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12 Places to Visit on Illinois’ Lincoln Highway



Lincoln Highway Association Headquarters, Franklin Grove, Illinois

Lincoln Highway Association Headquarters, Franklin Grove, Illinois

Most of us don’t give a sec­ond thought to the roads we travel on. But in the first part of the last cen­tury, there were few paved roads, and cer­tainly none of the inter­state high­ways we enjoy these days. Traveling across the United States by car was next to impossible.

In 1912, Carl Fisher, founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, came up with the idea for a ‘Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway.’ Fisher’s plan called for a com­pletely grav­eled con­tin­u­ous high­way run­ning from New York City to San Francisco.

To help cover the esti­mated $10 mil­lion cost of the road, Fisher asked car man­u­fac­tur­ers and acces­sory com­pa­nies to donate part of their rev­enues. Henry Joy of the Packard com­pany, among oth­ers, backed the plan and is cred­ited with com­ing up with the idea of nam­ing the high­way for President Abraham Lincoln.

The Lincoln Highway Association was formed in 1913 and mapped out a 3,389-mile route from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. The first ‘seedling’ mile of con­crete road was built in 1914 near Malta, Illinois.

While the Lincoln Highway has long since ceased to exist as a national high­way, it is a National Scenic Byway and you can travel along the Illinois por­tion of the route. Thanks in large part to the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition, which man­ages the Illinois Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byway, there are com­mem­o­ra­tive mark­ers, road­way signs, gaze­bos and murals along the route.

Below you’ll find a list of twelve places to visit along the Illinois stretch of the Lincoln Highway.

1. Arche Fountain, Chicago Heights

Start your Illinois Lincoln Highway drive in Chicago Heights, the first town the Lincoln Highway passes through in Illinois. Known as “The Crossroads of the Nation,” the Lincoln Highway and Dixie Highways meet here and share the same pave­ment for about two miles. The Arche Fountain sits at the cross­roads of these two great highways.

The foun­tain was erected in 1916 by the Conservation Committee of the Arche Club of Chicago as a place of rest for cross-country trav­el­ers on the Lincoln Highway.

If you’re hun­gry, be sure to stop in at Schoop’s Hamburgers on 700 W. 14th Street. Be sure to fin­ish off your meal with a malt or milk­shake just for old time’s sake!

2. The Jacob Henry Mansion, Joliet, Illinois

The Jacob Henry Mansion won the Architecture Award at the American Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1876, and is claimed to be the largest and best exam­ple of Renaissance Revival archi­tec­ture still stand­ing in the state of Illinois. It’s located at 20 South Eastern Avenue.

Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet, Illinois. Photo by anneh632

Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet, Illinois. Photo by anneh632

While in Joliet, be sure to visit the Rialto Square Theatre, a his­toric “vaude­ville movie palace” built in 1926, at 15 East Van Buren Street. Individuals can tour the Theatre every Tuesday at 1:30PM for $5 per person.

If you’re feel­ing dar­ing, you can visit the Old Joliet Prison Park, which just opened in 2009 on the grounds of the Joliet Correctional Center. This lime­stone built prison was in oper­a­tion from 1858 to 2002 and is best known as the prison from which Jake Elwood is released at the begin­ning of The Blues Brothers movie.

3. Lincoln-Way School and Highway Marker, New Lennox, Illinois

An orig­i­nal Lincoln Highway Marker is located at Lincoln-Way Central High School. 1801 East Lincoln Highway.

4. Lincoln Highway Shelter, Aurora, Illinois

The Lincoln Highway Shelter was con­structed by the Aurora Automobile Club around 1923 to pro­vide tourists, or “Motor Hobos” trav­el­ing along the Lincoln Highway a place to camp. The Shelter has been restored to its orig­i­nal 1924 appearance.

5. Batavia Depot Museum, Batavia, Illinois

The Depot Museum, at 155 Houston Street, just off the Lincoln Highway, is a restored Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Depot. Another place to visit is the for­mer Bellevue Place Sanitarium, which once treated Mary Todd Lincoln as she recov­ered after the assas­si­na­tion of President Lincoln. It now serves as a pri­vate condo community.

6. Fabyan Villa, Geneva, Illinois

Fabyan Villa was home to Colonel George and Nelle Fabyan from 1905–1939. Now home to the Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Gardens, it sits directly off the Lincoln Highway (Route 31) in Geneva, along the Fox River. The Villa was enlarged and re-modeled by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1907.

Directly across the river from Fabyan Villa, and reach­able by foot bridge, is the Fabyan Windmill, an authen­tic, work­ing Dutch wind­mill dat­ing from the 1850s.

