Urbana may preserve Halberstadt home

The Urbana City Council will decide Monday at its regular meeting whether to designate the home of Eli Halberstadt at 104 N. Central Ave. as a local historical landmark.

Supporters of the house’s preservation, like historical preservation advocate Brian Adams who submitted the application in May, see several qualifications for the house’s historical landmark status.

Based on criteria listed in the Urbana Zoning Ordinance, Adams and other supporters are seeking the house’s recognition as a historical landmark mainly because of its architectural history and association with Eli Halberstadt.

Halberstadt was a grain miller and four-time mayor of Urbana who was in office during the time that Urbana was selected as the site of the University campus.

The home itself is representative of and influenced by the Italianate and Slick Eastlake styles and has not been modified or altered, Adams said.

“It is a rare surviving example of our history—our cultural and social history, as well as our architectural history,” Adams said. “It can serve as a tangible structure that links us to our past.”

Despite efforts to designate the home as a landmark, the property owners of the land—Canaan Baptist Church, 404 W. Main St. — originally purchased the property with the intention of transforming the area into a parking lot and possibly a play center.

This idea came along with a long-time vision for the creation of a middle school. The church had also purchased the Urbana Armory, 600 E. University Ave., to use for this purpose. They spent $200,000 on its renovation but were forced to demolish it after multiple complications, including the roof’s collapse.

At this point, the church finds its most cost-effective option to be tearing down the Halberstadt house and combining the two properties in order to provide access from three streets.

While the option of moving the Halberstadt house elsewhere exists, the plausibility of this option has still not been thoroughly investigated. Pastor B.J. Tatum of Canaan said he would not oppose this action being taken and in fact, would encourage it.

For now, Canaan Baptist Church has agreed to allow four months — until the end of January — to come up with a mutual solution. Discussion will continue at Monday’s regular meeting, as well as a vote on the landmark status of the house.