.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Built in 1919 for Frank Jennings' Ford dealership adjacent to Aristocracy Hill one of the city's most fashionable districts. Later it was Glisson Motor Co (1933), Capitol City Motors Inc. (1940- 1950)
Alternatively, the Historic Lincoln Home is one block to your right, on 7th St.
On the next corner, to your left is the Leland Building:
527 E Capitol Ave, Springfield
Mentioned by Rittenhouse in 1946. The original hotel opened in 1867, after a fire in 1908 it was rebuilt as it stands now, in 1911. It served as a hotel until 1970.
Now it houses the Springfield office of the Illinois Commerce Commission. The local specialty, the horseshoe sandwich was first served here in 1928. It was used by Gov. Adlai Stevenson as his campaign HQ during his bid for the presidency in 1952.
On the next street, E. Monroe St., turn right and 4 blocks away is the Lincoln Depot. Return to 6th St. and just round the corner, to your right is a classic restaurant:
222 S. 6th St Springfield
The restaurant opened in 1884 and is one of the finest in town. Rittenhouse mentioned it as being a "Good Cafe".
On the next square to your left is the Old Capitol
Old State Capitol
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark
S 6th St & E Adams St
Built in the Greek Revival style between 1837 and 1840, it was the state house from 1840 to 1876. When it was replaced by the present Capitol.
Abraham Lincoln in 1858 and Barack Obama in 2007 announced their candidacies here. It was the county courthouse of Sangamon County from 1876 to 1966.
Two blocks ahead to your right is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. Here, at E. Jefferson St. (IL-97) turn left and on the 7th block, to your left is a Historic Drive-Thru:
Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
118 N. Pasfield St.
This Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop is one of the few remaining in the US.This one was built in 1921 and claims to be the first drive-thru window in the U.S.. See its Street view
Use Madison St. to return to Route 66, which here is aligned along 9th Street and turn left, northbound along it. At N. Peoria turn right with a NE direction. 2.2 miles from Madison and 9th, on the 2000 block to your left is the now closed Shea's Museum:
Former Bill Shea’s Gas Station Museum
2075 Peoria Rd. Springfield
Shea's Route 66 Museum is closed and vacant. Two local residents Randy Pickett and Jake Niewold announced they'd convert it into a Route 66 themed auto-repair and maintenance shop (April 2017).
After Bill Shea's death in 2013 the museum closed. He had owned the site, a Marathon Gas station from 1955 to 1982. His collectibles were auctioned after his death.
One of its centerpieces was the vintage Mahan's Filling Station rescued by Fulgenzi and moved nearby.
Ahead, just one block away is a Classic Motel
Ross Motel ☆
2217 Peoria Rd. Springfield
1954 Rectangular shaped with an end gable roof, 8 units. The building survived though it no longer operates as a motel.
At the next corner turn left along E. Sangamon Ave. To your right is the State Fairgrounds. Head to Gate No. 1 for an an example of Americana:
The Rail Splitter, Springfield, Il. Click for street view
Rail Splitter: Skinny Abe Lincoln Statue
Americana and Kitsch
Illinois State Fair, Gate #1 801 E Sangamon Ave, Springfield
Right past the main Gate #1 is a 30-foot-tall statue depicting a clean-shaven "skinny" Abraham Lincoln is also known as "The Rail Splitter" Holding an axe in his hands, it is hte work of Carl Rinus, who made it in 1967.
Turn back along Sangamon Ave. and to your left you will see a very Old Service Station:
Mahan’s Filling Station at Fulgenzi’s
1168 Sangamon Ave. Springfield
The former Mahan’s Filling Station was moved from former Shea's museum in Jan. 2016 to Fulgenzi’s Pizza and Pasta restaurant. It is a gas station from the late 1910s. By the way Fulgenz's property is located on the site that once belonged to two Route 66 motels.
Turn north (left) along Peoria to see more classic motels:
Lazy A Motel
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
2840 Peoria Rd., Springfield
To your right. It has a "U-shaped" layout, now it is an apartment complex. Its 13 units were built in 1948 in stuccoed concrete blocks. They had closed garages and te office and manager apartment was a two story building in the center of the complex.
