Evolution of College Avenue c. 1929

Blog post by Randi Richardson

college
An early view of the west side of Bloomington’s square from the author’s postcard collection.

On December 21, 1929, the front page of the World Telephone was devoted to a view of College Avenue both in the day and in the past.  Several photographs of current (1929) business owners and the new Eagle building were included.  Let’s take a walk on the Avenue and see how it looked in 1929.  Should you want to continue your walk, or know more about these businesses than the brief descriptions included below, check out the newspaper on microfilm at the Monroe County Public Library.

College Avenue was considerably different in 1929 than it was thirty-five years earlier.  It was called College Avenue because Indiana University was located at the southern end of the Street.  In the late 1900s it was the best residential section of the city.

Dr. W. L. Bryan, president of Indiana University, had his first home on College Avenue after he became president.  Among other prominent families who have lived or are currently resided on the street include:  Joseph G. McPheeters, for many years postmaster of Bloomington; James A. Karsell, flour mill owner and grocer; Walter Collins; Walter Woodburn, for many years cashier of the First National Bank; Henry T. Simmons, former owner of the Corner Clothing Store where the Kresge Company now has its 5 and 10 Cents store; Dr. James A. Woodburn, professor emeritus of Indiana University; Tobe Batterton; Capt. W. J. Allen; Walter Cornwell; Mrs. Lou Helton; Dr. J. W. Crain; John H. Louden; John C. Dolan; Tolbert H. Sudbury; Moses Kahn; George W. Bollenbacher; James K. Beck; Rev. William Telfer; Dr. L. T. Lowder; Dr. David Maxwell; Joshua A. Howe, B. F. Adams; W. H. Adams; Dr. Dodd; C. N. S. Neeld; Mr. Sheeks and many others.

Initially, College Avenue was almost a quagmire after a hard rain.  It was the first street in Bloomington to be paved.  For many years, it was not opened north father than Eleventh Street.  That changed when the Kenwood Land Company was formed and began the sale of lots up to Sixteenth Street.  About 1927, it was extended to Seventeenth Street and about 1929 was extended through the Showers and Miller lands to Cascade Park.

Bloomington’s biggest hotel is located on College Avenue.  H. B. Gentry built the Gentry Hotel at College and Sixth streets.  At the time it was constructed, it was considered one of the best hotels between Louisville and Chicago.  Since that time it has been rebuilt and in 1929 the new Graham Hotel is one of the finest 8-story hotels in the U. S.

Mr. Gentry also bought several other buildings on College Avenue including what was formerly known as the Bowles Drug Store corner, later occupied by the Citizens’ Loan and Trust Company, and a building where Kresge’s Five and Dime Store is located on the west side of the square.

Several years before the invention of the auto, Craig Worley owned Bloomington’s largest livery stable at College Avenue and Seventh Street.  He sold the property to W. T. Hicks who, in turn, disposed of it to the U. S. Government for a fine, new post office.

At one time the Evening World office was printed on the second floor of a building on College Avenue owned by Gus C. Davis opposite the post office.  It was moved to its present location in 1907 by Oscar H. Cravens who had a building erected as the permanent home of the paper.

The property where Bloomington’s beautiful Masonic Temple is located at College and Seventh streets was once home to Charles Ousler.  He lived in a 12-room, brick building that was one of the first houses ever to be erected in the city.  Ousler used his home as a rooming house.

Three doctors had offices on College in years gone by—Drs. Maxwell, Dodds and Lowder.

As many as fifty years ago a large number of students attended Central School on College.  That building is still standing and is the oldest school in the city.  Anna McDermott taught at the school longer than any other teacher in Bloomington schools.  Central and the colored school building were the only public school structures in the city then.

Sullivan’s Store is among the new buildings on College.  William E. “Sully” Sullivan, formerly associated with the Johnson Creamery, is the current owner of the business long known for its “men’s furnishings.”  He bought the store from Joe Kadison in 1925 and remodeled it extensively.

The Hesler Brothers established Bloomington’s first Super Service Station on College about 1919.  It is one of the largest and finest in Southern Indiana providing motorists with 24-hour service daily.

The Reliable Watch Shop at 108 S. College went into the pawn shop business last year giving Bloomington its first pawn shop.  J. E. Young, a native of Bloomington, is the manager.

The Eagle Clothing Store on College recently opened a new store on College west of the square after 26 years in business.  Attention was called to the “unusual” windows which were of the latest design.

Clyde “Curly” Hare gave one of the most distinctive additions to Bloomington’s architectural beauty when he built the Hare Motor Sales building on South College in 1928.  He is an IU graduate and was connected with the Showers Bros. for five years before entering the automobile business.  Ralph Nelson is the sales manager.

Another of the new buildings on College is the Hook Drug Company.  They opened in September 1928, burned out in January 1929 and reopened just recently.

All these businesses and more will prompt former IU students and residents to be pleasantly surprised with the many positives changes to College Avenue upon their next visit to Bloomington.

 

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