Historic Route 66 is about to get a new rock 'n' roll museum and Joliet, Ill., Local 176 members helped make it happen.
| Joliet, Ill., Local 176 members are powering a new rock ‘n’ roll museum at the start of historic Route 66 to honor the state’s musical contributions.
“Working on the museum was unique, challenging and rewarding," said Local 176 Business Manager Mike Clemmons. "Doing electrical work on a building that is nearly 100 years old is not something that our members are faced with every day. Once we did the evaluation, it became evident that this was not going to be a typical electrical remodeling project."
Route 66, which begins in Illinois and used to take travelers all the way to California, has long been associated with Americana and music. Now there's a museum to commemorate Illinois' musical contributions, from REO Speedwagon and Cheap Trick to Muddy Waters and Chess Records, the storied rhythm and blues record label.
The historic three-story building in downtown Joliet, built in 1930, required a number of upgrades, which is where Local 176 comes in. Roughly 12 apprentices and members worked on the building through last fall and winter, as well as some additional work done in the spring and summer. They did significant lighting upgrades, reworked several power distribution panels and added power supply outlets where necessary. Members will also work on future upgrades as needed.
It was especially educational for the apprentices who tend to work on new construction projects, not dealing with 90-year-old technology.
"They really liked it," said Business Agent Andy Rico, who also worked on the project. "It used to be incandescent lights and fuses, and now it's LEDs and circuit breakers."
Rico says they were able to use a few old openings, but they were mostly starting from scratch.
"All the mechanical systems were different back then," said Rico who did an initial evaluation and assessment of the structure. "It's really something to see how far the technology of our trade has come."
The building, located in downtown Joliet, has a historic designation, meaning that the façade must be maintained, but just about any changes can be made inside. One thing that was kept in place indoors was the exposed pipe as a way to maintain the original look and feel, which Rico said allowed the apprentices to see their finished work more than they typically would.
"The apprentices like seeing their work," Rico said. "It's cool to go back and visit."
In terms of new technology, the museum has large display boards, like flat panel TVs, and new showroom lighting. And in addition to providing labor, Local 176 and NECA's Eastern Illinois Chapter also made a donation of $1,000 to help pay for materials.
Ron Romero, a friend of Clemmons and Rico and the founding force behind the museum, says the IBEW was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, particularly with getting other trades on board to help out.
"Once the IBEW jumped in, it legitimized everything," Romero said. "Their name will remain here forever as a supporter."
Romero says the building originally had no outlets on the walls and that everything had to be switched on and off from the breaker box.
"We went from old shop lights to all new lighting and proper breaker boxes," Romero said. "They look great and, more significantly, everything is safe now. Aesthetics are important, but I'm mostly glad that I know everything has been done correctly."
Once it's finished, the museum will offer exhibits, including one on the history of Illinois guitars. It will also be home to a radio station and space for educational programming and musical performances.
"It's going to be a great multi-functional space, and it's our lighting that will showcase everything," Rico said.