Nite Spot Café

Quick Stats

  • LOCATION: Collinsville Road and 45th Street, Fairmont City, St. Clair County
  • STATUS: Redevelopment Pending
  • BUILT: 1933
  • SITE TYPE: Restaurant
  • GEOGRPAHY Downstate
  • THREAT AT TIME OF LISTING: The site, vacant and in need of maintenance, faced potential demolition as a nearby library wished to acquire the site to build an expansion.
  • Current Use: Restaurant, pendinG
  • Take Action: Route 66 is currently proposed as a National Historic Trail. Contact your elected officials to voice your support for designation of Route 66.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Historic Significance

In the 1920s, the creation of Route 66 gained immediate popularity as the shortest year-round route between the Midwest and the Southwest. As Americans bought cars and journeyed on the highways after World War II, a unique roadside culture of diners, motels and tourist kitsch became synonymous with Route 66. With the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956, Route 66 could easily be bypassed and the local economies of communities along the historic route suffered. Despite motels closing and neon signs going dark, Route 66’s popularity continued to grow among domestic and international travelers seeking to have a uniquely American experience along the open road.

Now, over 90 years old, the 2,400-mile highway from Chicago to Los Angeles remains an economic force in Illinois tourism despite preservation challenges. Rural economic development resources remain limited and many historic motels and restaurants remain shuttered. Responding to this threat, Landmarks Illinois included Route 66 on its 2017 Most Endangered list.

In 2018, however, one Route 66 icon was in particular danger: The Nite Spot Café. Purchased in 1947 when it was just a one-room building in a junkyard, Adam and Anne Galas renovated the building to turn it into a 24/7 restaurant for tourists and truckers traveling on Route 66. The restaurant did more than serve food: it also sold various personal care items and household goods. Additionally, around Christmas, truckers could place orders through The Nite Spot for holiday gifts, which they would then pick up on their way home.

The prominent neon sign in front of the restaurant was added in the 1960s after the interstate was built adjacent to Route 66. It was meant to grab the attention of those traveling on the new bypass and has been a Route 66 icon ever since.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Threat at Time of Listing - 2018

Owner Anne Galas was able to keep the restaurant open following the death of her husband in 1978, but was forced to close in 1984 when her own health began to deteriorate. The restaurant has been closed since, but recently the next two generations of Galas family members have worked toward the goal of reopening the building as a Route 66 destination. In addition, they are pursuing listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Despite the building’s potential as a Route 66 landmark, Fairmont City officials moved to condemn and demolish the building by 2018. The Galas family documented their plans to move forward with structural repairs to the foundation and exterior wall, but faced a court appearance. While city officials had not stated their intentions for the site, the Nite Spot Café is adjacent to the Bank of Edwardsville and Fairmont City Library Center, which was looking to expand. To assist the Galas family in their mission to keep this Route 66 Landmark standing for future travelers, Landmarks Illinois included the Nite Spot Café in its 2018 Most Endangered list.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Preservation Efforts

Since the listing, Landmarks Illinois has secured a pro-bono conditions assessment by board member Joshua Freedland of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates. The Galas family is using this report to proceed with necessary repairs and is optimistic that village officials will be forced to drop their demolition order as a result. Landmarks Illinois continues to support the fight to save this Route 66 icon.

After the Most Endangered listing in 2018, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included Route 66 on America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places and added it to its portfolio of National Treasures. Both LI and the National Trust have called for the designation of Route 66 as a National Historic Trail, which would provide a permanent designation for the roadway. To promote these efforts, Landmarks Illinois staff participated in the National Trust’s summer 2018 road trip along Route 66 and continues to advocate for further protections of America’s “Mother Road.”

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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