Vacation spot Petersburg | Information | Illinois Instances

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click on to enlarge The Broadgauge development team, L to R: Steve and Ann Ozella, Ozella Construction; Project Development Manager Stowe Olesen; Phillip Cade, who helped to design the kitchen and bar; Executive Chef Eric Smith; Corey and Emily Faucon, who will operate The Talisman Coffee Shop and Bakery; Carol Pope and Douglas Pope. - PHOTO BY DAVID BLANCHETTE

Photograph by David Blanchette

The Broadgauge improvement staff, L to R: Steve and Ann Ozella, Ozella Building; Undertaking Improvement Supervisor Stowe Olesen; Phillip Cade, who helped to design the kitchen and bar; Government Chef Eric Smith; Corey and Emily Faucon, who will function The Talisman Espresso Store and Bakery; Carol Pope and Douglas Pope.

May Petersburg develop into the subsequent Illinois vacation spot group, like Galena or Grafton? A $three million undertaking funded by an area investor goals to take the Menard County seat a serious step in that course.

A house-grown design and development staff is busily remodeling the northwest nook of the city sq. right into a multi-use showpiece with eating, occasion and assembly area that has an formidable July goal opening.

On the middle of the event is the 1872-vintage Broadgauge Constructing, the longtime web site of the Robbins Division Retailer. Its metamorphosis from retail to regal is a story of huge desires and hometown pleasure with a respect for historical past so eager that the work qualifies for federal historic preservation tax credit.

It is also a narrative a few Petersburg native who went away to make it massive within the dot-com actual property world, returned residence to work remotely throughout COVID, and needed to do one thing spectacular that will profit his rediscovered residence city.

“The constructing has at all times sort of spoken to me”

Douglas Pope left Petersburg to attend faculty greater than 20 years in the past and returned completely final summer time as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

“That gave me the chance to maneuver again to Petersburg for the primary time in my profession,” Pope stated. “I moved to an residence proper in town sq. so I would not drive my dad and mom loopy, and it was a block away from the Broadgauge.”

“The constructing has at all times sort of spoken to me and drawn me in. I grew up 5 blocks away from the Broadgauge on Seventh Avenue, so I spent a number of time within the constructing as a child,” Pope stated. “I made a very fast determination, inside per week of transferring again, that the Broadgauge could be my new ardour and what I need to give again to the Petersburg group.”

Since December Pope has bought the Broadgauge Constructing, the adjoining Hubbard Constructing, close by property to accommodate parking for the event, and a home that can be reworked into an Airbnb that can be utilized by Broadgauge wedding ceremony events. Pope contacted individuals from the Petersburg group he’d identified from his youth to assist breathe new life into the properties.

“My profession is assembling groups and constructing superior merchandise on the know-how aspect, so I am sort of doing the identical factor on this actual property aspect,” Pope stated. “Assemble a very robust staff and allow them to run with it.”

Pete Olesen of Petersburg was the primary particular person Pope requested to “run with it.” Olesen is the Broadgauge undertaking’s artistic director, and he helped Pope to establish different native expertise to work on it. Olesen additionally put Pope’s concepts right into a design that can be in contrast to something Petersburg has seen.

click on to enlarge Douglas Pope on the staircase leading to the Broadgauge's second floor ballroom. - PHOTO BY DAVID BLANCHETTE

Photograph by David Blanchette

Douglas Pope on the staircase resulting in the Broadgauge’s second flooring ballroom.

“Douglas is just not slicing corners”

Pete Olesen stated the principle floor flooring portion of the constructing can be Broadgauge Eating, an space that may seat as much as 140 individuals, with a 40-foot-long bar alongside the south aspect of the constructing. The east aspect storefront home windows can be prolonged from flooring to ceiling and can develop into lounge areas with leather-based sofas and different nice furnishings.

