Photographs on View at the Tolono Public Library

As leaves turn red and temperatures drop each autumn, we know that winter is slowly creeping up on us in Illinois. Have you ever wondered how the winters of the 21st century compare to those of the 20th? Prepare for the coming cold weather by joining the Tolono Public Library District and the Champaign County Historical Archives for a peek into Illinois’ wintery past.

PACA Digitization Project

One of the most common questions we get here in the Archives is regarding the history of a patron’s home. When was it built? Who was the architect? Do we have any archival photographs?

My name is Savannah Adams, and I am the Archives Apprentice for the Champaign County Historical Archives of The Urbana Free Library. I am a first-year graduate student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, working towards a MS in Library Science and Information. My focus is on archival materials, special collections, and library preservation. I’m digitizing and cataloging recently acquired building and home surveys conducted by the Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA) in Champaign County for my first semester project.

New Flickr Album: Champaign County Fires

Here in the Archives, we have recently received several questions about the Urbana fire of 1871. While searching for information, I came across several photograph envelopes that relate to fires throughout Champaign County. I learned that the area is no stranger to fires. The 1970s and 80s were particularly eventful for fire departments. Despite the tragedy and loss that fires can cause, several area businesses (including the library) survived through them and are still with us today.

Beyond Flight: Chanute Air Force Base Hospital 1931-1933

While we know about the role of Chanute as an Air Force Base and Technical Training Center, there were also a wide variety of non-military or training-related departments on the base. One such department was the Chanute Air Force Base Hospital, which saw births, deaths, and injuries through its 76-year history.

The Life of a Rural Midwestern Woman

In honor of International Day of Rural Women on October 15th, let’s take a look at an item from the Chanute Subject Files Collection that celebrates rural women’s historic contributions. Don Weckhorst, base historian at the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum at the Chanute Air Force Base, visited many museums around the United States to get ideas, network, and bring back materials for his own research. One visit in particular caught my attention, to the Richard E. Oetken Heritage Museum in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

Finding the Right Home for a Recent Donation

All archives have unique focuses and collecting areas. Once in a while we receive a donation that doesn’t quite fit within our collecting scope. Archives Librarian Sherrie recently made an interesting discovery about one of these misfit donations.

Chanute Spotlight: Charles M. Leonard

Charles M. Leonard was born December 25, 1886 to a Mrs. J. H. Leonard at 630 East Avenue in Elyria, Ohio. Leonard attended three years of high school in Elyria before moving on to Oberlin College. During this time, he met his wife, Donna Russell, and they had three children together. Leonard became a civil engineer prior to enlisting in the military. On August 27, 1917, he became a candidate for the Second Officers’ Training School at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana and officially joined the armed services. Leonard was commissioned 1st Lieutenant Infantry on November 27th of the same year and joined the 165th Depot Brigade. On February 27, 1918, he transferred to the Aviation Section Signal Reserve Corps at Kelly field and remained on duty until April 6 when he entered the school of military aeronautics in Columbus, Ohio.

Leonard is in the first row, left of center

Monument Company Records: Another Primary Source for Cemetery Research

One often overlooked resource in cemetery research are records of the various monument companies who made the gravestones. The information in these records varies but may include details about the deceased and the person ordering the gravestone. These records usually include the date the order was placed, size and type of stone used, cost, and where and when it was to be delivered. Some entries include drawings of how the stone would look, and other orders were cancelled or never made. Since some of the orders were placed months or years after a death occurred, the records may not always be accurate, or a correction may have been made in a later entry. These records can take the mystery out of unreadable gravestones and give the researcher a starting point for the death and burial location.

Weather in Champaign County

The staff in the Archives have been working very hard on a new exhibit that we are sure will blow you away. This forthcoming exhibit, covering tornadoes, will be featured both digitally on our Local History & Genealogy Digital Exhibits page and in the display case outside of the Archives’ door. While the upcoming exhibit focuses on tornadoes, the Archives houses materials on a variety of storms that have hit Champaign County. This blog post features some of those materials.

A Look Back at the New Chanute Youth Center

On Thursday, March 18, 1982, ground broke on construction for the new Youth Center at Chanute Air Force Base. The Youth Center was built to provide programming and activities for children ages 5-18 of active and retired base members.

Architects from Pace and Associates of Chicago, IL, designed the new building and it was erected by Marco Construction Company of Carlinville, IL.  The cost of the new building was approximately $866,000 and 10,356 sq. ft. The new building featured (among many other spaces) music rooms, a game room, an arts and crafts area, and the much anticipated multi-purpose room/gymnasium. The multipurpose room allowed the Youth Center to offer sports that took up more space, like soccer.

Take a look at the Youth Center’s calendar for their opening month! This calendar was printed in the April 1983 edition of Free Time, Chanute’s recreation magazine. View the entire digitized magazine here.

Unexpected Books in the Archives

Illinois is an interesting state, to say the least. What exactly is it that makes the prairie state unique? What are the legends that Illinoisans pass on? What do we want to show off to visitors? While many people come to the Archives for their Champaign County history and genealogy needs, there are also materials on our shelves that focus on the offbeat byways, attractions, and, yes, even the supernatural side of Illinois. The first item is Weird Illinois by Troy Taylor.

The Man Himself: Octave Chanute

When we talk about the Chanute Air Force Base, we really should start with the man behind the name: Octave Chanute. Octave Chanute was an engineer, a pioneer of modern aviation, and the focus of the Subject Files: Octave Chanute collection. In the Subject Files: Octave Chanute collection, you can find information that celebrates one of the first men in the sky. Photographs and diagrams of his gliders accompany newspaper clippings, correspondence, and information about his life and work. There is even material about Chanute, Kansas, the town named for Octave, in the collection.

A high-flying historical figure you many not have heard of!

Medicinal Advertisements

Ailments are a fact of life. They happen to all of us at some point. Whether it is a headache, a sore throat, or a stomach ache, a wide variety of products are available to treat what ails us. What better way to advertise to potential customers than to place an ad in the paper? Unfortunately, many past medicinal ads and the products they were designed to sell were often questionable. Despite that, they were featured in the newspapers of yesteryear. Here is an assortment of ads for medicinal products.

Where's Walter? Searching for Clues in Obituaries

A Dillman family researcher recently wrote to the Archives with a question about his ancestor, Walter Dillman. He wanted to know where and when Walter died. The researcher already had some family background information and a transcription he made of an obituary from the Find a Grave website. The transcription stated that Walter Dillman (1881-1946), was buried in Yearsley Cemetery in Champaign County, IL. He stated that the name and date of the newspaper were not given. *Some assumptions were made when he transcribed the article, one that was incorrect and the other that was at least partly correct.

Walter Dillman's obituary from Find a Grave

A Winter Treat for the Summer Heat

We may be in the heat of the summer, but that does not mean you cannot enjoy some local history inspired by the winter holiday season. Over the last few months, I began to digitize the archives' Fred and Betty Turner Woodblock Print Christmas Card exhibit done by Erica Stark on our Local History & Genealogy Digital Exhibits website. To add a little more context to the former exhibit, I expanded upon the previous content by selecting a sample of six Turner prints and writing histories about the subject matter represented. My goal is to offer our readers a glimpse into why these parts of our history likely caught the eye of and inspired Fred and Betty Turner. Of the six prints I chose, three are of Champaign County structures, one is from Vermilion County, and the other two from Prairie du Rocher and Chicago. 

Fred Turner Etching Print