Gardner, Illinois: home of the two cell Jail and the Riviera Restaurant

Driving along route 66 there are “designated stops” and if you want to really do it (66 I mean) you sort of have to stop at them, even if when you do you find yourself going… “OK then, this is it.” These two “attractions” in Gardner Illinois pretty much fall into that category.


The first of these is the a jail with only two cells in it. Built in 1906 the community has recently renovated it and turned it into a tourist attraction. No one was in there providing information,


There was however a recorded message you could listen to. Adjacent to this was a monument/replica of a historically important but recently destroyed by fire (2010) diner that had existed on route 66 in Gardner. Built in 1928, in what had originally been a horse-drawn-streetcar, and then expanded from that into a larger adjoining building


the Riviera Restaurant was a reputed favorite hangout for Al Capone because during prohibition it secretly offered gambling and a drink.

I found this video on YouTube taken of the fire department trying to save the structure as it burnt to the ground. The original location was NOT next to the jail cell but rather a little bit outside of town — a more secluded location — along route 66

This sign stands at the restaurants original location

That said…. Gardner has put up at this location an information board about one of its most famous former citizens, a native of Norway, the Reverend Christian Christiansen. Born in 1859, the reverend first came to the area between 1897-1907, moved to Wisconsin for 20 years, but then returned for his retirement. In 1942, when he was 83, he read an article in the Chicago Tribune about how the Nazis were trying to develop an atom bomb and had built a heavy water plant that the Allies couldn’t destroy because of the protection of a mountain shelf, and battleships couldn’t navigate the fiords. As he read the article he realized it was the area he had grown up in, and contacted the military with the information they needed to attack the plant.