Route 66 in the News
Funding Rejected for Route 66 Museum
LITCHFIELD, Ill. - Organizers of the Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center have their work cut out for them in their effort to win financial support from the city.
The Litchfield City Council on Tuesday effectively rejected their request for $20,000 to pay for display cases and other furnishings for the Art Deco-style museum, currently under construction at the former site of the Vic Shuling gas station along Historic Route 66.
The council split 4-4, and Mayor Tom Jones abstained. The money would have come from the city’s tourism fund, which is supported by a local tax on hotels and motels.
“The museum is nearly done (being built),” city administrator Andy Ritchie said. “We just hope it carries itself.”
Jones said he abstained from voting because he has “no opinion one way or the other.”
“I’m not opposed to the museum at all,” he said, but organizers shouldn’t have started building before they lined up money to furnish the museum.
After originally asking for $100,000, organizers pared the request down to $20,000 this summer. The city asked them to come back with a more detailed business plan. Representatives from the museum association met individually with city council members prior to a committee meeting last week, gave them a copy of the museum’s “very detailed business plan,” and briefed them on its contents, Ritchie said.
Lonnie Bathurst, a local businessman who chairs the museum’s steering committee and helped develop the business plan, said the aldermen who voted against using money earmarked for tourism promotion to help the museum aren’t seeing the bigger picture.
Travelers along Route 66 spend millions of dollars each year in communities from Chicago to Southern California, Bathurst said.
“We happen to be lucky enough to be on there. We’re just not capitalizing on it in the biggest way possible,” he said. “A museum of that size and cost and magnitude, in terms of its quality, would compare to maybe only half a dozen others along the whole length of the highway.”
While it’s possible for the museum to get off the ground without city support, Bathurst said, “it would be much easier to have the city behind it going forward.”
“I don’t think we’re finished in our efforts with the city council,” he said.
Organizers also hope the city will devote a half-percent from the 3 percent hotel tax to help cover the museum’s operating expenses, but they haven’t made a formal request.
Museum supporters can make a more “concerted effort” to show city officials that the project has the backing of the hotels, whose operators have already written letters in support, Bathurst said.
The group is in the process of raising $250,000 to pay for the construction and furnishing of the museum.
Commemorative brick pavers are for sale, with prices ranging from $66 to $566. They will be displayed in the museum’s memorial garden. More information is available at http://litchfieldmuseum.org/brick-pavers.
The museum association plans to launch a larger capital fundraising campaign later this year or early next year and hopes to have the museum open to the public in the spring, Bathurst said.
~Dan Petrella, SJ-R.com