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BLOOMINGTON - Once a car dealership, a military barracks and possibly a speak-easy, the historic Paxton's building soon will house downtown Bloomington's next residential development.

Parker Builders Inc. of Bloomington purchased the building at 207 E. Washington St. from Paxton's Inc., and owners Steve and Teri Parker plan to renovate the third and fourth floors into six condominiums or apartments. They will lease the first floor and part of the second floor as office space, Steve Parker said.

"We're going to try to get it with a historical, retro feel," he said. "The market, I think, will handle this, and I think it's vital that we provide living space. We've got the cultural district, the coliseum and all kinds of things going on downtown. I think we can make a difference in the downtown renovation."

Parker hadn't decided whether the units would be sold or leased.

At this point, he's still developing restoration plans but said the quarters would be similar to those at the Bloomingtonian, a condominium development on Locust Street that Parker finished last August. Those ranged in price from $159,000 to $220,000.

The building will have a six- to eight-car parking garage on the second floor with an elevator to the third and fourth floor, he said.

The Paxton's development joins an ongoing process to rejuvenate downtown Bloomington through residential construction.

More than 50 condominiums are planned, under construction or completed at a variety of places, including the Castle Theater next to Paxton's, the About Books Building on East Front Street, The Ensenberger building on North Center Street and the Blackstone-Artonia building on West Monroe Street.

Paxton's Inc. closed in December after a 91-year run in the office-furniture business. Owner Jay Paxton, grandson of company's founder, said the store hadn't been profitable for several years.

Paxton's opened in 1914 with a small box of typewriter parts and $20 in capital.

Founders G. Noble and Jay Warren Paxton later signed a deal with Royal Typewriters and the company grew behind a strong business partnership with State Farm Insurance Cos.

The company moved into the C.U. Williams & Son building, now commonly referred to as the Paxton's building, in 1940.

"This building will always be known as the Paxton's building. We won't change that," Parker said, saying the building's front facade will remain. "We think we found a treasure down here."

According to the McLean County Museum of History, the building opened in 1911 as a car dealership for Williams.

The U.S. Army used it as a barracks in 1943, and Parker said the building's upper floors likely were a "speak-easy" where Twin City residents could get alcohol during prohibition.


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