Library Grounds

The Urbana Free Library, 1918
Architect: Joseph W. Royer

A gift from Mary Busey in honor of Samuel T. Busey

Local architect Joseph W. Royer, a lifetime Urbana resident and graduate of the University of Illinois, designed the original library building. Royer also designed other well-known local buildings, such as the 1901 Champaign County Courthouse, Urbana High School, and the Historic Lincoln Hotel.

Cherry Alley Arch, 2005

A gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

When Urbana was founded in 1833, the downtown streets and alleys were named. The first plan notes Crane Alley, Goose Alley, and Fish Alley. The landscaped walkway through the library block, which runs from Race Street to Cedar Street, was named Cherry Alley. Designated by a decorative arch at its east end, the plaza features an attractive walkway paved with personalized bricks and two artworks commissioned by The Urbana Free Library Foundation.

Ibidem, 2006
Artist: Cecilia Allen

A gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

Located in the small garden area at the southeast end of Cherry Alley, Cecilia Allen’s bronze sculpture begins with a parabola represented by an open book, containing inspirational passages from the arts and sciences. Allen resides in Urbana, and examples of her work can be found at the Wandell Sculpture Garden at Meadowbrook Park.

Slow & Steady, 2005
Artist: Todd Frahm

A gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

Sculpted on site during the baking heat of June and July 2005, Slow & Steady evolved from a 20-ton block of Indiana limestone. Todd Frahm was born in Tolono, Illinois, and is currently on the faculty of the Henry Radford School of Fine Arts at Indiana University in Bloomington. Other local examples of his work include Fly-fishing at the Anita Purvis Nature Center and Decisions in Carle Park.

Stranger Reduction Zone, 2014
Artist: Timothy C. Flood

Acquisition made possible by the City of Urbana and the generosity of Jack and Virginia Waaler

Shaped like a traffic light, Stranger Reduction Zone is an interactive piece with a button that visitors can push to be greeted in different languages.  Designed to help bridge the gap of anonymity between peers in busy city settings and help build strong communities, the sculpture is a celebration of our cultural diversity. 


First Floor

Busts of Abraham Lincoln and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ca. 1915

Artist: Unsigned

A gift from Mary Busey

Restoration made possible by a gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation and the cooperative effort of the William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum. Except for brief periods during remodeling, Lincoln and Longfellow have resided in their niches beside the Race Street door since 1918. The bust of Longfellow is a replica of an 1884 marble portrait, sculpted by Sir Thomas Brock, and located in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, little is known about the bust of Lincoln.

Portrait of Samuel T. Busey, ca. 1917
Artist: Nicholas Brewer

Restoration made possible by a gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

Samuel T. Busey was a leading citizen of early Urbana. In 1867, he and his brother founded Busey Bank. He served five terms as mayor of Urbana and one term in the United States Congress. Brewer was a prominent 19th century portrait and landscape painter who was born in Olmstead County, Minnesota. His portraits include Presidents of the United States, actors, countless local politicians, and prominent members of society.

Portrait of Charles Bowen Busey, Jr., ca. 1949
Artist: Charles Earl Bradbury

Restoration made possible by a gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

Charles Bowen Busey, Jr. was the son of Charles Bowen Busey, Sr., and a grandson of Samuel T. Busey. Bradbury was a professor of art and design at the University of Illinois from 1913 to 1956. Other examples of his work can be found at the Roger Adams Laboratory, Mumford Hall, and the Natural History building on the University of Illinois campus.

The Urbana Free Library, 1996
Artist: Christopher Evans

A gift from Jeanne-Marie Wyld

A favorite of most library patrons, this print by Christopher Evans is featured on many of the library’s brochures. This rendering of the 1918 façade portrays the library’s familiar blue and white awnings and flower boxes on a sunny summer morning. Evans resides in Urbana and is a featured artist at many local galleries and art shows.

Champaign County Courthouse, ca. 1900
Artist: Unknown

Restoration made possible by a gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

This original watercolor rendering is assumed to have been presented to the County Board during the design phase of the Champaign County Courthouse. The architect, Joseph W. Royer, also designed the library’s original 1917 building as well as many other local buildings. The painting was restored in 2005 through the support of The Urbana Free Library Foundation.


Second Floor

Expanding Impulse, 2007
Artist: Christiane Martens

A gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

Christiane Martens is a retired professor of art at the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois and the recipient of numerous awards for sculpture. Expanding Impulse is constructed of steel and stainless steel and is representative of the artist’s abstract themes with subtle silhouettes and forms. Other examples of her work can be found at the University of Illinois and the Wandell Sculpture Garden at Meadowbrook Park.

Map of Urbana and West Urbana, 1858
Artist: Alexander Bowman

Restoration made possible by a gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

To the best of our knowledge, only a few copies of this large and delicate lithograph have survived; two are in The Urbana Free Library and one is in the British Library. The map, which details land ownership and streets and buildings, also includes vignettes of local structures around the edge. For years the map hung in the old Urbana City Building at the northwest corner of Elm and Broadway, where the parking deck is now located. Restored and reframed in 2005, the map now hangs outside the Archives for all to appreciate.

