Monthly Archives: September 2016

Midwest Roads, U.S.A. – My Photographs.

MIDWEST ROADS: Photographs is an ongoing visual project with updates.


1-Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is 22 miles southwest of downtown Chicago at 645 Joliet Road in Willowbrook, Illinois. It started as a gas station in 1926 by Irv Kolarik on a brand-new Route 66. In 1939 it served its first fried chicken – that was almost 80 years ago.

This one-story brick commercial building was built in 1946 by architect Eugene F. Stoyke next to the gas station and lunch counter. it was a full-service restaurant just in time for the post-World War II travel boom on America’s roads. Dell Rhea’s window bay of nine single-light-glass-and-wood-canted windows is original. the neon-and-metal sign sign in the photograph is original (it was replaced by an exact replica sign in 2017). While a fireplace anchors the north wall, a cocktail lounge to the south was added in 1956 .

In 1962 a new expressway (I-55) took traffic away from old Route 66. The Chicken Basket was bought in 1963 by Chicago businessman Dell Rhea who reinvigorated the eatery for a new era. The popular Chicken Basket is still owned and managed today by the Rhea family where their fresh and tasty fried chicken is cooked to order and is definitely one of the  Midwest’s best!

Text and Photographs by John P. Walsh.


These are some of my photographs featuring the people, places, and things I have met along today’s American Midwest roads. I feel a personal affection for the American Midwest. I grew up in Chicago and its suburbs, and went to grade school, high school and university here. In the Midwest I enjoyed friends, family, diverse outings, engaging jobs, and, later, married and started a family here. I continue to enthusiastically travel this vast region that’s rightly called “The Heart of America.”

Happy memories of the Middle West — its sights, sounds, smells, and tastes — especially in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Iowa — are the mother’s milk of my life. In steamy summers, multi-colored autumns, ice-bitten winters, and flowery springs sojourning the miles on Midwest roads spelled adventure — and still does today.

The American Midwest teems with human stories, diverse and awesome natural beauty, timeless nostalgia, and, when those things aren’t enticing enough,  unexpected curiosities. For those who already love it, the Midwestern terrain possesses what Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) in The Sangamon identified as “magic in that soil, in the plains, the borders of forest, the oak trees on the hills.” The poet was sure that “if you should drive through (this region)…strange dreams would come to you, and moreover those dreams would tally with mine.” The region still offers the sightseer such magical things and more including impressive remnants of an American Indian mound-building culture and encounters with animals and birds, wild and domesticated. Edgar Lee Masters understood that it is the Midwestern people – individualistic, hospitable, industrious, good willed, courageous and independent – who will always bestow to this central part of the country its greatest distinction. It is this populace that today, as in the past, built what is frequently photographed on Midwest roads: its canals, roads, barns and farms, houses, towns and cities. But new things also debut on a 21st-century Midwest road trip such as cellphone towers and wind turbines — and the old things, like barns and farms, disappear at a rapid pace.

Many famous Americans and others cultural figures have traversed the Midwest roads –James Monroe (in 1785), Charles Dickens (1842), John Muir (1849), Henry David Thoreau (1861),  Antonín Dvořák (1893), Winston Churchill (1946)—or, like me, were born and lived here, such as Carl Sandburg, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Edison, Edgar Lee Masters, Walt Disney, Mark Twain, Jane Addams, Harry S Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Barack and Michelle Obama,  Frank Lloyd Wright, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., John Wayne, Wyatt Earp, “Wild Bill” Hickok, Jesse James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Dinah Washington (“Queen of the Blues”), and many, many, many more.

It is Abraham Lincoln whose memory is most famously linked to Midwest Roads. Over the Eighth (Judicial) Circuit riding his horse, “Old Bob,” he loved to travel them as a defense lawyer.  It is to this Midwestern spirit culled from America’s sixteenth president that this photographic essay is dedicated.

