Richards-Latowsky House Nomination


The house at 305 W. High Street is a well-preserved example of an early twentieth century Craftsman style house that has been home to a number of distinguished Urbana residents during its more than ninety years. It qualifies for Urbana local landmark status under the following criteria:

  • Significant value as part of the architectural, artistic, civic, cultural, economic, education, ethnic, political, or social heritage of the nation, state or community

  • Associated with an important person or event in national, state, or local history

The home qualifies as a significant part of the social heritage of the community with an array of significant owners and occupants, several of whom are important people in national and local history. Chester W. Richards, Urbana Mayor from 1917 to 1919, and his wife Amelia owned a series of Craftsman inspired homes in Urbana. The Richardses built 305 W. High Street around 1911. Other significant owners include Charles Creek, a longtime Urbana jeweler and Erwin Latowsky, a longtime Urbana banker. John H. Manley resided in the home for two years as a student. Manley would go on to be a key scientist coordinating experimental physicists for the establishment of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Occupants of the home are reflective of the social heritage and local history of the West Urbana neighborhood and the City of Urbana.

The Richards-Latowsky house is also a significant part of the architectural heritage of the community as a good example of a Craftsman style house, a style relatively uncommon in West Urbana. The home maintains a high level of integrity today. It must be noted that the interior of the home is well-preserved with exquisite wood floors, trim, and built-in cabinetry, typical of Craftsman homes. Although the interior is not relevant for landmark status, it adds to the overall historic quality of the home. The Richards-Latowsky home is a significantly valuable piece of the varied architectural fabric of the neighborhood.

Property Description

The Richards-Latowsky house is a two-story historic residence, built of wood frame constructionand stucco and clapboard-clad in the Craftsman style. It was constructed circa 1911 and the architect and builder are unknown. The house is wrapped in a brown-painted clapboard base, which extends to the first story window sill level. This treatment is consistent with historic photos of the home taken in the 1920s. All the historic windows on the first and second floors have storm windows.

The front façade consists of four bays. The first bay is a side shed roof enclosed porch, flush with the front façade plane. Three two-story bays complete the front façade. Four steps lead to the small front porch, rebuilt in 1996, in the third bay. The single front door is framed by sidelights with the clapboard base continuing from the façade and a historic screen door. The entry is covered by a small projecting shed roof hood supported by knee braces, typical of Craftsman homes. To the left/east of the front door in the second bay is a set of four, square casement windows, and to the right/west is a semi-hexagonal bay window. The bay window consists of a paired window front and single window sides that are all casement windows with six-light transoms above. Rising above the first story bay window is a projecting second floor oriel pavilion supported underneath by two massive wood consoles. This pavilion contains a pair of centered double-hung windows on the second floor, a pair of six-light small attic windows, and a jerkinhead roof. The third bay of the second floor is a set of four rectangular windows centered above the entryway. To the left/east is a pair of double-hung windows in the second bay.

On the east façade of the building is the enclosed porch, with a shed roof first floor. A second story shed roof square bay extends onto the shed roof of the first story in a sleeping porch fashion. The shed roof of this bay is a continuous extrusion from the south side of the jerkinhead roof of the main house. The first floor porch has a set of three front-facing modern windows on the first floor and a set of three side-facing windows. To the left of the east-facing windows are two squares of apparent stucco infill of former openings between piers. The second floor bay contains a set of three front-facing double-hung windows and a set of two side-facing double-hung windows on each side of the bay. To the right/north of the second-story bay, in line with the main plane of the east elevation is a single double-hung window and a small square attic window above. The left/south of the bay is similar with a single double-hung window and a small square attic window above.

The western façade, which overlooks the single-car driveway, has a brick chimney rising just to the right/south of center. This shaped exterior end chimney pierces the extending jerkinhead roof eaves. Two basement windows, just at grade are centered to the left/north of the chimney, with a set of four casement windows with six-light transoms (similar to those in the front bay window) above on the first floor. The second floor contains three windows evenly spaced with two to the left/north of the chimney and one to the right/south. Above the second floor, to the left/north of the chimney is a set of three square attic windows. The western façade has a jerkinhead roof, similar to the extended pavilion on the front façade.

The rear façade of the home contains more layers than the front of the house due to recent renovations (1989 and 1996). The clapboard base continues on the first story. The extended pavilion on the left/west of the second story also has the clapboard base. Clapboard covers a slight protrusion of the kitchen in the central bay of the first floor. The rest is clad in stucco as is typical for the other façades. The left/west section of the first floor contains basement windows similar to those on the western and northern façades. A set of four, square casement windows and a small single rectangular casement window to the right/east make up the left-most section of the first story. The central section of the kitchen extends about three feet with a single modern door and a set of three windows in a window box. It has a shed roof, only visible at the right/east end. The kitchen door, window, and deck are modern renovations. Next to the central kitchen pavilion, in the main plane of the façade, is a set of two modern casement windows and one modern casement window. To their right/east is a modern sliding glass door that opens from the enclosed porch onto a modern deck.

The second story of the rear façade contains one double hung window on the left/west. Next to that is a large, modern extended pavilion with a jerkinhead roof supported by a rectangular column on the left. One modern casement window is in the center and a pair of modern casement windows are on its right/east. The side of this pavilion contains one modern casement window. The right/east section, in the main plane of the façade, contains two double hung windows in their original location.

