On Saturday, Nov. 5, when the Champaign County Preservation Alliance hosts its third Urban Loft Tour, the organization will be celebrating a spirit that has spread across the country. The National Trust for Historic Preservation in a recent study characterized the movement as “Reurbanism.”
Historic preservation encourages cities to build on the assets they have, unleashing the enormous power and potential of older buildings to improve health, affordability, prosperity and well-being. Ultimately, it’s the mix of old and new buildings, working together to fashion dense, walkable and thriving streets, that helps us achieve a more prosperous, sustainable and healthier future. By transforming the places we live to places we love, older buildings are a key and irreplaceable component to this future, and we are richer and stronger when they remain.
The 2016 Urban Loft Tour will give participants the opportunity to see the creativity and hard work of pioneers of “Reurbanism” at work in Urbana and to view other properties still awaiting someone with vision to give them a new and exciting future. This year’s tour will feature nine separate locations.
Tour sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $17 on the day of the tour and $15.00 when purchased through November 4th. Advance purchase tickets are available at Urbana financial institutions, the Chamber of Commerce office and at Mark Joseph Floral Design Studio/H. Holding & Co. on Monument Square. On the day of the tour, participants should purchase tickets in the lobby of the Gloria Theatre at 216 S. Main St.
Since the tour focuses on spaces that are located on the upper floors of historic downtown buildings, stair climbing ability is essential. A flashlight might be helpful for visitors to highlight original details in unrestored areas. Pets are not allowed and comfortable shoes and warm clothing are recommended since some sites are without heat.
Tour-day tickets available at the Gloria
Once again, the Grandworks Foundation has made the Gloria Theatre available as the headquarters location and starting point for the tour. The Gloria is also the only point on the tour where visitors can purchase tour tickets on the day of the tour. Grandworks volunteers will be on hand to conduct tours and give participants the opportunity to view the many improvements that have been made in converting this iconic structure into a vital community center.
The tour will also feature both completed residential spaces and those under restoration. One space that was shown under construction at the time of last year’s tour is now home to a young couple. Another building includes a professionally decorated apartment that offers upscale modern comforts and a spacious, light-filled environment just steps from Monument Square.
Many upper level spaces in the downtown were built with the intention that the upper levels would be residential. One of this year’s sites is just such an apartment. It is currently awaiting refurbishment but the owner will no doubt feature the beautiful colonial revival style mantelpiece when the space is ready for new tenants. Another space is currently undergoing renovation with an urban loft style theme which features walls of exposed brick.
Historically, some larger stores in downtown Urbana had sales space in upper stories. However, in recent years retail establishments have been almost exclusively confined to the ground floor. One Urbana retail business, Mark Joseph Floral Design Studio/ H. Holding & Co. has been configured to include a spacious second floor display room. Tour participants will have the opportunity to see what the new owner, Mark Mefford, has done with one of the largest retails spaces in the downtown area.
In recognition of the very important role that fraternal organization played in the architectural development of 19th and early 20th century downtown Urbana, the Champaign County Preservation Alliance is delighted to include the Urbana Masonic Temple on this year’s tour. Multiple floors of the temple will be open for view on November 5th. Other than the sanctuaries of area churches, the Masonic Temple contains what are arguably the most architecturally significant meeting spaces in Champaign County. This past July, the Temple celebrated the centenary of its dedication. Since its construction, it has been a key component of an anchor block of the downtown Urbana streetscape. Lodge members will be on hand to answer questions and guide visitors.
In response to requests from the public, one more “structure” will be included in this year’s tour. It is the Champaign County Preservation Alliance’s NX23 Railcar located at 644 Miami Street adjacent to The Depot Coffee House and the Simon Kenton Trail pike path. Volunteers will be on hand to give visitors a tour of the car and recount its unique history. Young and old alike will enjoy the opportunity to learn what it was like to ride the rails in a caboose.
