Residents seek arts, historic district for Scott City

Monday, June 7, 2004

Over the next few years the owner of the Schock Community Arts Center sees the Scott City area known as Old Illmo becoming a place where people from all over can come to enjoy festivals and performances, a place artists from around the country can call home and a place locals can take renewed pride in and reap economic benefits from.

So Paul Schock and other members of the Kiwanis Club, the Scott City Chamber of Commerce and the Scott City Historical Preservation Society are attempting to have an area of Second Street designated as an arts district and historic district to be known as Old Illmo Main Street and Arts District.

At today's Scott City Council meeting, Schock will ask council members to consider approving the designation.

However, Schock said the council's approval is more of a formality than a necessity.

Even if the council supports the designation, a lot has to be done before Scott City has a historic district or an arts district.

A nonprofit group will be set up to apply for grants, and work has to be done to present the worthiness of the designation to the National Register of Historic Places. A final determination by the National Register could take as long as five years, Schock said.

Schock said he first thought about creating an arts and historic district in Scott City about a year and a half ago.

Since then, Schock, who is president of the Scott City Kiwanis and Chamber of Commerce, and others have put together ideas and plans to revitalize Old Illmo through the arts.

Schock sees bringing the arts into the area as a means of economic improvement.

Bringing artists, festivals and performances to Scott City would bring in visitors and spur the growth of additional businesses, he said.

Schock said other small towns that have added arts and historic districts, such as Clarksville, Mo., and Paducah, Ky., have seen great economic benefits.

Designating Old Illmo as a historic district would make it much easier to apply for and receive grants and would be good for marketing purposes, Schock said.

"If we can merge the arts with the historic district, I think it will bring a lot of people in," he said.

Recapturing the past

He also thinks that the area is worthy of such a designation.

Between roughly 1900 and 1960, what was then Illmo was full of people and businesses because of the railroad. There were hotels, a theater, even an opera house.

Now with building and street improvements planned, as well as art programs in the works, Schock hopes to recapture some of that past glory.

There have already been some changes in the area. In addition to converting the Harmon's Furniture store into the community arts center, Schock has renovated two other businesses on Second Street that will open as a pet grooming business and a restaurant, probably in September.

The Head schoolhouse is also being moved to the area. As soon as the weather is right, the one-room building that served as a school from around 1858 to 1943 will be moved to Hawthorne Park and likely made into a museum.

So far, Schock said, he has not come across much disapproval of the changes Old Illmo is undergoing.

"I'm finding that the community here is very attuned and very supportive and people here want to see things happen," he said.

335-6611, extension 182

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