In January 1973, Canton, Illinois’ north side of the downtown square was engulfed in flames. In 1978 the Fulton Square shopping center was built on the site. While JCPenney served as the anchor for the shopping center since 1979, it faced away from the downtown.
Unable to change the direction of the building, Bill Cook, co-founder of Cook Medical, a global medical device manufacturing company, and CFC Properties, a real estate development and property management company, proceeded to purchase the building in 2009, knowing it would provide a significant amount of leverage for the revitalization of Canton’s downtown.
CFC Properties demolished two buildings in the northwest corner due to safety concerns and further renovated the center. In addition to the northwest side, a wall was torn down to add a spacious walkway entrance with skylights, including two glass storefronts that faced the walkway. The entire roof was repaired, except for the southside, where it was entirely replaced, and each retail suite received a canopy above its entrance. Tuckpointing work to the exterior brick was completed, and the large parking lot was repaved to include green spaces. Last but not least, the center was repainted using colors that would complement other downtown buildings. Following renovations, the shopping center offers 64,000 sq ft of leasable space to retail shops and service providers.
Snowman Studios Inc., an art gallery offering commissioned artist services and consulting, designed and painted the signs at Fulton Square. By 2010, the blank side of the southeast side of the center, along E. Chestnut Street, would serve as space to display murals, also painted by Snowman Studios. Additional exterior light fixtures were installed to illuminate the murals, and planters with colorful flowers were added to help enhance the appearance of the display wall.
Bill is said to be partially responsible for re-opening Canton’s downtown square traffic loop that had been closed for 30 years. It was one of Bill’s biggest pet peeve changes that happened downtown. He knew how important it was to have an accessible downtown, and he took every second to express his opinion to the right people. Though Bill passed away in April, on October 22, 2011, the city held the ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the extension of Chestnut Street. Kevin Meade, Mayor of Canton, shared at the ceremony that…
“Never has more been said about a short length of street.”
Referring to how Bill always asked when something was going to be done about the street.
Gayle Cook, wife of Bill, revealed…
“When they opened the Canton Square, Carl rode in a 1950s car with the mayor to make the first loop around the square. It would have been Bill… but that was just great.”
CFC Properties, in collaboration with Cook Group, also contributed to building the Canton Harvester Inn, a 32-room boutique hotel located on the downtown’s northwest side. Its ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on the same day as the extension for Chestnut Street.
In October 2015, the memorial stone for Isaac Sawn, Founder of Canton, was moved to the grassy triangular area on the south side of Fulton Square, just west of the murals.