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There aren’t too many known photographs of the Esquire Theatre, 108 N. Madison St., Bloomington. This one was taken by longtime Bloomington-Normal projectionist Karl Blakney, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 91. Karl was also an accomplished amateur photographer, and the Museum Archives holds a collection of his photographs.
On October 14, 1963 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigned in Bloomington. FDR’s whistle stop tour pulled into Union Depot on the city’s west side (see photo on the right) at 2:35 p.m. The photo on the left shows Roosevelt from the train’s rear observation platform.
The McLean County Museum of History’s largest artifact, the Tilbury Flash racing plane, has officially arrived at the Central Illinois Regional Airport terminal.
As the Great Chicago Fire raged out of control the night and early morning of October 8-9, 1871, Mayor Roswell B. Mason made a desperate plea over the telegraph wires for additional firefighters and equipment. This image shows the American Standard locomotive No. 97 that carried the Prairie Birds and their steamer on a flatbed railcar to Chicago.
Bellflower Township High School in the southeastern corner of McLean County once boasted a fine collection of local history and natural history objects. This “museum” consisted of a set of display cases and wall exhibits featuring hundreds of items, including Native American relics, an American bison skull, pioneer-era homespun cloth, and even firearms.
Fifty-seven years ago, Saturday, October 25, 1958, Wesleyan easily dispatched visiting Elmhurst College 47-7 in the homecoming football game. Seen here are two photographs from the 1958 homecoming parade in downtown Bloomington, held the morning of the Elmhurst game.
In the first half of the 20th century Lilly Orchard, located some sixteen miles west of the Twin Cities, was one of the more popular area destinations during the crisp fall days of September and October. Seen in this early October 1950 photograph are Orin White, Lilly Orchard manager, and two young customers enjoying the locally grown product.
John M. Newman of Pittsfield, IL, was killed on October 28, 1949, when his Pacific Intermountain Express truck sideswiped an automobile parked along Route 66 south of Bloomington. The owner of the parked vehicle, 20-year-old Donald Slaughter of Bloomington, was unharmed in the tragic accident.
In the 76 years since these photographs were taken the Corn Belt countryside has undergone an absolute transformation when it comes to matters of mechanization, depopulation, storage, hybridization, the end of diversification, and genetics, among many other profound changes.
It was arguably the single largest event ever staged in McLean County history. Despite the cancellation of the first day due to muddy field conditions, the 1994 Farm Progress Show attracted an estimated 150,000 folks to the G.J. Mecherle Trust Farm off Illinois Route 9 several miles east of Bloomington.
The Village of McLean in the southwestern corner of McLean County used to stage an annual Harvest Festival. Seen here is the McLean Supper Club float.
Seen here are two photographs of Bloomington’s 1949 homecoming festivities. The photo on the left shows the BHS homecoming queen with her attendants. The photo on the right shows the October 28 parade as the floats round Washington Street.
The once-annual O’Neil Park doll parade on Bloomington’s west side prepares to get underway.
The Museum may be a repository for McLean County’s history, but it’s hardly the only place where you can observe the past.The Museum is for studying and analyzing history; to see where it came from, one has to search it out
Bill Kemp's “Page from Our Past” column in the Pantagraph (linked below) detailed the estate in south Normal The September 27, 1940 dedication ceremony of the history of the chime tower on the Broadview Mansion included theatrical elements, such as Illinois Wesleyan University students Dorothy Mae Wilson and Helen Jean Brooks dressed as angels.
The City of Bloomington celebrated its centennial over a seven-day extravaganza, September 17-23, 1950 (though the kickoff dance held September 15 somehow didn’t count, if one goes by the banner pictured here). Anyway, festivities included a “Young Pioneers” parade through downtown Bloomington on September 19.
Seen here is the northeast corner of East and Market streets in downtown Bloomington, late 1935 or early 1936. Keiser-Van Leer Co., a mechanical contractor and hardware dealer, was preparing to demolish the two-story buildings in the foreground (both the wood frame and brick structures) to make way for a two-story Streamline Moderne addition.
On September 15, 1950, Bloomington kicked off its centennial celebration with a “Queen’s Ball” at what is now called the Center for Performing Arts. Although Bloomington was established and settled as early as 1831, it wasn’t officially incorporated until 1850, hence the city’s 100th birthday bash was held in 1950 and not 1931.
This view of the Town of Normal and Illinois State University, taken in 1966 from either Hewett or Manchester halls, two recently opened high-rise dormitories, looks west. Visible in the distance are Hancock Stadium and the Tri-Towers residential complex (Haynie, Wilkins, and Wright halls). The houses shown here were later razed to make way for the ISU Student Center (completed in 1973) and Milner Library - Illinois State University (1976).
On September 9, 1958, a one-ton wrecking ball made quick work of Illinois State University’s first campus building, affectionately known as “Old Main.” Today, a memorial featuring the building’s bell can be found on the north end of the Illinois State Quad.