Facts, trivia and information
Elevation: 776 ft (237 m). Population 480 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Towanda is a village in McLean County, Illinois. Map of Towanda.
History of Towanda
When the first Europeans explored this area in the early 1600s, they encountered Illinois and Kickapoo Indians. Later it became part of Virginia who ceded it to the US government in 1781.
The Territory became the state of Illinois in 1818, and it was then that the first settlers established themselves on the prairies.
McLean County was created in 1830 and named for a local pioneer lawyer, John McLean who had served as territorial judge, the first Representative in Congress from Illinois (1818) and the United States Senator for Illinois (1824-1825).
In 1826 John Trimmer settled in Towanda, followed by Jesse Walden in 1828. There was a post office here since 1843, named Money Creek.
But the completion of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad in 1853 led to the platting o the town by Jesse Fell and Charles Holder on land owned by Peter Bedeau.
The Name: Towanda
Fell named it after his hometown, Towanda in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. The name comes from the Delaware Nanticoke word "Awandae" which means "Burial place"
State Higway 4 was built through the town in the early 1900s and, when Route 66 was created in 1926, it incorporated that highway into its alignment.
Later, a two-lane highway would be built around the western side of Towanda, to straighten out the original US 66, enlarged to four lanes in 1954 and remained in use until it was decertified in 1977.
Towanda, its Hotels and Motels
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With a Humid Continental climate, summers in Towanda are very humid and hot and its winters are quite cold and with plenty of snow.
The average winter (Jan) temperatures are: high, 30°F (-1 °C); low, 17°F (-8.3 deg;C).
The average summer (Jul) temperatures are: high, 85°F (29.7°C); low, 63°F (17.2°C).
There are 71 days of rain each year, and around 38 inches fall on average (965 mm). The sun shines on 194 days each year.
Snow may fall between November and early April, and 26 inches (66 cm) fall on average each year.
McLean county, where Towanda is located is hit by around 7 tornados each year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk on US 66.
Map of Route 66 through Towanda, Illinois
See the alignment of US 66 in Towanda, on our Illinois Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.
These are the color keys for Towanda:
Pale Blue: marks the Historic Route 66 alignment (1946 -77),
Gaps in alignment, is I-55, where it overlaps the old alignment.
Orange line: marks the 1926-44 alignment with the Dead Man's Curve.
Black are the sections that are missing.
Getting to Towanda
You can get to Towanda by using Old Route 66 or the freeeways into Normal (I-39, I-74), also I-55 and Exit 171; or Highways US 150 and US 51. US 24 passes through Chenoa, north of town.
Route 66 in Illinois: Historic U.S. 66 in Towanda
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 Towanda.
Sights and Attractions in Towanda
Route 66 Landmarks Towanda
Towanda and Route 66 in 1946
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse published his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946 and mentions Towanda: "garage; stores... A small business disrict is off the highway".
Let's drive into the vilage from the north, coming from Lexington:
Original Four Lane Alignment
Originally U.S. 66 was a two-lane road. The heavy traffic of wartime America led in the mid 1940s to the construction of a second road, around the town. Then, in 1954 a second pair of lanes were added to it, upgrading Route 66 to a four-lane divided highway.
The original lanes were the southbound lanes and the new north bound lanes were opened in late 1954.
Current Historic Route 66 runs along those former northbound lanes. The other pair was abandoned when the freeway was completed in 1976.
These lanes can be seen, to your right, from the point where the freeway curves to the north 2.5 mi. east of Towanda. Here is a parking area for those who want to walk or cycle along the Route 66 Parkway (there is another parking area in Towanda):
The Route 66 Parkway
66 Roadside Attraction
It can be walked or you can ride a bike along it, but no motor vehicles are allowed. It was built by volunteers from Towanda and students and teachers from the Normal Community High School along the former southbound lanes of Route 66.
It extends south into Towanda. It has with educational kiosks that interpret each state that Route 66 goes through and also replicas of the Burma-Shave signs that at one time were displayed along Route 66; see this one as an example:
"Statistics prove - Near and far - That folks who - Drive like crazy - Are!." Check this website for more Burma Shave Jingles.
Money Creek Bridge
Ahead, at Money Creek is the original Route 66 bridge built in 1945, now a pedestrian bridge on the "Parkway":
Money Creek Bridge in Towanda, Illinois
Ahead, to your left, on Lincoln Road and Route 66 is the fork where the 1926 alignment used to enter town. It had a very winding course through town, turn left and follow it.
Kicks Bar & Grill old neon sign
19578 N 1960 East Rd, Towanda
Some have said that the present bar and grill was originally Eddies Pure Oil Truck Stop but that is incorrect, Eddies was located further west, where the current FS Fast Stop is now located.
Kicks Bar & Grill in Towanda, Illinois
Drive south along the old alignment which becomes Jackson St. and curves to adopt an east to west direction. Ahead the original alignment is cut by the four lane Route 66, but it used to continue west passing by "Eddies" and continuing into the "Dead Man's Curve". To reach the old alignment keep along Jackson and turn right at Jefferson, crossing the later alignment of Route 66. Here you will cross the pedestrian "Parkway" (to your left, there is a map of Route 66 painted onto the old road surface).
Also to your left is FS Fast Service gas station. Here is the site of "Eddies":
Site of Eddies Pure Oil Truck Stop
204 N Jefferson
It opened in 1952, where both old and new alignments met. It sold Marathon gasoline and later Pure Oil (hence its name) and Union Oil.
In 1963 Edward Baize bought it and it vbecame "Eddies Truck Stop". It closed in 1976 when the freeway opened. The building was torn down the property sold.
Turn left along Jackson (1926-45 Route 66) and just ahead is the infamous Dead Man’s Curve:
Towanda Dead Man’s Curve
Jackson and Quincy St. curve
It is a 90° curve towards the south along Quincy Street. And it took drivers by surprise, a narrow highway which was ony 18 feet wide and a high speed car led to accidents.
It was the original State Hwy. 4 alignment that became part of US 66 in 1926, only during WWII was it replaced with the straighter alignment further east.
The image below shows the curve in pale blue, the later Route 66 is marked in red and the "Parkway" in green:
Dead Man’s Curve in Towanda, Illinois
Ahead the road is once again cut off by the later alginment, but you can reach it just ahead. It continues as S. Quincy St which turns southwest when it meets the railroad. It ends just ahead in a dead end. This ends your drive through town. Return to the later alingment and head west into Normal
Historic Route 66 in Towanda, Illinois
1926 to 1945
Route 66 was aligned along state highway 4 in 1926 and went through Towanda with a winding course (described above) and shown in the map with an Orange line. Now it is cut by the later alignment and south of town it has vanished.
1946 - 1977 Route 66
A straighter and safer road was needed and the deadly "Dead Man's Curve" was bypassed by a new road that went through the town with a soft curve.
It is shown in Pale Blue in the map above. This highway was later upgraded to a 4-lane divided status when a second set of lanes (northbound) were added to the highway.
It is a 7 mile drive from Towanda to Bloomington (Map with directions.
> > See the previous segment Lexington to Towanda (east)
> > See the next segment Normal to Bloomington (west)
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Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.