The story of the American love of the open road will be forever tied to the culture surrounding the landscape of Route 66. The need for a highway to connect the people and towns across America was fulfilled with the christening of “The Mother Road,” Route 66, in November 1926. Route 66 used a common name to bind together a network of mostly established roads into our first US Numbered Highway System. It stretched from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, and symbolized America’s desire to head west and fill in the continent.
Route 66 has witnessed numerous migrations to the West, none documented as well as the westward movement of displaced farmers during the Depression and DustBowl years in the 1930s. Route 66 was a young highway at that time, but rapidly grew into an American icon and still remains so today even after its official decommission and removal from the US Numbered Highway System in June of 1985. With the move from the US Numbered Highway System to the US Interstate System many parts of historic Route 66 have become neglected and in need of restoration before they disappear from our American landscape. In many places the old historic roadbed of Route 66 has already disappeared and in other places it shares the roadbed with Interstates 55, 44, or 40. With the change from the US Numbered Highway System to the US Interstate System the old iconic buildings and attractions that we found along the roadside no longer attract our attention, many times being torn down or burned down without anyone noticing. In 2011 and 2012 alone we lost two Route 66 icons in southern Illinois alone. The two icons lost in southern Illinois were the Coliseum Ballroom in Benld and an old service station in Staunton. The loss of these two icons is one of the events that has inspired me to document the cultural landscape surrounding Route 66.