Jan 052009

Preservation Alert!

The oldest building on campus, the historic Mumford House, is threatened.The University of Illinois is seriously considering moving this historic building from its original site on the South Quad off campus to the corner of South Race and West Windsor streets in Urbana. This action will seriously impact the historic integrity of the building and its association with the founding of the University of Illinois.

Mumford House was built in 1870, just three years after the Illinois Industrial University was founded.It is the oldest building on campus and a rare survivor from the College of Agriculture’s original “Experimental” South Farms, which were located on the South Quad.The National Historic Landmark Morrow Plots are just a small vestige of the former research fields located here.The house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was constructed under the direction of Regent Milton Gregory as a “Model Farmhouse” to inspire quality and efficient housing for Illinois farmers.The house was first occupied by Professor Jonathan Burrill (nationally famous plant pathologist, state horticulturalist, and Acting Regent) and later by three College of Agriculture deans:George Morrow, Eugene Davenport, and Herbert Mumford.In the 1940s, the house was converted to office use and used by the Small Homes Council, the School of Architecture, and by Art History faculty.Since the mid-1990s, the house has been vacant, with little maintenance, although it is still structurally sound.

This historic house has been threatened with demolition before.In the 1990s, there was a plan to raze the building as part of the construction of the Temple Buell Architecture Building.After preservationists protested, that proposal was dropped, and instead, the Buell building was sited further west.

This time the University proposes to move the house to an, as yet, non-existent Agricultural Interpretative Center, which will be located off of the main campus at the far east edge of the current South Farms.With this move, the historic integrity of the house and its site’s close association with the founding of the University and the original College of Agriculture will be lost forever.Instead, the house will be located on busy Windsor Road (scheduled for widening in the near future) and sited toward the proposed commercial redevelopment of Orchard Downs.

A Public Meeting on this proposed moved will be held Thursday, January 22, 2009 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Heritage Room of the College of ACES Library, 1101 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana (south of Turner Hall) for the purpose of receiving testimony on the proposed relocation.This meeting is being held pursuant to Public Law 86-707, Illinois Historic Resources Preservation Act, that requires consultation between state agencies and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) when state-funded projects affect historic resources.Representatives from IHPA will be in attendance at the meeting to take public comment about the proposed move.

PACA is urging its members to attend the meeting and give testimony (limited to three minutes) and/or send a written statement to: Pres. B. Joseph White, University of Illinois, 506 S. Wright St., Urbana, IL, 61801 with copies to Melvin Skvarla, 1501 S. Oak Street, Champaign, IL 61820 and Anne Haaker, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701.(bjwhite@uillinois.edu; mskvarla@uillinois.edu; Anne.Haaker@Illinois.gov.)

This building is our oldest connection to why the University is here. It is a tangible part of the University’s history.We need to be keepers of this history, to show that we value the connection, and to make the effort to preserve Mumford House in its historic place.

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