Route 66 Postcard Mural Trail
On April 30, 2026, historic Route 66 turns 100. The anniversary of the Mother Road is eagerly anticipated and preparations to celebrate are already underway with an exciting revival of the iconic American highway. Be a part of the Route 66 renaissance by travelling the Route 66 Mural Trail, a collection of 11 Americana-themed murals dedicated to the southwest Illinois towns that landmark the route and honor the great American road trip.
An Evolving Highway
There are three alignments of Route 66 that changed as the American highway system was adjusted and molded into what it is today. Southwest Illinois contains the last 100 miles of Route 66 in the state and some of the oldest towns on the first alignment.
• First Alignment:
The first alignment lasted from Route 66’s founding in 1926 to 1930. Alignment one’s width was only 8-20 ft. and the speed limit was only 25 MPH. The first alignment in Illinois followed previously dirt and rock roads connecting towns from Chicago to Springfield before crossing the Mississippi River to St. Louis. The 1st alignment was used heavily by bootleggers during the prohibition era and saw some of the earliest automobiles of the century.
• Second Alignment:
Route 66’s second alignment lasted from 1930 to 1940. The second alignment bypassed Springfield and Joliet Illinois in efforts to avoid a slowing of traffic in the higher populated cities. The speed limit was raised to between 60-80 MPH and the road was used by a multitude of travelers seeking work during the Great Depression.
• Third Alignment:
The third alignment of Route 66 lasted from 1940 to 1951. By the 1940s, the U.S, government decided the new road systems needed to have rest stops and picnic area for international travel and in 1951 the Interstate Highway System had started development. The country needed reliable and fast transport for World War 2 defense needs and by 1956 most of Route 66 in Illinois was turned into U.S. highway I-55.
By 1977 Route 66 and its transportation ability were considered obsolete- the highway couldn’t handle the heavy loads of modern tractor trailers, higher capacity traffic, and most of Route 66’s bridges were not adequate to address the growing needs of the country. America’s most famous highway was decommissioned on June, 27, 1985.
Virden 123 N Springfield St. Virden, IL, 62690 – First Alignment
A stagecoach stop and deep-rooted coal-mining town, Virden is the northernmost Route 66 town in Macoupin County.
Virden rests on the first alignment of the Mother Road and its painting on the Mural Trail emphasizes Virden’s coal-mining history with a pickaxe, miner’s helmet, coal wagon, and the glasses of Mary “Mother” Jones- famed labor reformist and worker’s rights activist. Virden’s symbols also represent the Battle of Virden- a labor union and racial conflict that occurred on October 12, 1898 and killed at least 18 men and injured more than 30.
Virden’s Route 66 mural is located on the Sly Fox bookstore building.
Girard 133 S 2nd St. Girard, IL, 62640 – First Alignment
Girard marks the historic Girard to Nilwood Segment on Route 66 which is on the National Register of Historic Places- you can drive this preserved original strip of Route 66 and see original attractions like the 1940’s Former Standard Station, a vintage Shell Station, and still get treats at the famous 1920’s Doc’s Soda Fountain (now called Doc's Off Route 66) or 1950’s Whirl-A-Whip Restaurant.
Girard’s Route 66 mural is located on the side of Doc’s Soda Fountain and has symbols representing the fountain’s shopfront and ice cream representing Whirl-A-Whip.
Carlinville 131 N. Broad St. Carlinville 62626 – First Alignment
Route 66 traveled through the City of Carlinville at the height of prohibition from 1926-1931. The infamous Ortic Inn was built on a farm several miles south of the city and purportedly used by gangster Al Capone and bootleggers running liquor from the south to Chicago. Coal mining played a significant part of the economy of Carlinville and Standard Oil built 159 Sears and Roebuck kit homes in the city in 1918- 156 of which still stand today.