The Broadgauge’s most placing inside function, its twin, symmetrical staircases, have been uncovered and the supporting vault beneath them is being reworked right into a wine cave, Olesen stated. The Robbins Division Retailer’s “shoe room,” instantly north of the principle eating space, will function a big communal desk with a window lounge for extra non-public eating.

An open kitchen trimmed in tile and chrome steel, a separate catering kitchen, new accessible elevators, an area artists’ show and gross sales space on the previous retailer’s jean gross sales mezzanine, and The Talisman Espresso Store and Bakery will spherical out the Broadgauge’s floor flooring. There can be out of doors eating on the south aspect sidewalk with umbrellas, tables and tree plantings.

“Douglas is just not slicing corners,” Olesen stated. “He realizes he has to open with a first-class operation, nevertheless it’s additionally bought to be approachable.”

The Broadgauge’s upstairs will function a predominant ballroom with eight massive chandeliers and a again bar to service the ballroom. The bar could have barn-type doorways and high-top tables so it could be rented individually. An upscale boardroom-type area could possibly be rented for conferences, retreats or get-togethers. The far north finish of the highest flooring could have banquet or assembly area for one more 100 individuals.

“Say someone desires to get married on the Broadgauge however desires to save lots of slightly cash,” Olesen stated. “You’d get the identical meals, you’d get to be in the identical constructing, it might simply be slightly extra informal.”

The undertaking does not cease on the Broadgauge property line. Pope has signed a 99-year lease for the 2 massive upstairs rooms within the adjoining VFW constructing and is ending them in a style much like the Broadgauge areas. The mix of Broadgauge and VFW areas, greater than 17,000 sq. toes, signifies that 350 individuals could possibly be accommodated at one time upstairs and 150 downstairs, Olesen stated.

The Hubbard Constructing to the west of the Broadgauge served as warehouse area for the outdated Robbins Division Retailer. That, too, has been bought.

“The Hubbard Constructing is a forgotten gem. It should have floor-to-ceiling glass and a second story enclosed bridge with the Broadgauge Constructing,” Olesen stated. “The bridge can be a modern-day re-creation of the unique that linked the retail and warehouse areas. We have had concepts for this area, starting from wedding ceremony chapel to artwork gallery to extra social gathering area. The again wall will develop into nearly all glass looking into an occasion backyard.”

“A imaginative and prescient of retaining its historic nature”

The Broadgauge undertaking has met the Nationwide Park Service’s strict standards to be eligible for federal historic preservation tax credit. Stowe Olesen, Pete’s son, is the undertaking improvement supervisor and he stated that is a testomony to the cautious planning and deep sense of respect that drives the staff.

“From the start we began eager about the best way to make the most of the constructing’s historical past, we at all times had a imaginative and prescient of retaining its historic nature,” Stowe Olesen stated. “There can be actually stylish finishes complementing the unique historic options.”

Stowe Olesen introduced in Chicago designer William Golden, with whom he had labored in his earlier profession, and Golden has created “a traditional look that central Illinois has in historic houses, and what William has completed in selecting finishes and lighting fixtures is to raise that look into the trendy period with a nod to historical past,” Olesen stated.

“We’re taking an area that has not modified all that a lot since 1872 and completely rethinking the area in ways in which nobody has ever thought earlier than,” Stowe Olesen stated. “I feel that’s the most rewarding a part of the undertaking.”

Each of the Olesens really helpful that Pope rent Steve and Ann Ozella of Petersburg’s Ozella Building because the undertaking’s normal contractor.

“The Broadgauge was constructed very solidly. Numerous the stuff has mortise-and-tenon joints alongside the studs which is de facto distinctive,” stated firm proprietor Steve Ozella. “It has excessive ceilings, a few of them are tin, and the issues we’ve uncovered after 150 years of use are wonderful.”

Ozella has completed work on a number of historic buildings on the Petersburg sq. and he stated the Broadgauge is similar with a few of them.

