URBANA – More than 800 pictures, title abstracts and maps showing the history of homes and neighborhoods in Champaign County are available online through the Urbana Free Library.
"Historic Champaign County Neighborhoods and Homes" is seen as a "first phase of a portal" to a digital record of the county, according to Anke Voss, director of the historical Champaign County archive at the library.
"There is so much keen interest in this community about its history," Voss said. "Patrons come in every week."
The project includes more than 800 photographs of homes, primarily in Champaign-Urbana, but some in rural areas, she said.
The images include mid- to late 19th-century buildings, including private residential properties and public buildings, including churches and schools.
Voss said there are even pictures of some homes that already have been razed.
The archives also include information about the homes in Champaign-Urbana from surveys provided by the Preservation and Conservation Association and a project at the University of Illinois Department of Urban and Regional Planning.
Alice Novak, an adjunct lecturer with that department, said students have collected surveys on local properties for the past 10 years. Some surveys have very basic information; others have interesting stories about people who lived in the homes, she said.
"Having them online makes them even more accessible," Novak said.
The surveys have information on the original and subsequent owners and other facts, such as the architectural style: Queen Anne, gable-front, colonial, American craftsman, foursquare or Victorian.
Rebecca Bird, an Urbana city planner who works on historic preservation issues, said the new database is "really exciting," partly because the archives will be searchable online.
"Sometimes people are interested in their own houses," Bird said. "This is a wonderful starting point in researching their houses."
For example, someone looking for information about a Tudor revival home can pull up all the surveys that list Tudor-style homes, she said. Or, some of the prominent architects in Urbana's history can be searched to see what other buildings they designed.
The Urbana planning department has only paper copies of surveys, which include basic information on the architectural style, the approximate date it was built and what's known about the chain of ownership, according to Bird.
"For some of the grander houses, there is even more information," Bird said.
The database also includes digitized copies of the Preservation and Conservation Association newsletter.
Funding for the Historic Champaign County online data base comes from a grant of $19,934 by the Illinois State Library using money from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Library also has database of car service, repairs
The Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St. has a new service in its Adult Services Department: ALLDATA Online. This resource provides up-to-date service and repair information for vehicles made since 1982. That includes information on recall updates, wiring diagrams, technical services bulletins and service interval data.
John Dunkelberger, director of adult services, said many users request information on car repairs.
"They are not publishing as many manuals as they used to," Dunkelberger said.
Access to ALLDATA Online is only available in the library. For more information, call 367-4405.
The library expects soon to get another online resource for learning languages.
On the Web
Click on "Historic Champaign County: Neighborhoods and Homes." That will take you to the Illinois Digital Archives' Web site.
There's also a "click here" link that offers you tips on how to search the database.