LINCOLN — Two iconic Route 66 locations are closer to reopening in redefined roles, thanks to recently secured grants.
The Mill, a former Lincoln restaurant closed since 1996, is expected to open as a museum next spring, while Sprague’s Super Service gas station in Normal is set to be turned into a visitors center, and could be open this fall.
Both plans are now possible because of grants from The National Park Service, Route 66 Corridor Preservation program, said Bill Kelly, executive director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway.
“These are two iconic properties that have not been restored to a proper level of care that is really going to allow the traveling public to stop and fully enjoy them,” he said. “This is going to take care of that issue.”
Sprague’s was originally built in about 1930 by William Sprague at 305 Pine St. in Normal and was a combination cafe, filling station and service station. Earlier this year, the town of Normal acquired the property.
The $31,398 grant will help repair and stabilize the exterior stucco and masonry and rehabilitate the last of the windows.
“This is wonderful news,” said Route 66 enthusiast Terri Ryburn, who is restoring Sprague’s and transforming it into the visitors center. “We are really working to get open sometime this fall, but the rain has really slowed us down. But we still are going to put a lot of effort in and try to get it done.”
Project eligibility criteria require a minimum 50 percent cost-share match by the applicant.
After closing in 1996, The Mill at 738 S. Washington in Lincoln, deteriorated over several years, said the secretary of the restoration committee, Geoff Ladd. In 2006, the Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County was created to promote and preserve The Mill and other Route 66 sites in the county.
The $22,720 grant will provide accessibility to the building, including an entrance and bathroom, he said.
“We have also received recent $2,500 donations from Apex Clean Energy, the owners of the Sugar Creek Wind Farm project and from Illico Incorporated, a gas station and farm supplier, which also operates convenience stores, based in Lincoln.
“All of this will allow us to finish the interior work at The Mill,” he said. “One project that was required was to bring the restrooms into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and now, we are able to do that.”
Ladd said The Mill is a prime example of early American roadside architecture and is one of the few buildings from the era still standing. The restaurant was first opened in the shape of a small Dutch windmill with sails on the front in 1929 under the name of The Blue Mill.
The projects were two of eight that were awarded by the National Park Service, which provides grant assistance for eligible historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative and educational projects.