Analysis: Possible historic designation of building a chance to reckon with Bloomington’s racism

On the Bloomington city council’s Wednesday agenda for a first reading is an ordinance that would establish a new single-property historic district for the building at 424 1/2 S. Walnut Street.

Consideration of the ordinance could be a chance for the city council and the community to review an episode from Bloomington’s restaurant industry in 1950, which was described this way in a World-Telephone article: “Downtown Bloomington restaurants, closed this week in protest of a campaign to force them to serve Negroes, are to be reopened for business beginning on Thursday of this week, serving customers of all colors.”

The building at 424 1/2 S. Walnut is probably best known for the most recent business that was housed there, which was The Player’s Pub.

Part of the argument for the property’s historic designation is the building’s connection to Henry Boxman, who operated the place as Boxman’s Restaurant” for nearly three decades, from 1929 to 1958.

One of the possible criteria that can qualify a building for historic designation is its association “with a person who played a significant role in local, state, or national history.”

Boxman is described in the report prepared by Conor Herterich, the city’s historic preservation program manager, as “one of Bloomington’s greatest restaurateurs,” who helped found the Indiana Restaurant Association and re-established the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, among other achievements.

Not a part of the report prepared by Herterich is an analysis of where, if anywhere, Boxman’s Restaurant might have fit into the segregationist history of Bloomington’s downtown restaurant scene of the 1950s.

Continue reading “Analysis: Possible historic designation of building a chance to reckon with Bloomington’s racism”

Taliaferro Avenue floated as new name for city street that cuts through IU campus, part of effort to remove Jordan namings

In remarks made at the start of Bloomington’s Wednesday city council meeting, president Steve Volan suggested that the city street known as Jordan Avenue be renamed as Taliaferro Avenue, or possibly Taliaferro Way.

The Jordan Avenue street sign at the intersection of 3rd Street and Jordan Avenue in Bloomington, Indiana. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

The Taliaferros, George and Viola, were a Bloomington couple who each blazed trails of their own. Viola was Monroe County’s first Black judge, serving from 1995 to 2004.  After playing his college football at Indiana University in the late 1940s, George was the first Black player to be drafted by an NFL team.

The elimination of Jordan namings from the campus landscape has recently been recommended by the university’s president, Michael McRobbie.  McRobbie is recommending that the name of the university’s seventh president, David Starr Jordan, be removed from several Bloomington campus landmarks. Jordan served as IU’s president from 1885 to 1891.

The removal of Jordan’s name is prompted by his conspicuous role in the eugenics movement, the idea that society and the genetics of the population could be improved through selective breeding.

The university, of course, does not have the authority to rename a city street. Continue reading “Taliaferro Avenue floated as new name for city street that cuts through IU campus, part of effort to remove Jordan namings”