Route 66 Museum Opens in Abandoned Roadside Diner
The Mill in Lincoln, Illinois, was one of the many roadside restaurants that nourished hungry travelers on Route 66 during its heyday. It opened in 1929, three years after the route was established. After years of serving greasy American fare in a kitschy Dutch setting, the spot officially closed in 1996. Now Smithsonian reports that it has reopened as a Route 66 Museum.
The project was spearheaded by the Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County, a local nonprofit dedicated to restoring attractions along the route. The group raised $90,000 to fix the dilapidated roof, windows, floor, and foundation of the windmill-shaped structure. According to the Save The Mill Indiegogo page, “The Mill is considered a prime example of early American roadside architecture and is one of the few buildings in the area still standing from that era.”
Route 66 is no longer a single highway, but its impact remains an important part of Lincoln’s identity. The museum is a celebration of this: Inside, visitors can peruse artifacts highlighting the town’s former roadside attractions. One exhibit revives a defunct Lincoln gas station as a miniature robotic replica. An animatronic leg poking through the ceiling is left over from The Mill’s days in the 1980s, when it doubled as a restaurant and museum of oddities.
The Mill on 66 Museum opened to the public on April 29. The kitchen is no longer in service, so fans of the original menu will have to go elsewhere for their fried ham and peanut butter sandwiches.