Jointly operated by the City of Peoria and the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Peoria Riverfront Visitors Center is a one-stop shop for visitors to the Peoria area. Here in this charming antique of a building, one can find maps, merchandise and brochures of area accommodations, restaurants and attractions, as well as information on local events.
Like Peoria itself, the Riverfront Visitors Center has an interesting history of its own. Constructed in 1852, the building originally housed the John Schwab Grocery and Beer Saloon, where Schwab would sell ice cream for 15 cents a dish and a beer for a nickel. Raw goods were unloaded from steamboats and delivered through the building’s riverside door, prepared for sale and sold out of the street door. According to Les Kenyon of the Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation, there were 50 to 100 similar buildings lining Peoria’s riverfront in the late 19th century. This is the only remaining building from the bygone steamboat era and the only pre-Civil War commercial structure still standing in the city.
For over half a century—from 1861 to 1917—the building exchanged hands more than 10 times, but was always a beer saloon. For a time, beer was even brewed and bottled there. Over the next three decades, the building housed a novelty toy store, soda parlor, church, inn, another saloon and a tire sales company.
In 1948, the building at 214 NE Washington Street was purchased by Louis Powell, who operated his printing and lithography business out of it for the next 30 years. It became known as the Powell Press building. After sitting vacant for about a decade, the building was purchased by Caterpillar Inc., who donated it to the City of Peoria in 1997 to be used in its riverfront revitalization efforts. Through the efforts of many, the building was renovated and physically moved to its current location at 110 NE Water Street. Not a single brick was lost during transit. The building reopened on April 1, 1998 as the Riverfront Visitors’ Center. iBi