Tiernan's Block/Masonic Temple Nomination


Tiernan's Block/the Masonic Temple is being nominated for landmark status for (1) significant value of the architectural, artistic, civic, cultural, economic, educational, ethnic, political, or social heritage of the nation, state or community, and (2) it is a notable work of a master builder, designers, architect or artist whose individual genius has influenced an area. Tiernan's Block is one of the original downtown blocks. Large buildings built around the time of the Masonic Temple were often called blocks. They usually housed a first floor shop, and the upper floors in this building contained offices and a large hall space. When built, it was known as Tiernan's Block after the original owner, Frank Tiernan, who ran a grocery store on the first floor. The third floor hall was one of the popular downtown opera houses in the late 1800's and is still intact. After the opera house closed, it housed the Urbana Masonic Lodge No 157 for almost one hundred years.

Although little is known of the original architect, J. W. Royer, a prominent midwestern architect designed the current Classical Revival facade that resulted from a 1914 renovation. Royer is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and designed many important buildings in Urbana, such as the County Courthouse, and Urbana High School. The architecture of this building is also important because of the construction materials materials of this historic facade. Terra cotta is not a common material in this region. The Masonic Temple retains a high level of historic integrity, since the 1914 facade remains intact, with a 1953 alteration, as well as interior features. The only alteration to the exterior is the minor alteration of the storefront and the modern awnings on the first floor windows. However, awnings have been used there historically and are not a prominent alteration. On the interior, the color scheme used by the Masons in their 1914 renovation of the hall area is still present, as well as all of the original fixtures. Tiernan's Block/the Masonic Temple is very significant to the social and cultural heritage of the community due to its part in the history of entertainment in Urbana as well as the presence of the Mason's Lodge. It is also a notable work of an architect that has greatly influenced this town, among others.

Property Description

Architectural Style: Classical Revival

Date of Construction and major modifications:

  • 1871: Original brick building constructed, with fluted iron columns and stone lintels on lower floor, and front window with terra cotta caps

  • 1893: After a fire, the entire interior and roof were redone

  • 1914: Entire interior of the Mason's lodge remodeled, addition to rear, and Classical Revival terra cotta facade with Beaux-Arts parapet designed by Royer added

  • 1953: Structural problems arise with original facade, and Royer designs new classically detailed parapet

  • 1979: Masons move out of building, second floor is remodeled, and third floor hall area converted to offices

  • 1996: Interior is being remodeled; restoring hall area

Name of architect and builder: William S. McWilliams designed original building; 1914 facade and 1953 alterations by J.W. Royer

Construction Material: Brick with terra cotta facade

Alterations or additions to building: Terra cotta facade added in 1914, parapet altered in 1953

Missing or removed architectural features: Original facade historically altered to Classical Revival facade

Description of Building Elements


Front: Four story Classical Revival terra cotta facade, designed in three sections and two levels. The first level of the central section has three bays of three light display windows, with maroon and white awnings above watch section. Upper stories are three bays across with 1/1 light, double hung, paired windows. There are two rows of six decorated wreaths, one located above and below the third floor of windows. This central section rises higher than the other two, with a classically detailed parapet. The two side sections do not rise as high as the center. Each section is one bay wide, although it is about half as wide as a bay in the central section. The windows are of simple double-hung 1/1 light design. There is an entrance on the first level of each of these sections, although only the left side is used. The entrance has a highly decorated broken pediment over it.

Alley: The side of the Masonic Temple open to Crane Alley shows the red brick construction, with stone sills on the windows. It is about nine bays long, and has varying window type and size, depending not only on the floor level, but also from the front to the rear of the building. There are four levels of windows, and two entrances on the first floor. Both of these entrances have modern glass commercial doors, as do the front entrances. The other side of the building cannot be seen, because it is common to the parking deck.

Rear: There are two doors on the back of the building, and many of the windows have been permanently bricked over. There is an exterior extension that looks like it from the stage area from the third floor, covered in brown metal. There is also an entrance on the second floor that has a bridge to the adjacent parking garage.


The first floor is occupied by Chef Jean-Louis Restaurant. Upon entrance, there is a large entrance hall, with stairs and an elevator as access to the upper floors. The second floor is open for various offices, much as it has been in the past, although presently remains vacant. The third floor is undergoing construction to divide it into offices and restore the hall area. The stage and original fixtures are present, and the color scheme remains from the Mason's 1914 renovation. The hall area was previously divided and the fourth floor balconies were closed off. Work is currently being done to reverse these alterations and restore the balcony and all areas.


