Old House Society reveals English House history

The Old House Society did a little digging, and according to the booklet they’ve put together for this Saturday’s 10am-4pm Old House Tour, the English House was designed by well-known Bloomington architect Arthur Pillsbury and built in 1911 by grocer William L. Evans, of Evans Bros. (whose store was at 401 N. Main in downtown Bloomington). Before the house was constructed, the Evans family lived on the corner of Graham and Empire in an 1800s Victorian mansion, which was razed to make way for this structure. IWU purchased the house from Imogen Evans Hinkle, the Evans’ daughter, in 1947 to use as an art building. The interior was remodeled to provide 18 studios and workshops, including an art library and two exhibition rooms. When a new art building was constructed in the seventies, the house at 1101 N. Main became home to the English Department. So it turns out that next year will be the English House’s 100th birthday. Do I sense a celebration?

Alumni update: Mike Whitfield

Mike Whitfield (’10) writes that he’s currently training in Phoenix to be one of 150 Teach for America 2010 Colorado Corps members. This fall he will teach English Language Learning students at Manny Martinez Middle School in Denver. The Teach for America commitment is two years, and this fall more than 8,200 corps members will teach in 39 regions across the country. A new study from the University of North Carolina found that a young person gains up to an extra half-year of learning for every year they are in the class of a Teach for America teacher. On the other side, of the 20,000+ Teach for America alums, two-thirds remain in education, including 450 who are school principals or superintendents.

“I would not be where I am today without the amazing support of the entire English House faculty, staff, and student body,” Mike writes. “Every professor I had taught me something new about myself, and I have not taken for granted the gift of the great education I received in the Illinois Wesleyan English Department. However, I want to give a special shout out to you, Dr. Chapman, Dr. Theune, and Dr. Bray. Thank you!”

THIS old house? English House to be part of tour

Each year the Old House Society in Bloomington sponsors an Old House Tour as a fundraiser, and this year’s tour on Saturday, June 19 is “The Houses of Wesleyan.” Six houses will be featured, with others added:  Alpha Gamma Delta (1409 N. Main), Adams Hall (1401 N. Main), English House (1101 N. Main), Blackstock Hall (1102 N. East), and Demotte Hall (1409 N. Park). Advance tickets are on sale for $10 at Schnuck’s, Coffee Hound, Garlic Press, Casey’s Garden Shop, and the Old House Society Warehouse. Tickets the day of the event will be available at the OHS booth at Blackstock Hall for $15. The self-guided tours run from  10am-4pm, and as department chair I’ll be on hand to answer questions about the English House.

The Old House Society is a not-for-profit organization incorporated in 1979. Its mission is to promote and preserve buildings, landscapes, and neighborhoods more than 50 years old, and the communities and heritage they foster. Here’s a link to The Pantagraph story about the upcoming tour.

Another award for Gardner

It’s been quite the year for Eric Gardner (’89). We just barely announced that he’d won his university’s top honor and now he’s been awarded the EBSCOhost/RSAP Book Prize for Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literature (University Press of Mississippi, 2009). The prize recognizes the best scholarly monograph on American periodicals published in the past three years. It is sponsored by database developer/vendor EBSCOhost and a national scholarly group, the Research Society for American Periodicals. The prize includes a plaque and a cash award that allowed Gardner to attend the presentation ceremony at the American Literature Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco this past weekend, which yours truly also attended as president of The John Updike Society. Gardner’s book was chosen by a panel of three noted scholars who cited the book for being “thoroughly researched, lucidly theorized, and engagingly written,” and called it “a masterful piece of recovery” that “expands the landscape of African American literary production.”