Arch101: Urbana Architecture

Tour curated by: Arch101: Fall 2013

Architecture plays a central role in society, reflecting the culture of the times and providing the infrastructure in which citizens live. Buildings encompass functional, environmental, and aesthetic elements, and are often considered works of art in their own right.

Urbana, Illinois was first settled in 1822, and was first known as "Big Grove." According to J.S. Lothrop's Champaign County Directory, 1870-1871, "the first house erected here was by one Tompkins, about 1822," and "the first hotel in the city was kept by Charles Busey in a small frame house" (Lothrop 1871, p. 437). The establishment of several mills and the arrival of the Illinois Central Railroad in 1854 contributed to the town's substantial growth, with several hundred commercial buildings and residences erected by the mid-1850s.

Many of the original buildings on Main Street were built of wood-frame construction, and destroyed in an 1871 fire. Some of these buildings were Tiernan’s, Busey’s Hall, Knowlton–Bennett Drugstore, Peterson Café, the Columbian Hotel, Hubbard Drug Company, and Dickenson’s grocery store. After the fire, brick became the dominant construction material. Many of the historically significant buildings currently in Urbana were built in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.

Today, Urbana's Historic Preservation Commission identifies historically significant structures and acts to protect a designated landmark's visual appearance. The Princess Theater and the Nathan Ricker House are examples of local landmarks that one can learn more about in this tour.

In the fall of 2013, undergraduate students in an Architecture 101 survey course at the University of Illinois worked in groups to develop information about the locations within this tour.

Locations for Tour

BUILDING HISTORY Royer completed this commercial building with Danely and Smith in 1926. Located on the southeast corner of Main and Race Streets in Urbana, this building was originally the Knowlton and Bennett drug store. Everett M. Knowlton moved…

BUILDING HISTORY: The origins of this building, formerly known as the First Christian Church in Urbana, date back to 1892 when the original First Christian Church was built and dedicated right across the street. In 1908 however, it became apparent…

BUILDING HISTORY In 1898, a consensus for the replacement of the old Champaign County Courthouse was reached amongst Champaign county board officials. The old courthouse would be located in Urbana like the first Champaign courthouse, a rudimentary…

BUILDING HISTORY The building was designed by former University of Illinois architecture professor Jack Baker in 1964 for his wife Margaret Erlanger. His primary intentions were create an accommodating space for Margaret to dance in while also…

BUILDING HISTORY The Garvey House that exists now was actually a redesign of the Garvey House No.1, which was more complex. Since the first design was considered too wild by the house owner and hardly could come close to realization, Goff chose to…

BUILDING HISTORY Built in the Greek Revival Style circa 1854, this Greek Revival Cottage is a 1987 Community Historic Restoration Project sponsored by the Preservation and Conservation Association. Champaign County also contributed time, labor,…

BUILDING HISTORY Designed by the famous Nathan Clifford Ricker, this was the only residential house he ever designed throughout his career. Nathan Ricker made a name for himself by becoming the first licensed American architect and went on to become…

BUILDING HISTORY Busey’s Hall, also known as The Princess Theater, was one of the first brick buildings in Urbana, Illinois. The building was originally built for two brothers, Samuel T. and Simeon Busey, yet the architect is unknown. It was built…

ARCHITECT: Samuel T and Simeon Busey LOCATION: 120-124 W. Main St. Champaign, IL COMPLETION: 1870 BUILDING TYPE: Originally Italianate, Art Deco façade added in 1934. BUILDING HISTORY The Busey family, a prominent founding family of Urbana,…

BUILDING HISTORY In the basement of University Hall, located where the Illini Union currently is, the University Laboratory High School was born. This school was a preparatory class designed to give older students a jump-start before enrolling in…

BUILDING HISTORY Founded in 1874, the Urbana Free Library is the public library of the City of Urbana, and it is one of the oldest public libraries in the state. It began as a private association, Urbana Library Association and did not have its own…

HISTORY Urbana High School's current building was built in 1914. It was designed by architect Joseph Royer who also designed many other area buildings such as the Urbana Free Library and the Champaign County Court House. The architecture is of…

BUILDING HISTORY Lincoln Hotel, now called The Urbana Landmark Hotel, was built to attract travelers to downtown Urbana. The hotel was intended to be the center of culture and entertainment in central Illinois. For the past 90 years, the hotel has…

BUILDING HISTORY This post office was designed by Oscar Wenderoth and was completed in 1914. It succeeded the North Race Street post office. This post office was in operation for 8 years and was designed by Joseph W. Royer. Now, the building is used…
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