Top of the Morning, June 16, 2014: From the archives

Top of the Morning, June 16, 2014: From the archives

Lincoln Square holds lots of memories for me.

There was the time my grade-school basketball team from Danville was in Champaign-Urbana for a parochial-league tournament at Holy Cross. We were here all day, so the coaches got us a couple rooms at the Urbana Lincoln to relax in between games. I can recall walking out of the hotel into the dining room, mid-afternoon, all the tables empty but set for what seemed to me a grand banquet for hundreds.

There were the times, as an adult, that I took my sons to the Crisis Nursery holiday shop there. (I still have the oven mitt one of them got me that year. It's worn out, but I'm keeping that sucker.)

But the dominant memory I have is of the distractions the place offered if you were a child in the 1960s.

Yes, there was a whale you could crawl into — more than one mother probably panicked when a child went missing.

But better than anything were the aquariums. Two of them, huge if you were a kid — really, big even by adult standards. If you find a "normal" aquarium fun to watch, these were spellbinding.

To be sure, it was a different time, but I'm reasonably confident my parents could have left me in front of one of those giant tanks, gone shopping for hours, and the only place I might have gone would be to the next tank.

In today's gallery you'll find photos of those magical fish tanks, as well as other photos of Lincoln Square in its early days — all the way back to its construction.

And if anyone has a photo of the whale (or more photos of the aquariums) to share, please email them to and I'll add them.

UPDATE: Thanks to Patty Smith for sending a note about the whale and the horse statues. She correctly noted that the two were given to the Urbana Park District. The whale went to Crystal Lake Park, according to Dana Mancuso of the park district, but it developed "structural integrity problems" and is no more. The 'Mare and Foal' statue still is outside at the Phillips Recreation Center (formerly Thornburn Center). Smith says the bear statue went to Carson Pirie Scott and Co. in Chicago.

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pattsi wrote on June 16, 2014 at 7:06 am

The downward curve from the hay day of Lincoln Square and the surounding businesses in the parking area to today is a very disappointing tale. The losses of businesses in downtown Urbana at the same time turned what was once a walkable community for provisions to one that causes people now to drive to get the same items. A tip of the hat to the development of Market Place and north of I-74. This had a similar effect on downtown Champaign- 5 department stores and 5 movie theaters.

bettycat wrote on June 16, 2014 at 8:06 am

Where do I find the link to the gallery? 

Mike Howie wrote on June 16, 2014 at 10:06 am
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I'm sorry, the link is there now. Pretty sure I forgot to click one button.

Mike Howie

online editor