CCPA tour begins Saturday

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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

The wonderful survivor at 419 Scioto St. has watched over the street for 180 years. It has been the home of the town’s most influential merchants and manufacturers and remained in one family for over 100 years. When it was built, it was on the far eastern edge of town and sat on 4 acres of land.

The house style is a transition between the older Greek Revival and the emerging Italianate sub-styles of Victorian architecture. It has the fully symmetrical facade, matched chimneys and wide frieze of a Greek Revival home. And it has prominently paired roof brackets, pronounced arched window surrounds and an original “covered veranda” (aka porch) that were emerging as the Italianate style of architecture. It was originally topped with a windowed belvedere.

It was one of the homes illustrated in the 1874 Atlas of Champaign County. The exterior remains very much the same as in 1874.

Over the 180 years the home has undergone two major renovations. One in 1910 when running water, plumbing, electricity and modern heating were installed and the covered side entrance and the sleeping room added. And the second in 2013-14 when everything was brought up to 21st century standards, new floors were installed, and the kitchen gutted and redone.

This house was originally built for Abraham R. Colwell, a prominent merchant and grocer who had his shop on Urbana’s Monument Square from 1830 until his death in 1856. From the tax records, it appears that the house and carriage house were built circa 1839. Mr.Colwell’s properties were tied up in litigation for several years after his death and in 1858 the house became the home of James and Mary Nelson and family for 50+ years, until 1909.

In 1909 W.B. Marvin purchased the home for his sister Anna Marvin Johnson, who was the widow of James Brooks Johnson, once mayor of Urbana. W.B. Marvin was owner of a significant manufacturing concern, and the son and grandson of Anna Johnson continued to serve as president of the W.B. Marvin Company through the 1970s. The Johnson family lived in the home for 104 years.

In 2013 the Elliott family purchased the 4,833-square-foot home from the estate of Eleanor Fuller Johnson. The Elliott family completely remodeled the kitchen, updated the baths, painted, wallpapered, and refinished the floors.

The Elliott house is a superb example of how to re-imagine an old structure and breathe life back into it for today’s usage. photo

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Info from the Champaign County Preservation Alliance.

Info from the Champaign County Preservation Alliance.