Located in the heart of the prairie in central Illinois, the City of Urbana enjoys a wonderful stock of historic commercial and residential buildings whose history and architecture help illustrate the evolution of the community.
In 1833, Legislators approved the charter for Champaign County and named Urbana as its county seat. By 1850, a land grant to the Illinois Central Railroad guaranteed rail service to the area. The new route was eventually chosen to be located two miles west of the city in an area that began to informally be referred to as “West Urbana” and eventually Champaign. The construction of the railroad along with the establishment of Illinois Industrial University, later the University of Illinois, in 1867 set the tone for the growth of the Urbana-Champaign area. A boom of construction from the late 19th century is quite evident on campus, in downtown Urbana, and in the established neighborhoods adjacent to downtown.
The postwar years brought another growth spurt to the community as the University increased enrollment. In an effort to accommodate the increasing number of students, many large turn-of-the-century homes were being converted to multi-family housing. By the 1960’s and 1970’s, the pressures of “progress” threatened many historic properties as large scale apartment buildings were proposed to replace single-family homes and parking lots were proposed to replace historic commercial structures in the downtown area. These times brought an awareness of the historical and architectural significance of the area and sparked interest in neighborhood preservation and the restoration of historic buildings.