This is a circa 1974 photo of the southwest corner of Monument Square in Urbana showing Ewing’s Restaurant and Cafeteria.
Ewing’s was not only well known in Champaign County but throughout west-central Ohio. The Pooler family operated the business which included a coffee shop and a bakery. Often on Sundays at noon patrons would be lined up from the entrance around the corner on Miami Street; once inside, they would often find Carl Pooler himself carving prime rib. At the end of the line uniformed waitresses would meet patrons at the cash register and carry each tray to a table.
Ewing’s served large family meals on special occasions, such during the Christmas holiday, on the second floor of this building.
In the mid-19th century, the third floor of this building served as a meeting space known as Union Hall. It was the site of theatrical performances as well as church bazaars and political speeches.
In 1863, the Ladies Aid Society of Urbana’s St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation arranged for Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, to speak at Union Hall. However, it is uncertain whether Douglass spoke there as there is no documented account of him having done so. In 1910 there was a motion picture theater in this building, presumably on the third floor.
An interesting note regarding the building is that embossed on a cast iron support column within is “Willcox & Gwynne.” Perhaps this came from a local foundry as the Gwynne family members were early prominent merchants in Urbana.
The Champaign County Historical Museum is a not-for-profit organization that depends upon donations and dues to preserve, protect, archive and display the artifacts that tell the Champaign County story. The free public museum located at 809 E. Lawn Ave., Urbana, is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Information from Champaign County Historical Society.