Bloomington is a city in McLean County, Illinois, United States and the county seat. It is adjacent to Normal, Illinois, and is the more populous of the two principal municipalities of the Bloomington-Normal Metropolitan Statistical Area which is often referred to simply as "Bloomington-Normal." A 2006 special census indicated that Bloomington's population was 74,975 . Bloomington is the host of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, which is nationally known as one of the top Shakespearean festivals in the country.
In February, 2008, Forbes.com named Bloomington-Normal as #20 on its list of the 25 smartest communities in the United States. Golf Digest has also named Bloomington-Normal as one of the 5 best places to play golf in the USA.
Bloomington is located at 40°29′03″N 88°59′37″W. The city is at an elevation of above sea level. According to the United States Census Bureau
, the city has a total area of 22.5 square miles (58.3 km²), all of it land.
Prior to the 1820s, the area of today's Bloomington was at the edge of a large grove enjoyed by the Kickapoo people before the first Euro-American settlers arrived in the early 1820s. Springing from the settlement of Keg Grove, later called Blooming Grove, Bloomington was named as county seat on December 25, 1830, when McLean County was created.
When the County of McLean was incorporated a county seat was established. However, the legislation stated the site of Bloomington "would be located later." James Allen, who was one of the promoters of the new county, offered to donate 60 acres of his own land for the new town. His offer was accepted and Bloomington was laid out. Its lots were sold at a big party on the 4th of July 1831. At this time there were few roads, but rich soils brought new farmers who began commerce by conducting their business in the newly formed county. People came from all over to trade and do business at the town's center, known today as Downtown Bloomington, including Abraham Lincoln who was working as a lawyer in nearby Springfield.
In 1900 an officer on patrol discovered a fire in a laundry across the street from the old City Hall and Police Station. He sounded the alarm but the fire eventually destroyed the majority of the downtown, especially the areas north and east of the courthouse. However, the burnt area was quickly rebuilt from the designs of local architects George Miller, Paul O. Moratz and A.L. Pillsbury.
During the first two decades of the 20th century Bloomington continued to grow. Agriculture, the construction of highways and railroads, and the growth of the insurance business (mainly State Farm Insurance) all influenced the growth of Bloomington and its downtown area. The downtown area became a regional shopping center attracting trade from adjoining counties. Labor unions grew in strength. This trend has continued to the present day, where expansion has included many restaurants and other businesses.
The top ten employers located in Bloomington-Normal include State Farm Insurance, which was founded in the city, Illinois State University, Country Insurance & Financial Services, Bromenn Healthcare, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Unit 5 schools, AFNI Inc., OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, County of McLean, and the City of Bloomington.
Bloomington is also home to Illinois Wesleyan University, OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, BroMenn Medical Center, a convention center at the McLean County Fairgrounds, U.S. Cellular Coliseum, Eastland Mall, and Beer Nuts.
Bloomington's public school district, District 87, has one high school, Bloomington High School, one junior high school, Bloomington Junior High School, and numerous elementary schools. Bloomington is also home to several private schools, including Central Catholic High School, Holy Trinity School, Trinity Lutheran School, and Cornerstone Christian Academy. Bloomington has three private colleges and universities. Unit 5 is another school district which includes 3 junior high schools: Chiddix Jr. High School (CJHS), Kingsley Jr. High School (KJHS), and Parkside Jr. High School(PJHS). Unit 5 also includes 2 high schools: Normal Community High School (NCHS), and Normal Community West High School (NCWHS).
The city of Bloomington is home to one major university.
- Illinois Wesleyan University, founded in 1850, is a private residential university with an enrollment of 2,100 and a student/faculty ratio of 12 to 1. It is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The University consists of the College of Liberal Arts , with 17 academic departments; the College of Fine Arts, comprising professional Schools of Art, Music, and Theatre Arts; and the School of Nursing. In the past decade, Illinois Wesleyan has added the five-story Ames Library, the Center for Natural Science, and the Shirk Center for Athletics and Recreation. An NCAA Division III school, Illinois Wesleyan has had more than 100 athletes elected into the Academic All-American team since 1970.
Interstates 39, 55 and 74 intersect at Bloomington, making the city a substantial transportation hub. US highways 51 and 150 and Illinois state route 9 also run through Bloomington. The former highway, U.S. Route 66, once ran directly through the city's downtown and later on a bypass to the east. The Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System operates Bloomington-Normal's internal bus system, and several intercity bus lines operate both north-south and east-west service through the city.
