Editor’s note: The Champaign County Historical Society is sharing with readers a collection of “Then and Now” photos of the area.
Russell T. Bundy Associates Inc. is headquartered in a well-preserved old brick manufacturing building dating back to 1881. The company has closed the East Reynolds Street entrance, created an entrance from East Water Street and updated the newer annex buildings. Bundy’s story was recorded by the museum staff at its July 17 program and is available for viewing on DVD.
John Reynolds bought this land from brothers, John and William Ward Jr. (sons of Urbana founder Col. William Ward) as early as 1814 and together with Elisha C. Berry built a grist mill for making flour. Next the wooden framed building was enlarged and changed into a carding and woolen factory. Messers. Henry Fox and Co. turned out textiles that competed with the finest mills of the country and replaced the wood framed building with a brick structure in 1881, while a stone addition was added in 1883.
Beer’s history says “This handsome factory building is considered one of the permanent fixtures of the city.” Unfortunately by 1912, the business climate had changed and the mill closed. That same year 1912, James K. Cheetham Company was attracted to this building to produce tools, dies and auto parts.
George P. Stelzer was the last president and general manager of this business, which later became known as Urbana Tool and Die. Until 1972 they produced steel and carbide lamination dies and special machinery. The building’s impressiveness is mentioned in Beer’s Champaign County History of 1881. The author writes “On the southeastern portion of the city, the ‘woolen factory’ always catches the eye of the stranger.”
Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.
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