Local History and Genealogy Blog

The Douglass Center: celebrating 70 years

A true community stalwart, the Douglas Center has been at the heart of the Urbana-Champaign African-American community for 70 years.

Conceived in the era of segregation, planning for the Douglass Community Center began in 1940 because the African-American community’s needs were not being meet with the separate and inadequate facilities available. In particular during the 1940s the community needed a recreational space for the G.I.s stationed at Chanute Field.

Spearheaded by the Douglass Community Service Committee and with the help of public funds and private donations the Douglass Community Center was dedicated September 23, 1945.

The original Douglass Community Center

A Valentine for Urbana

Have you seen the new banners being sported in downtown Urbana?

#Urbanalove streetlight banner

A very fitting design since 160 years ago, on February 14, 1855, The City of Urbana was chartered by an act of the Illinois General Assembly.

Here is a snippet from page one of the sixteen page charter:

Remembering the Auler Building



202 West Green Street, once known as the Auler Building, has been slowly dismantled through these past winter months. Yet, this now nearly vacant space once held a vibrant building that housed apartment residents, and later the offices of Robert Auler. For many years the Auler Building was one of The Urbana Free Library’s closest neighbors.  On this Throwback Thursday, we would like to honor its memory. 



Green Street Viaduct

Green Street Bridge, Champaign, 1923

One access point to the west portion of campustown is at the intersection of Green and Neil Streets in Champaign. The current railroad bridge and roadway were constructed in 1899 and upgraded in 1923-1924. 

West End Park: Champaign's Amusement Park

In the summer of 1893, Champaign residents had a pleasurable diversion in the form of West End Park, now known as Eisner Park situated between Church Street and University Avenue. Located on the edge of town, the 6 acres of privately owned land opened to the public on June 17, 1893. Featuring a pavilion commanding fine views of the fairground, a ‘casino’ for dancing and concerts, a baseball field, tennis courts, swings for the younger set, shooting galleries, and a refreshment tent the main attraction was the ‘Great Switchback Railroad,’ a forerunner of the rollercoaster, that boasted traveling one-fourth of a mile in 15 seconds. [1]

Architects Drawing of West End Park Amusement Center

Champaign County Genealogical Society Meeting - Tonight! (January 13)

The next general membership meeting of the Champaign County Genealogical Society is tonight, Tuesday, January 13.  The meeting starts at 7:00 pm in the Archives of The Urbana Free Library (2nd floor).  The meeting starts with CCGS business followed by a presentation. The January presentation topic is Photoshop which will cover digitally editing photos.  The meeting is free and open to the public. For more information on the Society, including its newsletter, research data and service, please visit: http://ilccgs.org/


Amelia Earhart in Urbana, 1935


Amelia Earhart and University of Illinois President Arthur Willard

Amelia Earhart (right) standing with University of Illinois President Arthur Willard during her 1935 trip to campus.

The William Rock House

William Rock arrived in Champaign County in 1835. His was the second family to arrive in the Sadorus area, settling 2 to 3 miles south of the original Henry Sadorus homestead on the east side of the Kaskaskia River. William and his family started out with 80 acres of land purchased from the federal government for $100 and a single room pole dwelling. [1]

Candlestick Lane

Santa Claus and friends waving to passers-by on Candlestick Lane.

Whether you date the origin of Candlestick Lane from 1960 and the 10 families that gathered together on the 700 block of Fairlawn Drive to display oversized Yule cards or the neighbors on Grant Place who competed in an Illinois Power contest for the best holiday lights in 1964 it is evident that this corner of Urbana is flush with a holiday spirit that spans generations.

Champaign County Winter Wonderland

Stop by the Champaign County Historical Archives (on the second floor of The UFL) and view our new exhibit, “Champaign County Winter Wonderland.” We have winter themed photographs and newspaper advertisements from 1890-1980, World War I correspondence from Army nurse Nettie Irle Mills describing Christmas in a French Red Cross facility, and other artifacts from our Local History and Genealogy collections.  

Kids building snow fort.

Kids building snow fort, 1985.