History | WGLT


Combine harvests corn in a field
Seth Perlman / AP

In many ways, the history of farming is about its future—how we went from hand tools and horses to self-driving tractors and $10,000-an-acre farmland.

Lincoln's Festival

It's the Illinois bicentennial, and as a result the 10th year of Lincoln's Festival in Bloomington-Normal will be richer and more nuanced, according to organizer Barb Adams and grant writer Marcia Young.

A woman sitting next to a man in the WGLT studio  duo.
Colleen Reynolds / WGLT

"Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

That famous quote attributed to Edmund Burke, a one-time orator, political theorist and British member of parliament, is behind a new effort at Bloomington's oldest park.

jeff kubina / Facebook via Creative Commons

Illinois residents are invited to help choose the 200 greatest people, place and things in state history as part of Illinois' bicentennial celebration.

Books To Benefit

A local nonprofit organization has found a new home for a rare, historical text from the 19th century.

Davis Mansion Historic Site

Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Of course, Thanksgiving was not always the way it is today.

Staff / WGLT

The City of Bloomington's Public Works director and members of the Historic Preservation Commission have reached a compromise on a draft revision of the city's Brick Streets Master Plan.

Public Domain

An Illinois State University scholar has taken on a massive biography of a historical figure who is one of the founding myths of Germany.

Photos: Demolition Begins at ISSCS Administration Building

Jul 18, 2017
Ruthie Cobb

A crew from Stark Excavating has begun tearing down the Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Children's School Administration Building.

Above is a slideshow of photos from the progress of the demolition. The photos were taken from the north end of the structure.

Artist Nick Africano became involved in the property in 1986. Thirty years later, Africano said he believes the teardown will improve the neighborhood and property values.

Two men in formal wear with one holding a plaque.
Colleen Reynolds / WGLT

Former Bloomington Mayor Jesse Smart joked as he received the McLean County History Museum's History Makers Award, "We all at some time in our life hope that at our funeral somebody will have something nice to say.  So, I appreciate the fact that I am here tonight ."[to hear nice comments.]

Each year the McLean County Museum of History Board selects the History Makers who are recognized for outstanding, lifelong contributions of time and talents that have helped make McLean County a better place to live.

This year's History Makers include:

Henri Huet / AP

As an expert in international affairs, Harvard University Professor Fredrik Logevall considers it crucial to study the Vietnam War, a complicated and controversial part of American history. 

Logevall was a child living in Canada when the United States pulled its combat forces from Vietnam in 1973.  He has since written widely about the war and shared his insights recently at Illinois State University as a guest of the History Department.

O'Hare Anniversary Remembered

Feb 20, 2017
Beverly / Flickr

A naval aviator’s attack on Japanese bombers that gave Chicago’s O’Hare Airport its name took place 75 years ago.

On February 20th, 1942, Japanese bombers attacked the U-S-S Lexington, an aircraft carrier headed towards New Guinea.

Milner Library / Illinois State University

Illinois State University

It's a mistake to think of central Illinois before significant European settlement as solely native American.

That's according to a historian and Illinois State University Professor who is out with a new book on the transformation of the region between 1762 and 1825.

As Cuba moves on from the late dictator Fidel Castro, Illinois State University Professor of Languages, Literature, and Cultures Jim Pancrazio looks at events leading up to the Cuban Revolution to contextualize the how and why of Castro's rise to power.  

According to Pancrazio, Castro was an outgrowth of the 19th century nationalist leader Jose Marti', and the Castro-led revolution that toppled the government of President Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959, was a vindication of the struggle for independence began by Marti'.

Creative Commons

A certain Supreme Court decision written 150 years ago still has relevance for us today.

Justice David Davis of Bloomington penned the opinion in Ex Parte Milligan a century and a half ago.

John Alltop / Wikimedia Commons

The Town Council in Normal has approved taxpayers paying about a half million dollars to tear down the old Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Children's School Administration Building on Beech Street.

That is in return for the land and in the hope new development will eventually happen.

