The most important trait you must have when restoring an old building is patience.
The Preservation and Conservation Association of Champaign County was asked to do salvage on the old railway express building close to the corner of Chestnut and Main streets in downtown Champaign.
This building is just north of the old train station and just south of the base of the old water tower. It dates back to the 1890s and has been moved and expanded. You could run a 60-yard dash inside the building as it is more than 200 feet long from north to south.
The result of the PACA salvage efforts is an abundance of bead board and a few other odds and ends.
The building, now completely empty, has been leased to Pedro Heller and Mike Cochran, who intend to completely remodel it and open a second Black Dog Smoke & Ale House. This will be kind of a big brother to the small Urbana location at Broadway and Water.
The most important trait you must have when restoring an old building is patience, and Heller has certainly displayed that in his past endeavors. Years ago, he oversaw the conversion of the dingy Four Aces Tavern in downtown Philo into the popular Philo Tavern — and the owners never closed the place during the reconstruction.
Cochran, the junior partner, has numerous art and design talents besides his cooking ability, so the two should bring about this new venture without too much trouble. It is just going to take some time.
The inside of the old railway express building needs all new plumbing, heating and wiring — plus the roof has holes in it.
The location has plenty of parking and should seat a lot more customers than the Urbana site. And other than the roof, the outside of the building is all brick and appears to be in pretty good shape. A large number of sliding doors might present a few problems — but nothing that can't be overcome.
Gaylord Swisher (no relation) is the architect for the project, and there is strong possibility that some of PACA's salvaged material will go back into the building. With Cochran's creative skills and Heller's experience, it is just a matter of time before you will have a choice of which Black Dog to patronize.
Bob Swisher has been a collector since he was a child. Questions or comments can be sent to Swisher by writing to The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-677 or emailing email@example.com.