Pontiac, Illinois

A friend who had introduced me to a number of historic locales in central Illinois had told me I needed to stop in Pontiac next time I was nearby, and so on my way home a couple of months ago from a conference in Springfield, I did just that—and was, as always, pleased that I had. Because Pontiac offers a number of delights—not least of which is its position on the historic Route 66.

One of the things for which Pontiac is famous is its glorious murals. There are dozens, all over town, celebrating various aspects of the town’s history.

But the real draw, for most folks, is the Pontiac Museum Complex. This complex includes most notably the Route 66 Museum and Hall of Fame, which is packed with information about every iconic stop along the Illinois section of the Mother Road, along with a considerable amount of memorabilia from Bob Waldmire, an artist most noted for his detailed art capturing the essence of just about every inch of Route 66—but the whole thing, not just the Illinois section.

Equally remarkable is the War Museum, in the same building, and covering every era of conflict from World War I to the present. Hundreds of uniforms fill the many rooms of this section of the complex, representing all those from this area who served in every branch of the military. The volunteers in this museum are themselves veterans, and so they are happy to share their part of the story. In addition to information on service, there is also a section that recreates life on the homefront during the 1940s.

Small but still worthwhile museums within the complex include Music of the Civil War, Life on the Titanic, and more on artist Bob Waldmire. So definitely a worthwhile stop. Allow yourself a couple of hours to see it all—especially if, in addition to exploring the museum complex, you want to use the available map of murals to try to see them all.

The museums are free but, of course, donations are welcome. Volunteers are enthusiastic, but money is needed to keep the lights on.

I didn’t make it to the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum on this trip—but I have to leave something for next time.

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Filed under Culture, History, Midwest, Travel

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