Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Events for Lincoln Highway Around Chicago book

April 2, 2008

With some big projects keeping me busy, I’ve not been able yet to review Cynthia Ogorek’s new book from Arcadia, The Lincoln Highway Around Chicago, but here’s a list of book-related events to look for over the next few months.


Above, the LHA labeled this 1927 photo as “an important intersection with the pavement widened for safety, 25 miles west of Chicago Heights, Illinois. Courtesy University of Michigan, Special Collections Library, lhc1321.

7 at 10 am. “The Dave Nemo Show,” XM Satellite Radio, Open Road 171. Live phone interview.

14 at 7 pm. South Holland Public Library, 16250 Wausau Ave, South Holland, IL, (708) 331-5262. Program and book signing.

19 at 10:30 am. South Suburban Heritage Association Annual Conference, St. Paul Community Church, 18200 Dixie Hwy, Homewood, IL,


10 at 11:30 am. Indiana-Lincoln Highway Association Spring Meeting and Luncheon, Teibel’s Restaurant, Schererville, IN. Contact:

17 All day. South Holland “Onion Fest,” American Legion Hall, 443 157th St, South Holland, IL, (708) 596-2722.


7 or 8 time TBA. Printers’ Row Book Fair, Chicago, IL, at Arcadia Publishing booth. Contact Cynthia at

13 at 1 p.m. Calumet City Historical Society, 760 Wentworth Ave, Calumet City, IL, (708) 862-8662.


12th at 1 pm. Lake County Public Library, Merrillville, IN. Contact Susan Killin (219) 7769-3541 x336 or


TBA Gourmet Junction, Plainfield, IL. Contact Cynthia at


16 time and place TBA. South Holland Historical Society, South Holland, IL, (708) 596-2722.

Contact names and emails are supplied if you’d like to confirm the arrangements.

New Chicago Lincoln Hwy book gets local review

March 17, 2008

I received an advance copy a couple weeks ago of The Lincoln Highway Around Chicago by Cynthia L. Ogorek and have been enjoying it. A full review will run here shortly, but till then, you can read what the The Times of Munster, Indiana, says about it here.


Above is a photo from the book showing one of two streams that were crossed by the Ideal Section, a 1.3-mile “model” stretch of the Lincoln Highway between Schererville and Dyer, Indiana. A man crossing a temporary bridge at far right gives scale to the enormity of the job. Click HERE to enjoy a hi-res version. Courtesy University of Michigan, Special Collections Library, lhc2719.

A poem lamenting change along the road, in life

February 21, 2008

On, an entry by Vi Ransel will sound familiar themes to many Lincoln Highway News readers.

Above: Another farm sprouts housing along the Lincoln Highway, west of Chicago, June 2005.

In Memoriam

The place I grew up in the 50s is gone now.
Oh, the land is still there,
but the quilt-like farm fields blanketing the rolling hills,
the deciduous forests and the meandering streams
have been overtaken and replaced by an invidious, invasive species
of four-lane byways with a broad, medial stalk of conquering concrete
sprouting small, almost identical malls like profligate weeds dispersing seeds
every mile or so along the length of the Lincoln Highway.

One last dairy farm remains, attached to the Route 30 vine.
Contained by concrete, cows graze in green pastures
as fossil fuel-burners blindly whiz by emitting a life-exhausting fog.
The farm, a delicate anachronism, is out of place in its own place,
a symbol of a sustainable way of life set like a jewel
on the artificial energy-sustained existence
clinging tenuously to the grid by an electrical thread
generated by the last drops of once living,
long dead bodies of the plant and animal ancestors
of those same dairy cows.

Vi’s works appear widely both in print and online. She conducts Poetry Workshops and gives readings in Central New York. Her latest chapbook is “Sine Qua Non Antiques (an Arcanum of History, Geography and Treachery).

LH Around Chicago book due in March ’08

January 29, 2008

The Lincoln Highway Around Chicago by Cynthia L. Ogorek will be published this March 17 as part of Arcadia Books’ Images of America series. The 128-page paperback book will have more than 200 illustrations from Geneva, Illinois, south and eastward to just over the Indiana line at Schererville so that the famous Ideal Section could be included. Early history is augmented by preservation efforts of today.

Price is $19.95 or pre-order from Amazon for $13.59 by clicking here.


