The National Road in Illinois
Altamont and St. Elmo
West of Effingham, two-lane US 40 felt wider and more substantial than before. Since I theorized that two-lane US 40 had been half of a freeway before, I decided that the freeway ended its westbound journey at Effingham. I decided we were driving on a road that was meant to be one lane each way.
Twelve miles later, we entered 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.
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.
The motel sign said, "American Owned." The Indian fellow must have become a citizen to be able to claim that.
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.
The owners had added a pool, but placed it out front. I can't imagine swimming in view of a highway.
Everything looked neat and clean from the outside. A little side building that looked like a diner had a sign on it saying that it would soon reopen as a restaurant.
The motel across the street did not get this kid of attention. It looked abandoned.
We passed through Brownstown about six miles later without seeing anything photo-worthy. But shortly outside Brownstown, where we crossed paths with I-70, we found US 40 snaked to create a clean interchange, and old US 40 left behind.
After US 40 curved to the south, we turned right onto the connector road and then right again to see Old US 40 point directly at the oncoming cars as they curved south.
Looking westbound, an unusual step was taken: A frontage road was built on a different alignment from the National Road, and the National Road was deleted for a short distance. Straight ahead, semis were parked on the National Road. Both the frontage road and the National Road dead end at I-70. The frontage road was probably built to provide more direct access to homes back there. This cement segment looks to be pretty old, since expansion strips are visible on either side.
We drove around to the other side and saw where this road came out from I-70. This road looks different from the road on the other side somehow. It seems wider, yet the expansion strips appear to be missing.
Here's the westbound end of old US 40 on the west side of I-70, where US 40 curves to meet the old alignment.
On to Vandalia!
Created 22 July 2007.