Rocky Mountain Wildflowers, 1993
Artist: Bonnie Switzer

A gift from The Urbana Free Library in honor of John Dunkelberger

Local artist Bonnie Switzer began painting in 1988 and is perhaps best known for her watercolors that are alive with texture and brilliant hues. In her recent works, she has explored non-objective or abstracted images, a process that allows for great freedom. According to Switzer, "My art is highly personal but speaks to viewers in different ways. I feel that people respond to color and shapes in somewhat the same way they respond to musical notes."

Untitled, ca. 1970
Artist: Maryrose Carroll

A gift from Lubitsa Nenadov

"The inspiration came in a dream...about otherworldly forces, so the positive bronze form and its negative space around it are integral."

Maryrose Carroll is a visual artist, a writer, and wife of the late poet Paul Carroll. Known for her mod sculpture, Carroll's public sculptures can be found in North Carolina, Illinois, and California. Her work can also be seen in museum collections in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois. 

Wandering, 2007
Tree of Circles, 2007
Artist: Mary McDonald

A gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

Fiber artist Mary McDonald receives inspiration for her intricate works from nature and from events in her own life. Using layered fabric interwoven with machine stitching, embroidery, appliqué, and beading, she combines subtle colors and texture to achieve her artistic effects. McDonald has a degree in textiles and clothing from the University of Illinois.


Ground Floor

Untitled, 2016
Artist: Christian Robinson

After drawing pictures for the audience during a visit to the Library as a part of the 2016 Youth Literature Festival, Christian graciously drew a picture for the Library inspired by a verbal description of Todd Frahm’s Slow & Steady statue in Cherry Alley. Christian is an award-winning illustrator whose work includes Last Stop on Market Street (2016 Caldecott Honoree and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honoree) and Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (2015 Sibert Honoree, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honoree, Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor, and Wall Street Journal’s 10 Best Children’s Books of the Year, among others). Christian spent his childhood in Los Angeles and currently resides in San Francisco, California.

On the Wings of Books, 2007
Artist: Glen C. Davies

A gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

Created as a bright and cheery gateway to the Children’s Department, this colorful mural by Glen C. Davies expresses the idea of the lives of books and the journey we take when we read. Davies received his M.F.A. in painting from the University of Illinois and is currently a painting instructor in the Artist in Education program through the Illinois Arts Council.

Megan's Garden, 2009
Artist: Glen C. Davies

A gift from Robert and Hazel Spitze, Glenna Dean Spitze, and Christopher Taylor Franklin in memory of Megan Haines Spitze

Best viewed through the ground floor windows in Children's Services, Megan's Garden thrives with color year-round. Created by local artist Glen C. Davies, the whimsical panels portray objects found in the Library and personal favorites from Megan's toy collection.  

Megan’s Reading Room Entrance, 2005
Artist: Glen C. Davies

A gift from Robert and Hazel Spitze, Glenna Dean Spitze, and Christopher Taylor Franklin in memory of Megan Haines Spitze

Glen C. Davies is a Midwestern artist known for his elaborate murals that grace the walls of many businesses in central Illinois. The mural that embellishes the entry to Megan’s Reading Room was the first of the library’s charming works by Davies. The mural captures the innocence and enchantment of childhood in a lasting and very personal memorial for Megan.

Folio Universale, 2004
Artists: Stephanie Atkins, K.C. Elhard, Jackie Erdman, Jennifer Hain, Kathleen Kern, Ozzie Meza, and Wendy Shelburne

A gift from the Erdman family

Folio Universale is one of 40 carousel horses transformed by local artists to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Champaign County United Way. Sponsored by the University of Illinois Library, the piece incorporates the images of the university’s special collections and a tooled leather saddle made from scraps from a book created at the library. Pictures of all 40 carousel horses in the United Way’s project may be found in the book Carousel of Caring, published in 2004.

We Dream Together, 2003
Artist: E.B. Lewis

Featured in: Joe-Joe’s First Flight by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

A gift in memory of Elizabeth Williams Alexander

Joe-Joe’s First Flight is set in the 1920s, when many American flight schools were closed to black student pilots. In this magical scene from the book, Joe-Joe soars high in the arms of his father and imagines what it would be like to fly to the moon. We Dream Together is a signed giclée print from children’s book illustrator and Caldecott Honor winner E.B. Lewis.

This Is the Wish of Every Tree…, 1997
Artist: Kathryn Brown

Featured in: From Lullaby to Lullaby by Adele Geras

A gift in memory of Elizabeth Williams Alexander

In this beautiful lullaby tale by Adele Geras, a mother describes to her daughter the dream of each object pictured in a blanket she is knitting. This Is the Wish of Every Tree is a signed giclée print by veteran children’s illustrator Kathryn Brown. In this colorful and elaborate scene, a happy tree provides enjoyment for a child gaily swinging under its protective branches.

