Shelbyville Daily Union

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October 20, 2012

Downtown Walk Reveals City History

Incentives Available for Building Improvements

SHELBYVILLE, IL. — Downtown Shelbyville architecture is an eclectic mix of French, Greek, and colonial revival styles that define the building owners at the time of construction.

The Shelbyville Works! committee sponsored its second downtown walk Tuesday evening with Anthony Rubano of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency discussing the buildings along Main Street.

Downtown Shelbyville, with the exception of a few buildings, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Districts since 1976. To be included in the National Registry, the buildings have to be at least 50 years old at the time. At the time of  Shelbyville’s designation, building had to be constructed before 1926.

“The downtown districts are the most interesting areas of a community,” Rubano said. “You can see how the downtown has both changed and stayed the same. Every nook and cranny contains remarkable stories.”

Starting with the Knearem building at the east end of town and walking the four blocks to the west end of the district, Rubano noted the approximate age and described the stylings of ten buildings during the hour-long tour.

The Knearem building, built approximately in the 1920s, displayed evidence of being a former gas station.

The brick street around the Soldiers and Sailors monument square, as well in other parts of town, were designed for drainage functionality than decorative. The channels between the bricks and the slope and rise of the street allowed rain water to run off the street. Repair work under the bricks was easier as the brick could be removed and replaced after the work was done.

“The brick street is loud, but has a traffic calming effect. It makes you slow down,” Rubano said.

Rubano noted that on many buildings, such as Sally’s on the Square, columns were custom ordered for the storefront entrances. Other owners ordered special cornices to adorn their buildings.

The courthouse reflects the Second Empire style French motif of architecture that was used on government buildings constructed in the mid-1800s.

The Chicago Title Company building and the Lantz Brothers building were built at approximately the same time, 1885-1890, but reflect two different architectural designs.

“The (Lantz) building was built in the style of 19th century architecture with an eclectic mix of brick, iron, and sheet steel,” Rubano said. “The (Title) building is limestone with noble columns, which is typical of financial institutions.”

The former bank building and the next door Roxy Theatre building were also probably built in the same time frame (1920s), but also reflect a difference of styles. The former bank was built in the neo classical style, reflecting wealth, while the Roxy building was built with more affordable materials.

The 1930s Post Office building was built in the colonial revival style and was most likely built as a WPA project of the Depression Era.

“Post offices at that time were known for murals painted on the wall,” Rubano noted.

Dove and Dove Law Office, one of the mostly recently built offices in town, was constructed in a style known for doctor or lawyer offices. The building was constructed in 1981.

The Leach-Wilson Chevrolet building missed being included in the National Registry by less than a decade, but the architecture of the building reflects the art deco style that came out of the World’s Fair in Chicago in the early 1930s.

The building facade is made of glazed terra cotta brick and features and octogonally shaped showroom.

“It reflect optimism during the hardest years of the Depression,” Rubano said.

During a presentation on incentives for owners of buildings in the historic district.

Rubano explained that although the historic district registry is an honorary designation, it empowers the local community to create an ordinance to preserve historic buildings.

“The tax credit incentives are owner driven,” Rubano said. “It encourages business and historic home owners in their efforts to rehabilitate the buildings. The idea is to preserve the historic value of the building.”

Anyone looking to do rehabilitative work should contact the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency for guidelines and to learn what tax credit incentives would be best.

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