Shelbyville CityWalk Presents – The Historic Downtown Landmarks Tour
About the Historic Downtown
Situated upon the west bank of Kaskaskia River, Shelbyville is one of the old towns of Central IL. It was nestled among the hills and bluffs of the river, and grew for 36 years before it became the village of Shelbyville in 1839. The streets sprawled out from the four-block square that made up the original town, and the town became the City of Shelbyville in 1863. Shelbyville continued to flourish into the 1900s.
As the county seat, Shelbyville has the largest population in Shelby County. Both were named in honor of Isaac Shelby, the Revolutionary War general and Kentucky’s first governor. On December 22, 1976, the City of Shelbyville‘s historic district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.
Enjoy! Let Shelbyville residents share some highlights about these historic landmarks.
A – “The Armory” (320 E Main St)
The first stop is at Knearem’s Home Comfort Center & Commercial Services. The building was built by John W. Yantis as Shelbyville’s Armory and the City’s civic center. It was proposed in October 1903 by Mr. Yantis and Capt. R. T. Eddy for Company H, Fourth Illinois Infantry. In the early 1900’s, it was the site of the annual Christmas Armory Ball, used as a skating rink, and rented to the local high school basketball team at 50 cents for games. In April, 1916, the Armory was moved to Sparks College to make way for the Tallman-Beam Garage on the Square. Listen to the audio to learn more about the Armory from SCHGS staff and see the historic photograph here.
B – “Shelby County Historical & Genealogical Society – SCHGS” (151 S Washington St)
This historic building was erected in 1893 as the fourth County Jail. SCHGS was established in 1962, with the mission to establish and illustrate the history of Shelby County. It was incorporated as a NFP in 1968, and amended in 1970 to broaden its genealogical resources and research. SCHGS moved to its current location in 1987. It features rich literature and has several “theme” rooms: Lincoln Room, Veteran Room, Children’s Room, and the Robert Root Room. SCHGS also offers a tour of the old jail. (See below for hours). To learn more about th jail, listen to the audio from a local resident and see the historic photograph here.
C – “Lantz Brothers” (222 E Main St)
Buck Stop Archery rents the largest commercial building in downtown Shelbyville known in Shelby County history. The Lantz building was erected in 1893 at a cost of $18,000 by the Lantz Brothers retail firm. It is an excellent example of late 19th century commercial architecture with storefront fabricated by the Christopher & Simpson Architectural Iron and Foundry Company. In 1941, the Lantz family leased the building to Sears-Roebuck. Today, the building belongs to the owner of Short Furniture store on 114 W Main. Listen to the audio to learn more about this significant landmark and see the historic photograph here.
D – “Beetle’s Confectionery” (200 E Main St)
The Main Street Quilt Company stands on part of the original Shelbyville township of 1827. General W. F. Thornton, a prominent historic figure in the development of Shelby County, once owned the building. In the 1900’s, the building was known as the “Syndicate” It housed multiple businesses: Sparks College, and the studio of Robert M. Root, a well-known Midwestern tonalist and impressionist painter. After 1927 fire that destroyed the offices, classrooms, Root’s studio, and its third floor, the building was repaired and rebuilt to the form you see now. Listen to the audio to learn more about Beetles’s Confectionery and see the historic photograph here and postcard here.
E – “Sparks College” (131 S Morgan St)
The Shelby County State Bank Investment Center and Trust Department is located in the historic Sparks College built in 1915. Sparks College was a well-respected business and trade school, founded by Mr. Henry D. Sparks in 1908. The property was sold to Shelby County State Bank in 1976, though classes continued. Thirteen students were enrolled in Sparks College in 1908 and enrollment grew to over 100 students in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Sparks College closed in 2009. Hear an audio version of this historic landmark and listen to a local resident’s recollections of Sparks College, and see the historic photograph here.
F – “Shelby County State Bank” (155 E Main St)
Shelby County State Bank’s first location opened in 1895. Although Shelby County State Bank is not the first bank of Shelby County, it is the oldest bank that is still in operation today. After a fire destroyed the original structure, this Neoclassical edifice was built in 1917. Shelby County State Bank moved to its current location at 130 South Morgan Street in 1965. Hear an audio description of this historic landmark, and listen to a local resident’s memory of going into the historic bank, and see a historic photograph here.
G – “The Playhouse Theatre” (149 E Main St)
The Playhouse Theatre was constructed in a block of 1880s commercial buildings and featured vaudeville type performances. It was remodeled in 1939 into the Roxy, which showed movies until Nov. 6, 1966, closing after the last showing of Mary Poppins. The Roxy was brought back to life in 2003 by a $100,000 donation from Mr. Boarman and by the contributions and volunteer labor of a group of dedicated business owners and residents. Recognizing Mr. Boarman’s leadership, the theater was renamed as Boarman’s Roxy Theatre and reopened on Nov. 6, 2004 with a showing of Mary Poppins. Hear the audio to learn more about the Roxy and see the historic photograph here.
H – “Herron Building” (105 E Main St)
This historic building was built in 1885 by Max Kleeman and William Goldstein and features an original storefront by the Christopher & Simpson Architectural Iron and Foundry Company. When the Herron family bought the store in 1912, it was known as “Double Daylight” because of the numerous windows on three sides. In 1977, extensive restoration was done to house Barbara’s Department Store, but its unique facade has remained relatively unchanged since 1885. To learn more about this architectural landmark, hear the audio from the historical society staff and a local resident, and see the historic photograph here.
I – “The Shelbyville Public Library” (154 N Broadway St)
Opened in 1905, the historic library was designed by Chicago architects Patton and Miller. Its classic French Renaissance style features golden Roman pressed brick and Bedford limestone from Indiana. The construction costs of $20,000 was equally funded by Andrew Carnegie and local citizens, who also provided a building site and a maintenance fund. Extensive restoration and consistent upgrades enabled the library to appear as much as it did on opening day. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy a quiet interlude while viewing fluted pilasters, oak arches, fireplaces and many original furnishings. Hear the audio, and see the historic photograph of the library here.
J – “Downs Chevrolet” (145 W Main St)
Family-owned Leach-Wilson Chevrolet-Buick Co. has been at the corner of Main and Walnut for most of the 20th century. This building was commissioned by the current owner’s great-grandfather, Frank P . Downs, in 1936. Designed by A. F. Moratz of Bloomington, IL, thestreamlined Art Moderne building features a self-supporting domed ceiling with framework said to be from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. To learn more about this significant landmark, listen to the audio about Downs Chevrolet from a local resident.
Learn More About Shelbyville’s Historic Downtown
A printable PDF version of this tour is available here