John Alltop / Wikimedia Commons

Normal Town Council members will be asked to consider a redevelopment agreement for two buildings at a military orphanage that opened in 1869 and closed in 1979. 

Don Palma / Palace Events

The 150 year-old Duncan Manor just outside of Towanda near Route 66 will host a Handmade and Vintage Market this Labor Day weekend and the couple which owns the historic landmark wants to be able to host many more events in the future. 

Wrote / Flickr via Creative Commons

Sunday, August 7 is Friendship Day.  In honor of that, The Tea Ladies have organized a special event at the Vrooman Mansion in Bloomington.  'Treasure Thy Friend - Celebrating the Joy of Friendship' is at 3:30 PM and reveals the special meaning of friendship in the Victorian Era.

Katherine Johnson / Flickr

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield has a new director.  52-year-old Alan Lowe  began the position Monday.

Lowe has spent 20 years working with presidential libraries and museums operated by the National Archives, including the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.  

Lowe was most recently the director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, where he oversaw its development, design, construction and operation.  

Town of Normal

Van Leer's Broadview Mansion in Normal has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The property has been owned by the Immanuel Bible Foundation since 1949.

Landmarks Illinois

Fire officials in Peoria estimate flames at the abandoned historic downtown Madison Theater caused $500,000 in damage.

Laura Kennedy / WGLT

The McLean County Museum of History has raided Lincoln'-related collections and archives for a new exhibit that explores Lincoln's life in central Illinois.

"Abraham Lincoln in McLean County" reveals Lincoln's deep local connections and how they influenced the man who would one day guide the nation.  "We examine recollections and reminisces of Lincoln to provide  a more complete portrait of Lincoln as a man and as a leader," said Museum Librarian Bill Kemp. "We take time to really look at stories local folk told of Lincoln to paint a more three dimensional portrait of the man."

United States Air Corps / Suncoast Technical College via Creative Commons

Champaign County is celebrating its status as the birthplace the Tuskegee Airmen. Four road signs entering the County now signify the area’s ties to the African American pilots who flew in World War Two. The Tuskegee Airmen were initially known as the ‘99th Pursuit Squadron.’ The group started at the former Chanute Air Force Base in 1941 before training in Alabama. Thursdays at the Urbana National Guard Armory recognized their efforts.

For a half century, U.S. Presidents have received daily briefings on national security threats and opportunities.

Bloomington Brick Streets Disappearing

Mar 9, 2016
Staff / WGLT

Another historic Bloomington brick street will soon be overlaid with asphalt.

Brick streets were once so common in Bloomington it was rumored to be home to the first such driving surfaces in the nation. While that's not true, it illustrates the city's long love affair with paving bricks.

Chris Sweet

While sales are flat, more people are using bikes as transportation and bike shares are popping up around the country. But whatever boom or boomlet is currently underway, it pales in comparison to the bike boom of the late 19th century. And central Illinois contributed more than its fair share to the boom. In the 1890’s, two-thirds of all bikes and bike accessories were produced with in a 150 mile radius of Chicago, which includes Bloomington and Peoria manufacturers.

Harvesting This 'Old House'

Dec 3, 2015
Jim Browne / WGLT

The city of Bloomington has a partner in its efforts to refocus resources and energy into maintaining and improving older neighborhoods. The Old House Society receives tips from the city on homes that face the wrecking ball, and members of the non-profit organization swarm like locusts in search of items worth saving. WGLT's Jim Browne went along on one recovery mission to see how it's done.

Cinema Treasures / Wikimedia

Another effort is being made to save the Will Rogers Theater in Charleston. Dave Stevens is a member of the Will Rogers Project. He says the theater should be auctioned at a sheriff's sale in December. Another of the group's members, Earl Halbe, expects the price to be about $100,000. Members hope the price will be lower if it goes to a buyer willing to restore it. A previous restoration attempt failed. The organization is seeking to become a not-for-profit. It is using another nonprofit, the historic Five Mile House, to accept donations in the interim.