Travel & Outdoors | 13 May 2016Route 66 Encyclopedia: Braidwood, Illinois Share article facebook twitter google pinterest The classic road trip down Route 66 is an experience of a lifetime. The history of Route 66 and the people who played a role in its transformation from average highway to cultural icon, between 1926 and the present, is arguably the most interesting part of the trip. Luckily, The Route 66 Encyclopedia, serves as a complete alphabetical guide to the true charm and spirit of this historic American highway. If you’re thinking of taking a little cruise on this iconic path, it’s a surefire way to get the most of the trip. Check out this excerpt, on Braidwood, Illinois! Braidwood, Illinois The town of Braidwood was named for James Braidwood, a steam-ship engineer who immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1863 and who was instrumental in the development of the coal mines in Will County. The initial coal discovery came with the digging of a well on a farm owned by Thomas Byron in 1865. Establishment of a town, and a post office in 1867, followed the development of the mine, and Braidwood quickly gained a reputation for lawlessness. The election of town officials in April 1876 culminated in a fight at the polls, the disarming of the town marshal, a riotous crowd, the stealing of all records, and the severe beating of the ballot counter. A mining strike in 1877 in which mine owners brought in trainloads of African Americans from the South resulted in the governor sending 1,300 troops to Braidwood to restore order. Enhancing the sense of carefree whimsy at the Polk-A-Dot Drive In in Braidwood, Illinois, is this vintage clock with cast-iron base that predates establishment of the restaurant. Judy Hinckley On February 16, 1883, a massive cave-in at the Diamond Mine, owned by the Wilmington Coal Mining and Manufacturing Company, resulted in the deaths of almost fifty miners; forty-six of whose bodies were never recovered. Since two were age thirteen, and one was fourteen, the event became a national sensation fueling the growing cry for child labor laws. A devastating fire swept through the business district in the spring of 1879 leveling the hotel, several saloons, the railroad depot, a gristmill, a blacksmith shop, and numerous homes. Among the men who helped rebuild Braidwood was a recent immigrant from Italy, Peter Rossi. Rather than turn to mining, Rossi began manufacturing macaroni, an enterprise that led to his purchase of the Broadbent Hotel and its conversion into a factory in 1898. A 1946 guide notes the business was still in operation at that time. The establishment of a bakery and a saloon opened by his son, Stephen, soon followed. With the coming of Route 66, the members of the Rossi family expanded their operations to include a grocery store, a service station, a pair of auto courts, and a restaurant. The AAA Western Accommodations Directory for 1954–55 indicates the family was still actively involved with development in the community at this time. “Rossi Motel—center on U.S. 66 & State 113S – A modern brick motel on spacious grounds, 1/2 block west of U.S. 66A.” This facility located at 120 North Washington Street is now the Braidwood Motel. The primary Route 66–related attraction in Braidwood today is the Polk-A-Dot Drive In, established in 1956 by Chester Fife and a restaurant designated a “very special must stop” by the National Historic Route 66 Federation in the fifteenth edition of the Route 66 Dining & Lodging Guide. The first incarnation of this classic drive-in was a school bus covered with rainbow colored polka dots from which the owner took fast food orders. Fife relocated the business to its current building in 1962. Enhancing the time capsule feel are life-sized fiberglass figures of Elvis Presley, the Blues Brothers, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and Betty Boop displayed along the outside wall. Another historic structure of note with a Route 66 connection would be the Lucenta Tire store housed in a service station built in 1939. This facility is located on Highway 113 across the railroad tracks. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: Get your kicks, and everything else pertaining to the Main Street of America, from this all-encompassing reference book on Route 66. A reference book with a twist, The Route 66 Encyclopedia presents alphabetical entries on Route 66 history, landmarks, personalities, and culture, from Bobby Troup’s anthem “Route 66? to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath to the Wigwam Motel. It’s illustrated with more than 1,000 old and new, color and black and white photographs and pieces of memorabilia. You’ll learn about Jack Rittenhouse and Will Rogers, as well as the contributions of lesser-known figures like Arthur Nelson and Angel Delgadillo. With references to the old (including the history of the U Drop Inn Cafe in Texas) and new (including a section about the recent Cars movie), The Route 66 Encyclopediaprovides a sweeping look at a highway that has become more than just a road. These pages cover the history of Route 66 and the people who played a role in its transformation from highway to icon between 1926 and the present, but like the highway itself, this work does not fit within the traditional confines of generalities or terminology. Yes, this is an encyclopedia, a reference book for all things Route 66. However, it is also a time capsule, a travel guide, a history book, a memorial, a testimonial, and a chronicle of nearly a century of social change and evolution. 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