“I hope we will protect it for a few years to come back. This constructing was structurally fairly respectable in comparison with some,” Ozella stated. “We’re doing issues to this constructing that may hopefully make it final one other 100 years.”

click on to enlarge Executive Chef Eric Smith at what will be the counter of the Broadgauge's restaurant. - PHOTO BY DAVID BLANCHETTE

Photograph by David Blanchette

Government Chef Eric Smith at what would be the counter of the Broadgauge’s restaurant.

“Showcase the sort of meals that Illinois has to supply every season”

Pope needed the Broadgauge eating expertise to call to mind the historic boutique lodges he had encountered in San Francisco, Chicago and different areas, but in addition needed the model of meals and décor to be “uniquely Petersburg. We would like it to face out by itself,” Pope stated.

With that in thoughts, Pope employed Springfield native Eric Smith to be Broadgauge Eating’s government chef. Smith has labored in Chicago and Arizona and realized in regards to the Petersburg undertaking final fall when he was on the town for his grandmother’s funeral.

“The Broadgauge goes to be an approachable, elegant restaurant in a historic constructing,” Smith stated. “I’m going to marry as a lot native, seasonal, approachable meals to the décor as potential.

“Native farmers have been coming in to test the place out, and several other are going to produce the produce and meat,” Smith stated. “We will prepare dinner meals when it’s in season; it is not going to be on the menu when it is not. That is going to be a spot the place you may get very nice steaks, nevertheless it’s additionally a spot the place you may get a burger or a horseshoe.”

Smith feels that farm-to-table philosophy can be one of many Broadgauge’s main attracts.

“I need it to showcase the sort of meals that Illinois has to supply every season, in addition to the native favorites just like the horseshoe,” Smith stated. “We need to use the very best pork that we will discover that is native, the very best corn when it is in season. There are a number of farms I am going to contact in our space to see what they’ll do for us.”

Phillip Cade, the chief chef at Illinois State College, is married to a Petersburg native. Cade was requested to assist design the Broadgauge kitchen, order the kitchen and bar gear, and assist design and write the restaurant, bar and catering menus.

“The idea was to place a giant kitchen in a small area and ensure it was environment friendly. We did not need meals popping out of three areas so it slowed service down,” Cade stated. “I’ve at all times run fairly clear kitchens, and having the seen kitchen with chrome steel and the tile will make it look that a lot additional good.”

Pope additionally introduced Corey and Emily Faucon on board to run The Talisman Espresso Store and Bakery. The Faucons lately ran the Lengthy 9 Junction in Springfield.

Zillow discuss

Douglas Pope was 23 years outdated when he known as up some faculty pals and stated, “Hey, I do not like working for a giant company, do you need to begin an organization?”

The ensuing collaboration with a type of pals was the nation’s first map-based residence search engine, known as Sizzling Pads, which was based in 2005 utilizing cash that Pope borrowed from the Nationwide Financial institution of Petersburg in addition to an funding from his dad and mom.

Pope grew the corporate for eight years and bought it to on-line actual property big Zillow in 2012 for $16 million. Pope is now the vice chairman for Zillow’s engineering division for leases, which incorporates Sizzling Pads, and he supervises a staff of software program builders that construct landlord and renter instruments utilized by Zillow, Trulia and Sizzling Pads.

click on to enlarge Project Development Manager Stowe Olesen and the vault underneath the main dining room’s two staircases. - PHOTO BY DAVID BLANCHETTE

Photograph by David Blanchette

Undertaking Improvement Supervisor Stowe Olesen and the vault beneath the principle eating room’s two staircases.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Pope left the San Francisco space the place he had been working at Zillow and relocated to his hometown to work remotely. That is when he had the inspiration for the Broadgauge undertaking. Pope was additionally capable of assemble a design staff that in all probability would not have been accessible had been it not for the pandemic.

“I like Petersburg. I feel our city sq. is gorgeous and enjoyable,” Pope stated. “The Hand of Destiny Brewing Firm had already introduced new life to our city sq., and there may be a lot alternative for Petersburg to develop into a vacation spot.”

