106-108 South Neil Street - Atkinson Monument Company & Price Paint Store
106 South Neil Street - Atkinson Monument Company
Owner/Builder: S.P. Atkinson 108 South Neil Street - Price Paint Store Constructed:Between 1902 and 1909
Made a Champaign Local Landmark in 2003
Constructed in 1904 at 106 South Neil, the Atkinson Monument Building stands as one of the finest examples or Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in all of Champaign.
The 1902 Sandborn Fire Insurance map above shows the site just prior to construction of the buildings. By 1909 (below), both 106 and 108 South Neil Street had been completed.
106 South Neil was designed and constructed by local marble engraver and stone worker of Samuel P. Atkinson.
In 1868 a young 24 year old Civil War veteran names Samuel Peabody Atkinson, ventured from his home in Pataskala, Ohio to the new community of Champaign, Illinois. It was here that he would teach and farm until 1880 when he joined J.W. Booker to begin a business know as Champaign Marble and Granite Company. (News-Gazette, 12/26/1980) The company was originally located at the intersections of Hickory, Neil Main and Church Streets in Downtown Champaign.
This location eventually became to cramped for the growing business and it became necessary to look for new accommodations. Samuel decided on to relocate to a building near the corner of Neil and Chester Streets as a temporary location for his business. However, Atkinson undertook a project on the request of E.C. Flanigan. Flanigan had asked Samuel to construct a new building on the location of his former building. This new structure would forever be known to patrons of the downtown as “The Flat-Iron building”. This building would be built for the primary purpose of housing the growing Champaign Daily Gazette, today known as the News-Gazette. He would raze the Marble Company building to design and construct the Flat Iron Building (or Gazette Building) in 1902.
He then built his new home at 106 South Neil using the same rusticated stone and marble columns found in the Gazette Building.
His new building would once again feature the public display of his headstones and marble works.
106 and 108 South Neil can be seen below. 110-112 had yet to be constructed leaving a large open lot to the south of the properties.
Because of these open lots the south facade wall of 108 became an important location for wall signs. The remnants of those signs are still visible from Neil Street.
The business would operate under Samuel P. Atkinson until his death on April 1, 1937. Following his death the company was managed by:
Emma Schultz Atkinson (wife) 1937-1948
Joseph E. Atkinson (son) 1948- 1966.
Mary L VanScheack 1966 - 1981.
Brenda Hopper 1981 - 1988.
The current owner is Jeff Mellander purchased the business in 1988 as part of a bankruptcy settlement and attempted to keep the business alive. However by 1989 the states second oldest monument company would no longer exist. (Courier, 1969)
By 1989 the S.P. Atkinson Monument Company no longer existed and by 1996 the owner Jeff Mellander began renovations of the building along with it's southern neighbor at 108 South Neil (Price Paint Store).
The interior of the Price Paint Store in the 1950s
Interior of Price Paint (108 South Neil) prior to the business closing circa 1980s
Mr. Mellander would completely restore both buildings and replicate the stone facade of 106 South Neil on 108 South Neil to unify the buildings. He would then move the headquarters of his business Precision Graphics to the building.
The second floor of 108 South Neil Street following installation of the new facade in 1996. Precision Graphics CEO and building owner Jeff Mellander is standing in the window opening.
Today, the buildings remain as a classic example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. Precision Graphics is no more but the building has been most recently occupied by Visit Champaign County and is now used as a business incubator.
