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City of Bloomington, Indiana

The Courthouse Square Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 1990. Four buildings within the district are individually listed on the National Register--the courthouse, the Princess Theatre, the Wicks Building, and the old City Hall.

District History

The original town stretched four blocks east and west of the square and two blocks north and south. Streets immediately surrounding the square were then named, quite logically, West Main (now College), East Main (Walnut), North Main (Sixth), and South Main (Kirkwood). Laid out in what is now known as the "Shelbyville Plan," cross streets intersect at the corners of the square. A small log structure was the first of three courthouses built in the center of the square; the final and present courthouse has been standing since 1907.

Early businesses supported only the local agricultural and daily needs of the community. The Seward Foundry, an early blacksmith shop that started in 1822 at 7th and Walnut, continued operation until the 1980's. Austin Seward is known for creating the fish weathervane that has topped every courthouse since 1826. Tanneries, lumber, woolen and grist mills, and distilleries were other early businesses.

The Showers Brothers Furniture Factory was originally founded on the east side of the square as a coffin and bedstead manufacturer in 1856. By 1912 it had grown into the largest furniture factory in the world, relocating to a new building at 8th and Morton Street now reused as City Hall. Wick's Bee Hive, a department store operating from 1891 to1976, took up various posts along the North side of the square during its long existence. Faris' Market, started in 1923 and located on North Walnut, is the only store left from a time when grocers, meat markets, bakeries, five-and-dimes, department stores, and other commercial services lined the square to supply local residents.

Many hotels also opened in the downtown area with construction of a new passenger rail station on Gentry Street. Although now reused, the Bundy European Hotel and the Faulkner Hotel still stand, along with the grandest of them, the Graham. Through the years downtown became a center for entertainment with festivities revolving around rough saloons, Masonic ceremonies, and plays and recitations in various auditoriums, restaurants and eventually, movie theatres. The tradition continues today with many live music venues, bars, restaurants, specialty shops, and annual events creating the public downtown experience.