Living Downtown in a Historic Building

by Jim Bateman
Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation

Historic charm, combined with the latest amenities, are enticing aspects of city life.

Kevin and Mary Kaye Harlan moved into the historic Kickapoo building at the corner of Main and Glendale last August. Their second-floor apartment is located right at the point of the so-called flatiron building—directly over the Anheuser-Busch emblem on the exterior, which marked it as a brewery-tied establishment when it opened in 1911.

What is it like to live in a historic building? “I’m a St. Louis boy, so I liked the connection to Anheuser-Busch right away,” says Kevin. “This place has the charm of older times, but is updated with the latest conveniences.”

“I love the view from our living room window,” adds Mary Kaye. “The Pere Marquette and Commerce Bank building are beautiful at night. Another bonus is having the library a couple of blocks from our front door.”

“The best thing is the location,” Kevin explains. “We are located right over the best dry cleaner in town [Margie’s] and a great coffee shop [Thirty-Thirty]. It’s a short walk to Ulrich’s Rebellion Room for a burger, or to Table 19 for dinner. From the Pere, you just step across the skywalk to the Civic Center for the symphony or other events. There are not many places the size of Peoria that have a real downtown like this.”

It’s a seven-minute drive to work for Kevin, who is vice president and general manager of WMBD/WYZZ-TV. Most recently coming from Santa Barbara, California, the Harlans have lived all over the country, including Nashville, New York City and Madison, Wisconsin. “I love city life,” Kevin says, which made it easy to choose a downtown location. And with his St. Louis roots, he feels very comfortable back in the Midwest.

In Santa Barbara, the Harlans’ home measured nearly 4,000 square feet; their new Peoria home is less than 1,000 square feet. The problem of downsizing was solved by leaving their furniture in Santa Barbara and buying new furniture in Peoria—which virtually eliminated moving costs. Besides providing room for Kevin and Mary Kaye, there is room for the occasional visitor, including daughter Claire, a theater and English major at Utah State.

The Harlans are older than the building’s other residents—all young people in the medical field, including med school students. How do they get along? “We rarely see them,” Kevin responds. “They work crazy hours, as I do, so it’s not an issue.”

The Kickapoo Building is one of the first historic buildings in downtown Peoria to become home to a combination of businesses and residents—but it is likely not the last. Other similar projects are in the works, including some exciting developments in the historic Warehouse District. Such offerings will be a big plus to attract workers who enjoy living in a lively neighborhood with urban amenities and the charm of historic properties. iBi

 

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