Carlinville is famous for the ‘Million Dollar’ Macoupin County Courthouse- one of the most extravagant courthouses in the country- and the Old Macoupin County ‘Cannonball Jail’- a slightly unorthodox prison allegedly structured with Civil War cannon balls in the walls to hinder escapees. Carlinville’s Route 66 mural portrays the Million Dollar Courthouse, Cannon Ball Jail, Sear’s homes, and Carlinville’s original roundabout.
Litchfield Old Route 66 N Victory Lane, Litchfield 62056 - Second & Third Alignment
Located on two alignments of the Mother Road, Litchfield is a great example of Route 66 preservation. Route 66 era businesses like the Ariston Café built in 1924, Jubelt’s Bakery founded in 1952, and the 1950 Litchfield Sky View Drive-In Theatre- one of the last remaining drive-ins left on Route 66- are still in operation in Litchfield.
The Litchfield Route 66 mural depicts all three historic businesses with the drive-in’s arrow sign, a Jubelt’s cake, a classic 50’s car, a campsite representing Lake Lou Yaeger recreation, and the Vic Suhling Gas Station sign. The Vic Suhling Gas Station sign can be seen today at the Litchfield Museum and Welcome Center, fully restored in its neon glory. The mural is just north of the 1971 Niehaus Cycle Sales dealership.
Gillespie First Alignment
The small town of Gillespie is on the original first alignment of Route 66 on the stretch between Springfield and Staunton Illinois. A well-known coal-mining town, Gillespie was one of the busiest towns in the county in the early 20th century for its rich ores and is home to the Illinois Coal Museum, the 1921 Canna Theatre, a former service station, and Lake Gillespie.
The Progressive Miners of America Union formed in 1932 in Gillespie and the small town was once famous for its annual Black Diamond Days, a three day festival featuring a carnival, parades, contests, mine rescue demonstrations, and shopping. The old Canna Theatre, Miner’s Union, Black Diamond Days, and Lake Gillespie are all featured symbols on the Gillespie Route 66 Mural Trail.
Staunton 8767 State Rte. 4, Staunton, 62088 – First Alignment
Staunton is on the first alignment of Route 66 but close to the second alignment on the city’s south side. The city is home to several notable Route 66 attractions including the Route 66 Flea Market and Storage Giant Rocking Chair, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch- a whimsical Mother Road stop in the Route 66 Hall of Fame dedicated to Volkswagen rabbits, fluffy rabbits, and Route 66 memorabilia- and Country Classic Cars- a shop and museum unto itself dedicated to 20th century vehicles.
Visitors can stop at popular Italian restaurant Cavataio’s or historic 1931 Decamp Station for a bite to eat and to see the Route 66 Mural Trail rendition. The mural has symbols representing the rabbit ranch, Decamp roadhouse, the Staunton bike trail, Staunton Reservoir, Cavataio’s, and the former Neuhaus Texaco Station.
Livingston 908 Veterans Memorial Drive, Livingston 62058 – Third Alignment
The small town of Livingston is located on the third alignment of Route 66. There aren’t any ’66 gas stations left in the town but Livingston is home to the Pink Elephant Antique Mall, a kitschy collection of Mother Road memorabilia including a reclaimed Beach Boy, a Uniroyal Gal, a Harley Davidson Muffler Man, a flying saucer ski cabin, a giant ice-cream cone selling ice cream, and a giant pink elephant.
The antique mall is also home to the 50’s styled Twistee Treat Diner which serves up diner favorites and vintage sweets. Livingston’s Route 66 Mural Trail iteration is on the front of the Pink Elephant Antique Mall and portrays the giant ice-cream cone, the flying saucer, an American farm representing Livingston’s rural community, and vintage cars representing Livingston’s significance as a popular Route 66 pit stop.
Hamel 11 S. Old Route 66, Hamel 62046 – First, Second, & Third Alignment
Once a service and dining pit stop on Route 66, the Village of Hamel has been aligned on Route 66 since its beginning and is still on the original route. The village is home to the 1931 Saint Paul Lutheran Church also called the ‘Church of the Neon Cross’. The town was also home to Nearon’s Tourist Cabins, a Conoco Station, a Meramec Caverns barn sign, Cassens Car Dealership, and Fowley’s Tavern- all since demolished or converted today.
