A little bit of big city in small town Hillsboro, IL.

January 2018, almost 5 years ago, my wife Kristen and I bought this abandoned building in Hillsboro, IL. I’m not sure I could have imagined the amount of work it would take to get here, between loans, stress, dirt, dumpsters of debris, lots of hard work, donations of building materials and help from lots of friends. All that and a large grant through the TIFF program in Hillsboro. Today marks the finish line for the “Big Green” building in Hillsboro. The fourth unit, a New York City, or should I say, Hillsboro styled apartment, FINALLY finished and I am pumped.

-Photos by Sophia Kirk

I’m proud of this whole project. I have to say, this is a special place. I’ve never lived in a city where you know most of the people you see downtown and they know you. Most of our friends live within two blocks of each other, and many of your friends are working on old buildings too!

Super grateful to all you guys for your enthusiam, support, and (for many of you) taking on your own part of our town.

-Brian Lee

Thanks to-

The City of Hillsboro- For the grant through the TIFF program. Definitely would not have been possible without it. -Brian Sullivan, Cory Davidson, Donny Downs and the others on that board, as well as the ladies in the office!

Sid Blankenship- Help and skill through the first year, and lots of “Sid stories” as well as many free vegetables, ladders, paint, and teaching me to sand between coats of paint. (I still have your ladder!)

Kyle Reindl- For helping me tease Sid (ha ha) and for the miles and miles of brickwork and all kinds of craziness of the first couple of years.

Jim May- Donating all the cool doors I used for panels (and doors in Evi Salon). I feel like you gave me lots of other stuff too.

John and Kendra Wright- Giving me tons of stuff for this project- flooring, trim, lumber, and all kinds of stuff you didn’t end up using at the Red Rooster. Seriously.

Isaac Reynolds- For letting me borrow your truck more times than I’d like to admit and listening to me complain for four years about how much I need to get done. O.G.!

Stan Huber- For helping me figure stuff out when I get stumped, and for all your help! How do you frame so fast without rushing?

Drake Paden- For help on the fun and crappy days this year and all the talk about blues guitarists.

Jenny Dunn- For being the coolest realtor even though everything I buy is like 10 grand. Hopefully I’ve helped you get some bigger deals by now ha ha.

All you R.P. Lumber Hillsboro guys through the last few years, even Joe.

Tony Marcolini- For being one of the O.G.’s and lending your knowhow lots of times, as well as your cement mixer!

Anna and Brian Limbaugh- For being the first brave renters and for your patience through five years of bashing and dust on the other side of the wall of Evi Salon!

Jenna and Alex Holtshulte- For being 2nd to start a new business in this building to be a part of downtown’s revival. Also, for giving me the chance to build lots of stuff for Blackboard Mercantile!

Steve Spencer- For all the stuff you’ve sent my way, about 20 gallons of paint, electrical stuff, and insanely random building materials as well as being a great guy to have in the building. Appreciate it.

And to all of your guys, who have been part of this journey with stories, encouragement, and hangouts. THANK YOU!

-Brian and Kristen Lee

I’ve written a lot about this project, if you want to see the whole process check out these posts from the past few years.-


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