Bloomington is serviced by passenger rail.
- Amtrak, from its Bloomington-Normal station, operates five daily trains each way, both north to Chicago and south to St. Louis, with one southbound train (the "Texas Eagle") continuing on to San Antonio TX and connecting to Los Angeles CA (as the "Sunset Limited"). The Amtrak passenger count in Bloomington-Normal is fourth-highest in the region, behind Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis (Amtrak statistics for 4th quarter, 2007). The station is located just east of the Illinois State University campus in Normal.
Recreation and entertainment
- The Shirk family began producing Beer Nuts in Bloomington in 1937. Today, Beer Nuts are produced using the same unique formula at its 100,000 square food manufacturing facility.
- The Challenger Learning Center at the Prairie Aviation Museum offers an interactive, simulated space/science experience through scheduled team missions for students, public and corporate groups.
- Grady’s Family Fun Park is Bloomington-Normal’s only amusement park. It features an 18-hole miniature golf course, batting cages, bumper boats, go carts and kiddie rides. Also included is a restaurant with a full menu, soft serve ice cream and an arcade.
- The Pepsi Ice Center is an indoor public ice skating facility operated by the Bloomington Parks & Recreation Department, featuring a full-size sheet of ice: 200’ x 85’. The facility offers ice skating lessons, public skating sessions and a comprehensive hockey program, along with skate rental and a concession stand.
- The U.S. Cellular Coliseum in downtown Bloomington hosts a variety of sporting events, concerts, ice shows, family shows, conferences and much more. It is also home to the Bloomington Extreme of the United Indoor Football League and the PrairieThunder of the International Hockey League. With over of space, the Coliseum boasts a fixed seating capacity of 7,000 for sporting events but can seat over 8,000 for concerts and other special events.
- Upper Limits Indoor Rock Climbing Gym has more than of climbing, including routes up to tall, a wave wall, bi-level cave and a unique outdoor bouldering area. Upper Limits accommodates all ages and skill levels, offering introductory and advanced classes, parties, group rates, scout programs, team building exercises and portable walls.
Nature and wildlife
- The Bloomington-Normal Constitution Trail is a jogging, walking, cycling, and rollerblading trail. The north-south segment of the trail has follows the abandoned Illinois Central Gulf (ICG) railroad from Kerrick Road in Normal to Washington Street in Bloomington. The east-west segment intersects the north segment at Normal City Hall Annex and continues east to Towanda-Barnes Road. The Liberty Branch begins at Commerce Drive and ends at Old Farm Lakes Subdivision. The Freedom Branch begins at Lincoln Street and ends at Route 9 West. Parking is available at adjoining lots throughout the area. The trail is open to walkers, runners, in-line skaters, skateboarders, cyclists, wheelchair users, and other non-motorized forms of transportation. During winter months, it is not cleared of snow, and is available to skiers; weather permitting.
- Miller Park Zoo offers many exhibits and zookeeper interaction opportunities such as a Wallaby WalkAbout, ZooLab, Children’s Zoo, Animals of Asia, and the Kattheoefer Animal Building. The Zoo’s newest exhibit is the Tropical America Rainforest.
- The Bloomington Parks & Recreation Department is composed of four divisions: Parks, Recreation, Golf, and the Miller Park Zoo. The Department maintains over of land including 44 park sites and 3 golf courses. Parks are open from 6:00am to 10:00pm, alcoholic beverages and smoking are prohibited and pets are allowed in all parks on a leash.
Bloomington-Normal has been ranked the “Fifth Best American City for Golf” by Golf Digest
for two consecutive years.
- The Den at Fox Creek: 6,926 yards, Par 72, 18 holes.
The Den at Fox Creek is a 4-star, Arnold Palmer Signature Designed Golf Course that opened in 1997, and features bent grass tees, greens and fairways. Amenities include GPS-equipped carts, club rental, pro shop and snack bar. There are nine holes with water hazards, 131 sand traps and a unique alternative shot closing the 18th hole on this par 72 course. Practice facilities include a large bent grass driving range and tees with practice chipping and putting greens. The Den is home to both the IHSA Boy’s Golf State Tournament and COUNTRY Youth Classic.
- Highland Park Golf Course: 5,725 yards, Par 70, 18 holes.
