NORMAL - Thirteen years ago, Cedar Crest became Normal's first designated historic district. Now, an effort is under way to have the neighborhood in south central Normal recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.
"It's a great, great little district," said Amy Easton, assistant national register coordinator for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. "It's a really important part of history for Normal."
The Illinois Historical Sites Advisory Commission will consider a request to nominate Cedar Crest to the Keeper of the National Register on Sept. 15. If the commission recommends it, the National Park Service, which maintains the register, will have 45 days to make a decision.
It's an idea that has been floating around town for many years. The authors of "The Legacy: A survey of the Historical Architecture of the Town of Normal" suggested the neighborhood was perfect for the national register three years before the town designated a local historic district.
After its local designation, a group of residents consulted with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency about the process - using information contained in a paper then Illinois State University student Dave Kuntz wrote on the history of Cedar Crest for a historical geography class.
"It's unique in Bloomington-Normal and unusual anywhere because of its integrity," said Carl Ekberg, a retired Illinois State University history professor and one of "The Legacy" authors.
"It's almost perfectly intact," said Ekberg, who now lives in West Virginia. Of the 50 homes in the subdivision, only three were built after 1930 and only one - that of developer Bert Marley Kuhn - was built before the others.
"It represents a unity in style, time and place," Ekberg said.
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 Normal's first planned subdivision, said Lauren Kerestes, associate planner for the town.
It was developed in 1914 by Kuhn, then treasurer for the Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School. Architect Aaron T. Simmons, who also designed the Lafayette Apartments in Bloomington and 71 Carnegie Libraries in cities in 13 states, is believed to be the sole architect for houses in Cedar Crest, according to The Legacy.
"It represented a movement in the United States at the time," said Kerestes. "People were moving out of the city … (Cedar Crest) was billed as having less pollutants, large lots, large trees."
The homes in the subdivision, then was on the outskirts of the town, also brought in the new idea of an attached garage - a concept that embraced the idea that homeowners would be commuting to work.
Easton said the architecture in the neighborhood and the fact that it was a planned subdivision meet two of the four criteria for a nomination.
"It has great examples of bungalows and (other styles) of the time," Easton said. Cedar Crest has the largest single concentration of Craftsmen style homes in the town. The subdivision also has brick, curving streets.
"The national register is really nice," Easton said. "It gives validation - what you have is significant and worth saving."
The recognition would not bring any additional restrictions to the neighborhood. Because Cedar Crest has a local historic designation, its homeowners must receive approval from the Historic Preservation Commission for most changes to the outside of the homes.
The town also has the Bone Grant Program to help pay for qualifying work.
If Cedar Crest ultimately lands on the National Register of Historic Places, it would be the third recognition for Normal.
- The Camelback Bridge, located on the eastern border of Cedar Crest, received local historic designation in 1991 and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
- Normal Theater was named a local historic landmark in 1991. It was added to the national in 1997, two months after the Camelback Bridge.