Illinois Public Media News
Additions to the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana are coming together, from the new clock and bell tower to some educational aspects inside the building.
People called for jury duty usually wait in a large room before they're summoned into the courtroom. While they're there, they can now step inside a small theatre in one side of the room and learn about Abraham Lincoln's fledgling legal career as an attorney who traveled through Champaign and other area counties. Cheryl Kennedy of the Early American Museum says the theatre is the most prominent expel of several current and future Lincoln displays at the courthouse.
"It's a great opportunity to use some of your time," Kennedy said. "And not only that, we envision more things on the walls out in the foyer, maybe some exhibit cases, and an opportunity to extend that experience past the audio visual program."
The Lincoln exhibits are being assembled as part of the 200th anniversary of the 16th President's birth. The theatre will be dedicated the weekend after next as well as the clock and bell tower as a part of the Urbana Sweet Corn Festival.
For a fifth straight year, a history education project headed up by the Urbana school district is getting a million-dollar federal grant.
The American History Teachers Collaborative is aimed at giving teachers the research time and resources they need to paint a more realistic and gripping picture of history in their classrooms.
The group's coordinator, Kathy Barbour, says when teachers conduct their own research, they can teach their students about national history through a local lens.
"For the teachers to be able to bring newspaper articles or photographs or documents or letters from right here in central Illinois and bring those to their classrooms, it's a very powerful thing for the students to be able to see that history happens here and we're tied to the bigger picture," Barbour said.
For instance, Barber says teachers have found articles and other documents about events in Champaign County that illustrate the national civil rights movement. She says the money helps fund workshops for teachers in seven area districts as well as research trips to museums.
The operator of Boardman's Art Theatre in Champaign is apparently looking to relocate as the building's owner looks for either a new tenant, or to sell the facility for another use.
Owner David Kraft says the rent of 4 dollars a square foot he's charging isn't near the market rate... and he can't afford to charge that little when factoring in expenses like real estate tax, water, trash, and sewer rates. Kraft says he's made operator Greg Boardman an offer of just under 9-dollars a square foot.
"If he won't pay that and no one will pay that, then I think everybody needs to look and determine if there's demand for this, if there's sufficient interest," Kraft said. "If no one is willing to pay near market rent, then maybe we do have to look at different ideas."
Kraft suggests there may not be room for a movie theater anymore when considering what other downtown businesses are paying for first floor retail space. He's looking to sell the Church Street building for just over $1 million.
Kraft says he's drawn interest for other theater operators, but nothing concrete.
Boardman's lease on the Church Street location expires in December. He couldn't be reached for comment, but the co-owner of a building across the street... Bill Capel... confirms Boardman toured his facility last month. That building houses the old Rialto Theater. Capel says any talk of moving Boardman's there would include extensive talk about renovations.
The co-founder of the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum in Arcola says it was a sad decision but a necessary one - the museum will close this summer and most exhibits moved to a museum in New York.
Joni Gruelle Wannamaker is the granddaughter of Johnny Gruelle, who was raised in Arcola and created the scruffy red-haired dolls in 1915. Wannamaker says she and her husband Tom left their jobs in Atlanta ten years ago to build the museum, but she says advancing age, declining attendance - and a drop in overall tourism in the Douglas County area -- forced the decision to close.
"We have done a lot of advertising over the years, advertising for Arcola and the surrounding area," Wannamaker said. "But perhaps there was a change at the Chamber of Commerce...I just don't know."
Wannamaker says she and Tom were impressed with the museum where the Raggedy Ann and Andy exhibits will be headed, the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester New York - the dolls are already in that museum's National Toy Hall of Fame. But Wannamaker says she and her husband are staying in Arcola.
The story of the Tuskegee Airmen began as an experiment and ended by proving the ability of many African-American servicemen. The military's first black pilots withstood animosity to fight America's enemies overseas while continuing to fight racism on the home front. The next in our series looks at the paths taken by two of the first members of the Army Air Corps' 99th Pursuit Squadron. Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul was the first training ground for these officers. AM 580's Jeff Bossert spoke with the widows of two men, Bill Thompson and Ellsworth Dansby, who helped pave the way for many others.
A six foot long cake loaded with historical pictures and live music highlighted Urbana's 175th birthday celebration at Lincoln Square Village. History was the theme -- and not just in edible form. Historians tell us that Urbana's founding fathers had a name before they even found a perfect location for the city. The Zoo Theatre Improv Group (R to L: Sean Whitsitt, Aubrey Wachtel and Brian Hagy) has put its spin on the unusual founding of Urbana, and how it might have been when Abraham Lincoln came to Urbana for the very first time.
The upcoming rose Bowl between Illinois and USC will carry on a tradition that's more than six decades old. In 1947, Illinois played in the first Rose Bowl to pit the champion of what was then called the Big Nine against the Pacific Coast Conference champion (now called the Pac 10). Radio was still the nation's dominant broadcast medium, and it covered not only the game itself but the buildup and the aftermath. Recordings of those broadcasts have been stored in the University of Illinois Archives ever since. Matt Ehrlich takes us back 61 years to when the Fighting Illini headed west looking for respect.
63 years ago this week, Germany was mounting its last major offensive in World War Two. Months later, the Nazis would fall and the guns of war would finally go silent in Europe. In the following decades, we heard about bits and pieces of the conflagration, hundreds of thousands of individual stories from those on the front lines. Now, one by one, those voices are also falling silent. AM 580's Tom Rogers let five area residents - four veterans (including Harold Cox, above-right) and a civilian -- tell their stories of the war's bloodiest battle.
Curt Campbell (left, holding a copy of his memoirs) is a retired farmer -- and an American serviceman who experienced prison life behind enemy lines. AM 580's Tom Rogers talked with him.
Two central Illinois men had to choose between their country's call and their church's teachings. These men (Merlin Taber, far left, and Delbert Augsburger, near left) were members of historic peace denominations that preach against military service. As AM 580's Jim Meadows reports, these two men made two different decisions.
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