CLINTON—“Mission accomplished!” declared one DeWitt County Restoration (DCRA) board member as the Magill House on the north side of the square sold to four local developers on Friday, June 19. This was DCRA’s goal for the building put on the National Historic Register in 2003. It is one of only two such in Clinton. The Homestead is the other.
The purchasers were Susan and Ken Klein and Lisa and Louie Lueras, who have formed the nonprofit organization Magill ResToration Centre with plans to continue the restoration of the Magill House into a center for holistic health. They plan to begin with a bakery that emphasizes healthy whole grains and food for celebrations.
They then plan to add an area to sell local products and then begin work on a farm-to-table style restaurant emphasizing healthy nutrition from local producers. The next stage will be to remodel the 2nd and 3rd floors into bed-and-breakfast style rooms and event rooms and eventually use all the areas to support a retreat center.
The DCRA’s plan since acquiring the hotel has been to keep improving the building until it became attractive for a developer to purchase. Three developers in the past have negotiated with the group, but none were a good fit, for various reasons.
“We are confident that we’ve got the best possible people to entrust with our baby,“ said DCRA chairman Becky Adams. “We have been so grateful to the people who have made donations, supported our fundraisers, volunteered on workdays, volunteered as cast and crew for dinner theaters, to the DeWitt Savings Bank, who believed in us and gave us a great interest rate for our mortgage, and to the citizens of Clinton who have been patient with us as we have tried to get it right.”
The sale made it possible for the DCRA to pay off the mortgage and take on a new and smaller project on the same block. The same day the Magill sold, the DCRA purchased 703 North Side Square, a former antiques store that has been used for storage for over 10 years. The building needs lots of TLC, and DCRA plans to provide it.
The building is actually older than the Magill. Built in the 1860’s, it started out life as a bar called The Woodbine and later housed a bank, a hair salon, and an antiques store.
The DCRA began in August 2004 when the city still owned the Taylor-Magill property as a way to help the city obtain grants for the renovation of the 1872 National Historic Register property. When the city decided in late 2005 to entertain bids for the demolition of the entire property, the DCRA and many townspeople packed the City Council meeting, which was moved to the library.
Instead of the demolition, the city decided to give the Magill to the DCRA, which had become a registered non-profit in the fall of 2005. DCRA received the deed in December 2005.
While the group was begun in 2004 to help save the Magill, the overall goal of the DCRA is to “preserve historic structures in DeWitt County.” The group planned to put their efforts into more than just the historic hotel.
In 2007 they partnered with the city of Clinton to restore and move onto Mr. Lincoln’s square the clock given to the city in the 19th century. To raise their share of the cost, DCRA members sold “hours” and “minutes.” Names of companies and individuals who purchased hours at $1200 each are on a plaque in front of the clock. Many others bought minutes for $25 each.
In 2008, DCRA purchased the cemetery fence given to the city a hundred years before by Eleanor Magill, the widow of one of the four Magill brothers who built the hotel. Sections of the fence are still available at $75 each or $50 for two or more. (Contact the Chamber of Commerce for more details, phone 217-935-3364.) Sections of the fence can be seen at the Roque Club on West Main Street.
Since then, the group accepted donations and undertook multiple fundraisers to finance restoration of the Magill, including a gala at the Country Club, style shows, cookouts, holiday home tours, sales of downtown clock ornaments (still available for $20), and several dinner theaters, most written by (and many directed by) Melanie Cheatham.
The funds were used to tear down the unstable 1890 west wing (with a matching grant of $40,000 from the city), stabilize the original 1872 hotel, seal the roof, put in decorative faux windows on the second floor to replace broken ones, hire dumpsters for removal of shag carpeting, dated paneling, and other trash, and purchase materials to begin getting the two storefronts facing the square up to code.
Part of a redevelopment grant set up by the city when it deeded the hotel to the DCRA paid for masonry work, tuck pointing, and new windows on the portion of the building facing the square, plus half-moon windows on the Center Street side.
When Tom Gaff of Edward Jones retired, his accounts went to three new agents, one of whom, Bryce Starkey, fell in love with the Magill. Edward Jones and Starkey paid for the restoration of that storefront four years ago. Starkey was so committed to the Magill, he promptly joined the DCRA.
The DCRA took out a mortgage with the DeWitt Savings Bank for renovations to the other storefront, which was then rented nearly three years ago to Trade Wind Energy.
“We would love to have more people join the DCRA,” said Chairman Adams. While the group has suspended meetings during the COVID lockdown, dates for future meetings will soon be scheduled. The group wants all kinds of people: people who enjoy building, people good at fundraising, people who could serve as secretary or treasurer, people who are willing to talk to groups or on the radio, people who can write press releases, and anyone who loves history and preserving it in DeWitt County.
The Magill’s new owners told the Journal they were “excited to begin a restoration process with and for the community of Clinton to bring back the Magill House to life as a gathering place for holistic health.”
They said they hope to include many vintage items and keep as much of the function of the building as possible.
Anyone interested can contact Becky Adams at 217-935-2044. Or like us on DCRA’s Facebook page or check out the group’s website at dewittcountyrestoration.com.