Located in South Bloomington, the Highland Park Golf Course has numerous challenges including creeks, three lakes, well-placed sand traps and tree-lined fairways. Highland Park sports a pro shop, carts, club rental and snack bar, and offers individual or group lessons.
- The Links at Ireland Grove: 1,590 yards, Par 29, 9 holes.
The Links at Ireland Grove is Bloomington’s newest public golf facility and first executive course. This nine hole course consists of seven par 3’s and two par 4’s. The driving range has weather protected hitting bays, plus over an acre of target greens, several bunkers, two fairways and nearly two acres of natural grass hitting area. In addition, The Links Golf Academy offers a four acre short game practice facility. The Links’ complex also includes Golf Etc., a pro shop selling everything golf related. The Links is also home to the COUNTRY Contest portion of the COUNTRY Youth Classic.
- Prairie Vista Golf Course: 6,745 yards, Par 72, 18 holes.
Prairie Vista sports 16 water hazards, a wave bunker, two-level greens and fairways, lots of sand, a pro shop, carts, club rental, snack bar, banquet room and driving range. In addition to annually hosting the COUNTRY Youth Classic and IHSA Boy’s Golf State Finals, Prairie Vista hosted the 1997 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf East Regional.
- Bloomington Indoor Golf Club offers full swing golf simulators. Players use their own clubs, driver to putter, playing challenging courses from around the world. The Bloomington Indoor Golf Club features six golf simulators along with beer, wine and a limited menu. Players have the choice of playing nine or 18 holes, seven days a week. The Indoor Golf Club offers private lessons and golfing parties. Specials include weekly meal specials, senior breakfast specials, lunch, family night and late night specials.
There are two private country clubs within Bloomington: Bloomington Country Club and Lakeside Country Club. A third, Crestwicke Country Club, is just south of the city. All three have golf courses.
Arts and theatre
According to creativeclass.org, Bloomington-Normal is ranked in the top 1% among national creative workforces.
- American Passion Play, now in its 85th season, is the oldest continuously performed Passion Play in the United States. Performed at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, the Passion Play is set in Palestine, 30 AD, and portrays the life of Christ in its entirety. The play runs March through April.
- The Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts is the centerpiece of the city’s new Cultural District, which also includes the neighboring McLean County of Arts Center, and forthcoming festival park and creativity center for arts education. Featuring a 1,200 seat auditorium, the new center has state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment as well as a variety of improved patron services. Currently presenting a season of nationally acclaimed touring artists, the center is also home to over twenty area performing arts ensembles. More than 400 performances and community events take place at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts each year.
- The Illinois Shakespeare Festival includes productions performed in an open-air, Elizabethan-style theatre within historic Ewing Manor. The audience is encouraged to picnic on the grounds before each performance to be entertained by strolling Madrigal singers, jesters, and other entertainers as well as a Green Show performance.
- The Illinois Symphony Orchestra performs at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts where they hold five Masterworks concerts, two Pops concerts and three Chamber Orchestra concerts annually.
- The McLean County Arts Center is one of the oldest arts organizations in the Midwest, serving Central Illinois for over 130 years. Each year 12 art exhibitions are held including the Holiday Treasurers exposition and sale, and the annual Amateur Competition and Exhibition which, for over 70 years, has showcased the best amateur artists in Central Illinois. The Arts Center also sponsors a number of community events, such as the Sugar Creek Arts Festival in Uptown Normal and the Spring Bloom Arts Festival in Bloomington.
- The Community Players theater located on Robinhood Lane off of Towanda Avenue is the only community theater in the twin cities. Opened in 1923, the theater celebrated its 86th season in 2008.
- Ewing Manor, located on the Sunset Hill estate of the late Hazle Buck Ewing, sits majestically in the wooded landscape at the northwest corner of Towanda Avenue and Emerson Street. Completed in 1929, Ewing Manor was designed by Bloomington architect Phil Hooten in the Channel-Norman style so favored by the affluent in the post-Victorian period. The surrounding gardens were created by noted landscape architect Jens Jensen, who also designed Springfield’s Lincoln Memorial Gardens. The theatre on the grounds play host to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival each summer.
