Some 90 miles southeast of Lake Michigan, the former coal-mining town of Pontiac (pop. 11,428) surrounds the stately circa-1875 Livingston County Courthouse. The courthouse’s green lawns hold the usual battery of monuments, including one to the namesake Ottawa chief whose visage also graces the General Motors marquee. According to the WPA Guide to Illinois, another of these monuments, the Soldier and Sailors Monument, received the shortest presidential dedication in history when, in 1902, it was “dedicated with a few hasty words by President Theodore Roosevelt, before an audience of less than a dozen people, who congregated briefly under a terrific downpour.”
Pontiac is also home to a long-lived Route 66 landmark, the Old Log Cabin Inn (815/842-2908) on Pontiac Road on the north edge of town. When the road was rerouted behind the original location, this restaurant was jacked up and flipped around; the old road, which dates from 1918, is still there, behind the café along the railroad tracks.
From the Log Cabin, you can follow old Route 66 northeast through small towns, though the route is obscure and not all that rich in history or aesthetic delights. The final alignment of the old road is now Hwy-53, which runs along the southeast side of I-55. The towns here offer a very pleasant taste of what old Route 66 had to offer: Dwight is leafy and quaint, Braidwood has a set of Burma-Shave signs and the popular “Polka Dot Drive In,” while Wilmington is semi-famous for the 30-foot-tall “Rocketman” statue that stands outside the Launching Pad Drive-In (815/476-6535), at 810 E. Baltimore Street.