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Historic Route 66 service station gains new life as a museum

The West End Service Station is one of Edwardsville's last Route 66 landmarks, and it's the last original Route 66 service station in over 60 miles.

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — The City of Edwardsville hosted a grand opening on Friday for the new West End Service Station.

This museum and interpretive center honors what used to be a Route 66 landmark. According to the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau, the building used to be a service station for Route 66 from 1927 until 1964, which is when Route 55 was rerouted along I-55. 

This station is one of Edwardsville's last Route 66 landmarks, and it's the last original Route 66 service station in over 60 miles.

There are many nicknames for Route 66: America's Highway, the Main Street of America and the Mother Road are just a few. You can see all of these names and the stories behind them on the walls of the museum.

"Yeah, we'll definitely be back," Renée, an Edwardsville resident, said at the grand opening Friday. "It's really exciting to see this historical building brought back to life."

She and her two kids spent the day learning about Route 66.

"If it just became a turn lane, that would be so sad to kind of just see the history go away," she said. "So it's exciting to me to just have a place that makes the community special just by keeping this around."

There were special stories for all generations inside the former service station.

"I really like the history of the building," Renée's son Clark said.

Clark and his sister Emily learned one story about Hank the Dog

"There was a cool model of a dog and there was a story of it on how a gas station got robbed from and they got a dog to protect the gas station," Emily said. "The dog was a guard dog at night but he was also very friendly to customers."

Richard Raymond recalled stories of his ancestors over a century ago.

"Well, when they started building their houses this wasn't even here," he said. "They were probably upset there was a gas station coming to their neighborhood."

Although today's cars have changed quite a bit, all roads still lead to home on the Mother Road.

"It's about people getting out on the road, the car was a new thing," Raymond said.

The building was originally supposed to be demolished, but the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau received a $919,000 Route 66 grant last year. The bureau designated half of this grant to allow the City of Edwardsville to turn the vacant service station into a museum.

The museum will remain open Fridays through Sundays each week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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