- The McLean County Museum of History traces its roots back to 1892, the year the McLean County Historical Society was founded. Housed inside the old McLean County Courthouse, the Museum features permanent and rotating exhibits that explore the history of Central Illinois. The Museum also offers educational programming, library and archive resources, and sponsors many community events. Being showcased now through August 2010 is A Turbulent Time: Perspectives of the Vietnam War. The Museum also provides a driving audio-tour highlighting Lincoln historic sites in Bloomington-Normal as part of their inclusion in the Looking For Lincoln attraction listing. This location is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- The Miller Park Pavilion & War Memorial was restored in 1977 and was dedicated in May 1988. The black granite memorial is surrounded by red sidewalks that list the names of Central Illinois residents killed or missing in action in the Korean and Vietnam battles.
- The Prairie Aviation Museum has a collection of preserved aircraft on display, revolving aviation exhibits and memorabilia, a mini-theatre, and much more. Exhibit highlights include a Bell Sea Cobra, Huey Helicopter, and a F-14 Tomcat. The Museum’s DC-3 Flagship is located in a hangar nearby and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Challenger Learning Center, located right next door, engages students in the fields of science, math and technology.
- The Evergreen Memorial Cemetery also known as the Evergreen Cemetery is the burial site of many notable Bloomington-Normal citizens including the Stevenson family. Adlai E. Stevenson I was Vice President to Grover Cleveland and Adlai E. Stevenson II was Governor of Illinois, Ambassador to the United Nations and twice Democratic candidate for the United States Presidency. Also buried there are Adlai’s wife, Letitia Green Stevenson, who was the second National President-General of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and her sister, Julia Green Scott, the seventh National President-General of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Other historical figures buried there include David Davis, friend and mentor to Abraham Lincoln; Charles Radbourne, 19th Century baseball’s greatest pitcher; and Dorothy Gage, inspiration for the main character in the Wizard of Oz and niece of author L. Frank Baum.
- The David Davis Mansion offers a glimpse into the life friend and mentor to Abraham Lincoln, David Davis who served as a United States Supreme Court Justice and was a key component during Lincoln’s bid for the 1860 Presidential nomination. The Davis Mansion, completed in 1872, combines Italianate and Second Empire architectural features and is a model of mid-Victorian style and taste. His Bloomington home, which remained in the Davis family for three succeeding generations, contains the most modern conveniences of that era; a coal-burning stove, gas lighting and indoor plumbing. Groups of ten or more must pre-arrange a visit. The David Davis Mansion is listed as a Looking For Lincoln location as well as a historic landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.
- The Vrooman Mansion, built in 1869, is available for special events, including weddings, receptions, rehearsal dinners, showers, reunions, etc. The Mansion also holds cooking classes, fashion shows, and an annual Holiday Open House. Group lunches are available with advanced reservations, which include a tour. This location is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Other historical landmarks listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
- Rubin Benjamin House
- George H. Cox House
- David Davis III House
- Robert Greenlee House
- John M. Hamilton House
- Holy Trinity Rectory
- McLean County Courthouse
- George H. Miller House
- Miller-Davis Law Building
- Stevenson House
- White Building
- 88.1 WESN, Illinois Wesleyan University College Radio
- 89.1 WGLT, Blues & Jazz (HD Radio)
- 90.9 WILL, Classical music (RDS) (Urbana-Champaign)
- 91.5 WCIC, Christian AC (Peoria)
- 92.9 WRPW "Cities 92.9", Talk (RDS)
- 93.3 WPBG "93.3 The Drive", Classic Hits (RDS - Artist/Title) (Peoria)
- 93.7 WTRX, Oldies (RDS) (Pontiac)
- 95.5 WGLO "95-5 'GLO", Classic Rock (RDS - Artist/Title) (HD Radio) (Peoria)
- 96.7 WIHN "96.7 I-Rock", Active Rock
- 97.9 WBBE "97.9 Bob FM", Adult Hits (RDS)
- 98.9 W255AI (Translates 91.5 WCIC), Christian AC (RDS) (Peoria)
- 99.5 WDQZ "99.5 The Eagle", Classic Rock (RDS)
- 100.1 W261BK (Translates 88.5 WBNH), Religious Music (Pekin)
- 100.7 WVMG "Magic 100.7", Soft Adult Contemporary (RDS)
- 101.5 WBNQ, CHR/Pop (RDS - Artist/Title)
- 103.3 WEWT "Truth 103", Christian CHR (RDS)
- 104.1 WBWN "B 104", Country (RDS - Artist/Title) (HD Radio)
- 105.7 WIXO "105.7 The X Rocks", Active Rock (RDS - Artist/Title) (Peoria)
- 106.1 WZND Illinois State University Student Radio
- 107.7 WYST "107.7 The Bull", Country (RDS - Artist/Title)
Digital Television (DTV)
- 28 WYZZ-DT (43.1 - High Definition) "Fox 43", Fox
- 40 WHOI-DT (19.1 - High Definition), ABC
- 40 WHOI-DT (19.2 - Standard Definition), The CW Television Network
- 46 WTVP-DT (47.1 - Standard Definition), PBS
- 46 WTVP-DT (47.2 - High Definition), PBS HDTV
- 46 WTVP-DT (47.3 - Standard Definition), Create
- 56 WEEK-DT (25.1 - High Definition) "News 25", NBC
- 56 WEEK-DT (25.2 - Standard Definition), NBC Weather Plus
- Bloomington is home to Beer Nuts
- Pepsi is the official soft drink of the city of Bloomington.
