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URBANA — The Carle Park Pavilion is the first thing you see when you enter this 8.3-acre park.

It’s a classic stone structure that reflects its time.

The two-story Italian Renaissance Revival-style pavilion is a century old, when there were no TV sets or digital devices to keep people home; they enjoyed the outdoors, even if the outdoors were a little tame at local parks.

Many renovations over the years have been made to clean up after vandals — it sits between Urbana High School and the Urbana side of University of Illinois halls and apartments. But in many of its renovations, artisans have tried to keep to its original style.

The pavilion is paired with an English Oak listed as the tallest in the state and second-tallest in the nation.

According to an award from the Preservation and Conversation Association, the pavilion was constructed of Indiana Bedford Limestone at the cost of about $14,000.

But costs do tend to go up.

More than 20 years ago, a rehabilitation cost $100,000, only one of many. A renovation finished in 2012 took about $270,000.

“In 1993, a large rehabilitation effort took place,” PACA noted. “In 2008, the Urbana Park District initiated a park master plan to update it. The hand-forged decorative gates, produced and installed by Working Metal artist Dean Rose, were designed by Scot Wachter, the president of IGW Architecture, to complement and reflect the ornamentation and details of the original design.”

They’re often called wrought-iron gates, but they’re actually steel with a powder finish, Wachter said.

He based the design on original details of the edifice still to be seen, including reproducing the Greek-key decorations on the walls.

And the gates do open.

“The space inside has been used for weddings and other events,” said Derek Liebert, the Urbana Park District’s superintendent of Planning and Operation.

But the upper level is closed.

“A young man jumped off it a few years ago and broke his ankle in several places,” Liebert said.

The pavilion was financed by a bequest from the estate of Margaret Carle Morris, who also had donated the land for the park.

The park’s donation was a condition for the 30-acre land sale to Dr. C.L. Van Doren, according to the park district history.

The Van Dorens sold six lots in their subdivision to the park district, completing the park’s configuration. The plan was for a new subdivision aimed at “well-to-do” residents who would want to be close to Urbana High School, just built with a design by famed architect Joseph Royer, who did so many public buildings here, including the nearby courthouse.

Liebert said the trees are an important part of the park, and praised the landscape plan developed by parks commissioner J.C. Blair in 1919.

There are more than 50 trees on the Hickman Tree Walk, which is being updated.

Besides Carle Park, the district “is involved in a number of new and ongoing landscape projects — Crystal Lake rehabilitating has a number of landscape components,” Liebert said.

“We are also working on a new landscape plan at the Wandell Sculpture Garden and the Hickman Wildflower Walk. The landscape plans at Meadowbrook are nearing completion and the Leal Park trees are scheduled for this fall. We are planting trees at Leal Park as well.”

A park with a history

Statues don’t move, but people move them. Lorado Taft’s “Lincoln The Lawyer” was dedicated July 3, 1927, at the Urbana-Lincoln Hotel, then relocated to Carle Park. Like the pavilion, it has been the target of vandals, including a paint job that came off with soap and water. It was a gift from Mary Cunningham. She and her husband, Judge Joseph Cunningham, were friends of Abraham Lincoln from his wide-ranging work on the Eighth Judicial Circuit.

Another statue, of Woman’s Christian Temperance (anti-alcohol) Union founder Frances Willard, used to stand east of the pavilion facing Urbana High School, according to the park district’s website. The statue was later moved to the Main/Springfield intersection triangle in front of the historic Flatiron Building, which burned down in 1948. People used a fountain there to cool beer, the story goes. Apparently, prohibition had done its damage to Willard’s standing. Ignominiously, the statute was melted into scrap metal during World War II, wrote Ilona Matkovszki and Dennis Roberts in their book “Urbana (Images of America).”

The Hickman Tree Walk takes you past what is the largest English Oak in Illinois, located just a few yards southeast of the pavilion. Liebert said shade trees were planted at the time of a land gift in 1909. In 1919, parks commissioner Joseph C. Blair developed a landscape plan for the park and more tree planting took place. The oak by the pavilion remains the king.

“Safe to say it’s approximately 100 feet tall,” said Liebert, and 10.9 feet in diameter, at last measure six years ago.


Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).