In 1937, Hamel ‘Tourist’ Haven restaurant was opened by George Cassens- today the restaurant is reopened under the name Wheezy’s Grill and still serves up meals hot and ready like it did in the old days. Another Hamel eatery is the Route 66 Creamery which opened in 2021. The new restaurant revives Route 66 charm with ice-cream, steak burgers, and chili and the Route 66 Mural Trail iteration for Hamel is on its façade. The Hamel mural depicts classic Route 66 diner food like ice-cream, a burger, and a float, Hamel’s water tower, the Neon Cross Church, a 50’s era car, the Madison County Bike Trail, and the 1820-1852 Hamel School Log Cabin. Now a museum, the cabin preserves artifacts from the 19th century and can be visited by appointment.
Edwardsville 100 E. Vandalia St. Edwardsville 62025 – First, Second, & Third Alignment
One of the largest cities of the Last 100 Miles of Route 66 in Illinois, Edwardsville is a bevy of historic sites dating all the way back to 1805. Edwardsville is the third eldest town in Illinois and has three historic districts including the Historic Leclaire Neighborhood District, St. Louis Street District, and the Brick Street District which are all included on the National Register of Historic Places.
The city is home to one of the largest campuses in the United States, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), has many routes interlinking Madison County Transit Trails, and is home to the historic 1909 Wildey Theatre which still puts on theatrical and musical performances today.
Edwardsville is a bike-friendly city with restaurants and shopping and the Route 66 Mural Trail painting for the city is located on the façade of the Evermore Tattoo Gallery. The downtown mural depicts a West End Service Station pump (future site of the Edwardsville Visitor’s Center), SIUE, the Leclaire Water Tower, the St. Louis Street Historic District, the Wildey Theatre’s marquee, and a bicycle.
Other honorable Route 66 mentions in Edwardsville include the Hi-Way Tavern, Site Gas Station (current location of Mark’s Muffler Shop), Jacober’s Market building, and a wacky fiberglass steer on the 1947 Main St. Goshen butcher shop named ‘Herbie the Hereford’.
Collinsville 225 W. Main St. Collinsville 62234 – Third Alignment
Collinsville has two very popular Route 66 attractions- Cahokia Mounds, a World Heritage Site and archeologically important Native American civilization, and the 1907 Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower, a fun and tangy landmark advertising Brooks Tomato Products Company condiments. Take a drive for some photos in front of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle and climb to the top of the biggest earth mound in North America with an educational visit to the Cahokia Mounds interpretive center to see recovered artifacts and get to know the history of the ancient Cahokian people .
Collinsville is also home to many standing service stations from Route 66’s heyday including the 1970’s Lowell’s Mobil Station, a 1950’s gas station (now LaDrew Automotive), and a 1920’s cottage-style gas station called Eck Auto.
Collinsville’s Route 66 Mural Trail painting depicts horseradish root representing Collinsville as the Horseradish Capitol of the World, Monk’s Mound, the Brooks Catsup Bottle, and a plate of spaghetti representing Mungo’s Italian Eatery, Ravenelli’s Italian Steakhouse, and Collinsville’s prominent Italian heritage.
Granite City 1204 Niedringhaus Ave. Granite City 62040 – First, Second, & Third Alignment
Only a few miles from the Mississippi and at the crossroads of three Route 66 alignments, Granite City has many Mother Road attractions still standing including the 50’s style Mr. Twist Ice Cream shop- still serving the ‘Best ice cream and sherbet in Granite City’- the O’Brien Tire & Auto Care building, which still serves as an auto shop, the old 1940’s Speedy Service gas station, and many vintage motels that served (or still serve) travelers on their way to St. Louis City.
Granite City is also the location of the east side of the 1929 Chain of Rocks Bridge, a unique bridge with a 30 degree bend in the middle. First built as a toll bridge and now a foot and bicycle bridge, Chain of Rocks gets its name from the rapids and boulders beneath the bridge that churn the Mississippi River.