Where Did The Mother Road Actually Begin in Chicago?

In Chicago, The Begin Historic US 66 sign is located at Adams St at Michigan Ave for westbound travelers. But the road actually never started there. The sign on the south side of the street is often used for travelers to place stickers signifying the beginning, or end of their journey along the former Route 66.

Image: Rex McManamy via RoadsideThoughs

Of course, Route 66 has a long and complicated history through its 2400 mile trek from Chicago to Los Angeles, and in most places cannot be considered one linear road, especially in major cities. 

Jackson Blvd at Michigan Ave was the original starting point of the route, however it was extended east as Jackson was extended to Lake Shore Dr. Unfortunately, my favorite map of the Mother Road's many alignments has since gone offline. This Map of 66 will have to do. Anything is better than Route 66 Navigation app, however.

Now the question you're all here for, where did Route 66 begin in Chicago? It's actually a pretty easy answer, and the reason the "Begin Route 66" Sign is located on Adams St is simply because it is now a one-way westbound street.

Interestingly, only IL-64 and US-41 exist within downtown Chicago today among these routes. Chicago Tribune Map, 1934. Via (Chicago History)

Jackson Blvd became a one-way for eastbound traffic in 1955 west of Michigan Ave, making Adams St westbound US 66, but 66 still started on Jackson Dr east of Michigan, requiring drivers to drive a block north on Michigan to continue the westward trip. 

Adams Street could not be extended east, unless Chicago city planners and the Art Institute of Chicago wished to have automobile traffic running through the museum to those viewing A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. If nothing else, that scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off would have been a lot different.

Looking eastbound toward Lake Shore Drive and the former ends of US-34/66. It's a real shame this sign wasn't much nicer, and actually featured US Shields...

So in short, the actual end of Route 66 was at Lake Shore Drive, but westbound commuters couldn't start there without doing some really reckless driving today.

Thanks as always for reading!


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