'Good Roads' movement to be discussed at Sycamore History Museum

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 1:06 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 1:07 a.m. CDT

The highways systems in Illinois are only 100 years old and were born as the result of fierce debates and an incessant clamor for “Good Roads.”

From the 1890s until World War I, there is a fascinating combination of stories about road-building, named highways and the “Good Roads” movement. Join the Sycamore History Museum on March 28 to hear Larry McClellan discuss this part of local, regional and national history.

Before interstates and federal highways were distinguished by numbers – Route 30 or I-55, for instance – these roads were christened with colorful names. The Lincoln, Dixie and Mississippi Valley highways, and the Alton Way, Swastika Trail and Corn Belt Route all were memorable roads that carried people across the state. From 1913 on, these were among the 51 named highways developed in Illinois. Hear about the creation of these named highways and the eventual numbering systems for our roads.

McClellan helped create Governors State University and served many years as professor of sociology and community studies and held a variety of administrative positions. In the mid-70s, he was mayor of University Park (then Park Forest South). He was selected by the Illinois Humanities Council for 2013-14 as an Illinois “Roads Scholar” lecturer on the history of Illinois highways.

In retirement, his consulting, research and writing focus on historic highways, the Underground Railroad in Illinois, and on regional history south of Chicago.

This program will take place at 7 p.m. at the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 475 DeKalb Ave. in Sycamore. There will be a charge of $5 a person.

For information, call 815-895-5762 or email

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