Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Historic Route 66: Pontiac, IL

I had driven through Pontiac before for some work-related activities and, of course, knew about the state correctional facility located in town.
But I had never stopped to get a glimpse of the really neat downtown area that is so full of history.

First, Pontiac really does roll out the red carpet for Route 66 sightseers like me.

For one thing, the town is home to the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum which, I'm sad to say, I was closed by the time I came to town. The back alley behind the museum, however, had a number of great murals and and other nostalgic items that I also feature in my photos.

Speaking of murals, Pontiac has twenty of them plastered around town, each of which depicts a little bit of local history. I've was able to capture just a few in my photo set, and I encourage you to click here to view a more complete set of the downtown mural collection.

At the center of downtown Pontiac is the historic Livingston County Courthouse, construction of which began in 1874. The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

As with Lincoln and Bloomington, Pontiac was also a stop on the famed 8th Judicial Circuit that was traveled by then-lawyer Abraham Lincoln. In 2006, this Lincoln statue was dedicated on the grounds of the Livingston County Courthouse.

Speaking of Honest Abe, Pontiac was also home to an impromptu debate in 1840 between Lincoln and then-lawyer Stephen Douglas on the banks of the Vermillion River (see photo of the historical marker here.) It's not considered one of the official "Lincoln-Douglas Debates", but it was a debate between these two men, nonetheless, and Pontiac is darn proud to have hosted it.

Pontiac was created by an Act of Congress in 1937 and is named for the Ottawa Indian Chief Pontiac, for whom this memorial sits on the courthouse grounds. Pontiac came to Illinois after gaming notoriety for the "Pontiac's Rebellion" near what is now the city of Detroit, Michigan. That rebellion involved a violent struggle against British occupation in the Great Lakes Region. He continued to encourage rebellion against the British, in Illinois and over in the Ohio Region, until he was murdered near Cahokia, IL (not far from what is now St. Louis) by a Peoria Indian.

In future posts, we'll come back to discussing Pontiac and the Ottawa tribe in Illinois. In the meantime, here is a helpful link that describes in more detail the Indian tribes of Illinois.

Unfortunately, it was getting late, and my trip to Pontiac was all too brief. I'll definitely be back, if only to stop by the Route 66 Museum and try Bernardi's restaurant, which sits on the courthouse square and has a reputation for excellent food.

I was only able to post a few of my photos from Pontiac here, so I encourage you to click here to view my entire collection.

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