Mill
                  on Route 66
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The Mill Museum on 66
738 S. Washington (Route 66)
Lincoln, IL 62656

Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County

info@savethemill.org

A 501c3 non-profit
tax deductible organization

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History of The Mill on Route 66 in Lincoln, Illinois

Paul Coddington of Lincoln formally opened his restaurant at the corner of Washington St. and Stringer Ave. on June 25, 1929, under the name of the Blue Mill. As a special treat that night, his children dressed in Dutch costumes with wooden shoes and passed out roses to all of the patrons.

The eatery was constructed by local contractors in the shape of a small Dutch windmill with sails on the front. The building had blue trim and the continuously turning sails were decorated with lights. Waitresses, dressed in blue with white aprons, served food on plates from the Illinois China Company that were emblazoned with a “Blue Mill” design.

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One of the opening day specials was fried ham with peanut butter on toast with mayonnaise and head lettuce – three high. Soon, the Blue Mill became known for serving patrons grilled sandwiches at any time of the day or night.

The small shop, which was located on Old Route 66 near the Lincoln Developmental Center, enjoyed much success for several years thereafter.

Heavily reliant on other area businesses, the establishment served meats from Eckert's Market, locally made Marcucci ice cream and soft drinks from the Chero-Cola Bottling Company in Springfield, Ill.

On Sept. 9, 1936, Raymond Hickman purchased the property, His wife, Fern, who had formerly operated a private catering service, took over supervision of the kitchen. Hickman enjoyed squirrel hunting and he liked to share his bounty with his customers. On at least one occasion in the 1930s, he was said to have served a squirrel dinner at The Mill.

In 1945, Blossom Huffman purchased The Mill, unbeknownst to her husband, Albert. He, nevertheless, ended up helping to run the establishment. The Huffmans obtained, at no cost, an old Army barracks from Fort Ellis in Ipava, IL. Fort Ellis served as a detention camp for World War II prisoners of war.

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The Huffmans moved one barracks building to Lincoln and attached it to the back of the original restaurant and painted the entire building barn red. They operated the business as a restaurant, bar and dance hall, with live country bands on weekends.

Albert replaced the sails of the windmill once in 1945, and then had to do the repair job a second time after his handiwork was destroyed by a storm.

During a get-together at the Mill a few years ago, a former truck driver who delivered soda pop for the restaurant recalled Albert Huffman. "He had muscles the size of my head," the man said. "He never had to throw anyone out; he just showed them to the door."

Colorful customers at the Mill included Coonhound Johnny, a local bootlegger, and the notorious Chicago mobster Al Capone and many of his cohorts.

In the 1950s and '60s, Lincoln was plagued with illegal gambling activities centering on pinball machines, and The Mill was implicated in the illegal activities. 

One of the restaurant's claims to fame was its fried schnitzel, originally made of veal and later of pork. Louise “Mom” Rofschansky brought the original viener schnitzel recipe with her from Austria. The cook introduced the sandwich to Blossom, who Americanized it and made it a Mill specialty.

Blossom passed the recipe – and the restaurant – on to her son George and his wife, Eleanor. Next in line were George and Eleanor's son and daughter-in-law, Randy and Teresa. Blossom's great-grandson, Brian, and his wife, Cheri, use the same schnitzel recipe today at Hallie's restaurant in downtown Lincoln.

Along with the schnitzel, Blossom developed a tangy sauce that the restaurant used on the sandwiches and sold in jars for take-out. 

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By the mid-1980s the Mill had lost most of the Dutch-themed interior and along with its food offered a museum of strange objects. A mechanical leg appeared to have just kicked its way through a hole in the ceiling. Additional oddities included four life-sized figures, a suit of armor and a 20-pound stuffed catfish.

There was also a “jack-in-the-box toilet” that made noise when one raised the lid. Albert once explained, "I had to keep changing things so people would come down here and see what the crazy nut was doing now."