The 2016 CCPA Urban Loft tour offers something for every interest from those who enjoy beautifully decorated spaces to those who savor the opportunity to see spaces in the raw and to dream about what they could become. Real Living Darby Creek is once again the corporate sponsor of the Urban Loft Tour which is being held in conjunction with the Monument Square District’s Holiday Open House. Loft sites are intermingled with Urbana’s unique downtown shops and restaurants. Enjoy a great day out in historic downtown Urbana while you tour the following locations.
Gloria Theatre – 216 S. Main St.
216 South Main Street has been a major focus for entertainment in Urbana for more than a century. The Clifford Theater, built by the nationally famous vaudeville entertainer and Urbana native, Billy S. Clifford, opened its doors in 1905. As vaudeville declined and movies became the popular entertainment of choice, Urbana inventor and entrepreneur, Warren G. Grime, rebuilt the Clifford as an art deco movie palace in 1941. The theater opened its doors as the Gloria on Christmas Day 1941. 2016 Loft Tour visitors will be able to see the progress made since the GrandWorks Foundation began its revitalization. They will tour the second floor where they will still see vestiges of the old Clifford Theater as well as the projection room and the Grimes’ family private viewing room with its custom designed Gloria Theatre carpeting. When the Urbana Cinema closed, Dave Smith and a group of volunteers at the Urbana United Methodist Church were intrigued with the potential role the theater might play in the life of the community. They formed the GrandWorks Foundation. In 2014 CCPA made a $5,000 grant toward the renovation of the theater. In the past year, GrandWorks has continued its work on the building. Since the theatre reopened in December 2014, it has welcomed some 6,000 guests and sponsored nearly 70 events. These figures attest to the fact that the Gloria is once again becoming a community gathering place.
22 Monument Square
Like several other structures on the Square, 22 Monument Square is actually a component part of a larger structure. While the ground level spaces are clearly divided into separate entities, the upper floors share staircases and often have connecting doors. 22 Monument Square is the center section of what was once the Union Hall Block. Looking at the exterior of the structure, it is clear that the three units in the southwest corner of Monument Square began life as a single structure. In the middle of the 19th century the building was perhaps best known for the meeting space on the third floor known as Union Hall. It was the site of theatrical performances of all types, church bazaars and dinners and political speeches. In June 1853, the African-American community in Urbana worked to arrange a speech at Union Hall by Frederick Douglass, one of the foremost abolitionist leaders of the day. The superstructure of the building also provides a hint of the industrial history of Urbana. A cast iron support column is embossed with the name “Willcox & Gwynne.” The firm was a foundry and machine shop that later became the Urbana Machine Works and then, in the last quarter of the 19th century, the Buckeye Foundry and Machine Shop. By 1869, the era of performances at Union Hall was over and the Urbana Citizen & Gazette announced that it was moving its headquarters to the old Union Hall which would then be known as the Union Printing Company. A variety of retail and professional businesses have occupied the ground floor at 22 Monument Square. Early in its history, it was home to the newly formed Clark, Baldwin & Co. dry goods which was moved to poetry in its newspaper advertisements: “Their Goods are right, their prices low/Go and see and then you’ll know/Goods to one and all the same,/without respect to class or name.” At various times a grocery and a cigar manufactory occupied the first floor. Robert Graves Nationwide insurance was headquartered in the building for many years. His daughter Linda Cosby joined the agency in the 1980s and in 2014, Jamon Sellman acquired both the business and the building. Sellman has moved his agency to the former Uhlmans building across the square which was featured in the inaugural Urban Loft Tour. However, he continues to own 22 Monument Square and is currently undertaking the creation of a loft style apartment with exposed brick walls on the second floor above the former insurance offices.
