The River Street building that once housed the Fireplace Cafe and the late Billy Wilson has been the focus of much attention in Collinsville this year as it's undergone a complete transformation.
The Witkos family now hopes to have a new pub and restaurant open some time around Thanksgiving and four efficiency apartments on the second- and third-floors are nearly complete.
The apartments at 3 River St., roughly 500 to 550 square feet each, should be ready by Nov. 1, said Edward Roberge, owner of Stonehouse Construction, L.L.C., general contractor for the building's improvements. At least one is already under contract, he said, and those interested can call Linda Kessler at 860-836-6172.
For many years the building was home to the late William H. Wilson Jr., who operated the first-floor Fireplace Café and lived upstairs. The Fireplace, often called "The Pit," and "Billy" were long-time favorites of many locals. Some were put off by the increasingly run-down condition and Wilson's sometimes rough exterior and demeanor but for many it only added to the charm.
Wilson died in 2010 but the Fireplace stayed open until Kevin Witkos and Gregory Boyko purchased the building in May. The Witkos family plans to run a pub and restaurant on the first floor, dubbed Wilson's Pub in honor of Wilson.
Over the past several months, the building has gone through a transformation as it was completely gutted and is being restored inside and out.