Museum of the Gilding Arts, Pontiac IL

The Museum of Gilding arts in Pontiac Illinois is a very high quality museum dedicated to Gilding (applying thinly beaten gold to things). Located just off Route 66, It’s located in an abandoned storefront in the city center. The Town of Pontiac, in an attempt to draw tourism offers these locations free to any small high quality museums that are willing to locate their collections here.


I’ll admit a bias, a very old friend of mine helped set this museum up. And when I say old I mean we’ve known each other pretty much our whole lives. When my dad was graduate student he did consulting work for her dad, our families went to the same synagogue, and then in high school we ended up hanging in the same click (I was a Freshman and the rest of them were Juniors. Growing up my friends were almost alway older than I was, and I didn’t tend to fit with kids my own age.)


The Docent walked me through the whole collection. She was very nice and helpful and probably could have kept talking … but I was on a schedule. First she showed me a very thin sheet of pounded gold, pounded so thin that you could the light through it… and then a box full of sheets of the stuff, where you can turn the box and see thing and light it is. I told her that in fact I’ve spent a lot time in Japan, where gilding is still a very active art, and knew all of this already. (In Japan I have eaten cakes topped with gild — very thin gold — and some where in all my boxes I have a little canister of the stuff should I ever want to put gold on a cake.)


According to the docent, … The Smithsonian wanted the collection that’s on display in Pontiac…. but they only wanted it for a temporary exhibit and the people who owned it — a family that had owned a now closed gilding company on the east coast — wanted a permanent space.

A recreation of gilding workshop

Then guilders who live in Pontiac, (hobbyists, there was never a gilding industry here) heard about this and connected the owners with city, like I said before, the town for all intents and purposes gave them that location to put their exhibit into. There’s no real connection between Pontiac and gilding otherwise


As I’m writing this, I googled the name in this board and found this, W H Coe Mfg Co Inc, Gold Leaf Manufacturer in 10 Love Ln, Hartford, Connecticut 06112. — but I couldn’t find more which makes me think the company really has gone out of business .


There is also a small gift shop selling goods that I assume are made by the local gilders who helped bring the collection to Pontiac. I bought Chai Magnet, and gave it as a gift to my friend whose home I was going to be staying at as soon as I got back to Chicago.


Rout 66: the “Meramec Caverns” Barn Pontiac, IL

Located just North of Pontiac Illinois is an iconic route 66 Barn that advertises the Meramec Caverns, which are located in Sullivan, MO a good four hours (265 miles) away. When ever you see this iconic image in photos you get the impression that it’s much bigger and MUCH MUCH MUCH closer to route 66 than it actually is.


If anything the fact that this advertisement, located on the side of a barn is THIS far way from the attraction it advertises kind of tells you just what a tourist trap it is.


But seriously they couldn’t have put in the gravel path at least… I walked out a few steps but was worried about picking up a tick with lime disease along the path, and stopped


Finding the place wasn’t that easy either…. One questions if Route 66 didn’t use to run a bit closer to the barn because you can just barely see that thing from the road, and the you’re seeing in the picture isn’t even it… that’s a turn off from Route 66 which was only marked by this tiny little sign….


Standard Oil Gas Station, Odell Illinois

This Standard Oil Station is YET ANOTHER restored gas station photo-op that is used for nothing more creative than a gift store selling for the most part route 66 stuff. It’s located on Route 66 in Odell Illinois  … at some point I have to count up just how many of these things I’ve seen over the last month and a half… but let’s just say I’ve seen my fill (joke intended)


I looked this up and according to a 2004 estimate by the Environmental Protection Agency there are somewhere just shy of 200,000 abandoned gas stations in the USA. I even found a web page from the National Park Service explaining to local towns what they need to do to convert theirs into a historic attraction. Along this route I’ve only seen ONE that sold stuff worth buying.

fullsizeoutput_4d8fNOT only was most of the stuff they were selling utter junk, but it was EXPENSIVE junkIMG_2631

$10 for the fake license plate (I’ve seen it selling elsewhere for half that) and $35 for a rock engraved to say Illinois Route 66. I mean seriously? That and… and I am not overstating things when I say this… the woman inside the building, at BEST, grunted at me a few times. I kind of got the feeling  that she doesn’t really like her job.


No hello, no smile, no “do you have any questions?” None of that… just a couple of grunts.


Historic Ambler’s Route 66 Texaco Gas Station, Dwight, IL

Dwight Illinois, which has a population 4,260… i.e., is smaller than the public high school I attended in the northern suburbs of Chicago, and as such is one of those small Illinois towns that when you’re planning your 66 trip you’re going to think you can pretty much drive through after a five-minute stop to take a few photos and stretch your legs … only you really shouldn’t… as I frustratingly learned.


I HAD known about the historic Ambler Texaco station, but assumed it would be more like the myriad of other gas historic gas stations I’d passed along Route 66, 90% of which are worth about a five-minute stop at best. I was wrong.

IMG_0198.JPGWhen I got there, pulled over when I saw the state of Illinois Route 66 signage (I do LOVE these things and wish the other states along the route did the same), and discovered that the station was far more of a museum than just a “renovated”but just-for-display gas station, like MYRIAD of the others that I’ve seen along the route. To be honest by this point I’d seen so many preserved gas stations that I was beginning to get bored with themIMG_0202.JPGThis one, unlike  an active and friendly docent who would have happily spent an hour telling me the history of her town, if I’d had the time, and insisted on taking my photo multiple times


and in addition I discovered that there’s a bunch of things that I would have wanted to see in Dwight, had I known about them in advance…  that I simply did not have time to stop and look at.


Which is a shame because among those things that I now didn’t have time to stop to see, was a 1905 Frank Loyd Wright designed bank, which I would really have liked to see …. SIGH… a gothic church built in 1857 that the future King Edward VII had visited looked interesting (and I was VERY VERY VERY amused to see that the sign, which you know has got to have involved more than a few tax payer dollars, said Edward the IV instead of VII — since Edward the IV had died in 1483)… not to mention Dwight historical society in their 1891 train station, or original Keeley Institute which peddled the first cure for alcoholism, which according to this second sign below, included a very interesting looking windmill I would have looked to see.


Will have to come back some other time