Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Historic Route 66: Lexington, IL

Lexington, IL is yet another small town along the old Route 66 — but on July 15, 1902, the citizens of this tiny burgh felt like they were at the center of the universe. That's the day President Theodore Roosevelt rolled into town on his train and delivered a stemwinder from the back of the caboose.

As the story goes, President Roosevelt declined to exit the train, telling the host committee, "No, gentlemen, I did not agree to get off the train."

I didn't roll into Lexington on the railroad, but rather along the old "Mother Road" — or, at least, what is left of it. In our last post, we stopped in Towanda. The old Route 66 is incredibly preserved between Towanda and Lexington, running along what could be mistaken for the southbound lanes of the county highway that currently exists.

Coming into Lexington, I stopped at a little historic marker, with a sign and a "Mother Road" flag that signaled the small town's pride in the historic highway. Lexington has converted much of the old Route 66 into a bicycle/walking path and, from the looks of it, the old road was a popular exercise destination for local residents.

I didn't stop at the town's only historic site — the John Patton Log Cabin. This log cabin, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built by one of the town's earliest settlers, John Patton. Patton came to the town in about 1829 and befriended the local Native Americans of the Kickapoo tribe. The preserved cabin now sits in a city park in Lexington.

Just north of Lexington is a preserved section of the old Route 66, designated as "Memory Lane." The town opens up this section of the road to automobiles during the town's annual Route 66 festival, car show and parade. I've featured some photos of "Memory Lane" here.

After my quick trip down "Memory Lane" ... I started up the car again, and headed toward Pontiac.

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