Oct 15, 2023 - Real Estate

You can Airbnb Roger Ebert's childhood home

woman in front of house

Monica at the old Ebert homestead. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Last month I was invited to speak at a literary festival in Champaign-Urbana, where the organizers put me up in a very special place: Roger Ebert's childhood home.

  • What?!

The shame: I had no idea this place was still standing, even though Ebert and I were close friends and I lived in Urbana for several years.

  • He lived in that home from 1942 to 1961.

Why it matters: The house is rentable on Airbnb but hard to find unless you know the rental's code name: "Two Thumbs Up."

  • It's about $200 a night, depending on the date.
Ebert's childhood bedroom. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Best for: Ebert-o-philes, or folks visiting the school who want a cozy historic home base.

Location: A quiet street about a mile from campus near Urbana High School.

Amenities: The adorable two-bedroom house has twin beds in one bedroom and a queen in Ebert's childhood bedroom, along with a patio, driveway and central air.

What's more: The owners, who run the Pygmalion Festival where I spoke, have decorated the home in mid-century modern style. And they've preserved key details noted in Ebert's autobiography "Life Itself," including:

  • The ketchup and mustard color of his bedroom walls and ceiling
  • Ebert's mother's hideaway ironing board in the dining room
  • The '50s kitchen where his dad made his famous chili
I made a loaf of bread in the vintage kitchen. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Other neat touches: Urbana High varsity sweaters as wall decor, and an antique projector and camera.

A poster from Ebert's first movie as a screenwriter. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

The intrigue: I happened to fall asleep in Ebert's room reading "Life Itself." That night I had a dream that his ghost was in the room talking to me in a very friendly way.

  • As if he was glad I was visiting.
book on table
The iving room where Ebert learned to love reading. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Pro tip: If it's booked, you can still stop by the house, at 410 E. Washington, read this plaque and view it from the outside.

Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

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