Greg Peck: It was billed as Janesville's “Restaurant in the Sky”
A report March 26, 1969, in what was then called the Janesville Daily Gazette, told how the state's first “restaurant in the sky” would be built here.
The Starlite would look similar to the Space needle built for Seattle's 1962 World Fair, the report stated. The Starlite would be a 423-seat restaurant and cocktail lounge reaching 200 feet above the ground. Helmut Ajango, the Fort Atkinson architect who designed The Fireside Dinner Theatre in Fort, designed the Starlite. He did the work for Fred Weber, president of Starlite Corp., and his brother-in-law, Francis Campion. Weber was co-owner of several Holiday Inns and former partner in Fitzgerald & Weber Oil. Campion had been in the food and bar business for six years, four as bar manager at Beloit's Corral Restaurant.
This restaurant, planned as the first in a series of tower restaurants, was to be on two acres along Milton Avenue between what was then Rockland Realty, the Holiday Inn and Rock Veterinary Clinic. Cost was estimated at $250,000. The structure would house two elevators and two staircases in a corrugated steel shaft 20 by 20 feet. Atop the 150-foot tower would sit a 70-by-70-foot two-story dining area. The structure was designed to withstand winds up to 100 mph. Preliminary plans had been approved, and construction was to begin in two months, pending final approval.
Another report, June 12 of that year, stated Starlite construction was delayed due to the recent increase in prime interest rates, “which has made the financing situation difficult,” Weber told the newspaper. He added, however, that he and Camion were “still very high on the project, as we know Janesville and the area can support such a restaurant. We hope to build within a few months, when we have reason to believe the economy will cool off.”
Our file of newspaper clippings contains no further updates. Alas, the restaurant never, um, got off the ground or I'm sure we'd know about it today, even if it had been built and closed long ago.
Readers have responded very well to my weekly series of restaurant blogs. I found Gazette clip files containing photos of two more former Janesville eateries, so I'll be back with reports on these in the next two weeks.