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Dimmitt's Grove residents sharing their homes' history

Dimmitt's Grove residents sharing their homes' history

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BLOOMINGTON — Ken Kashian's home in Dimmitt's Grove is one of Bloomington's oldest and has a connection to Abraham Lincoln's legal career.

The Italianate-style house at 510 E. Grove St. was built in 1853 by John Routt, who later moved out west and became the first elected governor of Colorado.

In 1856, the house was bought by Ruben Benjamin, who was examined by Lincoln to qualify for a license to practice law.

"We can corroborate that Lincoln really was connected with Ruben Benjamin," said Kashian. "So apart from being one of the oldest houses in the city it is kind of one of the most important historically, also."

Kashian knows those historical facts. Now people walking by his house and others in his neighborhood just southeast of downtown will know them, too.

The signs, which Kashian helped design, give facts about the house such as when it was built, who built it and its address. There is a QR code that can be scanned with a cellphone or other smart device to link to the Dimmitt's Grove Neighborhood Association website.

The association is compiling and will soon be posting online more complete histories of each house participating in the sign program.

Last week Kashian, with the help of association President Brad Williams and volunteer Blake Svensson, installed the sign in front of his residence.

Eleven more signs have been placed or soon will be in front of other houses in the neighborhood rich in historical heritage and diverse architectural styles. The association hopes to add 12 more signs next year in front of houses just as storied and historical as Kashian's.

"We're very excited about this project," said Williams. "We're very proud of our neighborhood. We've been trying to do this for a long time. This is an actual bricks-and-mortar project that we're doing through a pilot program."

Dimmitt's Grove Neighborhood Association was selected by the McLean County Regional Planning Commission for a pilot program in which they worked together to develop an improvement plan designed specifically for the neighborhood.

The sign project was "just one of the things we are doing to follow that plan," said Williams. 

"This is not financed by any tax dollars," said Williams. "This is the neighborhood association and the homeowners combined doing it."

Participating homeowners and the association are splitting equally the $200 cost of each sign and its installation, he added.

Dimmitt's Grove is made up of 26 city blocks, 510 addresses and 871 neighbors. The neighborhood can be found between Washington Street to the north, Oakland Avenue to the south, Gridley Street to the west and Clinton Street to the east.

The 400-700 blocks of East Grove Street became a National Register of Historic Places District in 1986.

The William Dimmitt house at 611 E. Taylor St. dates to 1836, "so in 20 years we'll be bragging about 200-year-old houses," said Williams.

"It's real exciting to live in a house with so much history," said Kashian.

"Most of the people who own single-family houses in the neighborhood have really spent a lot of time trying to understand the architecture of their house, the history and who lived in it, what the significance of those people was," he added.

"We think neighborhoods are really stronger when you have people who are really invested in their property," he said.

Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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