Friday, December 14, 2012

1 East Main Street

There is no better place to start this blog than 1 Main Street.  The first building constructed on this site was Barrett Hall and was one of the first brick structure's in the city.  It was completed in 1865 on the northeast corner of Main and Neil Streets.  What made this particular building (and address) unique is that it was numbered 1 Main Street and not 2 Main Street.  This section of Main Street is the only section in town to this day where you will find the odd number structure on the north side of the street.  Everywhere else in Champaign the odd number appears on the south side of the street.  It is said this happened because of the fact that it was in deed the first brick structure on Main Street.  Barrett Hall is also notable because it functioned as one of the first public gather places in town.  Notable speakers included Fredrick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony.  The building was razed in 1950 and replaced by Grants Department Store.  This structure survived until a devastating fire gutted all of the buildings around Grants.  The building was finally razed in the late 80's making way for a municipal parking lot.  The current Building (One Main Building) was completed in 2004.

Notable businesses that have occupied 1 Main Street:

Barrett Hall
  • Swannell Drug Store
  • Weingarten's
  • Browns Business School
  • Vaky (The Frat) Confectionery
  • McBrides Drug Store
Grants Building
  • Grants Department Store
  • The Poison Apple
One Main Building
  • Jim Gould Restaurant
  • KoFusion
  • Merry Ann's Diner
  • Big Grover Tavern

One of the earliest photos of Main Street circa 1860s looking east from Neil Street.
The streets were quickly paved with  brick by the 1870s.
Photo courtesy of Champaign County Historical Archives
Another view of Barrett Hall with Swannell Drug Store and Weingarten's

A view of Barrett Hall circa 1890 showing the large wall advertisement
for the Swannell Drug Store.
Photo courtesy of Champaign County Historical Museum
View of Barrett Hall near the turn of the 20th century.  Note the well to the left
of the photo which has been returned to its location in
what was then Hickory Street and now the One Main Plaza.

An interior photo of The Frat Confectionery.
Photo courtesy of Russell Vaky 

This photo by Charles W. Webster in March of 1950 shows the preparations
being made prior to razing the building later that year.
Photo courtesy of Champaign County Archives

Barrett Hall was carefully razed in 1950 to make way for a new
W.T. Grant and Co. Department Store.
Photo courtesy of  Brandon Haist

The new Grant Department store after it opened in 1951.
Photo courtesy of the Sholem Family
A view of the lunch counter inside Grants Department Store.
This photo shows the Grant Department store following its closure.  By this time it has been
 replaced by the  Poison Apple.  Notice the Lincoln monument to
 the far left which today is located in West Side Park.

Grants was demolished following the devastating file that claimed the
buildings neighbors.
Photo courtesy of the City of Champaign

1 Main Street was paved following the demolition of Grants Department Store.
 It remained a city parking lot until 2004.
Photo courtesy of the City of Champaign

The new One Main Street was constructed in 2004 and encompassed the entire block
destroyed by the December 27, 1987 fire.  The building was constructed by One Main
Development and primary owner Cody Sokolski.  This building represented the first new
 construction in Downtown Champaign since the construction of BankIllinois
(Busey Bank) in the mid 1980s
Photo courtesy of TJ Blakeman

The completed One Main Street development as seen from the former
Metropolitan Building shortly before its fire in 2008.
Photo courtesy of TJ Blakeman

A view of One Main Street
Photo courtesy of TJ Blakeman


  1. Great photos... a virtual "walk through time"...

  2. I agree with Mike.

    Ironically, I can vividly remember Grant's lunch counter and the disco days (or was the daze) of The Poison Apple, but for the life of me, I don't remember it being a paved parking lot! If asked, I would have said the Grant building was razed for the 1 Main project! How long was it a paved lot? Just curious... since I've lived here for over 50 years!!

    Apparently, I didn't go downtown much during that period! :-)

    1. The parking lot would have been there from roughly 1991 - 2003 when the current One Main building work commenced.

  3. I loved Grant's when I was a kid. My mother would drop us off at the Orpheum Theater and my sister and I would head down to Grant's, load up on candy, and go back to the theater to watch the show. You could get about 4 times as much candy at Grant's than at the theater. There was a lot of places to shop downtown in that area: Sears, Penny's, Kresge's. Market Place Mall changed it all.

    Nice site, T.J. Loving the pictures.

  4. amazing. If you have any info about 8 main, the Sholem Shoes Building, I would love to hear about it, or images. I currently live there, above Ward & Associates. Great Blog.

  5. When I was in my late teens, early twenties, we used to go to The Poison Apple almost every weekend. I remember seeing Off Broadway and April Wine there.
    The only thing I remember about Grant's, is the smell of grease from their lunch counter. I loved that smell!