The historic Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Rock Island is being sold to become the new location of Great Revivalist Brew Lab.

The Geneseo-based brewery posted Friday morning on social media that it will close its three-year-old location at 125 S. Oakwood Ave., Geneseo, and open in the grand Karpeles building at 700 22nd St., Rock Island.

“While we are excited about this new project, we are also heavy hearted. Tomorrow, Saturday, September 30th, we will be closing the Brew Lab in Geneseo, IL,” the Great Revivalist post says. “This will allow us the ability to move the necessary equipment and fixtures to the new location. All gift cards will be honored at our Clinton location (and at our Quad City location when it opens).”

Karpeles museum director Margie Cain said Friday that they are actually buying the building, a former First Church of Christ, Scientist, that’s over a century old.

The Karpeles Museum at 700 22nd St., Rock Island, opened in the 1914-15 former Christian Science Church in 2012 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“The papers were signed yesterday and will be finalized in a few weeks. We were sad, but he talked to me Tuesday and said he would love to keep the Karpeles Museum alive in his restaurant/brewery,” Cain said by e-mail.

The Karpeles family graciously donated the cases, mobile exhibit documents (copies) and ships for Great Revivalist to display throughout the museum, she said.

The interior of the 11-year-old Rock Island museum (photo by Jonathan Turner).

The Rock Island building opened in 2012 and is one of 10 Karpeles Manuscript Library museums in the U.S. The structure was designed by architect William C. Jones of Chicago in the Palladian style, built between 1914-1915. 

Its exterior walls are brick covered by Bedford limestone. Its superimposed front portico is supported by six two-story columns with egg-and-dart capitals. The dome consists of an outer dome and an inner dome, which are separated by a space for lighting fixtures and maintenance.

The inner dome consists of some 8,000 colored fish-scale glass panes on a wooden support structure. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Great Revivalist opened at 125 S. Oakwood Ave., Geneseo, in 2020.

Founded in 1983 by David and Marsha Karpeles to inspire curiosity and encourage learning, the Karpeles Manuscript Library archives contain more than a million historical documents in the categories of literature, science, religion, political history, exploration, music and art.

To make the collection more accessible to the general public, all Karpeles museums are free to visit, and the collection rotates between its museums three times per year.

Cain said the new brewery will be in the basement, the restaurant upstairs. Karpeles exhibits will be maintained throughout the building, she said.

Karpeles posted Friday on Facebook that Great Revivalist has “been amazing to offer to keep the museum mobile exhibit documents and ships in their restaurant,” and “You will continue to learn about the history of the building and the Karpeles Museum as you visit their restaurant.”

Today and Saturday are the last days that Karpeles will be open, which currently features exhibits on Walt Disney drawings and Star Trek.

Great Revivalist opened a new brewery/restaurant at a Clinton church in May 2023 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Great Revivalist Brewery opened a new restaurant and brewery in May 2023 in another historic location, at 238 4th Ave. South, Clinton, with 30 employees, at a massive former church. That was originally built in 1898 as St. John Episcopal Church that converted to the Bethel – AME in 2007, the first African-American church in Clinton.

The brew lab in a strip mall in Geneseo opened in 2020 and has about 25 employees. Local 4 has reached out to the business but has not received a response yet.

“Well, this is really sad,” Jenny Marmion, owner of Next Chapter Home Décor in Geneseo, posted on Facebook. “Hopefully someone will step up and fill this space with another brewery/tap house with great food and a great atmosphere. As a small business owner in Geneseo people have voiced their concern in coming for the day to shop our wonderful downtown because there are limited restaurants with limited hours to make a day of it. I’m very happy for you Richard and Rachel. Only wish it all worked out here. We needed you and a place like this.”

Chad Rose of Rock Island posted: “Welcome to Broadway – we are thrilled to have you! Additionally we are so excited to see how you transform this amazing building after the fabulous job you did in Clinton!”

Miles Brainard, Rock Island director of community and economic development, said the property has been tax-exempt for many years, and if Great Revivalist opens there, it will generate new property tax revenue as well as food and beverage tax revenue.

“That is a very welcome double-win. Any time a property can be returned to productive use the community benefits,” Brainard said.

The site is currently zoned for small office and will need to be rezoned for the proposed development, which would be neighborhood business, he noted. The rezoning process involves neighboring property owners receiving notice, a public hearing held by the Planning Commission at which questions and concerns can be addressed, and finally approval granted by the City Council.

Brainard said the whole process takes anywhere between two and three months, allowing ample time for different voices to be heard.

The City Council has approved a six-month moratorium on certain types of liquor licenses, but those for restaurants are not included in that moratorium. Having said that, liquor licenses are typically not granted in residential areas, Brainard said. “The Council and Liquor Commissioner will need to evaluate this request more carefully before making a decision.” 

For more information on the brewery, click HERE.