Building Description (From the Local Landmark Nomination Form) by T.J. Blakeman, 2002 Western (Front) Façade-
The western façade of the building fronting onto Neil Street serves as the primary façade and main entrance to the building. It is this façade that contains the most extensive stonework and detailing. Starting on the ground level we are immediately drawn to the green marble column on the northwest corner. This non-fluted, composite column was carved and polished by the Atkinson Monument Company. Identical columns were found on S.P. Atkinson’s other building in Downtown, the flat-iron located at the corner of Main, Hickory and Neil Street. This column occupies the chamfered corner which houses the main entrance. The store windows are oversized plate-glass windows broken by 3 Doric non-fluted columns. 106 South Neil includes Frank Lloyd Wright luxfer, multi-light transoms. 108 South Neil contains a replica of that pattern. The windows are capped with black cladding to resemble typical storefronts from it original period. Between the two buildings lies a secondary entrance within another recessed cutaway. Working upward we notice that the structure is divided up into eight piers. Five associated with 106 South Neil and 3 associated with 108 South Neil. These piers travel upward and are broken by two separate capitals. The first capitals are part of a broken belt course and each capital contains comma shaped carvings. The second grouping of capitals is part of a Doric style belt course which travels the length of the entire building. The piers are then topped with a stone coping that runs the entire length of the front façade. The second floor of the western façade between the cladding and the Doric belt course lies six windows. The center two windows and the two 2nd floor windows in the Price Building are double hung 2 over 2 windows with 4 lite rounded arch transoms. The 2 remaining windows flanking the arched windows in 106 South Neil are paired double hung sash windows. All windows are supported by plain rock-faced lug sills. The rounded windows are capped with a keystone and voussoir stones. The paired double-hung windows are capped with rock-faced lintels. The stone work throughout the entire western façade is limestone rock-faced with margins. The most notable feature on the western façade is the parapet and upper detailing. The 2 name block on 106 South Neil is inscribed “Atkinson Building” with a date block between the name blocks on the center pier of the building. The date on this block is 1904. The name block on the 108 South Neil is inscribed “Precision Graphics” The date block for this building reads 1996 and lies on the center pier of the Price Paint portion. Each name block has 2 rosettes on the centered on the top and bottom of each stone.
The northern façade of the building fronts what used to be Bailey Street and now is used as a municipal alleyway. This side of the building is not lacking in distinctive architectural features. The windows are the dominate feature of this façade with oversized fenestration windows with same plain stone lug sill and lintels. It is revealed that the brickwork on the reminder of the building is common bond variant with 6 stretcher rows per header row. Looking along the bottom of the building where the walls intersect the road pavement we can see evidence that at one time in the buildings history double rowlock segmental arches were visible perhaps allowing light into the basement. These window openings are spaced equally and run the length of the building. Today only the very tops of the former windows are visible today. Another feature on the northern façade is the pier effect created by a series of 3 external chimneys and 4 internal chimneys. The 4 internal chimneys extrude out of the façade on the second story and give a corbelled effect. A stone coping runs the entire length of the northern façade and remains at a constant height. The coping is also accentuated by a crenellated effect which runs the entire length of the wall. The symmetry of the building begins to fail as you move further east along the alleyway. Near the northeast corner of the building is a large plate glass window and door that appears to have taken the place of a loading area. There is now a modern door and handicapped ramp in this area. The large window is capped with black cladding to match the western (front) façade. The northeast corner also contains a series of 3 double row-lock segmental arches. There are also several star tied-in rods. Overall the northern façade is noticeable formal. It is assumed that this is because of the former use of Bailey Street as a busier loading area.
Eastern (Rear) Façade-
This portion of the building fronting Walnut Street once served as a delivery and pick-up area for both Price Paint and Atkinson Monument Company. The area currently serves as a secondary entrance for Precision Graphics. Unique features of this façade are the two double row-lock window openings which flank the large area one occupied by a large garage door. Although the current façade is moved back way from the street the appearance is still given that the façade is in place. Within this opening is housed the antique lifting mechanism which lifted the heavy granite and stone headstones too and from the delivery trucks. This system used a network of rails located throughout the building. There are 5 second story windows on the Atkinson side and 3 second story windows on the Price side. All windows have the standard plain lug sill and lintel. The window larger window located on the far left of the Atkinson building was once a door but later converted. The two flanking windows on the upper floor of the price building are double hung 1 over 1 and flank a large plate-glass window. The first floor of the Price Building was once used as a secondary entrance like the AtkinsonBuilding. Photographs revel that at one time both stores displayed their respective names. Price used a suspended sign and Atkinson used a painted advertisement.
Southern Façade –
The southern façade of the building is partially hidden do to the neighboring one story building. What can be seen from the street level is a less formal wall that that of the northern façade. It is reveled from Sandborn Fire Insurance maps that at the time of construction the lot immediate to the south of the buildings was vacant. We can tell that this wall at one time was used as a billboard for travelers down Neil and Walnut Streets. There are a number of worn advertisements that still remain on the southern façade. The brick on the southwest corner of the building reveals a quoining effect not seen on the rest of the building. It would also appear that the Price Building and the neighboring structure do not share a common wall. There is a stepped parapet with tile coping which wraps the top of the building and proceeds the entire length of the building. There are several chimneys on the southern façade just as there are on the northern façade. We find one interior chimney and one exterior chimney.
Photo Credits: Jeff Mellander, T.J. Blakeman, and the Champaign County Historical Archives at the Urbana Free Library