Emily and Peter, 1994
Artist: Barry Moser

Featured in: The Farm Summer 1942 by Donald Hall

A gift in memory of Elizabeth Williams Alexander

In The Farm Summer 1942, by Donald Hall, a young boy travels across the country to live with his grandparents while his parents help with the war effort. This signed giclée print by Barry Moser conveys the playful rewards of farm life as seen through the eyes of a child during World War II. Barry Moser has illustrated more than 200 books for children and adults.

The Snow Speaks, 1992
Artist: Jane Dyer

Featured in: The Snow Speaks by Nancy White Carlstrom

Made possible by Art and Architecture in Illinois Libraries, a Library Services and Technology Grant

The Snow Speaks, by Nancy White Carlstrom, uses poetic language to describe the magical qualities of snow as seen through the “wise and patient” eyes of children. Recipient of two Parents’ Choice Honor awards for children’s book illustration, Jane Dyer has a reputation for using vibrant colors with a soft brushstroke. This signed giclée print from the book depicts two serene yet playful children making snow angels during the first snowfall of the year.

Max and the Sleeping Wild Things, 1963
Artist: Maurice Sendak

Featured in: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

A gift from the Urbana Rotary Club in memory of Dr. James D. Quisenberry and Dr. Nancy L. Quisenberry

One of the classics of children’s literature, Where the Wild Things Are is the story of Max, a mischievous child who creates and rules his own fantasy world filled with wild things. This lithograph, signed by Maurice Sendak, depicts the sleeping monsters after Max orders them to bed. As an illustrator and author, Sendak has been presented with many awards, including the Caldecott Medal, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his contributions to children’s literature.

[Something Out of Nothing], 1999
Artist: Simms Taback

Featured in: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

A gift from The Urbana Free Library Board and staff in honor of Barbara Lintner, Director of Children's Services, 1988 - 2010

Winner of the 2000 Caldecott Medal, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is based on a Yiddish folk song. It is the sequential tale of a resourceful tailor who creates "something out of nothing" as his overcoat becomes old and worn. Simms Taback was a designer for CBS Records and The New York Times and was the creative force behind the first McDonald's Happy Meal box in 1977.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, 40th Anniversary print, 2009
Artist: Eric Carle

Commemorating: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

A gift from Friends at C-U Sunrise Rotary in honor of Barbara Lintner, Director of Children's Services, 1988 - 2010

Identified by numerous literary publications as one of the classics of children's literature, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has won numerous awards, including the American Institute of Graphic Arts award in 1970. The story follows the life-cycle of a caterpillar from the day it is hatched to the day it emerges as a beautiful butterfly. More than 30 million copies of the title have sold worldwide. 



City of Urbana Street Light, ca. 1880 - 1888

This street light, a R.E. Dietz Company model 3 street lantern manufactured in New York, was one of many used to illuminate the streets of Urbana during the 1880s.

As the Dietz model 3 street lanterns were first produced in 1880, these lanterns may have been acquired to replace Urbana’s first street lights, which were installed in 1869.

The Dietz street lanterns were fueled by gasoline in Urbana, contrary to the Dietz Company’s recommendation to utilize kerosene.

When Urbana began the process of converting to electrically powered street lights in 1888, the Dietz street lanterns were removed from service. Some of them were sold by the city to the towns of Saint Joseph (8) and Homer (40) in May and August 1889.

A system of electric street lighting was installed in Urbana in 1891.

Ibidem (bronze miniature of outdoor sculpture), 2006

Artist: Cecilia Allen

Donated to the Champaign County Historical Archives by Ann Koch Walker in honor of her mother, former Director of Archives Jean Koch

The Urbana Free Library Foundation contracted with Cecilia Allen of Urbana to execute a bronze sculpture. Titled Ibidem, the sculpture is installed in the small garden area at the southeast end of Cherry Alley.

An edition of 40 cast bronze miniatures of the sculpture, approximately 4.5 inches tall, were created in 2006.

Map of Illinois, ca. 1853
Publisher: Thayer, Bridgeman and Fanning of New York

Restoration made possible by a gift from The Urbana Free Library Foundation

The Urbana Free Library knows of only two other copies of this map. They reside in the archival collections at Knox College and Western Illinois University. Thayer, Bridgeman and Fanning were important New York map publishers in the mid-1800s who worked independently and in partnership. This rare map of Illinois is a hand-colored engraving on paper.

Map of Champaign County, 1863
Artist: Alexander Bowman

This map is a reproduction from the original that is located in the British Library. Surrounding the map are drawings of houses, churches, and buildings significant to Champaign County in the late 19th century. This 1980 reprint was hand-colored in 1984 by Urbana resident Diane Hillard to replicate the map as it was originally printed.