|J.K. Harrison's Pub & Grill
History & Old 66 Found at Riviera
This was the RIVIERA Restaurant and Tavern, located on Rt. 53 (Old Route 66)
60 miles south of Chicago in southern Grundy County. The Riviera reopened in
2009 after being closed nearly a year. The Riviera burned to the ground on June
The restaurant was located between the Villages of Gardner and Braceville, each a
mile distant. The beautiful Mazon River flows just alongside. The new Mazonia
Lakes State Recreation area is across the river. Mazonia is named after the rail
junction on the nearby Southern Pacific Railroad.
It was during the Great Depression in the year 1928 that the RIVIERA came into
being. South Wilmington, a nearby coal mining community was suffering
economic woes, and many men were unemployed. James Girot, a South
Wilmington business man decided to build the Riviera and put many to work. He
moved buildings from Gardner and South Wilmington and put them together to
form the Riviera as it stood.
The upper floor housed the restaurant, the lower portion of the building was the
tavern. This bar room was unique. It reminded one of entering a cave. Stalactites
hanging from the ceiling and the lighting added much to the effect.
The menu for the RIVIERA was: Home Made Italian Food; also Chicken, Steak
and Sea Food. In 1933 Mr. Girot added a gasoline station to the establishment.
But that was closed many years ago. Bob and Peggy Kraft acquired the RIVIERA
from the Girot family in 1972 and retired January 1, 2009. It was then purchased
by Bob Kelly and it reopened later in 2009.
Among the famous customers of the RIVIERA were such names as former
Governors of Illinois, Horner, Green, Stevenson, Stratton, and United States
Senator Irv Dirksen always made time to stop when he was in the area. Movie
greats such as Tom Mix, the western star and Gene Kelly, the dancer and actor,
Al Capone and his brother, Ralph, often came in. They had an interest in alcohol
stills in nearby Kankakee county.
During Prohibition, a section of land just east of Gardner was known as the "Hole
in the Wall". Along the east side was a cement post that, at one time, was part of
a farm gate. In the post was a hole. For those who desired the alcohol, "White
Lightning", they had to put $1.00 in the hole, place their empty jug on the ground,
drive around the section and return. When they arrived back at the post, the
money would be gone but their jug would be filled to the top.
Sadly, the Riviera burned to the ground on Tuesday, June 8, 2010.
Village of Braceville
What is it about Braceville?
Is it a small town atmosphere? The people that have lived here for generations? The lower taxes? The high water table? There are
so many answers to that question, and every person you ask, whether they have lived here for generations or not, may have a
different response to that question.
Like every other town, county, or state, Braceville is a place defined by it's history. But it is also defined the the residents. The
people are who make Braceville what it is today. Some have lived here their entire lives, their families going back generations.
Some are the start of a new generation in Braceville, others may be just passing through. Regardless of how long you have lived
here, or your age, the people of Braceville are what make this small community so unique. Not everyone knows each other, not
everyone agrees with each other; but most people have a common bond; that is, they live in Braceville! Braceville residents are able
to walk down the street and smile and wave to passing cars, knowing that you will receive a smile and wave back regardless of
who it is. That's what makes this quaint community of Braceville so special.
|A total loss — The Mother Road has lost
an 80-year old icon, the last roadhouse on
Route 66 in Illinois, the Riviera Restaurant
in Braceville burned to the ground Tuesday
night, June 8, 2010
Photos by Free Press Advocate
History of Braceville
The Village of Braceville was once a thriving city with 3500 residents at it's height in the 1870's. By the late 1880's the
town sported six general merchandise stores, two banks, a hotel, two restaurants, and 18 other retail businesses. At this
time, the Village also included an opera house and large frame school. In the summer of 1910, the miners of Braceville
Coal Company went on strike, and the company decided to close it's doors permanently. Today, Braceville still supports
approximately 800 residents and is home to the Mazonia Fish & Wildlife and still hosts historic businesses like J.K.
Harrison's, formerly the Old Pine Lounge.
|Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area
consists of 1017 acres, and is located in
Grundy County 1/2 mile south of Braceville
on Illinois Route 53 (Old Route 66) and
Huston Road. The area contains more than
200 water impoundments ranging from 3/4
acre to 30 acres. The water area currently
contains largemouth bass, smallmouth
bass, bluegill, green sunfish, crappie,
channel catfish, and bullhead. Wildlife
habitat can be found on the site int he 700
acres of grassland, burshy draws and
lmiited woodland cover.
|The 2013 Red Carpet Corridor Festival
May 4 & 5, 2013
Saturday & Sunday: Visit Braceville on your way down the Corridor to see the
history of Braceville and stockup on some wonderful baked goods prepared by the
Church, maybe enjoy them on your scenic drive through Mazonia State Park. Join
us for the Scavenger Hunt from Elwood to Braceville by clue or geocache.
Geocache coordinates at www.geocaching.com. Clues for Braceville located at
Braceville Village Office.
For information, call: 815-237-8655