Cattle Bank & Champaign County Historical Museum

Architect: Unknown
Location: Champaign, Illinois
Original Completion: 1858
Restoration Completion: 1983
Building Type: Financial, Commercial

The Cattle Bank building is the oldest commercial building in Champaign-Urbana. In 1856, the Grand Prairie Bank of Urbana opened a temporary branch bank of West Urbana (now Champaign) to be moved to a permanent location in the near future. In 1858, the temporary bank location was closed permanently and the, now finished, Cattle Bank conducted the business of the branch. The Cattle Bank dissolved on June 17th, 1861 as a victim of the financial crisis. From 1865 to the 1870s, Nicholas Miller used the building as a mineral water manufacturer. The building was then leased and operated as drug and grocery store from the 1870s to 1893. Following that, the McGraw family operated a grocery in the building from 1893 to 1936. Next, the building was used as drug store between the years of 1936 to 1951 by William Kuesink. Finally, Heimlich Sundries was placed in the Cattle Bank building from 1951 to 1971. A fire gutted the building in 1971, and not until 1977 did the Champaign City Council purchase the building from Trautman for $14,500. In 1981, the federal grant and a $50,000 low-interest loan helped to pay for the restoration, which began in March 1982. In 2001, the building officially became the Champaign County Historical Museum.

The Champaign County Historical Museum has been many things throughout the years, from water mineral manufacturers to grocery stores. The original design, however, was not for these purposes. The original brick building was a bank, more specifically, the Grand Prairie Bank of Urbana, Illinois (prior to the split between Champaign and Urbana.) The bank only lasted a short three years before it dissolved into more of a commercial space. The bank was gutted due to a fire in 1971, so most developers assumed it would be demolished for space for other commercial spaces, however restoration was the final decision, where it was made into what we now know as the museum. In the restoration process, the building was designed in a way to give the museum multiple rooms in order to showcase different periods and important figures such as a grocery store of the past, a toy room, as well as a historical military room. As for the building intentions as a whole, I believe the original architect was only thinking about the structure being utilized as a bank, however it proved to have many purposes.

The Cattle Bank is an Italianate style building with brackets and dentils under the eaves and drip moldings over the windows. The building is a brick structure, two stories in height.

Due to the fact that the Cattle Bank Building was completed in 1858, there are no records of an established architect attached to the construction. The three names seen most as the builders are Thomas Hubbard, William H. Coler, and Edward Eter. Hubbard, Coler, and Eter were partners in creating the first bank in Champaign County in 1855, and then went on to create a bank, The Cattle Bank, in the town of Champaign with Eter as the initial president.

This being said, it is also a fact that the building was gutted by fire in 1971. There were plans to destroy the building, but a group, later to be called the Preservation and Conservation Association of Champaign County (PACA), associated with the Champaign Historical Museum campaigned successfully to save the Cattle Bank building. The campaign began when the group was identifying historic sites for the Bicentennial and the Cattle Bank building was chosen. In September 1981, with the building saved and PACA officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, PACA submitted a proposal to the city to take over the official Cattle Bank Restoration project. PACA felt like it was most qualified because of the buildings small size and the organization's primary goal would be to restore the building faithfully to the original. The proposal was approved and PACA began to do historical and architectural research and develop funding campaigns. The three names most associated with this project are Bruce Hannon, Gregory Hargus, and William Schmidt.

Gregory Hargus is a graduate of the University of Illinois Architecture program, who currently owns a construction company that works on historical sororities and fraternities on campus. Hargus is also current House Manager of the Anthemios Control Corporation Board. Professor Bruce Hannon teaches at the University of Illinois, and has a BS in Civil Engineering along with an MS and PhD in Engineering Mechanics from the University. The floor plan has initials BH in the corner, displaying that Professor Hannon did these renderings. William Schmidt is one of the founders of PACA, most associated with the Cattle Bank restoration project.

The restoration was completed in 1983.

Other successful preservation projects by PACA:

The Greek Revival Cottage (1852)

The historic Stephen A. and Clara Forbes House (1884)