The restoration of the clock and bell tower at the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana is one of 40 success stories that a statewide preservation group is highlighting to mark its 40th anniversary.
Landmarks Illinois isn't taking credit for the entire list of 40 landmarks across the state. Instead, the group's president, Jim Peters, says they show what can be done when people in local communities pull together to save a piece of their history.
In the case of the Champaign County Courthouse, Peters said the county and local donors were able to both preserve the crumbling brick walls of the courthouse --- and rebuild a clock and bell tower that had been shortened by lightning strikes.
"I think people for decades have been trying to get the (courthouse) building restored, and the long-missing tower put back," Peters said. "So we thought that was just an amazing effort. So that kind of --- you know, it was emblematic of that grassroots effort, that stick-to-it-ivness - figuring out they wanted to do something, and just kept at it until it was accomplished."
Champaign's Orpheum Theater is also on Landmarks Illinois' "40 Over 40" list. Local preservationists reopened the old movie house as a children's museum in the 1990s. Other landmarks on the list include the old Chicago Public Library (now a cultural center), the old city hall and fire station in Pontiac (now operating as the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum) and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dana-Thomas house in Springfield.
Peters said most of the preservation efforts have one thing in common--- strong community support.
"What we wanted to focus on were grassroots efforts: community-wide efforts to either save a building, restore a building --- in some cases, even move a building to keep it from being demolished," he said. "You know, a community, a neighborhood group or a city itself."
Landmarks Illinois was founded in 1971 as the Landmarks Preservation Council. Its first project was an unsuccessful effort to save the Louis Sullivan-designed Chicago Stock Exchange Building. It claims the preservation of the old downtown Chicago Public Library building as the city's Cultural Center as its first major success. The group expanded its scope to cover Illinois in the late 1970s, and changed its name to Landmarks Illinois in 2006.
Peters said he hopes the "40 Over 40" list can inspire other communities to work to save their important historic buildings.
View a slideshow of some of the sites that made the list:
A memorial service is scheduled Saturday in Champaign for the late civil rights leader, Rev. Ben Cox.
Cox passed away last month in Jackson, Tenn. at the age of 79. He spent years in the Champaign-Urbana area after going to the South in the early 1960s as part of the freedom rides.
Rev. Claude Shelby knew Cox. He is currently the senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church, where a memorial service will be held. He is also organizing the memorial. Shelby said Cox never shied away from being vocal about civil rights issues.
"I remember him as one who paved the way for the generations that followed him," Shelby said. "I was in total agreement with the messages that he gave."
Another longtime friend, Willie Summerville, said Cox left his mark on the community. Summerville, who was a music instructor in the Urbana School District for years, praised Cox's efforts in pushing for civil rights.
"We really, truly had a civil rights icon," Summerville said. "You know, maybe some people will regret that they didn't pick his brain even more while he was here."
Summerville is organizing a large choir performance for the memorial service with singers from area churches.
The memorial begins Saturday at 1pm at Salem Baptist Church on 500 East Park St. in Champaign.
Hall of Fame slugger Hank Greenberg was known for more than his intimidating figure and prodigious home runs. The Detroit Tiger favorite also became a hero for those of the same faith. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talks to author Mark Kurlansky about the complicated life of the Jewish sports star.
You will no doubt be hearing a lot of "The Star Spangled Banner " during Fourth of July parades and ceremonies. For some people, it is the sound track of national loyalty. But one small private college in North Central Indiana is pulling the national anthem from its sporting events. It says the anthem does not fit its religious outlook. As Illinois Public Radio's Michael Puente reports, critics of that decision are calling the college unpatriotic.
The last event in the city of Champaign's 150th anniversary celebration is an open family-oriented party Thursday night.
The city is using the brand-new Boneyard Second Street Basin development as the backdrop for what it calls a Unity Celebration. The first one-thousand attendees will be treated to free food, and there will be music, entertainment and games.
LaEisha Meadards is heading up the sesquicentennial events for the city. She says another highlight will require the help of as many Champaign residents as possible. "All of the visitors who come to the Unity Celebration will get together and take a community-wide photo," Meadards said. "It will be used as a commemorative item for city-related documents, and it will be on sale for the community at large."
