Two-story house with link to Lincoln lives on in new storage business
SAVOY – Had Abe Lincoln ever needed some extra space to keep his stovepipe hats, he might have felt right at home using one of the rental storage units being built along the railroad tracks in Savoy.
After all, standing right in the middle of the storage complex property, at the southeast corner of Curtis Road and U.S. 45, is an old house Abe is said to have visited when he passed through this area as a circuit-riding lawyer.
The current owners of the house – Scott Garth of Mahomet and his parents, Dave and Vian Garth of Champaign – are building hundreds of self-storage units on this land. And they say they're leaving the house standing in the midst of them. not only for its possible historic value but for its family connection.
Scott Garth's grandparents and Dave's parents owned and lived in that house for close to four decades after it was moved to its current location from its original spot near the Senator's Inn down the road on U.S. 45.
"It has some sentimental value for the family," Scott Garth said.
The two-story house – long hidden from view by an overgrowth of trees until they were cut down last year – is currently undergoing restoration.
The upstairs will be a one-bedroom rental apartment, and the downstairs will serve as offices for the new storage business and Scott Garth's other enterprise, Garth Lawn Care, which is currently based at 4912 W. Windsor Road, C.
Files at the Urbana Free Library archives contain many pictures of the house, which was once known as "Rural Home" by its original owner, Matthias Dunlap, father of former state Sen. Henry Dunlap and a host to Lincoln when he was in the area. The house was moved to make way for Henry Dunlap's brick mansion, which later became known as Senator's Inn.
Scott Garth says his grandparents, Porter and Virginia Garth, bought the house in 1965, and Porter Garth based his own business, Garth Landscaping, and a tree nursery on the property. The tree nursery was in use until recent years, he said.
Porter Garth has a degree in agriculture from the University of Illinois and spent his career as a landscape architect, designing and installing landscaping for many homes in southwest Champaign, among them many homes in Lincolnshire Fields and Maynard Lake.
Porter Garth, now 88, worked through his late 70s but has Parkinson's disease and moved into a nursing home a year ago, Scott Garth said.
The Garths are a long line of landscapers. Dave Garth worked in the business with his father, and Scott Garth launched a mowing and fertilizing business when he was in high school and college that he turned into a full-time business after graduating with a degree in business from Illinois State University.
Scott Garth said he and his parents decided to buy the property when his grandparents moved out. Scott figured he could use the house for his offices, and he and his parents also thought the long, skinny configuration of the land was ideally suited for rental storage buildings.
Scott Garth said he and his dad also saw a market for storage facilities featuring the kind of high-security ambience they intend to offer.
The units will range in size from 5 by 5 feet up to 20 by 40 feet, and they'll come complete with climate control, computer-monitored security, a fence and keypad entry and on-site staff for about 12 hours a day.
The upstairs apartment in the house is already leased, Scott Garth said, and will also offer an extra level of security: Part of the deal is the tenant will keep an eye on the property during the evening when staff isn't around, he added.
He and his dad plan to have the first 180 rental units ready to open July 1, and they have room to add 150 more depending on demand, he said.
The new storage business stands across the road from the new Applebee's restaurant under construction on the northwest corner of Curtis Road and U.S. 45 and also across the road from the site of a possible new Schnucks supermarket.
Savoy Village Manager Richard Helton said that the Garths' business is on a prime piece of commercial land that is being annexed into the village.
"I think it will be an attractive facility," he said.
Savoy officials were very receptive to their plans, Scott Garth said, though part of his agreement with the village is to add extensive landscaping to the front end of the property along Curtis Road.
He and his father also chose colors for the storage buildings to blend with the developments across the road, he said.
"We're looking forward to all the new growth," he added. "We feel we're right in the middle of everything."