Chuck Duckworth found an easy way to attract attention. He turns on the neon lights on the front of the building he is rehabbing in downtown Rantoul.
RANTOUL — Chuck Duckworth found an easy way to attract attention. He turns on the neon lights on the front of the building he is rehabbing in downtown Rantoul.
Duckworth, who has purchased the former Litchfield Hardware store at 114 N. Kentucky Ave., flipped the switch at the historic building soon after he bought it. The main sign came on, but not the smaller sub signs. He left the power on to the signs, and all but one of them eventually lit up.
Duckworth said as he worked inside the store the first night, many people stopped out front to take photos of a sight they hadn't seen in years. Perhaps it reminded them of a simpler time.
This is the second restoration project for the Rantoul man. Duckworth bought and restored an old church on West Campbell Avenue and turned it into a home, which he sold last year. He used part of the money he got from that sale to buy the Litchfield building.
"After I got the church, I drove by this building in 2010 and saw the for-sale sign," Duckworth said. "I said, 'If I could only sell the church I could buy this.'"
He's had a dream of living in a loft, and that dream will become reality.
Duckworth plans to develop the first floor into commercial space and to live on the second and third floors.
"I've had several people offer to rent (the first floor) from me," Duckworth said, adding that process should be finalized in about four months. "Maybe sooner. It just depends on how quickly things progress."
Last week, the micro-loan committee of the Rantoul Village Board approved Duckworth for a $50,000 loan at 4 percent interest to be paid back over 15 years.
He will use the money for floor repairs, doors, electrical upgrades, plumbing installation, window repairs, brick work, and heating and air-conditioning work.
Duckworth is restoring much of the building to its original look.
"We took the old paint off the ceiling," he said. "It had white paint just hanging down."
It will be repainted.
Most of the 3-inch-thick plaster that was covering the interior brick work has been removed.
Duckworth said a woman who used to shop in the building when it was a grocery told him it originally had wood floors, which could be seen when approaching the front door.
Sure enough, Duckworth began taking up the old Masonite flooring and discovered the old wood flooring, which he will restore.
Some of the wood flooring is missing, covered up by other material. Duckworth said another visitor told him he used to work at the business when it was a hardware store 40 years ago, and part of the floor had other material even then. Duckworth will replace that portion with wood flooring.
He also discovered a metal ceiling, which an appraiser told him is worth $50,000.
Duckworth also bought "some beautiful school house lights" from a location in Paxton.
He enjoys everything about the project — working with his hands and seeing a former business place restored.
The 45-year-old Duckworth, who owns AB&C's Cleaning Service, is a native of Danville. He attended Rantoul Township High School before moving away. He returned to the village in 2000 and built a house in the Indian Hills subdivision that he later sold.
A Rantoul classic
Chronology of the Litchfield Hardware building:
1901-1955: Jackson Brothers Grocery, and later, Jackson Grocery.
1955-1996: Litchfield Hardware.
Late 1990s to 2008: Craft Woodworking.
December 2013: Chuck Duckworth bought the building and began renovations.
Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.