During a dedication ceremony at 5:40, the city will also place a time capsule at the Boneyard commemorating a series of 150th-anniversary events that began more than a year ago. The Unity Celebration takes place tomorrow evening from 5:30 to 8:30 with the community photo at 6:10.
A World War II bomber made what appeared to be an emergency landing in a cornfield Monday and all seven people on board escaped before it was consumed by fire, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"The plane departed the airport, noted an emergency and the pilot made what appears to be an emergency landing, after which the plane was consumed by fire," FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said in an email. None of the passengers were injured.
The accident happened right after the plane took off from the Aurora Municipal Airport and the plane landed in an Oswego cornfield outside Chicago, Cory said. The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the incident.
Jim Barry, who lives in a nearby subdivision, told the Chicago Tribune he heard a low-flying plane and looked to see it. The engine on the bomber's left wing was on fire, he said.
"Not a lot of flames, just more smoke than flames," Barry said.
The pilot reported a fire shortly after taking off, Sugar Grove Fire Chief Marty Kunkle said.
"He attempted to make a return to the airport, but couldn't make it so he put it down in a corn field," Kunkel told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Firefighters from Oswego, Sugar Grove and Plainfield responded to the scene. Fire officials said they were having difficulty getting to the aircraft because of wet fields.
The B-17 Flying Fortress was made in 1944. Authorities say it is registered to the Liberty Foundation in Miami.
An email to the Liberty Foundation from The Associated Press seeking confirmation wasn't immediately returned.
LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Racing Tradition Kept Alive in Farmer City
Traveling along Route 150, you've got to obey the rules of the road, but at one popular hangout in Farmer City, those same rules don't apply. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers took a trip there for the wild and fast world of dirt late model racing as part of the series "Life on Route 150."
High winds in the Champaign area this week were apparently were strong enough to topple and shatter a 6-ton granite veterans' memorial in the village of Savoy.
Village board member Bill Smith says village staff noticed the 8-foot tall, black granite block had been knocked over early Wednesday morning. He says the wind bent steel bars that held up the memorial "like wet noodles.''
The village expects insurance to help cover the cost of repairing or replacing the memorial. Smith says the memorial cost $30,000 when it was built in 2008. He says the real holdup involves getting a hold of black granite to be shipped from overseas. Area residents and businesses contributed the money for the original structure, but Smith says more donations have already come in to rebuild the memorial.
"This memorial was put up with the intent of not using public dollars to maintain and take care of it, so we're always in need of funding," said Smith. "So if there's a little extra that's collected after the deductable is paid, then we'll use that for ongoing maintenance."
A Memorial Day ceremony planned for the site Monday is cancelled.
David Isay is an award-winning public radio producer who has dedicated his career to preserving oral storytelling. Isay is the founder of the series StoryCorps, which can be heard every Friday on NPR's Morning Edition. StoryCorps gives people the opportunity to interview their loved ones. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers spoke with Isay about the art of storytelling and an effort at an elementary school in Champaign to include the StoryCorps model in the classroom.
Mailings to the University of Illinois shed new light on what may have occurred when a bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln went missing more than 30 years ago.
The bust disappeared from Lincoln Hall in October 1979, but turned up a couple days later when an anonymous phone call led officers to its location - a tree stump on the U of I's golf course. The case was never solved, but just recently the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences got a response when making reference to incident in its 2011 winter newsletter.
LAS spokesman Dave Evensen said in the package, an altered male voice on a CD recording denied reports that the bust was damaged during the theft. He said this person went through great lengths to hide identity, with a fake name and address.
"This guy - he called himself the founder of the Statue Liberation Society," Evesen said. "And they were trying to find a way to make an impact on campus, and make these demands. And he recalled how they had stolen the Lincoln bust."
A few years later, Evensen said the group took credit for the 1982 theft and return of the bust of Lloyd Morey, a former U of I president and comptroller. It sought demands ranging from the enforcement of bike paths on campus, better dorm food... and better building security measures.
Evenson said LAS went to U of I police with the package, who said the case was closed since it went beyond the statute of limitations. The restored Lincoln bust is in the Spurlock Museum now, but will be back in Lincoln Hall once it reopens following extensive renovation work. The bust was created by Hermon Atkins MacNeil in 1928.