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  • Writer's pictureTJ Blakeman

2 Main Street

Updated: Dec 14, 2018

There have been two buildings constructed at this address since 1850, The Gazette Building and The Kresge Building.  

The Gazette Building was built by the Champaign County Gazette in 1875-76 on the land procured by the estate of J.W. Scroggs ($3,500) and B.F. Harris ($4,500).  The corner stone was laid on July 18, 1875 and the building completed in time for the Centennial year celebrations on January 15, 1876.  

Before this time the Gazette has been operating in the upper floors of 28 Main Street. The building was designed by architect Seeley Brown and constructed by Mr. E.F. Gehlman.  Due to several weeks of rain, the project was delayed a bit with the staff hoping to move during Christmas or what they describe as the week of "jollification". However, only the presses were moved during this time and the building was complete in January.  

One item to note from the 1887 Sandborn is the black box in Neil Street (to the west of the Gazette Building). Apparently the boiler for the building was actually located under the public sidewalk. We can see in the illustration that uses in the building included the Gazette printing office, millinery, bank and barber shop.

The building shared occupancy with three additional businesses, P.Terbush's barber-shop in the eastern portion of the basement, Dr. Brown's drug store on the south end of the first floor, and the US Post Office on the eastern half of the first floor.

The image below clearly shows the large spires that reached upwards from the roof line. Also visible is the well which still sits across the street in the One Main Plaza.

By the time the United States entered WWI, the building was 40 years old. The building is seen below during a WWI "Prep" Parade.

The Gazette Building would be razed in 1927. The photo below was taken shortly before the building fell.

On the site of the Gazette Building a new, more modern, building rose from the ground taking the basic shape of the Gazette Building with its signature chamfer corner. The S.S. Kresge Company on Detroit Michigan were the owners and builders with the contact being let on May 16, 1927.  

In this image you can see how the corner design helped to turn the corner from Main Street to Neil Street.

This iconic photo of revelers celebrating VJ Day was taken at Neil and Main in front of the Kresge Building.

Kresge's was well positioned in the heart of Downtown Champaign which at the time was the major shopping district in all of Champaign County.

From 1967 to 1973, Parkland College occupied many buildings throughout Downtown Champaign. This temporary use helped to save many buildings that, by this time, were suffering from high vacancies and threat of demolition to make way for more parking. The Kresge Building was one of those buildings saved by this temporary use.

In 1976, Neil Street was closed and rebuilt as a pedestrian mall. The impacts of the mall will long be debated but it is generally accepted that this concept further expedited the fall of Downtown as many of the vehicles that once drove past stores, now bypassed Downtown on Randolph and State Street. The street would be converted back to traffic in 1986.

The Kresge Building remained vacant until the 1990s. A furnishings store would be the first new tenant in a decade.

In the early 2000s a new bar/restaurant was opened in the space called 2 Main.

In 2004, the City of Champaign realigned Main and Church Streets and created a larger outdoor dining area. At the same time, Carlos Nieto and his company CMT Venture opened a new restaurant called Guido's.

Today, 2 Main Street continues to anchor the southeast corner of Main and Neil Street.

Photo Credits: Champaign County Historical Archives at the Urbana Free Library, Champaign County History Museum, T.J. Blakeman, and Sholem Family.

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