Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.


Navigate / search

You are here

Local History and Genealogy Blog

Boys Only

Boys Swimming Lessons at Crystal Lake Park Pool, 1944

Carl Bontemps (kneeling on stand) addresses some of the 171 boys who registered for swimming instruction on the first day of lessons at the Crystal Lake Park pool. This was the original round pool; it has been remodeled twice since this photo was taken.

Come into the cool Archives this summer and dive into our vast photo collection!

Read more about Boys Only

Illinois and the Civil War

“In Front of Atlanta Ga. July 31st./64”

“It is with pleasure I take my pen in hand to pen you a fiew lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living an able to eat my rations and fight the rebels terrable hard when we have it to do.” From the “Civil War letters of Pvt. Jacob Haynes Rhoads” by Jacob Haynes Rhoads

Call Number: A B RHOADS WAH


Civil War Veteran Civil War Veteran       Civil War Veteran

Read more about Illinois and the Civil War

Anita Purves and the Nature Center

Concept art for the 1995 expansion of the Anita Purves Nature Center by Isaksen/Glerum PC Architects, 1993.

Concept art for the 1995 expansion of the Anita Purves Nature Center by Isaksen/Glerum PC Architects, 1993. 

As a longtime resident of Champaign County, I have visited the Anita Purves Nature Center (APNC) at the north end of Crystal Lake Park in Urbana many times. My kids love to explore the collections of native flora and fauna and learn about the center’s animal ambassadors—Quasi the one-eyed owl is our favorite. We explore the trails in Busey Woods and sometimes we just relax in the Wildlife Observation Room and try to identify the bird calls streaming in from the bird feeding station. I have always enjoyed the facility, but did not know the story behind the Anita Purves Nature Center, nor the story of its namesake. While processing the Champaign County Conservation and Design Foundation  special collection last month, I learned of this beloved facility’s origins and became fascinated in the story behind the APNC. 

Read more about Anita Purves and the Nature Center

Corn Silk

It’s corn planting time in beautiful east central Illinois! It’s also National Poetry month! Visit the Champaign County Historical Archives and ask to see this little gem, Corn Silk, (A 811 CUR), a poetry book that is also a family history. 

Corn Silk

Read more about Corn Silk

The Story Behind the Mothers Pension Book

In the Archives special collections storage there is an area devoted to the preservation of early governmental records. Originally, the records were handwritten and kept in large red bound books nearly half the size of an adult person. Walking down the long rows of shelves, you can see the spines say Naturalization records, Marriage License Applications and Will records in bright gold block lettering. Towards the very end of the aisle, past dark red and gold bindings is a smaller book amongst the giants with the curious title of “Entry Book Mothers Pensions”. All by itself, this reddish-brown book is a relic from an entire movement in U.S. history. 

Mothers Pension book

Read more about The Story Behind the Mothers Pension Book


Search CU Catalog

Calendar of Events