Downtown Bloomington is home to many unique, local businesses, shops, artist studios/ galleries, restaurants/ bars, as well as a bustling Saturday Farmer's Market.
History of Downtown Bloomington
Bloomington was originally occupied by the Kickapoo people before the first settlers arrived in the 1820's. Once McLean County was founded and Bloomington was laid out, the Downtown area became a major commercial and business center for several counties nearby. In the early 1900's, a fire wiped out most of the Downtown area, especially around the courthouse. It was later rebuilt with the help of local architects such as Arthur L. Pillsbury, George Miller and Paul Moratz. For more information on Downtown Bloomington, visit http://www.downtownbloomington.org/22/36/41.html
Downtown Bloomington: Local Businesses
The Pantagraph was founded in 1837 by Jesse Fell and was originally named "The Bloomington Observer and McLean County Advocate." It currently serves the Bloomington-Normal Area as well as eight other counties in Central Illinois. The newspaper is owned by Lee Enterprises and its headquarters remain in Bloomington. For more information on the Pantagraph, visit their website at http://www.pantagraph.com/
Buildings and Architecture
Benjamin and Shermerhorn Building
The Benjamin and Shermerhorn building was built in 1857 and housed many important businesses, such as the Pantagraph and W.B Read and Co.; a stationary and book company. The building was originally a dry goods store run by Edward Benjamin and John Shermerhorn. It has been occupied by the Osco Drugs company since 1952. This building is a good example of European and Classical architecture.
The Dewenters Building originally housed Dewenter and Co., a men's clothing store, which was founded by Herman Dewenter and William Krietzer in 1847. Later on, some of the offices in the building were occupied by prominent Bloomington doctors and lawyers, including William Ormes and Leonard Swett. The building most closely resembles Neo-Classical styles of architecture, which revives Greek and Roman styles of building. Set on the corner of Washington and Center it is now occupied by Scharnett Architects & Associates.
The Ensenberger Building housed Ensenberger Furniture, a popular store and a Bloomington icon, which was founded in 1879 and was operated by Gustave A. Ensenbeger and his descendants. The store was so well known that it received visitors from places such as California and New York. The building emulates an Art Deco style of architecture, which is very geometric and usually consists of sharp angles and strong lines. It was designed by architect Arthur L. Pillsbury and has since been converted into condos.
The Livingston Building was the home of the Livingston and Sons department store for more than a decade. Afterwards, it became the home to a Walgreens drug store as well as several legal and insurance businesses. The building is considered Bloomington's first skyscraper and it was the first steel-frame structure in Illinois built outside of Chicago. Due to its being one of the first skyscrapers ever built, the building emulates the Chicago style of architecture.
The Phoenix Block is a collection of buildings which were so named due to their rapid rise after the Bloomington fire in the early 1900's. It housed the office of local lawyer Kersey Fell as well as the Illinois Museum of Natural History. The structure most closely resembles Neo-Classical architecture.
Present Downtown Bloomington
After the building of I-55 in the 1960's, Downtown Bloomington was less transited. As a result, business slowed and the area was no longer the main center of commerce. While many of the original buildings remain, new ones have gone up and changes and renovations have been made to older structures. However, there are still successful businesses in Downtown Bloomington, as well as history museums, art galleries, government institutions and residents. The community keeps growing every year and will continue to change and expand, while benefitting from what was left behind by prominent figures of the past.
Don’t forget about the nightlife downtown, when you are looking to change things up look no further than downtown. Present day downtown Bloomington is great place for locals to come together after dark and find entertainment of all kinds. Whether it is a late night out on the town getting drinks with friends and dancing the night away, or just grabbing a quick bite to eat and watch a quick sports game, Downtown Bloomington is the place to go. Although no longer considered the “main center of commerce," there is plenty to do. The atmosphere is friendly and inviting, there is a lot of commotion on the streets and to some this may be off putting. Most people out and about are very friendly and who knows, you may even meet that special someone you have been looking for. If you are twenty one or older downtown becomes a much more exciting place to be.
Once downtown you will have a wide variety of choices i.e.: (big, small, sports, country, dance, or even a more intimate place to grab drinks) all within simple walking distance from the last. There is a bar for every type of person, no matter what type of night you are looking to have downtown is the place to find it. Depending on the night you choice you will find different drink specials and different forms of entertainment. From live bands, open mics, karaoke, DJs and more every night is different and chances are there is a place for you. A variety of places offer darts, billiards, and on some nights bean bag toss games. While you are there don’t forget to check out the food. with array of quality cuisine all within walking distance.
Here are locally owned restaurants and bars in Downtown Bloomington near the Square