Illinois Central Depot
Updated: Aug 4, 2018
Illinois Central Railroad Passenger Depot
Constructed: 1899 (replaced the Doane House following fire) Original Owner: Illinois Central Railroad Current Owner: Dr. William Youngerman Moved to its current location in 1923
When the Town of West Urbana was first incorporated in 1855, a wood frame structure called the Doane House was constructed at the terminus of the new Illinois Central Railroad tracks and the newly platted Main Street.
This structure served a number of functions including post office, hotel, meeting space and train station. In fact, when Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated in March 1860, the local residents came out to celebrate their old friend Abe with an Inaugural Ball at the Doane House.
However, the Doane House filed for bancrupcy in 1898 and a few weeks later was destroyed by a fire on July 12, 1898.
This fire left a void in the community and in 1899, the Illinois Central Railroad constructed a new Depot to serve the growing community.
The station was constructed at the eastern terminus of Main Street and blocked Main Street from crossing the tracks and connecting with First Street. That connection would never be made.
Today it can be tough to envision the area around the station. With the tracks at grade, the east and west sides of the main line felt much more connected than they are today. This view of the streetcar traveling west down University Avenue shows how the area looked before the tracks were raised.
The simple, yet functional depot would at first be well appointed with beautiful landscaped gardens and intricate designs.
However, as the community continued to grow, the station traffic continued to increase. The traffic was at its peak on game day Saturdays as fans came to watch Bob Zuppke's nationally renowned football team at Illinois Field .
The depot continued to serve the community for 25 years. In 1924, with the community continuing to grow rapidly, Illinois Central made plans to not only raise the main line but also construct the long promised grand terminal. However, to make room for the new terminal, the depot would have be either razed or moved. The decision was made to move it (and keep it in operation during the move).
This diagram above illustrates the new track configuration and building layout for the 1924 Illinois Central improvements. The project costs approx. $1,100,000 with the city of Champaign paying $165,000 toward the costs of the subways. The project was overseen by Illinois Central Chief Engineer F.L. Thompson and O.T. Dunn, Assistant Engineer.
The aerial view below shows the massive amount of work involved in raising the Illinois Central Railroad tracks. Roughly 100,000 cu. yd. of fill material was brought by train from Paxton, Illinois (25 miles north of Champaign) Note work beginning (far left) on the grand passenger terminal.
When complete, the station had been moved 250 feet north to its present day location. In its place would rise the long promised grand passenger terminal just in time for the massive crowds coming to dedicate Memorial Stadium.
The depot found new use as the parcel and freight office.
Additionally, the area immediately east would be used for additional platforms as seen above.
The area around the depot would continue to be a busy place and also a somber place where service men and women from the Spanish American War to Vietnam embarked on their war time service and sometimes never return.
Time did not serve the depot well. It was eventually boarded up and mothballed. However, its most defining character during this time was the painted roof that greeted train goers for over 30 years. It boasted:
Fastest Growing Community In Downstate Illinois
The station sat empty until 2013 when Black Dog BBQ owners Mike Cochrane and Pedro Heller signed a lease with Dr. William Youngerman to renovate the local landmark.
The project cost just over $1,000,000 and opened for business in May 2015.