81st Anniversary of Federal Highway Numbering

January 2, 2008

“Windy City Road Warrior” Dave Clark (author of Exploring Route 66 in Chicagoland and Route 66 in Chicago) posted an interesting story about the 81st anniversary of the federal highway numbering system. Although the highway plan was finalized in November 1926, the public announcement was delayed until January 1, 1927. Clark references a Chicago Tribune article from January 2, “U.S. Marks Ten Main Roads With Route Numbers” that explains the system that has been used ever since for federal highways: east-west route have even numbers, north-south have odd, with lowest numbers in the north and east. The 10 main transcontinental route numbers ended in 0, and the main N-S route numbers ended in 1 or 5. A tentative plan had been submitted to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) in November 1925, followed by a year of wrangling and revisions. Standardized signage was also adopted.

All this was in response to the growing tangle of named highways and their informal, inconsistent markings. It did not release funds for the highways; the focus was on standardized naming and marking, The only nod to financing upgrades was to “unimproved sections of which will be given priority in improvement,” if and when any were made.

US map
Above: A Gulf map of PA, late 1920s, shows the LH numbered as both US 30 and PA 1. The state numbers were discarded after just a few years. Seen here is from roughly Breezewood to Lancaster.

A map of the plan approved in November 1926 can be seen here. And more about the federal numbering system can be found in “From Names to Numbers: The Origins of the U.S. Numbered Highway System,” a thorough recounting by Richard F. Weingroff, Information Liaison Specialist, Federal Highway Administration.

Though named trails were not banned or eliminated, none of the multi-state ones got a single number, but rather were broken into several numbers. Named highway orgnizations could see that the plan would render their roads obsolete; the LHA grudgingly accepted the plan but asked for consideration of being designated route number 30. It got it for much of the way, originally from Philadelphia to Salt Lake City. Still, as Weingroff writes, LHA president Henry Joy

was so bitter that he wanted to send, but did not, a note to President Coolidge, his Cabinet, and all Members of Congress:

“The Lincoln Highway, a memorial to the martyred Lincoln, now known by the grace of God and the authority of the Government of the United States as Federal Route 1, Federal Route 30, Federal Route 30N, Federal Route 30S, Federal Route 530, Federal Route 40 and Federal Route 50”

The New York Times expressed similar sentiments: “The traveler may shed tears as he drives the Lincoln Highway or dream dreams as he speeds over the Jefferson Highway, but how can he get a ‘kick’ out of 46, 55 or 33 or 21?” Little did they know…!

Wal-Mart bringing change to LH south of Chicago

December 28, 2007

A story in the Southtown Star of suburban Chicago, Illinois, reports that the Lincoln Highway through New Lenox south of Chicago, will be remade over the next 18 months:

“This is the biggest news of the year. This is incredibly good news. This is the big one we have all been waiting for,” New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann said….

Upgrades include left-turn lanes at cross streets from Marley Road to Joliet Highway and in front of Lincoln-Way Central High School, plus temporary signals at Marley and new signals at Schoolhouse Road. [See Google Maps aerial view below.]


The work, which will greatly alter the Lincoln Highway roadscape, is in preparation for a Wal-Mart plaza across from Cooper Rd/Roberts Rd/Williams St. It looks like the development will fill one of the last large pieces of land along the LH there: note the house and surrounding fields on the north side of the road.

Oddly, this is just preliminary until permanent upgrades can be done:

All work is compatible with IDOT’s ultimate $80 million plan to make Lincoln Highway a fully improved five-lane road. Money for that massive construction project is not included in any budget at this time, said New Lenox village administrator Russ Loebe.

But these interim improvements “should buy the community quite a few years of smooth cruising” on Lincoln Highway, he said.

An insightful article also was published in Chicago Business News about the real estate deal. McVickers Development bought 73.5 acres from two sellers for a combined price of $18.9 million, then will sell it to Wal-Mart, Menards home improvements, Petco, Staples, Aldi, and other retailers. McVickers will likely lose money on the sale to Wal-Mart:

Typically, an anchor tenant such as Wal-Mart demands better financial terms because the company knows the developer can make it up by charging higher rents to the smaller tenants.

“In general, developers almost never, ever make money on the big boxes, and very often they lose money,” says Matthew Silvers, a principal in the Midwest brokerage arm of Northbrook-based Next Realty LLC, who represented McVickers in the acquisition.

Mr. Silvers says major retailers like Wal-Mart dictate how much they are willing to pay for land based on their forecast of a store’s profitability.

