Editor’s note: The Urbana Black Heritage Festival will be held at Barbara Howell Park on June 18 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 213 E. Market St. This article is one in a series of Heritage stories leading up to the festival.
The northwest corner of East Market and South Locust Streets has historic and diverse roots in Urbana’s 217-year history. The now vacant corner has been home to many business types over the years including a saloon combination residential building in 1885 through the early 1900s.
By 1910, the saloon had turned into a candy confectionery, ice cream making facility, and several other small businesses in the former residential sections of 138 East Market Street. The ice cream parlor fixtures were owned by the McCrery Creamery Company by 1914. The creamery was located on the southeastern corner of Market and Locust Streets and that building still stands today.
The fixtures of the parlor at 138 East Market Street would be purchased by Mrs. Susan Williams in 1915. Mrs. Williams was the mother-in-law of William A. Mack who was a native of South Carolina. Mr. Mack had arrived in Urbana from the South around that time, and immediately began making a name for himself as a community leader and businessman.
Mack continued to operate and improve the property and business under the name it operated by under previous owners as, “The Favorite Ice Cream Parlor.” However, the actual property had been acquired by the Benjamin Lodge a few years earlier. The Lodge was the African American Odd Fellows organization of the community. In 1917, the Benjamin Lodge had announced plans to erect a two-story brick building on the site with two business rooms on the ground floor and a lodge hall on the second. Those plans were scrapped, and Mack bought the building where he was running his business a year later.
The Mack ice cream parlor transitioned into the W.A. Mack Grocery store by 1922 and continued for decades. Mack operated his business for about 30 years overall. In addition to Mack’s entrepreneurship, he also served on the Urbana City Council, was a leader in the local chapter of the NAACP as early as 1920 and served as a Reverend before his death in Urbana in 1958.
Rev. Mack resided at 237 East Market Street at the time of his passing, His funeral was held at St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church. He is buried in Oak Dale Cemetery.