Investors and speculators helped turn Peoria into a viable city along the Illinois River, and that included numerous entrepreneurs who took advantage of the water and bountiful farms to open distilleries and breweries. The arrival of the railroad only served to accelerate the growth of the spirits production by opening up markets from New York and Chicago to much of the Great Plains. Altogether, the brewing and distilling industry produced the greatest amount of internal revenue tax for any town in the country.
Anheuser-Busch (of St. Louis) had opened a branch in Peoria in 1889, and its success by 1911 inspired the company to strengthen its presence in Peoria and compete with the eleven distilleries, fourteen breweries, and more than 300 saloons. Thus, the company built the Kickapoo Building, designed to function as a purpose-built brew house.
Prohibition and the Great Depression made the Kickapoo less feasible for Anheuser-Busch, leaving it to change hands among owners for decades after Prohibition. Indeed, during its century of existence, the building has operated as a hotel, restaurant, jewelry store, auto parts store, and apartments. In fact, the Kickapoo name comes from the hotel located on the second floor from 1931 to the 1970s.
Meanwhile, the flatiron description is derived from the building shape that resembles an iron used in homes to press clothes. Due to Peoria's grid design that aligned with its geographic form created by its location along the Illinois River, flatiron buildings were popular in Peoria during the early part of the twentieth century. Architect Albert Keifer chose to employ a Classical Revival design for the Kickapoo building, along with features resembling German Renaissance architecture.
The Kickapoo building thus remains significant for both its design and for its original purpose. The shape speaks to a popular type of architecture that worked with Peoria's road network, shaped in part because of Peoria's location along the Illinois River. And, its original owner/builder reminds us of Peoria's burgeoning distilling and brewing industries that existed prior to Prohibition. Last, the Kickapoo name also notes how numerous businesses moved into the building after Prohibition (a period that altered Peoria's economy), including the Kickapoo hotel on its second floor.