“They’ve got their own economic analysis, and that’s just going to be what they can pay for the land, and the developers have to deal with it,” Mr. Silvers says.

Iowa Welcome Center Responds to Concerns

December 7, 2007

On Tuesday, Chicago Public Radio’s Gianofer Fields reported from her LH trip that her reception at the Harrison County Historical Village and Iowa Welcome Center along the Lincoln Highway in western Iowa was not very welcoming. She has even subtitled that day’s entry, “What happens when the welcoming center isn’t so welcoming?”:

FIELDS: Tell me about this place that we are standing in.
HEIM [center employee]: Well, this is the welcome center that we are standing in.

I suppose that I should have taken that massive silence as a sign that the welcome center lady wasn’t in the mood for company. When I saw the old cabin perched on a small hill by the highway; I thought it had, “Stop here roadside attraction,” written all over it. So I did in hopes of learning more about it.

HEIM: Well, it has a wealth of information and antiques in it and it takes about an hour to go through, self guided usually.

Did I just get the bums rush? Clearly, I am on my own.

Above: Half the operational expenses for the village/welcome center are covered by sales in the Iowa Products Store and village admission fees.

I asked center coordinator Kathy Dirks about the two things that seemed to bother Ms. Fields—the lack of enthusiasm and the self-guided tour. Here is her response:

I wish I would have been here and that I could be here everyday to guarantee every person’s experience that steps through our front door would be stellar and involve the highest level of customer service. Unfortunately, it’s not humanly possible because we are open 361 days a year. So on many weekends and other days when I’m unable to be here due to meetings, vacations, etc., we pay some of our volunteers to man the facility. Almost all are elderly because the hours are limited and the pay low due to our limited budget. (My opinion would be almost all of them would be totally intimidated by a surprise microphone interview as well.)…

Not to make any excuses for what happened because there are none, but it can also be somewhat of a challenge to work at this particular facility because of the volume of knowledge the volunteers/workers are expected to know about Iowa – from everything tourism-related, to agriculture, to state laws, to about anything else that could cross your mind. I’ve worked here 13 years and still get questions I’ve never been asked before. I would have hoped though that everyone working here could have answered questions about this facility. I see much more intensive training needs to happen.

Our goal at the Harrison County Historical Village and Welcome Center has always been to supply the best service possible. I believe that on many occasions we do succeed in achieving that goal based on comments from customers and the amount of repeat business we receive. I absolutely hate when it doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, I can’t repeat Gianofer Fields experience here and make everything perfect. I can only learn from it and do whatever possible so it isn’t repeated….

We only offer self-guided tours on a regular basis and state that in our brochure. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough business, nor large enough income, to offer guided tours on a regular basis. The facility sits on 17 acres and the museum is in five different buildings covering about 4 1/2 acres. On many days, we only have one person that works the entire facility – beginning people on museum tours, answering welcome center questions, waiting on people in the gift shop, sweeping the floor, etc. If I had been here by myself, I would not have been able to give Gianofer Fields a guided tour of the museum either without locking the door to the welcome center/gift shop.

It’s obvious Ms. Dirks cares an awful lot about customer satisfaction while struggling with limited staff and resources. And Ms. Fields (who has not responded to my emails, though the station’s Director of Communications did one time) would probably understand these points too if she had known or been told in a more positive manner. Maybe Ms. Fields can return some day and give us all an update.

Radio reports from the Lincoln in western Iowa

December 4, 2007

AmGoth_AIC.Chicago Public Radio’s Gianofer Fields is traveling the Lincoln Highway through Iowa. On her way to the western end of the state, she stopped in Eldon (65 miles due south of Belle Plaine, a favorite stop for LH travelers) to visit the house made famous by artist Grant Wood. His 1930 American Gothic painting, on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, is one of the most parodied, portraying a farmer and his daughter (usually thought to be his wife—though each were models and never met) in front of a white farm house with a distinctive upper window. Visit the CPR web page for a transcript or listen to the audio version.
IA_WelcCtrWhen Gianofer arrives at the western edge of Iowa, she makes her next entry at the Iowa Visitors Center (above, from its website) and its 1853 log cabin, located between Logan and Missouri Valley. She gets a less-than-enthusiastic welcome (not good news for LH boosters). She then heads northeast to the nearby non-profit Museum of Religious Arts along US 30 just south of Logan and has a friendlier experience, though as she finds, it is only Christian exhibits despite the more inclusive name.Below (from the MRA website) is one of its King of Kings displays: life-size wax figurines that portray nine Biblical scenes such as the annunciation, the nativity, Palm Sunday, the last supper, the crucifixion, and resurrection. They were sculpted by Leone Chaney in the 1960s for Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida, then in the late 1990s, they were moved to the Museum of Religious Arts.

