County seat of Livingston County, Pontiac (pop. 12,000) offers a beautiful town square and a city full of wall murals and other salutes to the Mother Road. The Livingston County Courthouse and you’ll see why they used Pontiac as the setting of the 1984 movie Grandview, U.S.A.
A new museum highlighting the Pontiac automobile will open on July 23, 2011. But of course, Route 66 is the focus here, and Pontiac holds the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame & Museum (110 W. Howard Street, 815-844-5657). Plenty of great artifacts, gorgeous Route 66 murals in the alley, and you have to check out the Bob Waldmire School Bus Mobile Home out back. Definitely a stop for a road trip like this! You can also check out the Livingston County War Museum right next door, which includes displays depicting World War I to the present.
A good roadside place to eat is the Log Cabin Inn (18700 N. Aurora Street, 815-842-2908). Built in 1926 out of cedar telephone poles, it faced the original Route 66 for years. When the four-lane bypass was built around Pontiac (as many towns in Illinois - and their businesses - had to cope with), the entire building was lifted and turned around to face the new bypass road. This was done entirely by horsepower and drew quite a few spectators to witness this unusual undertaking. Today, the Log Cabin Inn is a popular stop for tour buses and a good stop for some original Route 66 atmosphere - whichever way it faces.
This where the Walldogs come in. “Walldogs” are the painters who created – and now maintain or refurbish – outdoor wall murals and advertising signs that adorned the sides of buildings before the electronic mass media and billboards we see today. As Route 66 is a slice of Americana, so are these signs, often massive works of art in themselves. Pontiac recently opened the International Walldog Mural & Sign Art Museum (217 N. Mill Street, 815-842-1848) to showcase these works and their history and encourage preservation.
Based on the Walldogs, Pontiac says it’s the starting point for “1,000 miles of murals” , from there to Tucumcari, New Mexico. So let’s keep going!
Best Western Pontiac Inn
1821 W Reynolds St
Pontiac, IL 61764-9650