Miebach's Hall

69-71 East University Avenue

Opened 1898

Closed circa 1925

The Miebach Brothers, sons of the late William Miebach, purchased the Oscar Miller hardware business and reopened under the Wm. Miebach & Co. name on 8 June 1893.  They continued in the same building, leasing it from Mrs. Miller for a period of years. [1]  The building was located on the north-west corner of University Avenue and First Street.  The 1915 Sanborn Insurance map indicates the lot, formerly number 73, had been renumbered to 78. [2]

The business had prospered to the extent that in September 1897, William Miebach & Co. had begun construction of a three-room business block immediately west of their present building.  The second story was to be made into one large concert hall equipped with stage and scenery.  They were optimistic that they would have occupancy of the new building before the holidays. [3]

Photo of original store at the corner of University and First (Number 78) from the News-Gazette Centennial Progress edition 23 November 1952.

L to R: Will Bacon, Henry Arenz, Paul Miebach, W.H. (Bill) Miebach, Jr., Charles Bryant, and Wm. Miebach.  This is the store they moved out of in 1898.

Wm. Miebach & Co. ad after the purchase of Miller Hardware.  The Champaign Daily Gazette, 15 June 1893.  

1897 Sanborn Insurance Map showing the original store (green) bordering First Street (Right) and relationship to the Illinois Central Railroad tracks (Left). 

 

Sanborn fire insurance map provided courtesy of the Map Library at the University of Illinois.

The Champaign Daily Gazette reported on 12 February 1898 that a large corps of workmen were on site and the building was nearly complete.  The grand opening would be Thursday evening. March 3.  The paper went on to note that “the East Side had long been in want of a place of amusement, and Miebach Brothers saw an opening, and had the pluck and energy to embrace the opportunity.” [4]

Here is the description of Miebach’s Hall from the Champaign Daily Gazette:

“The second floor is where one receives a genuine surprise when first looking over this building.  It is 80x66 feet and will be used for a dance hall exclusively.  The entrance is from the east side of the building, and is amply large enough for all purposes.  At the head of the stairs is the ticket office.  A gallery about twelve feet deep encircles the east, west and north sides of the hall, with three tiers of chairs around the whole.  From 400 to 500 persons can easily be seated in the gallery.  The floor will be of hard, polished maple; it will have no pillars.  The gallery has an entrance from the east side and to conform to the state law there is also an inside entrance.  The balcony is finished in hard pine, and will have a row of electric lights around the outside.  A large chandelier will adorn the center of the hall, and those with numerous other lights, wherever found necessary.  The hall is wainscoted all around in hard pine, and the rest of the walls and ceiling will be white.  Nine large windows face the south, with five or six on the north.

A large cloak or check room has been provided, and boxes will be put in for the proper storing and protection of wraps.  A large dome in the center will insure thorough ventilation.  The building will be heated by hot air furnaces and lighted by electricity and gas.” [5]

An article in the 12 February 1898 Champaign Daily Gazette reported the new hall would open on 3 March and discussed the many preparations being made for the grand celebration:

“This large and handsome hall will be opened to the public on Thursday evening. March 3, under the auspices of Miebach Brothers and the Champaign camp of Modern Woodmen.  Extensive preparations have been made for the event, and it goes without saying that the matter could not have been placed in better hands, for the Woodmen of Champaign are a pushing set of woodchoppers and do not propose to make a failure of this undertaking.  There will be a grand promenade concert by the Knights of Pythias Hussar band, from 7:30 to 9:30, to be followed by a grand ball.  Supper will be served in the storeroom below from 6 p.m. to midnight, by the members of Birch camp, Royal Neighbors of America.  The various committees appointed, along with the Miebach Brothers, report excellent progress, and that the hall will have an opening such as Champaign never experienced before.  Snyder’s orchestra of ten pieces will furnish music for the opening dance." [6]

Miebach’s Hall was formally dedicated in grand style by Champaign camp. Modern Woodmen of America, on Thursday evening, 3 March 1898.  The Champaign Daily Gazette wrote that “If the future success of the hall is to be judged by the success of last night’s event, Miebach Brothers will never regret that they had enterprise enough to provide the East Side with a public hall, one of the best in this section of Illinois.” [7]

 

Here is a description of the evening by the Champaign Daily Gazette:

“As early as 7 o’clock people began to arrive at the hall, the early comers being, in most cases, spectators, who were to occupy the balcony, and long before 8 o’clock every chair in the balcony was occupied, many intended spectators being turned away because chairs could not be provided for them.