As one other nod to this local-focused undertaking, Pope is financing the Broadgauge work by the Alliance Group Financial institution in Petersburg.

Hand of Destiny proprietor Mike Allison, who established his ever-growing and stylish enterprise a number of years in the past only a few doorways down from the Broadgauge, is a fan of Pope’s improvement.

“The extra issues that we will have in our city that draw individuals right here, the higher,” Allison stated. “Seeing this and being advised that Hand of Destiny was a catalyst for change, and seeing extra of this stuff occur, it is actually thrilling to see what the longer term goes to carry for our city.”

Undertaking Improvement Supervisor Stowe Olesen stated alternatives just like the Broadgauge may come to small communities solely as soon as in a era.

“The final undertaking on this scale was in 1974 when PORTA Excessive Faculty was constructed,” Stowe Olesen stated. “Typically in small cities you want that financial engine to begin working, and it’s worthwhile to have somebody keen to spend the amount of cash to make an excellent product that’s going to final.”

July is not very distant and there is nonetheless a number of work to do, however Artistic Director Pete Olesen stated a exceptional quantity of progress has been made since work began across the first of this 12 months.

“Douglas’ 40th birthday is July 10, so that’s our massive, imaginary deadline,” Pete Olesen stated. “We’ll be partying right here it doesn’t matter what, whether or not it is all open or key components of it just like the restaurant and the ballroom.”


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click on to enlarge An early but undated photo of the Broadgauge building on the Petersburg square. In 1950 it was purchased by the Robbins family and became the Robbins Department Store. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BROADGAUGE

Photograph courtesy of The Broadgauge

An early however undated picture of the Broadgauge constructing on the Petersburg sq.. In 1950 it was bought by the Robbins household and have become the Robbins Division Retailer.

Historical past of the Broadgauge, distinguished since 1872

Edgar Lee Masters wrote in regards to the Broadgauge in his residence city of Petersburg in an uncollected poem: “On Saturdays how thickly walked Crowds of the pioneers and talked; They traded on the Broadgauge retailer, Or idly stood, or idly stalked.”

In 1871 J.A. Brahm, a service provider, banker and one in all Petersburg’s wealthiest residents, bought property on the northwest nook of the city sq. and constructed a two-story brick industrial constructing. Brahm, Caleb Laning and B.D. Wright moved into the finished constructing in 1872 and known as their dry items, clothes, footwear and grocery operation the Broadgauge Retailer. Based on Rev. R.D. Miller in his “Historical past of Menard and Mason Counties,” the Broadgauge had the biggest inventory of merchandise in Illinois outdoors of Chicago.

click on to enlarge A 1932 photo of the Ross A. Nance Co., a tenant of the Broadgauge. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BROADGAUGE

Photograph courtesy of The Broadgauge

A 1932 picture of the Ross A. Nance Co., a tenant of the Broadgauge.

Brahm bought the constructing in 1890 to H.H. Schirding. The construction was owned by the Schirding household, occupied by a number of retail {and professional} companies by the years, and was renovated within the early a part of the 20th century. The Robbins household opened a retailer within the Broadgauge and later bought the constructing in 1950.

A few years later Randy Robbins, the final proprietor of the household retailer whose identify nonetheless adorns the Broadgauge Constructing, wrote from reminiscence a historical past of the distinguished Petersburg constructing.

Based on Randy Robbins, patrons of the 1950s Robbins retailer might sit on stools and take a look at stitching patterns, browse the north wall with footwear displayed from flooring to ceiling, and request to look at the boys’s fits that had been saved in particular glass circumstances.

The Robbins household reworked the shop inside in 1962 and operated the enterprise by the top of 1998. The Broadgauge constructing was bought in 2003 and used primarily as retail area till it was bought by Douglas Pope earlier this 12 months. 

David Blanchette is a contract author and photographer, and can also be the board chairman of the Jacksonville Space Museum beneath improvement in his hometown.

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