The side porch has been enclosed, and the second story on the rear has been extended with replacement windows, which are the only significant modifications to the building. The enclosed porch does not alter the massing and style of the home. The second story rear addition, while altering the massing slightly, does not detract from the overall feel of the home, especially since it is in the rear and is not at all visible from the street.

The southwest corner of the lot contains a garage constructed in 1971, in a similar location to the original garage as noted from the 1915 Sanborn map. It is a gable front, wood-frame construction, clad in stucco and clapboard similar to the home. It is a two-car garage with side storage on the left. The front façade contains a pedestrian door and overhead double garage door. The concrete driveway was paved in 1964 and is one car-width wide.

High Street, first paved in 1905, remains paved with historic brick pavers and brick sidewalks. Somewhat mature trees line the street and the front yard is terraced and well-landscaped. The setback is relatively small but is consistent with other homes on the block. The rear yard is nicely landscaped with a stone paved path and deck.


Community Background

European Americans first settled the area of what would be Champaign County in the 1820s. The County was officially recognized by the state on February 20, 1833, consisting of 111 households and approximately 720 people. Urbana was named the county seat and was platted in September of 1833 with four east-west streets and four north-south streets that now comprise the historic downtown. Population growth was slow at first and consisted of mostly farmers. The construction of the railroad in the 1850s brought enormous population and economic growth to Urbana and neighboring West Urbana (Champaign). The City of Urbana was incorporated on February 14, 1855. As the selected city of the state’s first land grant college, Urbana cemented its place as an urban center in central Illinois.(Adams, Brian and Ilona Matkovszki. Landmark nomination for 502 W. Elm Street)

Issac Busey, Champaign County’s well-known pioneer, originally owned 80 acres west of Downtown Urbana, which upon his death was subdivided among his heirs. His daughter Lillis and her husband, James T. Roe, came to possess the land that would eventually include High Street. On April 23, 1852, James T. Roe’s 3rd Addition was platted along with three other additions around that time, which extended from Springfield Avenue to Illinois Street and from Race Street to McCullough Street. The neighborhood’s close proximity to downtown attracted many families to build homes there. The neighborhood quickly expanded south and west. West Urbana’s growth was a result of rising enrollments at the University due to its close proximity to campus. As the University grew, so did West Urbana, with many faculty building stylish houses in the nearby neighborhood. The University was originally contained to what is now the north part of the Quad and the Engineering Quad bordering Green Street between Wright Street and Mathews Avenue. The expansion of campus south and east was met with the expansion of the West Urbana neighborhood south and west toward Lincoln Ave., where now they seamlessly integrate. West Urbana’s prime location situated close to both the University and downtown made it attractive to prominent residents looking to build stylish homes.

The Richards-Latowsky House is situated on the south side of High Street, just three blocks from historic downtown Urbana. It is a relatively new home within this section of High Street, compared to the nineteenth century homes nearby, since it replaced the lot’s original home. The block is now filled on both sides of the street with mostly two-story vernacular houses with fewer homes conveying an influence of architectural style as is typical in the south and west of the neighborhood. The neighboring homes are all wood-frame construction with clapboard, aluminum, or vinyl siding with minimal stylistic elements from Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, and Greek Revival styles. The house types are primarily of the Gabled Ell and Foursquare vernacular type.

Roughly every other home along High toward Race is shown on the 1887 Sanborn map with the 300 block not even shown. The first home on the property, with the address 215, appears on the 1892 map but is the furthest west home on High Street depicted. Most of its neighboring homes are also evident on this map. The original house, detectable by a different footprint on the Sanborn map and directory listings of previous owners, was a small, one-story home with a rear addition giving it an L-shape, presumably of the Gabled Ell vernacular form. Successive Sanborn maps indicate a series of various outbuildings at the back of the lot, presumably a garage that changed location. Prior to the current house being built, the nearby homes often occupied more than one lot. By the time the current home was built, nearly every lot had an individual home on it.

Ownership History

The Richards-Latowsky home at 305 W. High Street was home to a series of significant residents in its more than 90 year history. These residents contribute to the social heritage of the community and several are important people in local and even national history.

The Richards-Latowsky House property originally belonged to Samuel Busey as part of his 160 acres in 1831. Upon Samuel Busey’s death, his property was separated into six shares, one of which went to Lillis Busey Roe. In 1852, the land was platted as part of James T. Roe’s 3rd Addition. The first house on this lot had the original address of 215 W. High Street. Both the 215 and 305 addresses appear on the 1902 Sanborn map. John C. and Eliza LeRoy occupied the property from about 1887 to 1908. John LeRoy was listed in city directories as a drayman, plasterer, domestic launderer, and insurance agent, and retired in 1904. The first house, owned by the LeRoys, first appears on Sanborn Maps in 1892. Earlier maps do not include the portion of the block containing the LeRoys’ house. That home’s footprint remains the same in subsequent maps, with an addition in 1902, and last appears on the 1909 map. The original house would have been torn down between 1909 and 1911. Eliza LeRoy was listed as a widow in 1908, just prior to the Richardses acquiring the property circa 1910.

- Last Modified -December 18, 2014 - 10:56am
- Author - admin