Travis McConnell stands in the upstairs ballroom of the old Elks building at 120 E. Center St., in downtown Warsaw. McConnell and Lyle Schrock bought the building in June and plan to fix it up.  Photo by Gary Nieter
Travis McConnell stands in the upstairs ballroom of the old Elks building at 120 E. Center St., in downtown Warsaw. McConnell and Lyle Schrock bought the building in June and plan to fix it up. Photo by Gary Nieter
Two local business owners are hoping to restore the old Elks building on Center Street to its glory – namely the upstairs ballroom.

Travis McConnell and Lyle Schrock purchased the building at 120 E. Center St., Warsaw, in June and have already begun making some improvements.

Schrock owns The Lab, a mobile phone and tablet repair company, and moved his business to the bottom office of the building. McConnell is an attorney who has an office on Buffalo Street in downtown Warsaw.

“For me, it was an investment in my business. I’ve moved four times since I started,” Schrock said. “I also saw a great opportunity to invest in Warsaw and to create more things for the community.”

“I almost bought this building five years ago when I moved back to town,” McConnell said. “Lyle was talking about moving The Lab and this was for sale. I love the building, and I’d like to fix it up. It’s an investment for me and for the community.”

The guys created Center Street Holdings LLC to purchase the building.

The three-level building already has tenants besides Schrock’s business downstairs including Body Sculpting on the lower level. On the second floor, Ends of the Earth Outreach, Cora’ Lee Rose Photography, ConfigureTek and 1Eighty Digital web design and digital marketing have offices.

The upper level was the old Elks lodge ballroom and meeting space. That’s where their renovation work begins.

“We’d like to restore this and be able to allow people to host weddings, corporate events, any type of event,” McConnell said. There’s space for a small catering kitchen and bathrooms, but there’s serious plumbing, HVAC and electrical work that need to take place.

They plan to keep the original wood floors and just blast the ceiling and walls, then maybe repaint. A second exit is also needed to meet fire code, McConnell said. The fire marshal has given them a one-time exception for the Glam Boutique to host their annual gala in the space on Nov. 16.

The timeline for completion is up in the air, but summer 2020 is what they’re hoping for.

“It kind of hinges on what we need to do and what we can do,” Schrock said. “Once that’s figured out, I’ve already talked to a contractor.”

“I don’t feel like there’s really anything going on in downtown that the community can enjoy,” Schrock said. “We hope to provide that with this space.”

The building was built in 1907 and cost $30,000 to build, Greg Steffe, codirector at the Kosciusko County Historical Museum said of the historical building. The top two levels were owned by the Elks Lodge and that is where they held their meetings and events. It got named the “Arcade Building” because the entire bottom level used to be an open-air arcade that included a barber shop and other businesses. Back in the ‘20s, Steffe said, the barber shop was owned by Roy Sprigg. One day, a man named Martin Durkin walked into the barber shop and asked Sprigg for a razor Sprigg gave him one and the man went over to the mirror, stood there and shaved himself, gave the razor back to Sprigg along with a handsome tip, and left. That man was the first man in U.S. history to kill an FBI agent in the line of duty, Steffe said. As it goes, Durkin was a car thief, who was probably just passing through Warsaw. Durkin, who was wanted by the FBI, was supposed to meet a person with a stolen vehicle in a parking garage in Chicago. The man Durkin was meeting was actually an FBI agent who approached Durkin and told him he’s under arrest.

“Durkin pulled out a pistol and blew the FBI agent’s head off,” Steffe said. “FBI agents weren’t allowed to carry guns at the time. That changed shortly after. By him shaving himself standing up in front of a mirror, it was so he could watch his back.”

The arcade was owned by D.A. Peterson who was a lumber dealer in Warsaw, Steffe said. The Elks building as a whole was sold in 1952 to local car dealer Gael Munson who owned Munson Chevrolet. Shortly after that sale, the Elks moved into their current building at 310 E. Center St.

In 1997 the building was sold to Jon Shively and Mick Welborn. Those gentlemen are who sold the building to McConnell and Schrock.

As with any historical building, bringing it back to its glory can be costly and difficult. Steffe said most buildings that age have been neglected, but that the Elks building is one of the few to have been taken care of to some extent. Steffe said to fix up the Eagles Lodge’s old ballroom above Mad Anthony’s would cost $2 million.

“We’re excited about it,” Schrock said. “It’s definitely a cool building.”