This month, the whole BFL is devoted to the Lincoln Building in downtown Champaign. A stately edifice with a long history.
The Lincoln Building (44 E. Main St. Champaign)
Right on Main Street, across from Jupiter’s is a building you might never have noticed, but it’s a real looker. This is the “Lincoln Building,” and it has a lot of character. Look at this beautiful stonework.
Hard to tell in this photo, but the tiles above the sign are actually purple glass. And look at those big iron hooks. A truly awesome awning must have hung here long ago.
Walking around the building, we find more glass tiles.
This absolutely distressed-looking double door,
and… whatever this metal footie is.
Of course the coolest part of the exterior is its copper “cornice;” a fancy word that means “fancy top of a building.” It should probably just be called a “copper topper.” Less pompous and more fun to say. The topper is covered in lights and looks great at night.
Taking a look on Google Maps, it seems actually the whole roof is copper, or at least, patinaed copper colored. The green really makes it stand out from literally every other building downtown on Google Maps.
Forgoing my usual laziness, I did some research to find out more about the Lincoln Building. Look! It really did have a dope awning back in the day!
I also found a whole profile on the Lincoln Building written by the Preservation and Conservation Association back in 1996. This article mentioned things like: “A bronze tablet with a carved bust of Abraham Lincoln in bas relief.” Was that still there? I don’t normally enter the buildings that I review, but I had to know.
Also, the Lincoln Building supposedly had a “sun parlor” and an “observatory tower.”
“The sun parlor was a glassed-in room in the lower position on top of the building; the observatory was above, from which nearly all parts of the city could be seen and ‘even the villages of Leverett and Savoy.’”
Obviously we all know Leverett. I dunno what Savoy is — must be some town that doesn’t exist anymore. Regardless, I couldn’t see anything like this supposed observatory tower from street level. I just had to return to the Lincoln Building and venture inside!
VERDICT: A classy building and a piece of history that’s still in active use.
Exploring the Lincoln Building
I missed it at first, but upon another look I did find the Lincoln tablet.
Sadly, unlike Lincoln Hall on campus, which has a full bust of ole’ Abe, it doesn’t appear that anyone rubs this Lincoln’s nose for good luck. However, I intend to do so whenever I am in the neighborhood.
After that, I just had to try and get into this “sun parlor” or “observatory tower.” I took the elevator up to the 5th floor. There definitely are stairs up to a structure that would be on the 6th floor, but a locked door barred my entry. Instead, here’s the best photo I could get of the observatory tower. I’m sure there’s still great views up there, except for where the windows have been totally boarded up.
Since I couldn’t get to the sun parlor and see all the way to Leverett, I instead spent some time exploring the rest of the Lincoln Building.
Just as the PACA article says, there’s still a safe on every floor. I spun the dial on this one and it still moved like it was oiled yesterday.
5th floor has this weird stand-alone, plug-in water fountain.
But the 4th floor has a WAY COOLER water fountain. A sleek number from General Electric with pedal-activated stream!
Should I start collecting vintage water fountains? Could be a cool, fun hobby.
The mail chutes seem to still be in use.
Love this stone and metalwork in the stairway. The PACA article says these are “terrazzo floors.” Still holding up great after all these years!
VERDICT: Exploring is great. If you haven’t done any exploring recently, I highly recommend it. You really don’t have to go very far to get to a place you haven’t been to and just poke around. Try not to trespass though, I suppose if you do trespass, don’t tell them that Tom Ackerman sent ya. Also if anyone asks what you’re doing, just lie like me and say you’re “a journalist”.
The 5th Floor Men’s Room in The Lincoln Building
Cherished readers, you know I had a look at the bathrooms. Are these urinals 107 years old? I sure want to believe they are.
Gorgeous. They’ve worked so hard in their long lives.
Look at these stalls! Marble partitions with real wooden doors!
Beautiful brass (maybe) open/occupied locks! They don’t make ‘em like they used to (in 1916).
There’s some kind of railing up above the stalls, I assume so that old-timey strongmen can do pull-ups! Immaculate.
The main sink is newer clearly, but there’s also this OTHER sink which may be original to the building.
VERDICT: 10/10. If I’m Downtown Champaign during business hours, I just might take the time to come up to this bathroom if I need a bio break. An honor to be able to use what could be Champaign’s oldest urinals.
P.S. If you wanna know more stuff about the Lincoln Building, here are some other links I found: The Coldwell Banker website selling office space in the building. It’s got floor plans! Also, this cool article from 2011 about artists using the building for studio space (seems like this is still a thing).
So long readers, see you in 2024!