200 North Main Street | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

Bright Lights in Time for Christmas Downtown Bloomington, December 1958

Christmas lights, 1958.

On Dec. 19, 1958, Bloomington Mayor Robert McGraw threw a ceremonial switch to light about half of the 65 new mercury vapor streetlamps along a stretch of Main Street from Walnut Street south to MacArthur Avenue. Seen here is the 500 block of North Main Street looking south. This block was once “furniture row” with Leath & Co. visible on the right

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

Corny Christmas Contest, 1934 Guess the Number of Kernels

Corn guessing contest, 1934.

Back in December 1934, the Bloomington Association of Commerce (now the McLean County Chamber of Commerce) staged a “corny” promotion to boost downtown holiday retail sales. The approximately 58-by-13 inch glass container shown here was filled with two bushels of shelled corn. With every downtown retail purchase of 25 cents or more, Bloomington shoppers would receive a slip of paper to write down their guess, with the closest to the correct total receiving a $200 cash prize. Remarkably, four area residents correctly guessed that there were 212,792 grains in this container!

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

Ho ho ho Livingston’s Santas, 1940s

Linvingston's Christmas Santa, 1940s.

From the 1940s to the mid-1970s, A. Livingston & Sons in downtown Bloomington hoisted two giants Santas onto its overhang for the holiday season. The two identical Santas (only one is shown here) were about 13 feet in height and likely made of some early plastic or fiberglass material. Livingston’s was a locally owned department store on the south side of the Courthouse Square.

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

A. Livingston & Sons Christmas 1930s

Livingston's Christmas shopping, 1930s.

We’re not sure this photograph was taken on a “Black Friday” sometime in the 1930s, but it sure looks like it! Seen here is an undated photograph of the main floor of the locally owned department store, A. Livingston & Sons, during a Christmas season in the 1930s. Livingston’s, located on the south side of the Courthouse Square, closed in 1979.

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

East Side Exodus, November 1966 Penney’s to Eastland Mall

Aerial view of Eastland Mall, 1967.

On November 10, 1966, JCPenney moved into the still under-construction Eastland Shopping Center on what was then the far eastern edge of Bloomington. Eastland Mall would officially open its doors three months later, February 16, 1967, though Penney’s and other retailers, such as Sears, Roebuck and Co., were already doing business there.

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

An apple (or bushel) a day … Lilly Orchard, October 1950

Lily Orchard, 1950.

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.

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

Out with the Old . . . Keiser-Van Leer Expansion, 1936

Keiser-Van Leer building, 1936.

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.

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

‘Modernistic’ Main Street July 1939

Service Station, 1939.

This Standard Oil Co. service station opened on July 29, 1939. The modernistic design sparkled with its glazed brick and terra cotta exterior and a color scheme of cream, blue, and red. It remained a Standard station into the late 1950s.

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

What’s Your Favorite Flavor?

National Ice Cream Day, 1988.

Seen here from March 1988 are Laesch employees Ben Christiansen (left) and Ben Kiley filling and packing a supply of chocolate almond ice cream.

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Written by Bill Kemp in Historic Photos

Photo of the Week, 125: Coachman Motel September 1962

The Coachman Motel

The Coachman Motel opened on January 30, 1961, at 406 E. Washington St., on the eastern edge of downtown Bloomington.

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