TIERNAN'S BLOCK and Hall

115 West Main Street, Urbana, Illinois 61801

Tiernan's Hall opened 31 October 1872.
It had closed by 1887.

      “Most prominent among the many new edifices in Urbana, is the beautiful and commanding three-story block bearing the above name.  For its imposing presence, Urbana is indebted to the pluck of that most dashing young citizen, Francis Tiernan, Esq., who has lead all his compeers in the noble work of building.  While others have hesitated, and asked, “Will it Pay?” he has pushed forward and wrung successes out of doubt, planting his name on a noble monument to his genius, which, we trust, may survive many years to remind the beholder of one who has contributed more than any one of his age to the material prosperity of Urbana.

      A short description of this noble pile in our columns is but a reasonable tribute to its merits:”

                                Champaign County Gazette Wednesday 20 December 1871 page 1

Tiernan’s Block (building) opened in December 1871.  Its superstructure is of Urbana brick.  Fluted iron columns surrounded by substantial stone lintels support the lower front.  The front windows are ornamented with terra cotta caps.  The building is topped with a highly wrought zinc cornice.

 

The first floor, with 16-foot high ceilings, was evenly divided into two stores: F. Tiernan & Brother, grocers and A.O. Clapp & Co., druggists.  The post office was to be located in Clapp’s drug store.  The second story, with 14-foot ceilings, housed offices and the third story, with an 18-foot ceiling, housed the opera hall.  The trussed roof was covered in tin.  The building had indirect, gas lighting.

 

Owner: Francis “Frank” Tiernan.

Architect: William S. McWilliams.

31 October 1872

 

The opera hall itself did not open until 31 October 1872 with Prof. Black’s grand opera troupe from the Indianapolis Academy of Music.  The opera hall held 900 people arranged in dress circle and parquet style.  The stage dimensions were 24x18 feet.  It had two drop curtains and twelve pieces of scenery painted by Prof. Reynolds from the University.  The stage was lit with gas foot and border lights.  Dressing rooms were located at either end of the stage.  The ticket office was at the foot of the stairs on the second floor.

November 1887

Urbana Masons purchase the Tiernan building.  The Masons moved out of their old home at the corner of Main and Race and into the Tiernan building on Friday 21 December 1888.  The Masons dedicated their new home on Tuesday 15 January 1889.  Judge J.O. Cunningham gave the address.

Friday 3 February 1893

The St. Nicholas Hotel, next door to the east of the Tiernan building, burnt to the ground.  The Masons had been leasing the entire third floor for a banquet hall and had cut arches through to connect it with the main lodge room.  The fire passed through the arches, destroying the lodge room and all its fixtures.  The lodge room was redone with gilt paper covered walls and ceilings.  The woodwork was repainted and grained.  The floor was covered with first quality Brussels carpet.  Six-foot oak and leather settees surrounded the room.  Newly designed elaborate oak stations were installed.

 

The St. Nicholas was replaced with C.P. Cantner’s new building completed in December 1893.  The top floor again connected to the Masonic Temple to be used as a banquet hall.  Fire doors were included in the design this time.

Friday 5 April 1901

A newspaper story announces that the ground floor occupied by H.C. Porter’s dry goods store and W.H. Owens’ grocery store were to be remodeled.  The floor would be lowered to grade with the new sidewalk and a new steel front would be installed.  The contract was awarded to Curfman & Buchanan.

Image from an 1873 map.

Frank Tiernan secured a subcontract with the Big Four Railroad and became associated with C.R. Griggs.  Mr. Tiernan left Urbana and helped build the Fort Scott and Gulf Railway.  He spent the last years of his life in Salt Lake City promoting a railroad line to transport coal from the rich coal mines of Utah by a new path across the mountains to the West coast. He had gone East to sell bonds.  Frank Tiernan died in 1903 at New York City.

Postcard image.

1903 photograph from the Champaign County Historical Archives in the Urbana Free Library collection that shows a closer look at the original ground level facade,

Wednesday 14 October 1914

$40,000 was spent to remodel Masonic Temple.  This remodeling included the new terra cotta façade.  Amsbary’s grocery was located on the ground floor.  The third floor had ladies and gentlemen’s retiring rooms in the front.  In the rear was the spacious lodge room finished in blue and old ivory.  The master’s station at the extreme south end was located on a stage equipped with wings and drops similar to those used in theatres.  An appropriate scene was painted on the backdrop.  There was a balcony extending around the east, north, and west walls reached by a door on the fourth floor.  Space was reserved on the north balcony for a pipe organ.  There were small lodge rooms on the front of the fourth floor while the remainder was the balcony.  The building had  a passenger elevator in front and a freight elevator in the rear.  The Masons dedicated their remodeled building on Monday 16 November 1914.

 

Contractor: E.G. Benton.  Architect: J.W. Royer.

Late 1960s

The buildings to the east were again destroyed by fire.  This exposed the east wall, which was never intended to be an outside wall, to the ravages of the weather.

 

1978

The Masons move out and sell the building to Ray Timpone.

Lorry’s Favorite Sports was on the ground floor.

 

Various tenants followed over the years.  Among them attorneys, City of Urbana offices, a pizza restaurant, and a Chinese restaurant.

Fall 1997

Norman and Carolyn Baxley purchase the building.

 

2001

The lodge room space is remodeled for Prairie City Computing.  The fourth floor is opened to the lodge room and is connected by a grand staircase.  The high ceilings and stage area are maintained.

 

February 2003

Chef Jean-Louis restaurant closes (first floor).

Remodeled third and fourth floor space, formerly the lodge room.  Photo by Perry C. Morris.

Crane Alley restaurant is now the first floor tenant.

Tiernan's Block has been designated a City of Urbana Landmark.