Local History and Genealogy Blog

Urbana's First Fire Chief - William H. Roughton

It might be hard to believe – but for the first 67 years of it's history, Urbana did not have a fire department.

That changed in 1900, when William H. Roughton organized a volunteer fire department, the town’s first.

Urbana Fire Department, early 1900s


Kmart in Champaign-Urbana

The cities of Champaign and Urbana have had countless big-box store closings over the years. One such loss was Kmart. The location of the original Kmart store in Champaign-Urbana was at 800 Bloomington Road where the current Home Depot is located.

Boating at Crystal Lake Park

Beginning today, Saturday, May 5th, you can go to Crystal Lake Park and rent a boat on the weekends. Perhaps you might be interested in what this same activity looked like over a hundred years ago. I’ve compiled some photos of people boating on Crystal Lake over the past century.

Eat more ice cream? Yes, please!

Champaign Ice Cream Co. truck, not dated

With summer coming (slowly, but surely!), I get in the mood for ice cream.

William Dye: A Local Trailblazer

In 1975, William Elliot Dye became Champaign’s first black Chief of Police. Dye’s appointment was an important moment in the city’s history, as officials struggled to bring diversity and fairness to local government.William E.</body></html>

Say Goodbye to Winter!

kids building a snow Fort, 1985

Kids build a snow fort, 1985

With the snow storm this past weekend, it may be easy to forget that winter is on its way out. Here is a look at some of my favorite Champaign County winter pictures for your enjoyment.

The 505th Air Force Band

505th Air Force Band of the Midwest, circa 1960


Above is the 505th Air Force Band of the Midwest during their photoshoot with a Boeing B-52D bomber.

Champaign’s gambling hotspots in 1937

Floor plan for the Turf Club located at 113 ½ & 115½ N. Market St., Champaign In 1937, an unnamed Evening Courier reporter made a survey of the gambling conditions in Champaign. His 9-part series appeared nightly in the Evening Courier beginning April 29, 1937 and ending May 9, 1937. He found that even though gambling houses were hidden behind ambiguously marked doors, steep staircases, and peepholes, they were an open secret available to anyone.