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The Pantagraph, Steve Smedley, Associated Press
In this photo taken July 29, 2011,  Terri Ryburn stands outside the SpragueÍs Super Service station along Old Route 66 in Normal, Ill. Ryburn, who lives in the upper floor of the unique building, is in the process of restoring the building and stands by a new wayside exhibit sign that tells part of the history of the site. She requested the sign through the Illinois Route 66 Byway Association. Once the application was approved, it was sent to the federal level to qualify for a grant to cover most of the cost. The town and the Bloomington-Normal Convention and Visitors Bureau also helped with the project.

NORMAL, Ill. — Terri Ryburn's love affair with Route 66 started when she was only 5 and her family traveled from Bloomington to California on the Mother Road.

They all piled into her dad's pickup truck and camped outside every night.

"It was a great adventure," she said. "I always had in the back of my mind how wonderful that was."

In October 2006, she got a tangible piece of that memory when she purchased the former Sprague service station at 305 E. Pine St. (Old Route 66).

Her goal from the beginning has been to restore the building, built in the late 1920s and opened in the early 1930s, to its original appearance. She hopes to have that fully accomplished by the time she turns 66 in three years.

The only thing holding her back is money. "If I had $1.2 million, I'd have it done in a couple of months," she said.

Instead, she has to depend on grants. She's received $46,695 from the town for a new roof and temporary furnace; a $20,000 matching grant from the National Park Service for a furnace and air conditioning system, duct work and ceiling; a $10,000 grant from the state for two new bathrooms and more money for the furnace; and a day of volunteer service from the Route 66 Association.

She's contributed about $90,000 out of her own pocket.

Now she's focusing on replacing the windows in the living quarters above the former service station. She received a $10,000 matching grant from the National Park Service and hopes to capture a town grant by having the property designated as a historic landmark, which opens the door for the town's Bone Grant program.

That program provides funding for up to 50 percent of the cost of a qualifying exterior restoration or preservation project, with a maximum of $5,000 per project. Applicants can receive up to two grants per year.

Ryburn's quest for the designation was recommended by the Historic Preservation Commission in April.

"The commission was very excited to see it come forward," said Assistant City Manager Geoff Fruin. "The commission is very familiar with the property and the plans to restore it. They are incredibly excited."

The request is the subject of a public hearing before the planning commission at 5 p.m. today. The final decision rests with the City Council on Aug. 15.

"It's a unique property in that it sits on a historic transportation site and two-station fueling stations are not around any more," said Fruin.

Those same conditions earned the Tudor Revival-style gas station a place on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the few in the country with an owner's apartment and tenant's apartment on the second floor.

The building was built by local contractor William Sprague in the late 1920s. It is first listed in the 1932 city directory as Sprague Super Service and included a restaurant, gas station and garage. His family lived in the owner's quarters and a station attendant lived in the tenant's apartment.

The building changed ownership and businesses several times through the years. Besides being a service station, it was a manufacturing company, a taxi cab company, a rental car company and the former site of Hodge's Catering and Hodge's Bridal World, according to Ryburn's research.

Ryburn hopes to offer several things at the restored site including a coffee and ice cream shop, a tea room and theater space.

Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com