- John F. Kennedy visited Lucca Grill in 1960 during his presidential campaign. At the time, the downtown pizza restaurant and bar was owned by John Baldini, who was also the county Democratic party chairman. The restaurant has long been known as the unofficial Democratic party headquarters in an otherwise solid Republican area.
- Bloomington-Normal is the location of the State Farm corporate headquarters.
- The Goregrind metal band, Impetigo, formed in Bloomington in 1987.
- Nancy Reagan stayed at the then popular Coachmen Motel while still an actress.
- The city is referenced on the vinyl edition of the Sufjan Stevens album Illinois, in the title of the song "Let's Hear that String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They Heard It All the Way out in Bloomington-Normal". In another album by Stevens entitled The Avalanche, the city is mentioned in the song "The Henney Buggy Band".
- Co-sponsored by the Hybrid Seed Corn Breeders of Illinois, the inaugural Corn Bowl on Nov. 27, 1947, was billed as "The Greatest Thanksgiving Event"Article 1 of 23, Article ID: 071774693
Published November 18, 2007, in the Pantagraph - Bloomington, Illinois
- Tim Bradstreet, Eisner Award Nominated artist and illustrator
- David S. Broder, journalist
- John Campbell, jazz pianist
- Kate Charles, Anglo-American mystery writer
- Ricardo Cortez Cruz, author, novelist, essayist
- David Davis, appointed to US Supreme Court by Abraham Lincoln, owner of "Cloverlawn" Mansion
- Bump Elliott, All-American American football player, recipient of the 1947 Chicago Tribune Silver Football as MVP in the Big Ten, head coach at Michigan (1959-1968), and athletic director at Iowa (1970-1991)
- Pete Elliott, quarterback of the undefeated Michigan football teams in 1947 and 1948, and head football coach at Nebraska, Illinois, Cal, and Miami.
- Kass Fleisher, American author, memoirist, historian
- Gabriel Gudding, author, poet, essayist
- James Harbord, United States Army general in World War I
- Elbert Hubbard, essayist
- Joel Higgins, actor, best known for his role as Edward W. Stratton III, the father of Rick Schroeder's character in the 1980s hit TV series Silver Spoons.
- Frederic W. Goudy, typographer
- Ward Hill Lamon, personal friend and bodyguard of Abraham Lincoln
- Denny Matthews, sports broadcaster
- Marc Miller, award-winning game designer
- Ogonna Nnamani, USA volleyball team member, 2004 and 2008 indoor volleyball Olympian, 2008 Olympic silver medalist, graduate of U-High
- John Wesley Powell, naturalist
- Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher
- George Lincoln Rockwell, American Nazi Leader
- Harold Sinclair, author
- Jerry Sohl, science fiction author and screenwriter
- Adlai E. Stevenson I, Vice President of the United States under Grover Cleveland
- Adlai E. Stevenson II, Governor of Illinois, Presidential candidate and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
- McLean Stevenson, actor and first cousin to Adlai E. Stevenson II. Stevenson's best-known role was that of Henry Blake in the television series M*A*S*H. The Blake character also was a native of Bloomington.
- Wilson Tucker, author
- Dawn Upshaw, singer
- George J. Mecherle, Founder of State Farm Insurance
- Ryan Bliss, Digital Artist, founder of Digital Blasphemy
- Paul Rhymer, scriptwriter and humorist best known as the creator of radio's long-run Vic and Sade series
- Curtis White, author, novelist, essayist, theorist