As Year of the Park continues, we will be documenting every park in Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy, Champaign County Forest Preserves, along with other odds and ends between July 2020 and more like August or September 2021. You can see what has been covered thus far by clicking here. If you have suggestions or ideas or feedback, feel free to contact us at [email protected]

NAME

Stampofksi Park 

LOCATION

16 E. University Ave., Champaign

a flagpole monument to fallen soldiers from Champaign County in Stampofski Park Photo by Maddie Rice. 

HISTORY AND FEATURES

Stampofski Park came to pass because at one time, the heart of traffic in Downtown Champaign was a clusterfuck of epic proportions. It was literally referred to as "Hell's Half Acre." LOL.

I mean, seriously, look at this mania: 

University Avenue and Chester St. before Stampofski Park was built Photo courtesy of Champaign County History Museum. 

This is just asking for a nightmare. It's like a football field. You could just... drive anywhere and I doubt the City had the policies and staff in place to be like "Dude, what in God's name are you doing with your Model-F" or whatever. Was there a Model F? No, but there should have been. 

Fortunately, whoever it was that presided over the City at that time decided that it was time to do something about this madness, and passed legislation to build an island that would bisect this wacko space in the busiest intersection in this part of Champaign.

Here is what happened: 

an old photo from atop the City Building in Champaign that shows a newly built Stampofski Park Photo courtesy of Champaign County History Museum. 

That's a triangle of concrete with some serious utility. Now, cars go east west on University and if you are driving west and want to turn onto Walnut, you veer – VEER GODDAMNIT — onto Chester, and you can turn right onto Walnut. 

Good work. Like, seriously, thank you for being rational about this, dead white people with money. You did a great job. I am still glad you are dead, but, you did a good job here. 

Stampofski Park is this triangle. It is not a park. It is a dedication to soldiers now, and a decision that people made. It was a decision, like ordering a burrito versus a quesdilla. But they didn't have those in town back then. They had cheeseburgers and hotdogs. But let's pretend that they could vision the future. They chose a burrito. Burritos are better than quesadillas. Actually, no, they aren't. Quesadillas are better than burritos. Thank God we sort of allowed Mexican people to come back to part of the land they once owned. Better food, better language, better culture. Anyhow, this is Stampofski Park. It's a place where you can cross the street and sit and see a flag and stand in reverence of the bravery that certain people gave us in defense of whatever this country has become. 

a park bench Photo by Maddie Rice. 

ASSESSMENT

I am not sure it's my place to write about Rebecca Stampofski. There's not a lot about her out there, and frankly, it's not really interesting to me when I consider the current moment.

I want to spend a moment just propping up T.J. Blakeman for his work writing about history in Champaign. Yes, he is a City Planner in Champaign, but he is also the President of the Champaign County History Museum which is located in the Cattle Bank, which is reportedly the oldest building in Champaign. It was built during the Gold Rush or thereabouts. But there ain't no gold here. There's just swamp land that turned to perfect soil. That's why we are here.

I am a member! And you should be too, if you can afford the $50 chips it takes to do it. History and its value is a big part of my life, so the $50 is in the budget, easy easy. 

Oh, you want to just be a '"member" for $35? Oh come now... be a Friend! Or a Patron! You are not gonna get away with this shit with me... and how! 

And how, do yourselves a favor and read his work that he publishes through the Museum's website. It is amazing. You can read about this particular intersection inside of an article about the Inman Hotel, which is now, sadly, a retirement home, for aging Boomers. It should be a majestic hotel, as it once was, instead. Restored and gorgeous, with a poker room in the basement and a lobby bar that would make anyone swoon. But it's a retirement home. Oh well. That sort of defines Downtown Champaign. Could be amazing, but isn't. Not anymore.

Don't play with me. 

Anyhow, you should sit on the bench that looks up at the City Building and American flag behind it, inside this "park." I have, and I am reminded that this flag represents more than whatever certain yahoos have decided it means. It represents something bigger than their tiny, sadass, unwillfully undereducated brains can understand. It represents hope. Hope goddamnit! At least it used to. I think it still does.

Just because someone co-opts something without permission doesn't automatically mean they own it. That's just some Reddit shit. A person actually has to actually earn it. 

And the flag-waving nipple tarts these days didn't earn shit. They just didn't read their history. Part of that isn't their fault. Part of it is emblematic of a bigger issue related to education and the idea of taxation. But let's talk about that on a different day. 

It's our flag. Not theirs. Ours. Wave it and trick 'em. They aren't that smart. 

Top image by Maddie Rice.