Jay and Mary Matson
Jay Matson’s fight to save Seminary Street in Galesburg began when the Sandburg Mall opened nearby. This new mall greatly affected main street area businesses, including Matson’s wife’s store, The Calico Cat, cutting its volume back by 80 percent. Instead of moving their business to the mall, Jay Matson decided to do all he could to save Seminary Street by pushing to bring in more shops and restaurants with the hopes of revitalizing the area. In 1977, Jay and Mary, together with a group of local partners and the backing of a local bank, purchased more than a dozen neglected older buildings and began restoring them one by one.
By working with the National Trust, Galesburg was chosen to be one of the three pilot areas for their new National Main Street Program. Matson also worked with locals to buy and restore the historic properties along Seminary Street. TIF money has been used to help restore this downtown Galesburg area, along with partnering with a non-for-profit organization that is dedicated to the revitalization of Seminary Street. Eventually, Jay and his wife founded the Seminary Street Historic Commercial District, which continues to unite the community of Galesburg in preserving and advancing this unique, historic economic center. Today, Seminary Street Historic Commercial District is three-blocks long and home to 30 independently owned businesses, renovated loft apartments and two museums.