Saturday, May 2, 2009

TON Historic Preservation Commission

The Normal Historic Preservation Commission has a relatively short history of 19 years. It consists of seven members who are appointed (for a four-year term) by the Mayor and Council, and it holds open meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall. The main duty of this Commission is to inform the Planning Commission as to which structures or areas are historically significant and to approve or deny requests for changes to those structures or areas. Plans for demolishing structures in Normal must also go before the Historic Preservation Commission. There were 24 requests for changes to historic structures in 2008 and all were approved. One building, Sprague’s Super Service on Pine Street, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places last year. And almost $34,000 from the Robert G. Bone Historic Preservation Grant Program was awarded for various restoration projects in 2008, which was a great way to help people maintain their historic properties.

As part of Historic Preservation Month (May), students at various schools drew or painted pictures of one of three houses specified from each historic district in Normal. The Historic Preservation Commission members judged the artwork and winners were honored at a Council meeting. All of the pictures were displayed at City Hall and they were quite impressive. Another event to celebrate this month began in 2008: the Architectural Treasure Hunt. This competition required entrants to identify properties in the historic districts based on pictures of architectural features from those properties. It’s a nice way to motivate people to visit and appreciate the historic districts.

The Commission also celebrated Jesse Fell’s 200th birthday in 2008. Would Normal have come into existence if not for Jesse Fell? Would ISU (nee ISNU) have been built in this area without his efforts? Would Normal have fewer trees, more bars, and no Fell Ave.? I think that his influence on Normal’s history shows that one person’s efforts can have long-lasting effects. Or maybe he’s just had good PR over the years . . .

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