Route 66 in the News
Recognizing Wayside Park History
SHERMAN, Ill. - Donna Catlin remembers as a young girl greeting people from all over the world at Sherman’s wayside park along Route 66.
Today, mostly commuters fly by on Business 55 without realizing the significance of the defunct stretch of asphalt lined by a wedge of grass at the north end of the village.
“We’d take our sandwich lunches, sit and watch the world go by,” recalls Catlin of Sherman’s wayside park — one of the few remaining on Route 66’s stretch from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif.
“People would stop and rest. I remember talking to them. No one was ever worried about us kids talking to strangers. There’d be people from all over stop there.
“Now, lots of people don’t even know that’s a part of old 66.”
That bit of history, however, won’t be lost thanks to grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s federal highway funds and the Illinois Office of Tourism to build an interpretive statue on the site.
The grant funds — totaling $15,264.66 — will pay for a life-size statue of a picnicking family and a story board explaining the role wayside parks served.
Bill Kelly, director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, said Sherman was one of nine communities in Illinois to receive funding to commemorate life on the Mother Road.
Kelly said his office will begin to work with community leaders this month on the details of the display. The statue should be ready for installation in the spring of 2014.
The Sherman wayside park pays homage to road trips before interstate rest stops, fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.
“A picnic basket, a ham sandwich by the side of the road,” Kelly said. “Sherman was primarily a wayside stop and it’s well preserved because it’s been out of commission so long.
“It’s one of the few (Route 66 wayside parks) left in Illinois and definitely one of the best. That’s why Sherman was chosen to commemorate this type of stop.”
The stretch of road along Sherman’s wayside park — known to locals simply as “the park” — is part of Route 66’s original 1926 alignment.
The property, now owned by the village, has sat untouched since the stretch was decommissioned. But talks had begun recently to develop the property that sits just east of the new County Market and Walgreens.
Village administrator John Swinford said the village had been considering ways to develop the park since 2009. One option, he said, was using it as the starting point for a Sherman-Williamsville bike trail.
~Natalie Morris, SJ-R.com