By Jackie Glosniak
The Berwyn Route 66 Museum, located at 7003 Ogden Ave., is Berwyn’s very own museum dedicated to preserving the history of the town for the young to learn and the old to reminisce. The museum, which started in 1994 at the former Skylite Restaurant in a few display cases, grew to become its own location in January of 2011. Since then, the museum has dedicated itself towards many Berwyn preservation projects, many of which are done in collaboration with the Berwyn Arts Council. The most notable of recent projects includes the “Save the Spindle” initiative.
“When Cermak Plaza was going to take the Spindle down, the arts council was the first to jump on and try and save it,” said Jon Fey, Executive Director of the museum.
Back in 1989, the Spindle was constructed by contemporary artist Dustin Shuler and put on display at Cermak Plaza, a popular shopping venue located at the intersection of Harlem Ave. and Cermak Rd. The sculpture featured a 50 foot tall spike with eight vintage cars impaled on top of one another. The plaza also featured many other of Shuler’s unique art projects, most of which featured automobiles and were made out of recycled items.
The Spindle was the subject of controversy over the years. There were many safety concerns and some viewed it as aesthetically unpleasing. The Spindle was famous for its cameo appearance in the film Wayne’s World, along with being featured on beer commercials and a comic strip.
In 2008, the Spindle was dismantled to make way for the construction of a new Walgreens. The rest of Cermak Plaza was also remodeled, putting the rest of Shuler’s artwork to the curb.
While efforts to keep the Spindle on display at Cermak Plaza washed away, the museum and the arts council were eventually lucky enough to acquire two cars from the Spindle. Efforts are currently being made towards the restoration of the 1967 red Volkswagen Beetle and 1976 BMW Model 2000 to eventually put on display at the museum.
So, why is the Route 66 Museum putting so much effort into saving a pile of cars?
“People would come up to me and tell me their stories about the Spindle,” said Fey. “It was a part of their environment as they grew up. They would tell me how sad they were that it’s not there anymore.”
At Berwyn’s Annual Route 66 Car Show held in September, the Volkswagen was displayed for visitors to see.
“We’re going to bring part of the Spindle back and reignite that feeling of home,” Fey explained.
Along with saving this one part of Berwyn history, the Berwyn Route 66 Museum also features many other local memorabilia from Route 66 and former businesses and landmarks. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Spindle may be gone from Cermak Plaza, but its legacy still lives on in the hearts of many in Berwyn.