The postcard pictured below says "...tile bath, locked garages, fireproof. On U.S. 66 (city route)...". It remains unchanged as you can see below:
Lazy A Motel vintage postcard in Springfield, Illinois
Lazy A Motel nowadays in Springfield, Illinois
Facing the Lazy-A-Motel, across the road:
Northern Aire Motel
2917 Peoria Rd. Springfield
A rectangular gabled building from the 1950s, with 8 units that was the Northern Aire and now is the Countryside Inn. Still operating on Route 66.
At IL-29 turn right and just ahead, 1⁄4 mi. from the railroad underpass is a section of the original U.S. 66 with the 1926 roadbed:
Old 1926 roadbed, Springfield, Il. Blue Arrow marks it.
There is a short "ghost segment" of the original 1926 roadbed at Peoria Rd. just past Bontjes St. (Satellite View).
Less than a mile east along Peoria is the Pioneer Motel, where you started your City Tour and which marks the end of your journey.
Driving the 1926 alignment out of Springfield
There are some intresting sights along the 1926 US 66. Head back downtown to the State Capitol:
Illinois State Capitol
301 South 2nd St.
State Capitol since 1877. It is crowned with a 405-foot dome (123.5 m). Guided tours available. The legislature is in session Jan-May and Oct-Nov.
Don't miss the statue of Lincoln in front of the building or the replica of Liberty Bell near the fountains on the Capitol's lawn.
Lincoln related attractions
State Historic Site
1500 Monument Avenue
The granite tomb with an obelisk 117-foot high was completed in 1874, nine years after the murder of President Lincoln. He lies there with his wife Mary Todd and three of their four sons. It is in Oak Ridge Cemetery (1 mi west of 9th St.)
930 E. Monroe Street
This is the Great Western Railway Depot, built in 1852 and from where Abraham Lincoln set off to Washington as President-Elect in 1861. He delivered a speech from the special train that took him.
Lincoln’s New Salem
State Historic Site
15588 History Lane (Rt. 97 Petersburg)
Located in historic Petersburg it is the reconstructed pionee village of New Salem, where Abe Lincoln lived and worked before becoming a lawyer and lawmaker.
More information at their website lincolnsnewsalem.com
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum
112-212 North Sixth Street
It has the world’s largest collection of documentary material related to Lincoln. Multimedia and interactive displays and a reproduction of the 1861 White House.
National Historic Site
426 South 7th Street
Restored to its 1860 appearance. Free tickets required.
Head south along S 2nd St. and at East Lawrence, just one block east is a famous home:
301 East Lawrence, Springfield
Designed in 1902 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright it is a "prairie-style" home for Susan and Lawrence Dana.
See its Street View.
Now drive 3.5 miles (Map with directions) to see another classic of Americana and Kitsch:
Lauterbatch Muffler Man
1569 Wabash Ave. Springfield
Erected in 1962, the Gigantic Tire Man was first displayed as advertising in the tire business owned by Russ Lewis on State and Laurel Streets in Springfield Illinois. He sold it shortly after. to the McGaughey Brothers, owners of the Roundup Cafe and Motel in Farmersville.
The Roundup had it until the motel closed in 1978 when I-55 was completed and their business lost customers; the Lauterbach giant still survives (having changed the tire for an American flag) in the parking lot of the Lauterbatch Tire and auto service.
Lauterbatch giant Muffler Man in Springfield, Illinois
Learn more about the other Muffler Men on Route 66
You can continue west along the old 1926 alignment of Route 66 into Chatham (Described here) or enjoy the other sights in Springfield.
Historic Route 66 in Springfield
Ever since it was created Route 66 entered Springfield along Peoria Rd and, from 1926 to 1936 it went along a very short section of Sandhill Rd., shown in Orange in the map.
It was here at Sandhill Rd. that the later 1940 Bypass 66 met the original (City 66).
The highway then went south along 9th St. The alignment in the downtown district changed over time:
Original 1926-1930 alignment to Chatham
Take a right along E Capitol, and beside the Old State Capitol, turned left along S 2nd St. then a right on S. Grand Ave. W, and a left on S Mac Arthur Blvd. and a right onto Wabash Ave. finally taking a left along Chatham Rd. southwards.
