NORMAL — Cedar Crest subdivision has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. “It’s really great news for the town and Cedar Crest,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos.
“It’s an unusual subdivision in the community. We knew it would be a shoo-in. I’m really happy,” Koss added.
Cedar Crest was designated Normal’s first historic district about 13 years ago. The Historic Preservation Commission recently pursued the national designation through the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
The Illinois Historical Sites Advisory Commission nominated it to the National Register in September.
Kevin Moriarty, historian for the National Register, said the designation recognizes the subdivision’s architecture and community planning and development.
“It had one builder … which is unique for an addition,” said Moriarty.
Architect Aaron T. Simmons is believed to be the sole architect for the Cedar Crest houses. The subdivision was developed in 1914 by Bert Marley Kuhn, then treasurer for the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s School in Normal.
Simmons’ granddaughter, Emily Evans Schmidgall, of Minier, said the subdivision reflects Simmons’ whole life — especially his European travels.
Cedar Crest features curving streets — something new to the area at the time.
“They were artistic,” said his daughter, Marjorie Taulbee, during an interview in October at Heritage Manor in Normal, where she now lives. “They did it a lot in Europe.”
The subdivision also featured the then-new concept of houses with attached garages, a concept that represented the changing trend of people commuting to work. When it was built, Cedar Crest, which is bordered by Fell Avenue on the west, Highland Avenue on the north, Division Street on the south and Constitution Trail on the east, was on the edge of Normal.
Ted Hild, deputy state historic preservation officer, said the National Register designation will give Cedar Crest residents additional tools to preserve the character of the neighborhood.
“It will heighten awareness about the homes’ special characteristics,” he said.
In addition, Hild said homeowners who take on a significant property improvement project — one that is at least 25 percent of the fair cash value of the house — may qualify to have their real estate assessment frozen for up to 12 years through a state program.
The project has to be approved by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Moriarty said the designation also guarantees a review of any federal projects that would alter the district to see if there are other options.