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Normal Town


Normal Town Hall is located at 11 Uptown Circle, Normal, IL 61761; phone: 309-454-2444.

Margaret and Bird Van Leer Broadview Mansion, ca. 1906, 1301 South Fell Avenue, Normal, IL, National Register

Photo: Margaret and Bird Van Leer Broadview Mansion, ca. 1906, 1301 South Fell Avenue, Normal, IL. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. Photographed by User:Casmeltzer (own work), 2011, [cc-by-3.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed March, 2017.

Beginnings [1]

Much of the land now occupied by the Town of Normal was first purchased from the federal government in the mid 1830s during the speculative boom of that decade. Very little settlement occurred at this time, however. Most farmsteads in Normal Township were established in the early 1850s, as the Illinois Central and Chicago & Alton Railroads were planned and constructed. By 1858, virtually all of Normal Township was under cultivation.

In 1853, the route of the Chicago & Alton Railroad was surveyed through Bloomington. The newly completed Illinois Central Railroad had been in operation since May along the eastern edge of the city. Local leaders made sure that the Chicago & Alton line was routed far enough west of the center of Bloomington to allow for a relatively spacious area for city growth between the two lines. This decision created the crossing of the Chicago & Alton and Illinois Central Railroads at the site of present-day downtown Normal, well to the north of the city limits of Bloomington at that time. The area of present-day Normal also became a convenient location for freight yards, workshops, and similar railroad work, although a passenger depot was not built in Normal until 1864.

In 1854, a new town called North Bloomington was platted by land speculator Joseph Parkinson. Parkinson's property consisted of the land bounded by North Street to the north, Chicago Street (now Linden Street) to the east, South Street (now Florence Avenue) to the south and Elm Street (now Fell Avenue) to the west. The new community was also informally called "the Junction," in reference to the intersection of the Illinois Central and Chicago & Alton Railroads. The newly platted town lay north of the small city of Bloomington, which had been founded in 1830 as the county seat of McLean County. Parkinson, along with Jesse W. Fell and others, began to promote the crossing location as a village or suburb to Bloomington.

The first sale of town lots in Normal occurred in 1854. In 1856, Jesse Fell constructed his home in Normal, becoming only the second permanent resident of the new town. Prior to 1855, the only inhabitant of Normal was one Mr. McCambridge, who lived directly at the crossing of the railroads and worked as an agent for both railroads. Fell developed a 15-acre estate around his home. The property, commonly referred to as Fell Park, had grounds designed by landscape architect William Saunders. Abraham Lincoln, a friend of Fell, was known to have visited the estate. Fell took the lead in planting trees on the generally open, prairie site of Normal, and by the late 1870s, the town site was described as having large stands of mature trees.

Illinois State Normal University was established in 1857. The 160-acre site (today's campus) was northwest of the Chicago & Alton Railroad, relatively distant from the built-up area of Bloomington. Construction of new houses and the first businesses in Normal proceeded rapidly during the early 1860s, in spite of the Civil War, and soon the town was large enough to house all students and teachers of the school who wished to reside there. In 1865, Normal was incorporated as a village. The town's population at that time had reached 1,000 persons.

  1. Lauren Kerrestes, Associate Planner, Carl J. Ekberg, Retired History Professor, ISU, Town of Normal, Cedar Crest Addition Historic District, McLean County, IL, 2006, nomination document, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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