At Woodside Rd. the original alignment has some gaps, but by taking Old chatham Rd to the original old "Schuster Bridge" over Lick Creek you can drive part of it. To continue and bypass the gap go straight to S. Veteran's Parkway, take a left and drive into Chatham. The parkway becomes its Main Street.
The 13 mile trip is shown in this Map of Route 66 1926-30 from Springfield into Chatham. This is also shown in Orange in the Google map above.
1930-32 In downtown Springfield
During this short period of time, US 66 turned west along E Capitol and then south along 6th. heading out of town.
Then it was shifted back to 9th St. taking a right on S. Grand Ave. to leave town southwards along 6th Street.
But later Sixth became a one-way street with a north direction so if you want to drive it, you will have take 5th St. southwards and then return (northbound) along Sixth.
Shown in Brown in the map. Route 66 ran along N Dirksen Pkwy, and then its Southern extension (at that time it was 31st Street), it also went with US 54 part of the way. Then it turned west along Linn St. (now Stevenson Dr) to meet the City 66 on Sixth St.
The USGS map of 1958 shows US66 and I-55 enter Springfield from the south and part ways as US66 took the Beltway and I-55 was still under construction further east. They met again just north of Sherman as a "4 Lanes Dual" highway
This is a Map with directions of the 9 mile Beltline.
USGS map (1924) showing what would be the 1930-35 alignment of US 66 south of Springfield
1926-1930 US 66
The first alignment of Route 66 south of Springfield was aligned along State Higway No. 4, from Springfield to Staunton via Auburn and Virden.
In 1930 it was realigned to the east, to make it shorter and straighter, however the first section from Springfield to Glenarm had plenty of 90° turns to it:
Route 66 1930-35 Alignment from Springfield to Glenarm
This alignment for Springfield (marked with Blue arrows) in the map below) was created along an existing secondary highway that ran between the state capital and Litchfield.
The first part of the alignment, until Glenarm is shown in the Google map above in Green. It begins north of Sugar Creek and then curves east towards it, passing under the railroad tracks (this last section is now submerged under the waters of Lake Springfield created in 1935). It resurfaces on the south shore of the lake and runs with a general southern direction until it turns west into Glenarm.
Sugar Creek Bridge
The now submerged bridge carried Route 66 in its 1930-35 alignment across Sugar Creek. The image shows the course of the highway on then northern and southern side of Lake Springfield (Blue arrows).
The higway passed under the railroad tracks and that underpass is still there, on the north shore. The former alignment, now underwater is marked with a Red dashed line in the image.
It was visible during the terrible drought of 1952-55, when the brick paved surface of the road reappeared: "The road stretches all the way across the lake, except for a gap near the south end where a bridge spanned Sugar Creek before the lake was formed” (Illinois Times, June 9, 1954
1930-35 alignment at Sugar Creek, Springfield
Bridge over Lake Springfield (Gone)
When Lake Springfield began filling up, the Sugar Creek Bridge on the 1930-35 alignment of Route 66 flooded, so a new one had been built to replace it in 1932. It was a concrete girder T-beam bridge with decorative parapet walls. It carried Route 66 and, after the late 1950s, the southbound lanes of I-55. It was restored in 1967 and replaced in 2001.
It measured 1,540 ft long and was 50.9 feet wide.
The lake covers 4,260 acres (17200 ha.) and is Springfield's water reservoir. Set at 560 feet (171 m) above sea level it was formed when the Spaulding Dam was built across Sugar Creek in 1931-35.
This new course ran straight south from Springfield into Glenarm, with less curves and a brand new bridge across the lake.
By 1942, the wear and tear caused by wartime heavy traffic damaged the highway's pavement so the original 2-lane highway was to become a four-lane one. Construction began in 1943 and was finally completed in 1955. It overlaps the previous one in many sections.
> > See the previous segment Through Sherman (east)
> > See the next segment Springfield to Glenarm (west)
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Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.