Upper Story Tour – a building tour

Upper Story Tour

For years I’ve wanted to attend the Downtown Springfield Upper Story tour to see what the story of some of the upper stories were all about! This year was the 19th year the tour was held. My sister Debbie and I decided we would check out the six buildings on tour.

Upper Story
View from one of the buildings during the Upper Story Tour.


Deciding on an early dining experience we stopped at The Incubator Café. I have been wanting to see what this was all about. Truly impressed with this space this is how they describe it on their site, “The Incubator is a community-focused coworking space with a mission to support, promote, and connect our members while driving positive social impact. We offer a public unassigned seating area that is open weekdays from 7:00am – 5:00pm. The cowork space is perfect for freelancers, entrepreneurs, remote workers and early-stage companies. At night and on the weekends our cowork area is transformed into an amazing event space for networking groups, private parties, and live music.”

Not only is this a wonderful space for freelancers, but the café had great meals. Debbie and I both chose bowl meals that were tasty and good. This café fills a true downtown need of offering meals between the lunch and dinner time because walking around we found that the great spaces are open from 11-2 or 3 then from 5 and later. We needed the 4-5 range and the Incubator fit right in!

The Villas included in this building profile

The buildings included one new build, The Villas, the first large apartment-complex new-construction project in downtown in 25 years. Located at 300 E. Madison Debbie and I were impressed with the clean lines and modern aspect. This is particularly nice for young people there was even a room for group study.

Upper Story Tour
Another view from a window during the Upper Story tour

Older Buildings given new life are profiled in the Upper Story Tour

We walked our tour following a map provided for the tour. Tickets only cost $10.00 which I think is a bargain. Our next stop was 312 E. Adams Street where new owners are expanding their law practice on the first floor and creating apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floors. What fun to see this iconic building repurposed.

Brown, Hay & Stephens law firm among architectural stories in this upper story tour.

Although the next stop at Brown Hay & Stephens was to see the redesign of their space which was lovely, what I was so impressed with is the history of the law firm. One young attorney shared that Brown, Hay & Stephens is the oldest law firm in Illinois. “We have roots dating back to 1828. ” he added.

The firm was founded by John Todd Stuart who opened a law office in Springfield. While the firm became known as Brown, Hay & Stephens in 1921, one of the earliest attorneys to practice here is Springfield’s own Abraham Lincoln! Besides the Lincoln connection, the redesigned floors were clean, calm and clear and so nicely designed in this wonderful building. This rebuild took place over a three-year time frame and the tour was the first official viewing.

I truly think that the firm should establish a lobby or space open to tourists with a section of their history. How many firms can tout this kind of story? If they need a marketing guru here I am!

The Centre @501 part of Upper Story Tour

Upper Story
Door to former chapel at the now The Centre @501 this area will be a Community Center.

Debbie said she had been watching activity in this former First United Methodist Church take place for a while. She had been wondering what had been going on. Located at 501 E. Capital Ave. we were able to see first hand the wing that has been transformed into 25 residential apartments. Last year this was vacant space and now the apartments will soon be ready to rent in June.

I love the fact that rather than tear down this architectural wonder, they have created one and two bedroom apartments (and each one is a bit different). We had fun walking through the spaces and enjoying the various views from each. One wonderful aspect is each apartment has its own washer/dryer.

I personally really liked the kitchens with the islands. The clean, clear lines in this architecturally stunning space was very interesting. The former chapel will be a community room. The doors are amazing!

Bright New Day Renovation Project

I admit to not really knowing much about the history of this building on 516 E. Monroe. When we were told that it will be apartments it sounded nice, but when we were to walk up to the fifth floor I had my doubts. But my oh my! This build will be so lovely, it would almost convince me to move in from the farm!

The bathrooms, the kitchens, all very luxe.

The fifth floor had finished apartments and others were in buildout ready state. Keep an eye on this property.

The Pharmacy Gallery & Art Space

This cool space was actually a Sears building prior to the Sears building on 2nd street then prior to the Sears at White Oaks Mall.

(If you enjoy Sears history, you might enjoy this previous story I wrote about Sears Homes in Carlinville, Illinois. Did you know that you could order almost anything from Sears? Besides homes, you could also get an automobile.)

I love the local history you learn on tours like this.

Now The Pharmacy Gallery & Art Space the gallery offered Debbie and I a great tour of local artists art. We also learned this is a place for artists to work, many who were multidimensional artists. I was taken enough to go to the webpage and sign up for local events.


Walking to each of the Upper Story tour stops was a wonderful opportunity to see all of the great places in town. Debbie and I missed out on Anvil & Forge Brewing for the follow-up reception although it is a place I would love to try another time.

My grandson loved this visit last summer.

On the walk though I saw other reminders of great downtown stops like the Kidzeum Museum. I took my grandson there last year and he loved it. If you have children or grandchildren under seven, its a great stop!

I also saw signage about the Springfield Race Riot.

This signage reminds us to be inclusive and tolerant.

This signage reminds us that not all of the past was pristine and that we need to remember to be inclusive in our thoughts and actions to all.

Until next year! I hope to join this wonderful event again. Checkout the Downtown Springfield events page!

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  1. Stacey

    It’s been a while since I’ve been to Springfield, but I’ve loved my visits there. This would be such a cool tour to do. I want to go to Springfield again now.

    1. Cindy

      It was a great event! I am always surprised by all the things there are to do in downtown Springfield.