The Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast highway in the United States, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2013. With grant funding, the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition, in conjunction with communities, historians and artists, have been adding murals along Illinois’ 179 mile stretch of the Lincoln Highway in honor of the centennial. This is the second of a several part series on traveling the Lincoln Highway through Illinois.
Part 1 of this article series ended in Matteson at the Mahler Service Station mural displayed on the same building it depicts, at 3627 216th Street. From this point, backtrack east on 216th Street, turn left on Main Street and head north to Route 30. Turn left to continue west on Lincoln Highway.
- The Frankfort mural is located at 11008 W. Lincoln Highway and tells the story of Eagle Scouts who toured the Lincoln Highway in 1928 and performed safety demonstrations in towns along the route.
At the same location, a Lincoln Highway interpretive gazebo relates the travels of Emily Post across the Lincoln Highway as part of a “See America First” campaign. She wrote columns about her cross-country excursion, but the car in which she was riding encountered mechanical problems just 19 days into the journey. The car was loaded onto a train, and they finished the trip by rail.
While you’re in Frankfort, be sure to detour through the historic downtown area. Stop for a bite to eat or browse through specialty shops and boutiques. In summer months visit the country market, held every Sunday at Oak and Kansas Streets.
- To get to the Mokena mural, continue west on Route 30. Turn right (north) on Wolf Road and then right on Front Street to 11104 Front Street. This mural depicts Mokena’s first auto garage.
- Back on Route 30, head farther west into New Lenox. Here the Lincoln Highway, still on Route 30, is called Maple Street. The New Lenox mural is just west of Cedar on the north side of the street at 125 W. Maple. The mural scene is of trolley car on the line that ran through New Lenox being outpaced by an automobile.
- Continue west about six miles to Joliet, where Route 30 is called Cass Street, to Ottawa Street. This is the intersection of the Lincoln Highway and the historic Route 66. Park along Cass near Ottawa (metered parking) and visit the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center at 204 N. Ottawa. The first floor pays tribute to the famed Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway, but the real gem is upstairs in the historical museum. Plan to spend an hour or two there.
- To get to the Joliet Lincoln Highway interpretive mural, continue on Route 30, which turns right (north) on Center Street, then left (northwest) onto Plainfield Road. At the six-way intersection of Plainfield Road, N. Raynor Avenue and Ruby Street, make a sharp right onto Ruby. The mural, at 753 Ruby Street depicts the tourist camp in Joliet’s Pilcher Park. Tourist camps were the forerunner to today’s campgrounds.
- On the way to the Crest Hill mural, you may want to stop at Dan’s Homemade Candies at 1003 Plainfield Road to stock up on truffles and other chocolate goodies. Dan’s other two locations are on the Lincoln Highway, as well: one at 229 E. Cass Street in Joliet and the other at 11400 W. Lincoln Highway in Mokena.
- The Crest Hill mural, at 1693 Plainfield Road, focuses on the 1919 mobility testing of military transports by traveling long distance across the Lincoln Highway.
- Hungry? While you’re in Crest Hill try Merichka’s at 604 Theodore Street, a fixture in Crest Hill since 1933 and known for their Poor-Boy sandwiches. Order a sandwich a la carte; order a “plate,” which comes with a potato and a salad; or order a “dinner,” with a potato, salad and three relishes (usually cottage cheese and two other items like beets or three-bean salad). The double-baked potatoes are huge; if you order a salad, try the house sweet red French dressing.
Look for the continuation of the Lincoln Highway drive through Illinois in articles published here throughout the spring. Be sure to click through the slides that accompany this article for more details on each mural. Find out more about the Lincoln Highway through Illinois on the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition web site.
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The Frankfort mural, at 11008 W. Lincoln Highway, relates the story of four Eagle Scouts, two scout masters and a driver, who toured the Lincoln Highway in 1928 to promote an upcoming national Boy Scout event, the installation of concrete Lincoln Highway markers. They stopped in towns along the road and provided safety demonstrations.
The first auto garage in Mokena, the Cooper and Hostert Garage, opened in 1916 and stayed in business until the early 1970s. Not only were they in the repair business, they were the first Ford Agency, selling cars, trucks and tractors. Henry Ford himself signed their dealership contract. The mural is located at 11104 Front Street.
New Lenox mural
The New Lenox mural, at 125 W. Maple Street, depicts the trolley line that ran through New Lenox, connecting Chicago Heights with Joliet. Electric trolleys, the first means of public transportation within city limits, were introduced in 1890. But as automobiles, faster than trolleys and allowing more independence, gained in popularity, trolley lines declined. Trolleys were replaced by buses in the early 1930s.
Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center
At the intersection of the Lincoln Highway and historic Route 66 (Cass and Ottawa Streets) in Joliet, check out the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center, where you’ll be drawn into the nostalgia of Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway. Upstairs, the interactive exhibits of the Joliet Area Historical Museum make learning about Joliet’s history fun, from the building of the Illinois & Michigan Canal in the 1830s and 1840s to modern day Joliet.
As people started touring Lincoln Highway, auto camping became a popular, economical way to see the country. Early visitors trespassed on farmer’s fields. To avoid the undesirable squatting and the litter mess left in their wake, municipalities built auto camps, like the one at Pilcher Park depicted in Joliet’s Lincoln Highway interpretive mural. Joliet’s mural is located at 753 Ruby Street.
Dan’s Homemade Candies
Dan’s Homemade Candies is the second oldest business in Joliet, established in 1919. Now owned by the Nelson family of Joliet, five of six sisters work together to create sweet deliciousness, making their own caramels, English Toffee and many of the cream centers for chocolates, to name just a few items. Dan’s Homemade Candies has two locations in Joliet and one in Mokena, all on the Lincoln Highway.
Crest Hill mural
In 1919 the U.S. Army tested the mobility of military transports traveling long distances through a trek across the country on the Lincoln Highway, with then Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower as observer. A tough journey, many of the vehicles got stuck in the mud, and worse, some were blown off of cliffs. Because of this experience, Eisenhower became a strong proponent of what was to become the interstate highway system, an idea that became reality in 1956 during his presidency.