Historic Prophetstown restaurant to close June 30; owner cites hit from COVID-19 shutdown

The Eureka Inn in Prophetstown, is closing at the end of the month. Owners  Joe and Cheryl Waite, who have owned the restaurant at 110 E. Third St. since 1988, cited the recent COVID-19 economic downtown as the main factor in its closing.
The Eureka Inn in Prophetstown, is closing at the end of the month. Owners Joe and Cheryl Waite, who have owned the restaurant at 110 E. Third St. since 1988, cited the recent COVID-19 economic downtown as the main factor in its closing.

PROPHETSTOWN – The Eureka Inn restaurant, housed in an historic 1843 building, will close June 30.

Joe and Cheryl Waite, who have owned the eatery at 110 E. Third St. since 1988, cited the recent COVID-19 economic downturn as a factor in its closing.

“Just no business,” Cheryl Waite said. “Not having customers coming in, we can only do the carryout thing. We can make all this food, but have no one come in to eat.

“I thought about it long and hard, and after 31-and-a-half years of dedicating your life to people, it’s really sad not to have to wait on them anymore. It’s just what it’s come to.”

Had coronavirus and the resulting social distancing guidelines not been the case, the restaurant would have remained open, she said.

“It’s just destroying our small, little towns.”

The restaurant is open for carryout from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and plans to reopen its dining room – for a few final days – on June 26 with the same hours, when Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan to open businesses is slated to begin.

The building’s history goes back to 1842 when it was in Portland, a small village a couple of miles west of town along a stagecoach trail.

When the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad built its tracks through Prophetstown a few decades later, Portland’s prosperity dwindled and business gravitated toward Prophetstown.

The two-story building was moved from Portland and reopened as the Eureka Hotel on Dec. 25, 1872, by M.V. Seely, who ran the Rock River House hotel downtown until it burned.

The Eureka hosted its last guests Sept. 24, 1941.

It was an apartment building when the Waites bought and restored it.

Cheryl Waite is looking forward to cooking her signature prime rib and arranging her salad bar, as she has done for all these many years.

“If somebody comes, they come,” she said, “and if they don’t ... oh well, I’m going out with a bang.”