Aug. 2 marked the 140th birthday of Urbana architect Joseph William Royer.
Unfortunately, Royer and his family, once very prominent and active in Urbana's art and architecture scene, have been largely forgotten by their hometown. Royer contributed greatly to the city's built environment and designed numerous structures throughout the United States; his wife, Adelaide Danely Royer, was a published writer, poet and public performer; his sister-in-law, Nell Brooker-Mayhew, was a nationally recognized artist with a gallery devoted to her work in California. This milestone birthday was overlooked by the city and insult was added to injury when city council refused to designate the Zeta Tau Alpha fraternity house a local landmark, one of Royer's more spectacular surviving buildings.
Three council members, who seemed confused and baffled by the process, voted against the nomination, despite unanimous approval by the Urbana Historic Preservation Commission. Landmarks Illinois, the state's leading voice for historic preservation, the Preservation and Conservation Association, and many citizens strongly supported the nomination.
Urbana's unique historic treasures are rapidly disappearing, often due to ignorance and neglect.
Recent losses include the county sheriff's residence and jailhouse and the World War I Armory, to name a couple.
I fear for the fate of Urbana's unique historic and architectural treasures if left in the hands of uninformed and clueless council members who seem to have no appreciation for the preservation and protection of the city's unique artistic and cultural heritage. Happy Birthday, Joseph W. Royer!