The Mill closed in 1996, and stood deteriorating for many years, the subject of increasing neighborhood complaints about unsafe conditions. Ernie Edwards, owner of the famous Pig Hip restaurant on Route 66 in Broadwell, pleaded for the building to be saved for use as a museum, especially after his own Pig Hip Museum burned.

In 2005, The Mill was sold for taxes, but the new owner could not afford to demolish it due costly commercial demolition regulations. A year later, then Logan County Tourism Director Geoff Ladd stepped up to work with Edwards and other supporters in an effort to save the building.

In 2006, The Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County was created to promote and preserve Route 66 sites in Logan County. Working with the owner and city council members, the organization managed to save the building from the wrecking ball and gain title to the property.

Using the property as collateral, Regions Bank in Lincoln advanced a $20,000 loan, which was used to pay for the abatement and demolition of two later additions on the side and back of the building. These sections were not in salvageable condition.

This left a large, cellar-sized pit on the north side of the building, where the restaurant kitchen once stood. For two years, Contractors Ready Mix brought their leftover dry materials to The Mill and dumped them in the pit. Finally, the filled pit was topped with concrete.

An early fundraiser was the Route 66 Garage Sale, co-sponsored by the foundation and the local tourism bureau, and spearheaded by Bruce Huskins. At its peak, the sale covered 37 miles of Route 66 in Logan County and included approximately 100 vendors. An estimated 20,000 people visited the various locations in 2009.

The sale continues but due to a lack of volunteers has been taken over by another organization. An outgrowth of this activity has been the establishment of a flea market, which is held during the warmer months inside the Mill.

This year, flea markets have been scheduled for the second Saturday of the month, April through October. Fees from the rental space go to the Route 66 Heritage Foundation to continue renovation of the building.

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An annual classic car cruise-in, held in conjunction with the Railsplitter Antique Auto Club with food, a dance and tours of the building started about 2006. The annual fundraiser has continued every year since that time and has included everything from reminiscences to paranormal investigations.

In July, 2007, local philanthropist Larry Van Bibber donated $15,000, which was used toward repair of the building's foundation.

The site was listed by Landmarks Illinois on their 2008 endangered attractions list, and has been frequently mentioned in print and internet articles.

The new flooring was installed by construction-savvy board members in 2008. The expense was covered by a $10,000 cost share grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, which was announced in August of that year. The funds also helped cover the cost of the foundation repair.

On March 22, 2008, the foundation secured a $12,000 grant from the Danner Trust, which works to encourage and aid preservation and restoration of historical locations. That money was used to replace 40+ windows in the building.

A Route 66 Roadside Attraction Sign was added to the site on April 26, 2008.

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Preservationists from the Route 66 Association of Illinois used one of the decaying sails as a pattern to construct new sails, which were installed in August 2008. The sail used for the pattern was given to the Illinois Route 66 Museum, the official museum of the Mother Road, in Pontiac. The Route 66 Preservation Committee, chaired by John Weiss, held several volunteer work days at The Mill.  Route 66 icon Ernie Edwards cheered us on and volunteers included the famous Route 66 artist, Bob Waldmire.

The Mill was inducted into the Route 66 Association of Illinois' Hall of Fame on June 13, 2009.

Other donors and supporters through the years have included the City of Lincoln, County of Logan, Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, Lincoln Rotary, Eaton Corporation and a number of anonymous donors, members and local businesses. A wall of the future museum will be dedicated to those who have volunteered and donated funds and issued grants over the years.

Eventually we hope to have a portion of the upstairs that will contain a small military museum, filled with items on loan from the Heritage in Flight Museum in Lincoln. The downstairs portion will offer souvenirs and tourist information, as well as a chance to view local Route 66 memorabilia, including many surviving items from the Pig Hip restaurant and museum.

In 2013, an anonymous donor paid for the creation of “Made in the USA” T-shirts emblazoned with the Mill on 66 logo. The shirts have been sold at special events as well as through the foundation's website.

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©2006, 2017 Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County. No funds were used for this development of this website and social media sites. Created By Geoff Ladd.