October 28, 2019
Landmarks Illinois President & CEO Bonnie McDonald has been appointed to the Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission, which is dedicated to planning and promoting future events to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the “Mother Road” in 2026.
The Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission was created as part of the Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission Act, signed in to law in 2018 by former Gov. Bruce Rauner. The bill states the commission will be “composed of 20 members who reflect the interests, history and importance of the communities along Route 66 in Illinois.” The centennial will promote the preservation of Route 66 sites statewide and the highway’s unique place in our state’s history. McDonald was selected to serve on the commission by Jim Durkin, minority leader of the Illinois House of Representatives, who was able to appoint two public members.
“It is an honor to serve the people of Illinois by being a part of the planning process to celebrate the impact and the history of this iconic national highway,” said McDonald. “Landmarks Illinois has for years advocated for preserving Route 66 in Illinois and engaging more people in experiencing this iconic American legacy for themselves.”
Route 66 begins Illinois, and the state is home to nearly 300 miles of the 2,400-mile-long highway, which stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. The section of Route 66 in Illinois was designated a National Scenic Byway in 2005. Route 66 attracts thousands of international and domestic tourists a year who marvel at the iconic neon signs, motels, brick roads and other landmarks that recall the beginning of America’s automobile age
LI’s advocacy efforts for Route 66
In 2017, Landmarks Illinois first listed Route 66 on its Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois to bring attention to sites along the highway that were in need of maintenance, investment, and promotion such as the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, which was restored by new owners Tully Garrett and Holly Barker earlier this year. In 2018, Landmarks Illinois included the Nite Spot Café in Fairmont City on its Most Endangered list due to a demolition threat facing the iconic diner with its prominent neon sign. In the years since, Landmarks Illinois has continued to advocate for strategic organizational and legislative partnerships, such as the Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission, to help prevent deterioration or loss of authentic Route 66 landmarks. Our organizational and legislative partners, including the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway and Illinois Representative Tim Butler, have been critical to the success of these efforts.
“Route 66 has served as an economic engine for communities throughout Illinois for nearly a century, bringing people from near and far to explore the unique shops, restaurants, motels and quirky sites that distinguish this road from anyplace else in the world,” said McDonald. “The newly formed commission is an important step forward to bring awareness and investment to one of our most enjoyable historic and commercial assets. Landmarks Illinois stands ready to help preserve and promote the legacy and future of Route 66.”
Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission is set to meet on a quarterly basis. The first meeting date has not been announced at this time.
More about Bonnie McDonald
Bonnie McDonald brings her experience leading history and preservation organizations for nearly 20 years to this appointment. She has worked with the public, elected and appointed officials, nonprofits and Main Street communities during this time to implement policy and programmatic advancements bringing resources to communities large and small that help people save the places that matter to them. McDonald chairs the board of the National Preservation Partners Network, the association for preservation organizations of all levels nationwide. She has a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning, Historic Preservation Planning, from Cornell University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History, summa cum laude, from the University of Minnesota.
(Pictured: Gemini Giant in Wilmington along Route 66)