Shortly before 8 o’clock those holding ball tickets began to arrive, and in less than a half hour it was necessary to carry in additional chairs, in order to provide for all dancers.  The members of the committee on arrangements had made provisions for extra chairs, in case they were needed, and consequently there was little or no friction on this account.

The Woodmen had employed the services of the Knights of Pythias Hussar Band and it gave a concert from 7:45 till 9:25, giving one of the best programs of brass band music heard in Champaign in many months.

As soon as the band played the last number in its program it fell back, giving place to Snyder’s orchestra of twelve men, which was to furnish the music for the ball, and it was 9:35 o’clock when this organization struck up on the grand march, eighty-nine couples falling into line.  The number was increased to 125 couples during the evening, many coming from the gallery.

Immediately following the grand march, a program of 24 dances was taken up, and it was 3 o’clock this morning when the last number was called and the dancers left the hall, pronouncing the occasion one of the most enjoyable in the city during the present season.

The ladies of the Royal Neighbors had a hand in the dedication also.  They rented two business rooms on the ground floor of the building, and furnished supper to the dancers during the course of the evening.  They had room for the seating of a hundred persons at once and the tables were filled twice or three times.  This feature of the evening was also a success, financially and in every other way, reflecting great credit on the ladies.” [8]

It was announced on 11 March 1898 that Samuel Tucker had leased Mrs. Oscar Miller’s building and would be moving his drug store in as soon as the Miebach’s moved into their new building. [9]  It was further announced on 22 March 1898 that second-hand dealer J.D. Nally had relocated his business to the smaller storefront in the new Miebach building.  [10]

Willam Miebach & Co. opened for business in their new building on Monday, 11 April 1898.  Friends stopped in all day long to inspect the store and congratulate them on the beautiful appearance of “one of the most up-to-date and pretty stores in this section of Illinois and now they are thoroughly located in it they are settling down to do a greater run of business than they ever before experienced.” [11]

The second big dance in Miebach’s Hall was the annual Charity Ball that benefited the Julia F. Burnham Hospital.  It occurred on Thursday evening 24 March 1898. [12]

Miebach’s Hall remained a popular venue for several years for dances and concerts.  It also hosted moving pictures.  The Miebach’s also ran a nickelodeon style moving picture theatre called the Merry Widow for several months in 1908 in one of the ground floor storefronts in their building. 

Roller skating was also a popular use of the hall.  By 1925, it had become know as the Champaign Assembly Hall.

Sanborn Insurance  Map, March 1915. Address renumbering had occurred; old and new are shown.  Water Street, on the right, would be vacated in the future and today (2020) is all part of the Champaign Police Department campus. 

Sanborn fire insurance map provided courtesy of the Map Library at the University of Illinois.

Ad for Knights of Pythias Band Concert and Ball. Champaign Daily Gazette, 8 December 1898.

Ad for Moving Pictures at Miebach's Hall.  Perhaps foreshadowing the Miebach family opening the Merry Widow moving picture theatre in 1908.

Champaign Daily Gazette. 10 June 1907.

Ad for Basket Ball at Miebach's Hall. Champaign Daily Gazette, 9 December 1909.

Ad for Roller Skating at Miebach's Hall.  Champaign Daily News, 28 October 1914.

Ad for boxing at Champaign Assembly Hall the new name for Miebach's Hall. Champaign News-Gazette, 2 July 1925.

Endnotes

1.  Champaign Daily Gazette. Thursday, 8 June 1893. In New Hands.

2.  1915 Sanborn Insurance Map of Champaign, Illinois.

3.  Champaign Daily Gazette. Wednesday, 8 September 1897.  A New Store

4.  Champaign Daily Gazette.  Saturday, 12 February 1898. Page 1.  Making A Good Hall.

5. Champaign Daily Gazette. Saturday, 12 February 1898. Page 1.  Making A Good Hall.

6.  Champaign Daily Gazette. Saturday, 12 February 1898. Page 1. Making A Good Hall.

7.  Champaign Daily Gazette. Friday, 4 March 1898. Page 1. Miebach Hall.

8.  Champaign Daily Gazette. Friday, 4 March 1898. Page 1. Miebach Hall.

9.  Champaign Daily Gazette.  Friday, 11 March 1898. Page 1. Into A New Location.

10.  Champaign Daily Gazette. Tuesday, 22 March 1898. Page 1.  East Side Changes.

11.  Champaign Daily Gazette. Tuesday, 12 April 1898. Page 1. In Their New Store.

12.  Champaign Daily Gazette. Tuesday, 22 March 1898. Page 1. The Charity Ball.