12 Places to Visit on Illinois’ Lincoln Highway
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
For more information on the Lincoln Highway, check out these great sites.
Be sure to check out our Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byways Photo Gallery as well!
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.