Back in the day…
On a clear day in 1912 in Champaign, when University Avenue was still a dirt road, Barnum and Bailey’s Circus paraded through town with more than a dozen elephants.
The Lumberyard, seen in the photograph above, was one belonging to Marvin Lapham. Mr. Lapham was a union soldier who settled in Champaign, after the civil war. His thriving lumberyard was responsible for the construction of most buildings in the area, including the historic and ever-so-important railroad.
In 1918, on the corner portion of the lumberyard site, University and Market St., construction began for the Overland Rickard Car Dealership and Showroom, which opened in 1919. The Dealership featured Automobiles getting 459 miles per tank and 30 miles per gallon!
For the next dozen years, Overland Rickard sold cars to the growing community of East Central Illinois Community.
Eventually closing in 1932, the building absorbed various tenants such as Sears and Roebuck (1935- 1941), Piccadilly Liquor (1956-1967) and the Champaign-Urbana Convention and Visitors Bureau from the mid 80s to the early 90s.
Over the course of the next 12 years, several projects were proposed but the cost of modifying the building was too challenging. The building needed all of its basic utility services modified or completely redone: the project lacked sufficiently sized water piping; rusted out sewer pipe systems above and below ground; no fire suppression; outdated and undersized electrical service; a wore out ballasted on top of a tar roof – and – an elevator built in 1918 to haul cars to the 2nd floor that no longer met any type of current building code. Removal of the elevator plus dealing with its “not so desirable location”, required significant structural reinforcement to support the large poured concrete elevator shaft and penthouse on the roof.
Fortunately, the right people came together to breathe new life into a landmark downtown building.