The local limestone, found in creek beds, outcrops, and natural quarries, was quickly recognized as a more durable material, and for that reason and because of the much larger investment of human capital to acquire and work it, was more expensive as well. In the early 1940's, the family of a friend from my early teens (and still today) acquired the oldest known stone home in Bloomington, erected by Daniel Stout in 1828, as recorded in the keystone in the lintel over the original entrance:
A Home of Her Own, Indiana University Press,2011.
Over time, Bloomington became justly renowned for many other limestone edifices. One of the more substantial is the Monroe County Courthouse, in the center of the downtown "Square," as was a typical layout for a municipal center in that part of the world.
In 1918, Bloomington, as the seat of Monroe County, was the beneficiary of a Carnegie Library. Although the library's holdings and modernization needs had outgrown the small building (a new limestone structure was built just a couple of blocks away in 1970), it was listed in the Register of Historic Places in 1978 and has served as the home of the Monroe County Historical Society and Museum since the 1980s. I remember exactly how it smelled, the creak of the wood floors, and the precise location of children's books very well:
|Monroe County's Carnegie-funded library, by architect Wilson B. Parker of Indianapolis, general contractor George A. Weaver and Son. I believe the interior plans of Carnegie libraries were fairly standardized.|
|Woodburn Hall, classrooms and offices, constructed in 1940; Thomas Hart Benton murals within. According to Campus Evolution/Campus History (from the Indiana University Master Plan) the style is, "...a hybrid of Collegiate Gothic and Art Deco...referred to as Moderne." I have been unable to identify the architect.|
|Showalter Fountain with The Birth of Venus, Richard Laurent, sculptor, 1961, in front of the Indiana University Auditorium,
Eggers & Higgins architects, 1941.
But the buildings that first penetrated my consciousness were the utterly romantic limestone homes along First Street, a few blocks east from its intersection with South Stull Avenue at its origin to the north. These houses were erected in the years between World Wars I and II, reflecting the relative prosperity among some citizens of Bloomington. In recent years when considering where I could retire affordably when the time comes, I mused on the idea of living in one of Bloomington's limestone jewels, of which there are quite a few. I have no idea what they sell for--I suspect they rarely change hands these days--or whether their interiors have been brought up-to-date in the last, say, 25 years. I wouldn't be surprised if they're a little hard to live in, most with a single bath, narrow stairways, and poorly insulated walls, but I'll take one anyway, any day.