• LOCATION 27 | Interstate 55: St. Louis, MO to Springfield, IL

    Church of the Neon Cross and Worden

    Alongside the Interstate to our left is a Route 66 icon, the Church of the Neon Cross. High above the entrance to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is a Blue Neon Cross, placed here in memory of a congregation member’s son who died during WWII. For decades, the glow from this cross assured travelers along Route 66 that they were safe and on the right course.

    When Route 66 was constructed, it was the primary road used by those who settled West, and the Highway provided an economic boom for the many communities it passed through along the way. However, Interstate 55’s construction through Illinois replaced much of Route 66, and in 1985, Route 66 was officially removed from the US Highway system. But the spirit of the Mother Road clearly lives on as it was designated a scenic road in 2005, and many of its attractions can still be seen today.

    Two miles to our left is the village of Worden, located where the water tower rises above the trees. Worden was laid out in 1854 and originally called New Hampton, before being renamed Worden after a resident who was instrumental in getting a railroad to come through the community. A coal mine opened in 1877, and the population of Worden surged. At one point, four coal mines operated in Worden, but the last mine closed in 1942.

    The Interstate’s replacement of Route 66 did not directly impact Worden because Route 66 never went through Worden. However, it did affect many of the communities along our tour.

    At exit 33, we say temporarily goodbye to Route 66 as it leaves our side and heads directly north to the village of Staunton. It will be back along our side in about 20 miles.

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Interstate 55: St. Louis, MO to Springfield, IL