The Blue Bell Tavern was located five miles west of Urbana on U.S. Route 36 near the intersection with Runkle Road. This tavern was built in 1827 by Isaac and Elizabeth Prince Smith. It was a familiar landmark for more than a century until it was destroyed by fire. It was a prominent place for the entertainment of the traveling public. The two-story brick building with an above-ground basement stood on a hillside facing the south. A tollbooth was also reported to be at this location.
Isaac Smith is buried in Nettle Creek Cemetery. After his death in 1856 at age 40, Elizabeth married James Crabill and they operated the inn as “Crabill’s Tavern” until his death 10 years later. It then became the home of Isaiah Colbert and his family. It was totally destroyed by fire the evening of Feb. 17, 1927. The fire started when a kerosene lamp overturned as Sherman Saylor, a tenant, was pressing a pair of trousers while preparing to attend a dance. An account of the fire was recorded in the Urbana Daily Citizen, Feb. 18, 1927 (note: it was there misidentified as the “Blue Bird Inn”). A new residence was later built on the site. The fence shown in front of the old inn appears still to be in place. For further reference see Champaign County Historical Society Object ID #3033 at www.champaigncountyhistoricalmuseum.org.
This provenance was compiled by Barbara Sour.
Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.