15 Monument Square
Mark Mefford, the owner of Mark Joseph Floral Design Studio and H. Holding & Co., is committed to making sure that downtown Urbana remains the heart of the community. Last year, Loft Tour visitors visited his home on the top floor of the Mosgrove Building on Miami Street. This year participants will see his creative vision at work as they tour 15 Monument Square. Mefford who for two decades has been the owner of Bill’s Enchanted Flowers and Gifts has more than quadrupled his floor space by combining his floral design, giftware business with a “vintage community” which features antiques, vintage items and a wide range of gift wares. A massive new, custom-designed cooler for flowers has been installed on the ground floor where the creative work of the floral design team is on full display. The gift, vintage and antique items are artfully arranged in every available space both upstairs and down. The core of 15 Monument Square was built for Albert Stevenson in the 1880s. Until the mid-twentieth century, the building had one of the most elaborate facades in downtown Urbana with ornate window treatments, quoins and a parapet with railing in the Second Empire style. The Stevenson family built the store as additional space for their adjacent furniture business. This location on the square is still identified with its owner of the last decade of the 19th and first decades of the twentieth century, Harmstead and Holding. Charles A. Harmstead trained as a harness maker and eventually operated a harness business at 107 Scioto St. In 1894 he formed a partnership with his nephew Edward W. Holding and moved into the location at the “angle” of the square. By the early 1900s the owners foresaw the decline of the harness and saddlery business and expanded their line to include a wide variety of products including sporting goods, bicycles, motorcycles, automobile accessories, tires, luggage and eventually electric appliances. Houte’s Hardware was quartered in the building in the 1950s and 1960s. By the early 1970s the building was the home of the popular Ol’ South Restaurant. In 1999, Catfish Jones took over the business. Most recently it was repurposed as the home of H. Holding and Co. with a two-floor format.
12 and 13 Monument Square
The federal style building at 12-13 Monument Square has witnessed most of Urbana’s history. Although it has been divided in two, it was originally a single building and the upper floors share a central stairway. Like many structures, its exterior has been modified over the years. It now has a decorative Victorian cornice, an embellished central dormer on the Square façade and decorative tin window lintels. The five-bay front and Palladian style north-facing attic window speak to its early 19th century origins. The second floor center window overlooking the Square still has its original six-over-six pane configuration. The ground floor has had far more drastic changes in its windows. Over the years, the building has housed a variety of professional offices and businesses as well as residential units. From the late 1900s through the 1950s, 12 Monument Square, the section closest to Scioto Street, was literally the corner drug store. It operated under the names Anderson and Cramers, Cramers, Wilson and finally Mills Pharmacy. Many Urbana natives will think of 12 Monument Square as the home of Howard Evans Jewelers. When the Evans store opened there in 1958, it promised “two floors of gifts from all over the world.” For many years, the second floor of this section housed the offices of dentist Arthur Bible. This space still has a doctor’s office feel and is awaiting renovation. Darcy R. Bacher purchased 12 Monument Square in 2009. Pat and Patsy Thackery own 13 Monument Square. Last year they decided to renovate the second floor. Construction of a spacious one-bedroom apartment overlooking the square was underway during the 2015 Tour. The open plan living space retains an original mantle. 13-B is now the home of Lydia Hess and Charlie Greer who have opted for an eclectic style that mixes old and new. In the early 1870s the building was home to W.C. Stevenson, Undertaker.
The Stevenson family also moved their furniture business to the building. The Paradise Lunch, later Restaurant, flourished at 13 Monument Square from the early 1920s and was then memorialized in the name of the new Café Paradiso in 2007. In the post-Civil War era the top floor of this building was known as Anderson Hall and was the meeting place of the William A. Brand Post 98 of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Civil War veterans. In fact if you look closely at the Champaign County Historical Society’s photographic display in the front windows you can see the shadow of the G.A.R logo between the upper two third floor windows. Tour participants may feel a degree of sympathy with the veterans. More than a half-century after the end of the War, writing in 1917, Champaign County historian Evan P. Middleton noted that:
“for several years W. A. Brand Post has had its headquarters in Anderson Hall, 12 ½ Monument Square, where meetings are held on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Recently, however, the members have been seriously considering a change of meeting place. To reach Anderson Hall, the members of the post, whose steps are not nearly so elastic as they were some years ago, have to climb three long flights of stairs. This condition as well as the physical disability of many members, has made it possible for only from six to ten to attend meetings.”
