Route 66 events:  Chicago talk April 19th on public art along Route 66

We’re in the news again – well, yours truly is.  I’ll be giving a lecture and slide presentation on Tuesday, April 19th in downtown Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center on Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Washington Streets, right across from Millennium Park.  The topic will be “Public Art Along Route 66,” covering the route between its eastern terminus at Jackson Boulevard and Michigan (only a few blocks south of the lecture venue!) and downtown Joliet some 40 miles southwest.  The 90-minute presentation will begin at 1:00pm and will be held in the Renaissance Court, which is located in the northwest corner of the first (main) floor, right off the Randolph Street entrance.

Sponsored by the Geographic Society of Chicago, the free lecture is part of the society’s monthly travelogue series.  Registration is unnecessary, but show up at least 15-20 minutes in advance to get a good seat.  See you there, or be square!

Your own 66 roadiegal,


Yes, it's in the wrong place ... but you'll be in the right place if you come to my lecture!

Yes, it’s in the wrong place … but you’ll be in the right place if you come to my lecture!

Route 66 update:  Mysterious, odd and historic, Chicago’s tiny Pickwick Stable lives and shines again

Do you know the story of the sweet, overlooked antique just off Jackson Boulevard called Pickwick Stable?  No??  Well!  Do let us acquaint you.  Like many an antique, this little charmer has a questionable provenance with a gap or two in it; but like a rediscovered gem placed in a new setting, it’s been brought to life again and is enjoying a resurgent popularity it hasn’t had in 140 years.

The address is 22 E. Jackson Blvd., not that you could tell.  It’s one of the oldest buildings in the Loop – and one of the hardest to find, or was until recently.  Moreover, it’s a real architectural curiosity, not the dead end it seemed for decades.  If you live or work in Chicago, you’ve probably gone right past it dozens of time, if not hundreds, and never noticed.  The reason is because it’s severely recessed and looks like the end of an alley instead of a building.  But it is a building (honest!), and the rest of the neighborhood grew up around it.

The main reason Pickwick Stable isn’t readily visible is because it’s been encased over time by the much taller buildings that grew up around it.  The Steger Building (1911) stands in front of the Pickwick’s southern side and largely blocks the view.  It’s also blocked on the east by the 228 S. Wabash building (1927), hemmed in on the north by the back end of the 226 S. Wabash Ave. building (1932), and bordered on the west by the alley that runs between the Steger and the Gibbons Building (1912), which sidles up against the former Lytton Store Building (1913) at the NE corner of Jackson and State Street.

Pickwick Stable can be hard to find -- even when you heoretically know where it is.  (Photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

The tiny but historic Pickwick Stable can be hard to find, even when you know where it is: in Pickwick Court, 20 E. Jackson Blvd. (Photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

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Happy Route 66 Week:  an 88th birthday proposal

Happy natals, Route 66!  It’s your birthday week, and we here at the CuriousTraveler66 blog will raise some discussion this week about the past, present and future of the former U.S. Route 66 – now Historic Route 66, that most iconic American road, now recognized by the World Monument Fund and an official National Scenic Byway in Illinois – especially here in Chicago at the eastern terminus.  The route was born on November 11, 1926 and was decertified in Illinois in the 1970s when the last part of it here was replaced by I-55.  Today, the National Park Service has a U.S. Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to support this historic highway.  We could spend today’s installment recapping the history of how the route came to be and how it got its name(s) and number designation, but we’ll leave that for later next week.  Today, we’re going to do something different:  provide you with an analysis of the condition/visibility of the route in Chicago, present you with a proposal of how the route should be marked in the city (because it really isn’t, except for a rare highway sign now and then), and explain how and why we’d like to see the city step up and capitalize on the presence of the historic road.

The end of route sign in Santa Monica.

The end of route sign in Santa Monica  (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

In other words:  think of this as a discussion about what would help to preserve and popularize your favorite road trip.  It’s overdue, and the route’s 88th anniversary this week (which went completely unnoticed by the city) is the best opportunity for this timely discussion.  And since the city of Chicago is always scrambling for more money to put its budget back in the black and attract more tourism – especially the international kind – it’s time for city officials to finally pay attention, too.

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Hello, Route 66 devotees around the world!

Welcome to CuriousTraveler66, the blog for the upcoming book The Curious Traveler’s Guide to Route 66 in Metro Chicago.  Please forgive us, but we’re not quite live yet – still making a few adjustments to our appearance.  But we’ll be up soon!

Meanwhile, feel free to leave us a note about what you like most on Route 66 in the greater Chicago area.  We’d like to know how many Route 66 fans are out there. ;D