Home of Illinois Wesleyan’s “Grand Old Man” on the Old House Society’s virtual tour (plus copy) |


NORMAL – Wilbert Ferguson was known as the “Grand Old Man” on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus, largely for his quiet, humble demeanor and 50-year tenure that began in 1894.

The former professor, dean, vice president, and member of a committee that formed when the university was without a president, was also notorious for reading and advising students from the library in his normal home.

According to an account of his life published by The Pantagraph in May 1944, Ferguson was also known for keeping classroom records in a special bookcase in the library of his house on the south side of town.

The library, along with the other rooms and unique features of Ferguson’s residence, was featured on this year’s Old House Society Tour of Homes. On the second stage of the tour, which takes place virtually on Thursday at 6.30 p.m., three more historic houses will be on view.

The first stage of the tour took place last Thursday.

Thirty minute pre-recorded tours of the houses, led by their respective owners, are broadcast on Zoom. Each session is followed by a question-and-answer session with the owners.

Tickets cost $ 20 per household and can be purchased at. to be bought oldhousesociety.org.

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OHS Vice President Deanna Stockweather said this year’s tour will be virtual as coronavirus containment measures in place at the time of planning prevented large groups from gathering indoors.

Nonetheless, the customized tour means guests get the “intimate, personal look” of the homes straight from their current owners, Stockweather said.

“Since the tour is led by volunteers, you don’t hear all of the story and stories you get when the owners give the personal tour.” Stick weather said. “This year, you’ll just feel like you’ve walked into the house with a friend.”

The first leg of the tour last week featured Ferguson’s former residence – a 1913 Craftsman-style house in the Highland Historic District – and a 19th-century Victorian Queen Anne home in Bloomington’s Founders’ Grove.

The second leg on Thursday features a 1955 Mid-Century Modern home in Normal designed by local architect Gene Asbury and a Founders’ Grove Tudor-style home designed by local architect Charles E. Hall .

Ferguson’s former home was designed by renowned American architect Aaron T. Simmons, who also designed 71 Carnegie libraries and a number of courthouses, schools and churches across the Midwest.

Simmons also created Cedar Crest, the first fully planned subdivision of the Town of Normal, and designed much of the 60 houses.

“Bloomington-Normal has seen some famous architects and we should celebrate,” Stockweather said. “We should also celebrate these houses and tell their stories because they represent where we have been and our local history.”

Proceeds from the home tour will be used to fund awards, grants, and resources to facilitate the ownership and maintenance of older homes and buildings in McLean County.

The money will also help the Architectural Salvage Warehouse, 214 E. Douglas St., Bloomington.

Contact Timothy Eggert at (309) 820-3276. Follow him on Twitter: @TimothyMEggert


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