125 Scioto St.
The 1890s and the early 1900s saw a building boom in downtown Urbana as structures were remodeled or replaced and empty lots filled in. 125 Scioto Street was part of that expansion and was known as the Glessner Building. The structure was built with store front/office space on the ground floor and a two-story apartment above. At the time members of the Glessner family still had their residence at 123 Scioto Street. 123 Scioto Street, featured on the 2014 Urban Loft Tour, is a much older structure whose façade has been significantly changed but still retains beautiful early 19th century woodwork in its upstairs rooms. One of the earliest commercial tenants at 125 Scioto was a branch of the Columbus-based Longworth and Schroeder Music Store. They were followed by Morgan Millinery, a fruit vendor and the Singer Sewing Machine Store before the Christian Science Church selected the building as its reading room and place of worship. The building remained in the ownership of the Glessner family until the late 1930s. In the early 1940s L. B. Berry Insurance acquired the property. It remained the Berry office into this century with Robert W. Bean as one of the owners. In May 2002, Main Street Urbana recognized the building with a Preservation Merit Award. As is typical of commercial buildings of its period, the building has restrained external decoration. It does have detailed oak panels with heavy moldings in an style reminiscent of the classical egg and dart design on the ground level and a detailed metal roof cornice. The front façade is faced in the lighter color brick popular at this period and features six upper windows with limestone lintels. The ground level has three bays delineated by square columns topped with Corinthian-like capitals. The upstairs has remained a rental apartment although it is currently awaiting refurbishment. It features a spacious living room with three large windows overlooking Scioto Street. Pride of place in this room goes to a lovely Colonial Revival oak mantelpiece with glazed tiles, an embossed iron firebox, a mirror and two tiers of columns. The bedroom is up very step stairs to the third floor and will not be part of the tour.
118 Scioto St.
118 Scioto Street is over 100 years old. Its exterior, like many pre-WWI structure, is restrained in design as compared to the much more highly decorated Victorian structures. It does, however, feature a richly embossed and detailed metal cornice with decorative inset brickwork panels below and uses limestone insets to demark the façade and highlight the windows. Its brick is a much rosier color than many buildings of its period. A newspaper notice from 1903 listed Miss J. B. Taylor who offered “trimmed hats” for sale at this address. By 1908, the building was advertised as the headquarters location of the “Local Option League of Champaign County” where “officials of the League will always be found on duty.” In 1915 it was home to The Electric Shop. By the 1920s it was the office space of Dr. David H. Moore who grew up in Urbana, and married Muriel Hatton. The couple had a home on Court Street but at various times through the early 1950s also listed the upstairs apartment at 118 Scioto as their residence. During much of the second half of the 20th century, 118 Scioto continued to serve as professional offices: first for D. Dowds brokerage and then optometrist Dr. Robert V. Ault and later Dr. Theodore Richards. As the century ended the building was home to several financial services firms. Most recently Attorney Mark E. Kerns purchased the building and established his law practice on the ground floor and employed a custom builder to completely rework the upstairs apartment. The mechanical systems, bath and kitchen all received special attention. The flexible room layout allows for either a one or two bedroom unit. Kerns installed new hardwood floors and custom-made 10 inch crown molding, deep baseboards, wainscoting and chair rails. The beautiful, professionally decorated space is currently configured as a one-bedroom home. The space offers a large bedroom with a bank of windows along the rear wall, a den and a gracious light-filled living room with its own “library nook.” Guests will enter at a foyer complete with guest closet. The apartment also has a back porch and access to a garden. If someone in Urbana wants a pied-a-terre, this apartment could be it!
