Then and Now: South Main Street, Urbana


Editor’s note: The Champaign County Historical Society is sharing with readers a collection of “Then and Now” photos of the area.

Oh how times have changed and yet it has not. The circa 1900 photo depicts two and a half buildings on the west side, in the first block of South Main Street, Urbana, Ohio. It shows several retail stores and four with awnings to protect the shopper from the heat of the sun and the occasional rain storm. The tallest of the buildings (although not visible in the photo) has the name Egenberger carved across the details of the top of the structure. (You can see it for yourself nowadays with the naked eye along the street.) The first visible store on the left advertises ice cream and sodas on its awning. (It has not yet been determined the beginning of the word that ends in “able”.) The south side of that tallest building advertises the Egenberger Bakery and Restaurant with fresh breads and cakes baked daily and meals for 25 cents. Down below is Downey’s that also reads “sodas – nectar, claret, and mint” on the window and “drugs” on the awning. Out front is a special decorative pole along the curb reading “DRUGS” with a sales cart below, beside it. Moving north is a clothing, hats, and furnishings business displaying a sign “Egenberger and Franz” on a sign protruding out over the sidewalk. The identity of the next business in the next building is not known but people appear to be seated inside the front store window when the photo is magnified. The last business visible is next to the alley and shows a multi-sided marque with electric lights around the words Lyric, for the Lyric motion picture theater. Its overhead sign says “great feature reels, 5 cents” among other words. The photo postcard has printed on it 75- Masonic Hall, Urbana, O. because the Masonic Lodge met on the third floor of that tallest building where the masonic symbol is carved in the trim above each of the six upper windows with a small three dimensional sign sticking out from the building. Two horse and buggies are hitched along the curb and with magnification one also observes electrical lines strung every which direction overhead at that time.

Now in 2016, the photo taken by Dick Virts, volunteer director and curator, of the Champaign County Historical Society and Museum, shows these buildings themselves have been remarkably preserved with much of their architectural detail work still maintained. Huckleberry’s collections and antiques has replaced one of the soda shops, while Cox Shotokan Karate International USA Headquarters replaces Downey’s Drugstore and the Egenberger & Franz retail business. Eva Carey Realty and Bill Edwards Survey office takes up the building south of the alley that housed the Lyric Movie Theater before. That location became the State Liquor Store when the theater closed.

Now the funny thing about some of the bricks used in the enlarging of that building next to the alley that has been a movie theater and a liquor store is that the brick came from the auctioned off Buck Creek Presbyterian Church building that once stood in Union Township along Everett Road in 1917. Oh well, reused is reused.

The 2016 photo also shows the rest of the block all the way to Carmazzi’s on the corner of the square. (Newer cameras have wider ranges.) Today that includes Phillip S. Schneider, Attorney at Law; Touch of Beauty; The Hair Closet; and Koerner’s Realty. Now not so long ago for many, many years, there was a popular Barber Shop in one of these last mentioned spots that holds precious memories of many a son’s first haircuts with photos to prove it. Oh those memories of time long ago and not so long ago, although come to think about it, even those newer memories of a first haircut are now almost 50 years old. Aren’t we blessed with some interesting memories of which photos remind us? Aren’t we blessed with old photos to help us remember. Many photos have been preserved by the Champaign County Historical Society and Museum, indexed, cataloged and stored for ready accessibility, all done, so far by volunteers growing older.

Downtown patrons once could purchase ice cream, fresh bread and a 25 cent meal inside these buildings. patrons once could purchase ice cream, fresh bread and a 25 cent meal inside these buildings. Submitted photos

This more recent photo by Dick Virts of the same area show that older buildings can be preserved and remain useful. more recent photo by Dick Virts of the same area show that older buildings can be preserved and remain useful. Submitted photos

By Sheryl Virts

Champaign County Historical Society

Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.

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