7. Egyptian Theatre and Historic Mural, DeKalb Illinois

The Egyptian Theatre is a 1929, fully restored, Egyptian Art Deco movie palace. Located at 135 N. Second Street. On the cor­ner of 7th Street and Lincoln Highway is Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition’s sec­ond (in a series of over 40) Interpretive Mural .

8. Standard Oil Filling Station Visitor Center, Rochelle, Illinois

Visit the first fill­ing sta­tion on the Lincoln Highway in Illinois. This 1918 Standard Oil Filling Station is now a vis­i­tors cen­ter for Rochelle. It’s located at the 90 degree bend in the Lincoln Highway. Also check out the Flagg Township Museum, a restored 1884 his­toric build­ing that used to serve as a town hall, at 518 Fourth Avenue.

9. Lincoln Highway Association Headquarters, Franklin Grove, Illinois

Lincoln Highway Marker. Photo by jim Frazier.

Lincoln Highway Marker. Photo by jim Frazier.

The National Headquarters for the Lincoln Highway Association is located in Franklin Grove at 136 N. Elm Street and fea­tures a gift shop. Call ahead for hours (815) 456‑3030.

10. Dixon Victory Memorial Arch, Dixon, Illinois

Located between Second and Third Streets on Galena Avenue, The Dixon Victory Memorial Arch was built over the Lincoln Highway in 1919 for the cel­e­bra­tion of the sol­diers com­ing home from World War I. You can also tour for­mer President Ronald Reagan’s boy­hood home located at 816 S. Hennepin Avenue.

11. Lincoln Highway Garage, Morrison, Illinois

A large mural on the front of the build­ing incor­po­rates real­ity and fic­tion so well you’ll have a hard time decid­ing which part is the actual build­ing and which is the mural.

12. Dutch Windmill, Fulton, Illinois

Home to one of the 16 Illinois Lincoln high­way inter­pre­tive gaze­bos. The Fulton gazebo is located at the cor­ner of 3rd Street and 10th Avenue, just two short blocks from De Immigrant Windmill and the Windmill Cultural Center. The Lincoln Highway crosses the Great River Trail National Scenic Byway in Fulton.

If you’re look­ing for a good place to stay after your long trip across Illinois, try the Hillendale Bed & Breakfast, a 29 room, 17 bath English Tudor built in 1891. It’s located at 600 Lincolnway West, right on the Lincoln Highway. There’s even a Lincoln Highway his­tor­i­cal marker in front of the prop­erty. 815–772-3454 or via email at hillend@hillend.com.

Have you dri­ven the Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byway? Have you vis­ited any of the places we’ve listed? Do you have other sug­ges­tions for places to visit? Leave a com­ment below and let us know!

Recommended Reading

Lincoln Highway Companion: A Guide to America’s First Coast-to-Coast Road

Greetings From The Lincoln Highway: America’s First Coast-to Coast Road

The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate

The Lincoln Highway: Main Street across America

More Information

For more infor­ma­tion on the Lincoln Highway, check out these great sites.

http://www.drivelincolnhighway.com/index.html

http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/13750/itinerary/70572

http://lincolnhighwayil.blogspot.com/

http://brianbutko.wordpress.com/

Be sure to check out our Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byways Photo Gallery as well!

Photo cred­its:

Lincoln Highway Association National Headquarters & Lincoln Highway Marker — Jim Frazier

Rialto Square Theatre — Anneh632

Editor’s Note: The orig­i­nal ver­sion of this story mis­tak­enly attrib­uted the cre­ation of the Lincoln Highway sig­nage, murals and gaze­bos to the Lincoln Highway Association. They are actu­ally the work of the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition. The story has been updated to cor­rect the error.


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2 comments to 12 Places to Visit on Illinois’ Lincoln Highway

  • Thank you so much for men­tion­ing the Illinois Lincoln Highway sig­nage, murals, and gaze­bos. However, those are projects of the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition and have been paid for with Federal Highway Grant dol­lars. Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition is the man­age­ment agency for the Illinois Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byway and a dif­fer­ent entity than the Lincoln Highway Association. Please visit our web­site: http://www.drivelincolnhighway.com or give us a call to request our vis­i­tor guide. Other projects we have com­pleted are an Interpretive Center in Dixon’s Welcome Center, a Visitor Kiosk in Aurora’s Phillips Park and a trav­el­ing exhibit cur­rently on dis­play in the Kishwaukee College Library in Malta. Great article!

  • Ron

    Diane, thanks for the clar­i­fi­ca­tion, I’ll update the arti­cle to reflect the cor­rected infor­ma­tion. By the way, I live about 4 blocks from the Lincoln Highway and travel it every sin­gle day to work and back!

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