The 100 block of West Main is one of the first commercial blocks in Urbana. Originally most of he structures were wood frame, until, the Busey family constructed a new brick building for their bank in 1870. Busey's Hall was the first brick block constructed in downtown Urbana. These large buildings were known as blocks at this time and were named after the person who funded the construction. The use of brick as a construction material quickly increased in downtown Urbana after a fire in 1871 destroyed most of the downtown area. This fire was compared to the Chicago fire of the same year for the amount of devastation to the community. Busey's Block survived this great fire because of its brick construction, and from then on brick has been used as the main construction material in the downtown area. Frank Tiernan followed this trend when he built his block in 1871, after the fire. It was a three-story structure, with his grocery store on the first floor, lawyer and dentist's offices on the second floor, and a large hall space on the third floor. Tiernan's Hall, on the third floor was a popular opera house, as was Busey's Hall across the street. Opera houses were very popular in the late 1800s, featuring live performances and vaudeville acts. However, there are few records of specific performances that took place at Tiernan's Hall. Both Tiernan's Hall and Busey's Hall were very popular social spots in the downtown, which consisted mostly of groceries and drugstores. There was a large increase in commercial business around the time these buildings were constructed, because the I.B.W., the Indianapolis, Bloomington and Western Railroad, was built through Champaign County in 1869. Main Street was lined with retailers, such as Knowlton-Bennett Drugstore, the Place Confectionery, Dickenson's Grocery, and Hanes Mean Market. With the entrance of the I.B.W., goods could be chipped to them a lot easier and faster.

In 1887, Tiernan's Hall closed, selling the space to the Masons in 1889. The Masonic Lodge No. 157, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, occupied this building for many years, and did many renovations. There was a fire in 1893 that burned down the St. Nicholas Hotel on the east side of the Masonic Temple, gutting the lodge area. The lodge area had been attached to the hotel, open through large arches. The interior was refurbished and the roof replaced within a year. In 1914, the Masons funded a full renovation of the building, complete with a new interior and facade. The interior was redone in blue and gold, and all new furniture was purchased. The facade was then a Classical Revival design with a Beaux-Arts parapet. In the early 1950's, they discovered that the parapet was not structurally sound. The Classical Revival facade that we see now was completed in 1953 by architects Royer and Davis as an alteration to this 1914 facade. The Beaux-Arts parapet was replaced with this classically detailed parapet. Although the second floor has always remained office spaces, the first floor of the Masonic Temple has changed along with the downtown. The original use as a grocery and drugstore remained for many years, although owned by various people, such as Amsbary and Sawin, and McAllister's. It was converted to the Urbana Department Store in 1935, and J.S. Penny took over in 1940. Lorry's Sport Store occupied the first floor storefront from 1966 until 1982. Since then it has housed many types of restaurants, such as a pizza parlor and the current French restaurant. It has followed the trends of the downtown area from groceries and opera houses to cafes and law offices. The Masons occupied the upper floor until another fire that occurred in the 1960s. It did damage to the exterior walls, and the Masons finally sold the building in 1977. The upper floors were renovated, making room for more offices, and a third floor apartment. The City of Urbana Community Development offices were located there for much of the 1990s. It was again sold in 1995, and is undergoing construction to restore the hall space and the rest will be used for office spaces.

The Urbana Masonic Lodge No 157, of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons is the oldest lodge in Champaign County. The Masonic Lodge was established in Illinois in 1754, where the Grand Lodge remains today. A charter from the Grand Lodge established the Urbana Masonic Lodge No 157 in 1854. Their meetings were originally held in the first permanent courthouse in Champaign County. They later moved to Gere Hall, which was on the North side of Main Street, near Broadway, close to where they are now. This was destroyed by the fire in 1871, as were many of the downtown buildings. They then held their meetings in Odd Fellows Hall, which was located on Race and Main where Busey Bank is now, until they moved into Tiernan's Block in 1889. They occupied that building, along with other social orders such as the Knights Templar and the Hope Chapter 104 of the Order of Eastern Star, until 1979. They then moved to Champaign to share facilities with the Champaign Chapter of the Masons.

The Masons were a fraternal order, with many well-known members, such as Judge Ater, and C.R. Griggs. They were members from all professions, including blacksmiths, millers, merchants and lawyers. The order housed many social gatherings, such as dinners and lectures and well as helped with events such as blood drives.