Weiss Duo Cover Triangle of Historic Highways

November 27, 2007

John and Lenore Weiss are well-known to Route 66 fans for the work they’ve done to help preserve, promote, and document that road, especially in Illinois. Lincoln Highway fans are starting to hear about them too, most noticeably leading the acquisition from IDOT of a 1928 concrete LH post, then John served as Master of Ceremonies at its dedication on Veterans Day 2006 at the Joliet Historical Museum. Their newest project merges 66, the LH, and even the Dixie Highway.

Weiss Book

Traveling the … Historic Three is a 74-page spiral-bound guide to traveling those three highways in a 110-mile, triangle-shaped route south of Chicago. John and Lenore freely give credit to the conceptual idea of combining these three roads into one road trip to Elaine Egdorf who administers Drivin’ the Dixie, a web site devoted to that road. The booklet has an intro, then tabs divide each section, and there’s a page of related organizations at the end. Narration is casual in the way a good friend would lead you on a tour, with instructions for when to turn, what to see, where to park, and recommended places to eat and visit. Lincoln Highway fans will be pleased to discover much that they may not have noticed until slowed down to a tour on the local level.

Lenore told me a little bit about their work:

The unique aspect of the triangular tour is that you can start at any of three locations and end up exactly where you started! With any road trips, folks travel say 100 miles, then they must return. This results in an extra 100 miles.

In this area, the Lincoln Highway and especially the Dixie Highway communities and businesses are not very accustomed to tourism. This is an interesting aspect when compared to those on Route 66. On the Lincoln, the town of Frankfort wants to get involved. On the Dixie, the town of Homewood is equally as excited.

Since we already had the Route 66 portion, and have lived on that particular section of the Lincoln Highway for 30 years, only the Dixie needed some real investigation. And that, too, was a rewarding experience.

And she notes that every time they drive it, as recently as last week, they keep discovering new things.

Above: John and Lenore Weiss with Route 66 tattoo man Jim Bush in the souvenir-filled gift shop at the Joliet Area Historical Museum, a must-stop for road fans.

Highlights at the intersections include the Art Institute of Chicago at Jackson Avenue and Columbus Drive in Chicago, where 66 and the Dixie launch; the Joliet Area Historical Museum where 66 and the LH meet, at Cass and Ottawa streets in Joliet; and the Arche Memorial Fountain where the LH and Dixie meet, built 1916 as part of a rest park for travelers of the two roads in Chicago Heights. As you can see, the three roads offer lots to see for fans of old roads. This and other books by the Weisses are available at gift shops such as the Joliet Museum or through the couple’s web site. An autographed copy of Traveling the … Historic Three is $9.95 + $4.60 postage and handling.

Lincoln Highway connection to Vietnam Memorial

November 23, 2007

The black granite used in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., was supplied by a family firm along the Lincoln Highway in Lynwood, Illinois, south of Chicago. According to a recent article in The Times of Munster, Indiana, Rogan Granite (21550 E Lincoln Hwy/US 30, about 1000 feet west of the Indiana border) supplied the granite that carries the names of 58,256 veterans who either died in Vietnam or are listed as prisoners of war or missing in action. Tom Rogan says, “It was a very proud moment for our company and our family…. It was an opportunity for us to show what the region could do in support of our veterans.” The company, with roots back to 1874, was known as Calumet Memorial until 1980, when Tom and brothers Jim and Mick expanded the business.


The article recounts, “As part of the company’s headstone business, Rogan Granite supplied grave markers for veterans in several states. It was during a 1982 trip to Washington—to see which grave marker bids were successful—that Rogan learned of the plans for the memorial.” The bid required black granite because it could polish to a mirrorlike reflective surface and allow etched names to show up as white. The granite actully came from India, was cut and polished in Vermont, and etched in Tennesse, but the Rogan family coordinated the process of providing the 144 panels, each 44 inches wide each, that make up the two walls that are each 246 feet, 9 inches long. The memorial was dedicated on Veterans Day in 1982.

Photo Vietnam Memorial, The Wall, Washington D.C. by ehpien