There's a point in development where people say "tear it down," and a point after that when people say "why was that torn down?"

That's why designations are important for historic sites and buildings, not only to honor the past but to give pause to those in the future who might wonder why the past matters.

In Normal, the designations are a key part of the town's northeast quadrant, home to the former Route 66 and former Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School campus.

Earlier this week, the Normal Historic Preservation Commission signed off on an application for Normandy Village — part of the school campus — seeking approval by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The village then would be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

"The main gain is just being on the national register," property co-owner Bob Broad told reporter Derek Beigh last week. "We just love the architecture and history of it, the connection to the soldiers' and sailors' children's school, and the look and feel of the grounds."

Certification brings eligibility for a renovation grant.

Normandy, quaintly named for and designed in a French motif, was built in 1931 and included eight cottages for orphans who lived and attended school at the campus, which closed in 1979. Established in 1865 and dedicated in 1869, ISSCS began as a home and school for children of disabled and deceased Civil War veterans and eventually was opened to any indigent child. By the mid 1940s, the campus was home for about 500 children.

A 2014 Pantagraph story by Bill Kemp, librarian of the McLean County Museum of History, said residents were housed in 26 dormitories, separated into rows of boys' and girls' halls and the Normandy-styled cottages. Each included sleeping quarters and communal dining and living rooms. A 1940s report quoted in a 2007 Pantagraph story said the campus included a gym, swimming pool, six softball fields, one baseball field, four tennis courts, asphalt courts for volleyball and a rec hall with a pool table, ping-pong tables and record players. In addition to book learning, there was manual training, industrial education and vocational education. The children helped with laundry, gardening, cleaning, hauling garbage and other tasks.

Although some of the campus buildings have been torn down, others have been refurbished into houses, businesses and a community center.

The community should applaud anyone who has the money, time and wherewithal to save a piece of history for future generations. ISSCS was a large part of Normal's history and if a designation can help save some of that history — remake it into a usable, breathing part of the community — then the recognition is worthwhile. 


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