Architectural Significance

Local architect, Joseph W. Royer, designed the Classical Revival terra cotta facade of the Masonic Temple in 1914. J.W. Royer was a very prominent architect in Champaign County in the late 1890's through the early and mid-1900's, and was a resident of Urbana his entire life. he was born in Urbana in 1873, and attended Urbana High School. After graduation, he studied at the University of Illinois under Nathan Ricker as an architectural engineer, graduating in 1895. He worked as a city engineer for Urbana from 1898 until 1906, when he started his own architectural firm. He designed many of Urbana's most prominent buildings, as well as designed buildings in many other cities throughout Illinois. While he was working for the city, he designed the County Courthouse and Sheriff's residence, which is still as well known landmark in Urbana. He also designed the Urbana Free Library, Urbana High School, and the Urbana Lincoln Hotel (now Jumer's). His office moved to the Masonic Temple building after the Flat Iron Building, which he designed burn down in the 1940's. Several of his designs are on the National Register for Historic Places: the Alpha Rho Chi fraternity house in Urbana, the former Chi Psi house in Champaign, and the Franklin County Jail in Benton, Illinois. Alpha Rho Chi is one of six fraternity houses that he designed in Arts and Crafts design for Alpha Rho Chi, his Classical Revival style for the Franklin County Jail, and his Romanesque Revival Champaign County Courthouse. He also typically used different colors and textures of brick in most of his designs, seen also in the previously mentioned buildings. Although his works are mainly of local significance, their extent is not limited to Champaign County. He designed many courthouses throughout the state of Illinois, and his firm, Royer and Davis specialized in large high school such as he built in Urbana. He stayed active in his profession until he died in 1954 at age 81, although most of his well-known buildings were built between 1895 and 1940. His death came only three months after his wife's, who was a local poet and interior designer.

The Masonic Temple facade is of a typical design for Royer. He favored traditional styles, such as this Classical Revival. This style usually displays classical features, such as columns or pilasters, taken from Greek and sometimes Roman architecture. It is similar to Beaux-Arts in its use of classical features, but is of simpler design and uses Greek post and lintel forms more than Roman arch and barrel. The Masonic Temple uses it in the simple classically designed parapet, as well as the broken pediment over the east entrance. The building is also symmetrically designed, with 1/1 double-hung windows, which are both common elements of Classical Revival. Although this type of design is typical of Royer, his typical material was brick, rather than terra cotta. Terra cotta is not a common material for Urbana, seen in only a couple of buildings in downtown, such as the Cohen building on the northeast corner of Main and Race. Royer typically used different colors and textures for his buildings, however, and this facade does have a lot of texture to it/ The white terra cotta also contrasts greatly to the red and brown brick buildings that line Main Street, and the Classical Revival design also makes it very noticeable. He has many other downtown designs, some of which are only a block away, such as the Courthouse and the Urbana Free Library. His designs have greatly influenced Urbana's downtown.



Champaign County Courthouse and Sheriff's Residence Romanesque Revival 1901
Urbana High School Tudor Revival> 1916
Urbana Free Library Classical Revival 1918
Urbana Lincoln Hotel (Jumer's) Tudor Revival 1924
6 University of Illinois Fraternity Houses

  • Aloha Ro Chi: Arts and Crafts

  • Chi Psi

  • Alpha Xi Delta
Rantoul High School   1920
Leal School, Urbana Art Deco 1936
Niles Township High School   1914
Champaign Country Club   1922
Lincoln Lodge Motel, Urbana    
Illinois Power Building,Urbana    
First Baptist Church, Urbana    
Homewood Municipal Building   1895
Other Courthouses

  • Douglas County

  • For County

  • Clay County

  • Grundy County

  • Winnebago County
Masonic Temple facade Classical Revival 1914
Flat Iron Building, Urbana   1904
Petrie Mills Memorial Library   1936


The Masonic Temple is located on one of the main downtown commercial blocks. It is on West Main Street, between the major north-south streets of Race and Broadway. Only blocks away from the Courthouse and the Urbana Free Library, it is in the historic downtown area which is where some of the oldest buildings in Urbana are located. It is across the street from Busey's Hall, which used to house the other main opera houses in Urbana's past. Busey's hall was also the first of the brick blocks built around the time of Masonic Temple. It is also only a block away form the Knights of Pythias, which is a similar social order located at 212 W. Main. Many of J.W. Royer’s designs are also located around this block, such as the County Courthouse, Urbana Lincoln Hotel/Jumer's Hotel and the Urbana Free Library.

- Last Modified -December 18, 2014 - 10:57am
- Author - admin