Road Trips

Classic motels on the National Road/US 40 in central Illinois

I’ve written about the National Road in Illinois many times before. But as I deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois from there to here. This is the last of them. This is based on recent research and a visit in 2007.

As we entered Effingham, we missed a sign telling us to fork right to stay on the National Road. As we looked for a place to turn around, we came upon this old motel on US 40.

Effingham Motel

This motel is on current US 40. This might also be the National Road as well, despite the earlier sign directing drivers along a different path. I covered the two possible National Road alignments in Effingham in an earlier post; click here to read it.

The motel was a going concern. Apparently, the half-ton truck convention was staying here. Or perhaps the motel was next to the Dodge dealership. I can’t remember which.

Effingham Motel

Twelve miles past Effingham is Altamont. We didn’t plan to stop here, but we found an old motel still operating on the corner of Cumberland Rd. and Main St.

Altamont Motel

We parked in front of a Laundromat next door and started taking pictures. An Indian fellow came out with his young son, quite concerned, wondering why we were taking pictures of his motel. He was relieved to learn we were just tourists exploring the National Road. He told us that the motel was built in 1959, and that he never turned on the lights on the Inn sign. He gave us permission to take all the photos we wanted.

The limestone hotel looked well cared for.

Altamont Motel

The motel sign said, “American Owned.” The Indian fellow must have become a citizen to be able to claim that.

Altamont Motel

So many of these older motels become run down and dirty, but this one gets pretty good reviews online.

Altamont Motel

When we returned to my car, I discovered that I was blocking the parking spaces for the Laundromat, which I thought was closed. Two cars had managed to get around my car and park. As we approached my car, a couple came out wondering why we were taking pictures. They were disappointed to learn we were just National Road tourists out exploring. They had hoped we were investors looking for property to buy in their small town. The young man lamented how many businesses had closed in recent years and hoped someone would buy and reopen the convenience store that sat across from the motel.

About six miles later we came upon tiny St. Elmo. We passed through it as quickly as we entered it, but not without noticing its old homes. Just west of town we came upon two old motels, both in limestone, one operating and one decaying. The hotel on the north side of the road, of limestone and trimmed in turquoise, appeared to be half occupied that day.

Motel property

The owners had added a pool, but placed it out front. I can’t imagine swimming in view of a highway.

Motel property

Everything looked neat and clean.

Motel property

A little side building that looked like a diner had a sign on it saying that it would soon reopen as a restaurant.

Motel property

The motel across the street did not get this kid of attention. It looked abandoned.

Derelict motel

Past St. Elmo we soon came upon a confluence of old roads, where the National Road, US 40, and I-70 all meet. I wrote about it here.

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Road Trips

The Green Lantern on the National Road/US 40 in Illinois

I’ve written about the National Road in Illinois many times before. But as I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois from there to here. This is one of them. This is based on recent research and a visit in 2007.

As we came near to Effingham we could see a tall neon sign in the distance. As we got closer, we could see that it was grand.

Green Lantern

Sadly, the building behind this sign had burned about a month earlier, on the night of June 5. It had stood since 1938, first as a bar, then as a fine dining establishment, and most recently as a roadhouse of sorts. For many years, it was the only place on US 40 for several states that was open Sunday nights, when it drew crowds from a hundred miles away.

Green Lantern

The owner pledged to rebuild, but it never happened. In 2014, the site was sold to someone who maintains it as an investment. I looked the site up on Google Maps (it’s here). The last time a Google Street View car drove by, which was in 2019, someone was selling yard sheds on this lot.

I hope this great sign was saved!

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Road Trips

Are there two alignments of the National Road in Effingham, Illinois?

We drove right on through Effingham on our May trek across Illinois on the National Road. We had lingered in Clark and Cumberland Counties, and I really wanted to get to the end of the National Road in Vandalia before we ran out of daylight.

But I did explore the National Road through Effingham in 2007, and am sharing photos from that visit here. The road runs alongside a railroad track as it enters town. The signed National Road alignment forks away just as you enter town. US 40 veers away from the tracks shortly thereafter on its way to downtown.

National Road exit right

The signs have you follow Jefferson St. to Third St., where you turn left and then shortly right again onto US 40. Jefferson St. runs through a residential area.

Effingham National Road

As I look at a map of Effingham, I wonder whether the National Road originally hugged the railroad tracks all the way through town. A road signed National Ave., a common name for old National Road aligmnents, parallels the tracks in several discontinuous segments. See the map below; click it to see it larger. The signed National Road alignment is highlighted green to where it merges with current US 40. The suspected alignment is highlighted in blue.

EffinghamNR
Imagery and map data © 2014 Google.

Isn’t it interesting how US 40 enters and exits Effingham along the tracks, and there are bits and pieces of National Ave. along the tracks through town? One section of National Ave. is closed to through traffic and appears to be used as an access road for an industrial area.

Quasi-abandoned National Road

I walked past the barrier for a look.

Quasi-abandoned National Road

This street sign suggests that perhaps this road was once through.

Quasi-abandoned National Road

A bit further west, where the road is open to traffic, it passes underneath US 45.

Suspected old NR alignment

I wonder if any records exist to prove or disprove my theory.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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