1968 Chevrolet Corvair1968 Chevrolet Corvair, DuPage Co., Illinois, August 30, 2018.

Mailboxes, Ozaukee Co., Wisconsin. June 9, 2018.

U.S. Post, Ozaukee Co., Wisconsin. June 9, 2018.

the pick-off july 15 2018
The Pick-Off, July 15, 2018. DuPage County, Illinois.

OUT at Third, July 15, 2018.OUT at Third, July 15, 2018. DuPage County, Illinois.

Asian Garden Woman July 2018
Asian Garden (Woman), July 1, 2018. DuPage County, Illinois.

Asian Garden (Man), July 2018
Asian Garden (Man), July 1, 2018. DuPage County, Illinois.

Harley-Davidson 2018 Milwaukee WI
1932 Model G Servi-Car Side Valve V-Twin, Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee, WI, June 9, 2018. Posted June 25, 2018.

Illinois Farm (Bureau County IL) June 5, 2017.
Illinois Farm (Bureau County IL), June 5, 2017. Posted June 14, 2018.

Crucifix and wind turbine (Bureau County IL), June 5, 2017.
Crucifix and Wind Turbine (Bureau County, IL), June 5, 2017. Posted June 14, 2018.

Tell 'em I'm from Chi-town!
Tell ’em I’m from Chi-town! June 12, 2018.

Lake Wedding Wisconsin June 3 2017Lake Wedding, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, June 3, 2017. Posted June 8, 2018.

working farm 5.31.17 jpwWorking Farm, Wisconsin (Walworth County) – May 31, 2017. Posted May 30, 2018.

Tuesday Taco jpwalsh

Tuesday Taco/Sunday Bloody Mary, July 31, 2017. Northern Illinois. Posted May 21, 2018.

red barns jpwalsh

Red Barns, July 31, 2017. Northern Illinois. Posted May 21, 2018.

Honor Guard, Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home, Dixon, IL - June 5, 2017. FSB finish sharp crop DSC_0744
Honor Guard:Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home, June 5, 2017. Dixon, IL. Posted September 24, 2017.
Midwest Roads.
Wide Load, June 1, 2017. Southern Wisconsin. 
Midwest roads.
Barn: Wood and Stone, June 1, 2017. Southern Wisconsin.
Midwest roads.
Mother & Child, October 9, 2016. Northern Illinois. 
Midwest roads.
Pumpkins, October 9, 2016. Northern Illinois. 
Midwest Roads.
Silo with Barn and Weather Vane, September 18, 2016. Grundy County, IL.
Midwest Roads.
This Old House, September 18, 2016. Northern Illinois.
Midwest roads.
Old Redhead, September 18, 2016. Grundy County, IL. 
Midwest roads.
Built 1911, September 18, 2016. Sandwich, IL. 
Midwest Roads.
Cow Portrait, September 4, 2016. Lasalle County, IL.  
Midwest roads.
Octogenarian, September 4, 2016. Illinois River Valley (near Peoria). 
Midwest Roads.
Barn with Wagon, August 31, 2016. Lasalle County, IL.
Midwest roads.
Waiting for Mom, August 31, 2016. Illinois River valley.
Midwest roads.
Electrified Barns, August 31, 2016. Grundy County, IL.
Midwest roads.
Courthouse Square, August 31, 2016. Ottawa, IL. 
Midwest roads.
Barn, August 31, 2016. Grundy County, IL. 
Midwest roads.
Downtown mural (detail), August 31, 2016. Ottawa, IL. 
Midwest Roads.
Patriotic Barn, August 29, 2016. Northern IL.
Midwest roads.
Blue Barn, April 2, 2016. Oswego, IL.
Midwest roads.
The Lane, March 29, 2016. Schaumburg, IL.



for photograph 1-Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket.; .

INTRODUCTION – Masters quotes from The Sangamon by Edgar Lee Masters with Introduction by Charles E. Burgess, University of Illinois Press, Urbana & Chicago, 1988 (first published 1942), p.6.