Editor’s note: This article is one of a series of articles provided by the Champaign County Preservation Alliance and leading up to the annual Historic Home & Garden Tour. This year’s tour is an opportunity to visit eight homes, a couple museums, a garden, a church, a business and a railroad car. The tour is 11 a.m.-5 p.m. June 29 and 30 in Urbana. Pre-sale tickets are available at local banks and retailers, and a complete list is available at www.ccpapreserveohio.org
The Steed home is a gem of a house, 150 years young and located at 462 E. Court St. When built in 1868 it was a showplace on East Court Street. It had the first residential sidewalks, metal fencing and curbing in Urbana. Like several other homes on this year’s tour it was owned by several generations of one family, in this case the Leonard family. This family was noted in the newspapers of the time as being one of Urbana’s “wealthiest and most influential.”
The house style is a classic example of high Italianate architecture with an early 20th Century Colonial Revival porch. The Italianate features include the delightful belvedere on top, a prominent roof overhang, and a paneled frieze with carved brackets. The belvedere feature was for ventilation in the pre-air-conditioner age. The windows were opened and drew the warm air up and out of the home and cooler air into the lower floor windows. Many older Urbana homes had either a belvedere or a roof hatch to aid in ventilation.
This 2,634-square-foot house has long been divided into two units. The current owners are restoring the home and improving the revenue-providing unit. Note the delicately curved staircase, door and window moldings, high ceilings, and modern kitchens.
This house is in the Baldwin Addition of Urbana. It was built circa 1868 by A. Heiseum on speculation. It was purchased in April 1870 by Henry Leonard, a self-made man who made his fortune in the pork packing establishments of Cincinnati. During the Civil War he raised a company and served 4 years as its captain. Two of his three sons were killed in combat operations during the war. Captain Leonard was active in Urbana’s Brand Post of the GAR and the Loyal Legion of the US.
Captain Leonard died December 1899 and the house passed to his widow. In 1929 it became property of his daughter Agnes Legner Schecter and in the same year to Harry H. Legner and his wife Olive.
At this point history reads like a soap opera! Harry did something and “had to leave the country.” The newspapers and court records are silent about the cause, but it was significant enough to result in a divorce in favor of Olive and transfer of the property with Harry in Ottawa and Olive in Urbana. Olive continued to live in the home until her death in 1983. During her residence, the home was divided into two units.
The home had been in one family’s possession for 113 years.
In 1983 the home became the property of D. Robert Wetzell, who sold it to the Steed family in 2016.
The Steed house sat vacant and unattended for several years before they purchased the home. The owners have saved this architectural and historically significant home for the future.
Info from the Champaign County Preservation Alliance.