On Saturday June 13, two new businesses were inducted into our Association’s Hall of Fame.
The Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame recognizes “those people and places along Route 66 whose blend of hardy individualism and grassroots community spirit gave the road such special character.”
To qualify for election to the Hall of Fame, nominees must have made significant contributions to the character or history of the Illinois portion of Route 66 from 1926 to 1977 while it was an official United States highway in the State of Illinois.
Steve's Café, Chenoa, IL
(Adapted from Carolyn Parry’s nomination)
Steve’s Café was a famous landmark on old Route 66. It was known for, “The Finest Steaks
Between Chicago and St. Louis.” Steve’s Café started out as a garage, gas station and
lunchroom built in 1924 by Tom and Charles Elliott. The building was purchased in
1925 by Paul Lanterman and the lunchroom was operated by his wife, Ada. There was
counter seating for nine and a table which seated four customers. A superheterodyne
radio set was installed in the garage portion of the building and a sizeable crowd of
Chenoans would gather each evening to listen to whatever program was being received.
In 1926, State Route 4 was officially designated U.S. Route 55. In the 1930s, Elmer
and Orville Wahls purchased the property from the Lantermans, who moved across
the street, and added to their existing gasoline and oil business. Then the property was
purchased again and the new owners added 50 feet to the east of the existing dining room to accommodate the growing number of patrons.
The Café was one of the first to have air conditioning outside the Chicago area. The first
air conditioning equipment, made by Williams Oil-O-Matic Ice Cold Air, was installed in
the restaurant and a large sign was put up on the roof. Every time a new model was intro-
duced by Williams, it was brought to Chenoa to replace the older model and to test it as
new equipment. On hot days it was not unusual to see people lined up between the
front door and the counter, trying to keep cool.