222 N. Main St.– Urbana Masonic Temple
CCPA Board Member, Robert Pollock, of Harmony Lodge, has captured the essence of the local lodge’s contributions to Champaign County in the following overview:
“The Urbana Masonic Temple at 222 N. Main Street in Urbana has been a city landmark for over 100 years. Construction was begun in August 1915 and the building was dedicated on July 20, 1916. It is a four story concrete, steel and brick building in the “Adamesque” style. It contains two auditoriums, offices, locker rooms, large kitchen, two dining rooms, and a recreation room. Between 1900 and 1929 over three thousand large Masonic Temples like this were erected across the Country. Today less than ten percent are still being operated by the Masonic Fraternity. Urbana’s Temple Facade includes the only remaining operational set of “Masonic Signal Lamps” which glow in different colors to denote which organization is meeting at the time. These lamps are being restored with the assistance of a 2016 Champaign County Preservation Alliance Facade Grant. The Temple is the home of two Masonic Lodges and four associated Masonic Organizations. Harmony Lodge No. 8 Free & Accepted Masons, Golden Square Lodge No. 23 Prince Hall Affiliation Masons, the Urbana York Rite bodies (Urbana Chapter No. 34 Royal Arch Masons, Urbana Council No. 59 Royal and Select Masons, Raper Commandery No.19, Knights Templar), and the Urbana Chapter 530 of the Order of the Eastern Star (for Ladies & Gentlemen). Harmony is the oldest Masonic lodge in western Ohio—founded in 1809. Its area of Masonic responsibility once extended from Dayton to Canada. It now serves most of Champaign County. The Lodge has always been an integral part of Urbana and the members have been a virtual Who’s Who of Champaign County. Many of our streets and parks are named for Harmony Masons (Vance, Reynolds, Ward, Gwynne, Thompson, Fyffe, Mosgrove, Lewis B. Moore, Melvin Miller, etc.) Freemasonry is a worldwide fraternity that promotes friendship, education and brotherhood. It is a multi-generational men’s society where each man is equal. Masons learn from one another the art of morality, harmony, ethics, fortitude, and charity. For three centuries we have served as a refuge from bigotry and transcend the divisiveness of partisan politics and religious sects to achieve dialogue and concord among our members. Any man of 18 years and older can ask to join. Ask any Mason.”
NX23 Railcar – 644 Miami St.
The final stop on this year’s Urban Loft Tour isn’t exactly on an upper floor but it does have the bare housekeeping necessities. In its heyday, it was constantly on the move. It’s the Champaign County Preservation Alliance’s NX23 Railcar which is now permanently installed next to the Simon Kenton Trial bike path and the Depot Coffee House, originally Urbana’s Pennsylvania Railroad station, at 644 Miami Street. The car was constructed as a boxcar at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Altoona shops in 1913. However, during World War II there was a shortage of cabooses. The Pennsylvania Railroad converted 75 “X23” boxcars to cabooses, adding the letter “N” to the X23 designation. The remodeling included two bay windows, and ten round windows. The interior was refitted with a cooking/heating stove, a bunk and table booth, a coal bin and three lockers. The car is now also outfitted with several Urbana-made Johnson “Diamond J” kerosene hanging lamps. During the post-war era, this car was used as a Pennsylvania Railroad maintenance-of-way car on the route from Columbus to Bradford, Ohio. In the 1960s the Railroad sold two cars without trucks (wheel assemblies) to Marion W. Parks, a local building supply dealer, who used them on Miami Street as an office and for storage. In 1999, the Parks family donated the cars to the Champaign County Preservation Alliance. A dedicated group of volunteers began the challenging task of moving and restoring the one car that could be saved. There are only four known examples of NX23 railcars left today. The others are in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Indiana. Come aboard the CCPA NX23 Railcar and find out what it was like to work and travel across county in this unique car.
Submitted by the Champaign County Preservation Alliance.