Route 66 tends to evoke images of open, western landscapes like Monument Valley, but the road is also urban. Nowhere is it more so than in downtown Chicago, where the quintessential American corridor begins, or ends, depending on your perspective, at Grant Park. At the intersection of Jackson and Michigan Avenues is the “End Historic Route 66” sign. Many vintage icons from the Route 66 era have been lost, but not Grant Park, the historic road’s official eastern terminus.
Located in close proximity to Lake Michigan, Grant Park is one of the oldest parks in the city and had its beginnings in the 1830s, but the 1893 World Exposition was a catalyst for its historic significance. Chicago spent $27 million hosting the landmark event. Running from May to October of 1893, the fair covered 633 acres and attracted numbers equal to nearly half of the United States population. The fair introduced several firsts, including Cracker Jacks, Aunt Jemima syrup, diet soda, and Pabst beer. It also introduced the idea of making Grant Park a major civic and cultural landmark.