City Building

The City Building that now serves the Citizens of Champaign opened in 1937, and replaced an older building on the same site.  Its Art Deco style, role in Champaign history, commanding presence downtown, and status as a significant Works Progress Administration project all combine to warrant its designation in 2006 as a Local Landmark.

View enlarged image of the City Building in 1937.

The City Building in 1937

The detailed Findings of Fact determined by the Council when the City Building was designated:

(a) Significant value as part of the historical, cultural, artistic, social, ethnic, or other heritage of the nation, state or community.
By its very nature, the City Building is a significant contributor to the historic and social culture of the City of Champaign. Since it was first occupied in 1937, this building has been the seat of municipal government, and as such the acts of the Council within its walls have had significant effects on the lives of all citizens of Champaign. (The first meeting of the City Council on this location was in 1889, in the first City Building which lasted at this location until 1935, when the current building was begun.) In 1937 the newly constructed City Building housed the Fire and Police Departments, as well as Administrative Offices.

(c) Representative of the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type inherently valuable for the study of a period, style, craftsmanship, method of construction, or use of indigenous materials.

The Champaign City Building is considered by many to be the finest example in the region of the Art Deco building style so prevalent in the 1 920s and 30s. Many of the examples in the latter decade were buildings financed in part or totally by the Federal Government and the City Building is no exception. The construction of the City Building was funded in good measure by the Federal Public Works Administration. Tradition has it that the architectural inspiration for the building was the Los Angeles City Hall, with its distinctive tower, which was completed in the late 1 920s. It is not clear whether local architect George Ramey was instructed to use the Los Angeles building as a model or that it was his own idea. Ramey, however, was adept at mimicking diverse architectural styles, as indicated by the many houses of his design for the city’s elite that reflected varying revival fashions in the teens and twenties.The exterior of the reinforced concrete building is clad in beige brick with Bedford limestone detailing; the latter enhanced with classic art deco motifs. The square tower portion of the building is topped with a copper clad, pyramidal roof. The roof on the east wing is flat and covered with a synthetic membrane concealed by a parapet.

(e) Identifiable as an established and familiar visual feature in the community owing to its unique location or physical characteristics.
The City Building is located at the intersection of University Avenue and Neil Street, the streets from which all addresses in Champaign are numbered. That the building is iconic is reflected in the fact that it has been incorporated into the City’s last two logos, and was in an earlier version of the markings found on all city vehicles.

(f) One of the few remaining examples of a particular architectural style or use, or is an example which clearly represents a major architectural style, and has undergone little or no alteration since its construction.
There are not many clearly art deco public buildings in Champaign and the City Building is an excellent example. Although there have been changes mandated by the significant changes in use when the Fire, then Police Departments moved to their own buildings, they have been undertaken in such a manner as to respect the original character of the building.

Report to Historic Preservation Commission PL06-0044

City Building Narrative description and historical walk-through

View enlarged image of the sketch of the City Building from 1935.

Sketch of the City Building from 1935.

View enlarged image of the current City Building.

The City Building in its current condition.

View enlarged image of an old decal for City vehicles

An old decal for City vehicles

View enlarged image of a postcard from 1937

A Postcard from 1937 with the City Building on it.

View enlarged image of the City Building today.

The City Building today.