When my husband and I were out to dinner the other night, I noticed the very large empty space at 201 North Neil Street. It used to be the Chicago Title Company building. It’s where my husband and I finalized the purchase of our home. Now it’s completely empty, but that night, there was a light coming from inside. Very curious. After a little investigation I learned that the location will soon be renovated and turned into a 1940’s themed steakhouse called Hamilton Walker’s Steak, Seafood & Spirits. The name isn’t just a cool sounding name either, it has a rich history behind it.
In 1887 that same location was Champaign’s very first Opera house. Walker’s Opera House was the first of it’s kind to be built solely for the purpose of performances.
After the property was completely destroyed by fire in 1917 the Hamilton Hotel took it’s place. The Hamilton Hotel had several major fires of it’s own. Soon after the last fire had devastated the top two floors of the hotel it was decided that the space would be renovated and sold.
In 1977 they built a fake facade around the building and the Chicago Title Company moved in. They then relocated in 2012 leaving the building vacant. The facade was later removed and demolition began for Hamilton Walker’s.
I’m so happy to discover that another restaurant is headed to downtown. One with investors who care so much about preserving Downtown Champaign’s history.“Trust Hamilton Walker’s for not only our level of commitment to quality foods, beverages and service, but also as an homage to our location,” Brian Margulis, owner of Creative Hospitality Associates, said in a written statement. If it weren’t for them and this new restaurant, I wouldn’t have discovered all of these wonderful facts about my city.
The restaurant will have a family seating area, outdoor seating and a private party area for up to 50 guests. They will also have a carry out menu. Yesss!
Hopefully we will be enjoying Hamilton Walker’s by late July or August. I’ll keep you posted!