Vote on home deferred

By Crystal Kang

The Urbana City Council deferred to vote on an ordinance that would designate the property located at 508 West Elm St. in Urbana as a historic landmark.

Among the public who spoke was the owner of the building, Julian Gorski of Normal, Ill., who registered against the ordinance to delay the demolition of the 1890s Queen Anne, Victorian-style home.

Complete with towers, a gable and a wrap-around porch, the architectural intricacies of this building remind some Urbana citizens about two people vital to the city’s history, Grace and Frank Bills, and the significance of their lives.

“Frank was an Urbana postmaster for four years,” said Urbana resident Ilona Matkovszki. “This was the only federally nominated position in the U.S. at the time.”

Gorski sold this building to a tenant who intended to zone for apartments in place of the home. A 45-day demolition delay was announced because the property fit under the criteria as a designated historic landmark.

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Gorski said he had University Professor John Gardner do an independent study on the Bills home. Gardner’s research attempted to show that the building does not meet any of the city’s three criteria necessary to designate it as a historic landmark.

Urbana resident Ryan Adams said that it’s important to preserve the history of the city.

“A lot of people who were important to us are invisible,” said Adams. “It’s by intense research that we can show that the Bills played important roles.”

Matkovski reminded the Council that two Urbana mayors, Clark Robinson Griggs and Royal A. Sutton, lived on the 500 block of Elm Street.

Adams said it was through the efforts of Griggs and Sutton that the University came into existence.