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A Tale of Two Houses


Washington Street saw dramatic changes in 2014. Two homes were the subject of many conversations. The home at 1404 E Washington was purchased and demolished, to the dismay of many community members. The home at 1314 E Washington underwent a transformation that has been watched and admired from a distance and sometimes much closer quarters.


Once both these houses were homes to families and I would like to remember those families here.


1314 E Washington


Marshall George Linn was born in Chicago and moved to Bloomington in about 1893 when he was 20 years old. His only education was one year at Yale. His first known employment in Bloomington was with JF Humphreys, wholesale grocers. In 1900 he was living as a boarder in a rooming house and noted to be employed as a bookkeeper. In 1898 the Pantagraph reported that he was leaving Humphreys to join the cereal mills that were being built in Bloomington. However, the cereal mills burned down within a year and Linn returned to Humphreys.


Edith Clark was Linn’s bride. She was born in Bloomington, the daughter of a wool merchant, James Clark and his wife Adelaide. Edith was married from her mother’s home on November 29, 1900 at 515 Washington Street. The home was decorated with chrysanthemums, carnations and roses, potted palms and ferns. Adelaide, a widowed or divorced lady, had sufficient means to provide hot house roses in November for her daughter’s wedding. George and Edith went on a honeymoon to the East Coast and made their home in a rented apartment at 411 Washington.


Work on the Linn home began in April of 1906 and the home was finished in December 1906. An article in the Pantagraph admired the decorations in the home and credited decorator A W Russell. The doors and  floors were mahogany and the woodwork was enamelled white. The downstairs ceilings were a yellow watercolors and the upstairs ceilings ivory watercolors. The den had Flemish woodwork with a dark grey wall and ceiling watercolors. (a copy of the article is at the bottom of the page.)


After his marriage George worked for the Consumers’ Electric Light and Heat Company as manager. This company was purchased by the Traction Company in 1905 and by 1908, George was manager of the Illinois Traction Company in Bloomington Normal. Eventually he was in charge of the Bloomington and Normal Railway and Light Co. He was also very active in society and clubs. His wife was very active socially and entertained 200 women on November 18, 1909 in their home at 1314 E. Washington. The Linns were members of the country club and both had a 9 handicap in golf. The Linns had two daughters while living at 1314, Elizabeth (1904) and Eleanor (1908). The Linns moved to Des Moines, Iowa in 1918 so that George could take a position at the Iowa Power and Light Co., where he became Vice President and General Manager. While in Iowa they had one son, Marshall George Jr. Unfortunately, George Linn Sr. died in 1927 of a sudden heart attack at work.


The Linns sold their home to the Carl Klemm family. Carl was the son of Karl Klemm, the patriarch of that family and a participant in the family store, Klemm’s. Carl was married to Frances Metz. She was the daughter of German immigrants, who happened to be born in Germany after they moved to Nebraska. Her father was the proprietor of a brewery there and in their home they had two live in servants. (1900 census).  They had three daughters, Frances Elizabeth (Betty), Jeanne and Patricia.


Carl Klemm was born in 1880 in Bloomington IL and lived at 1314 until his death in 1964. Klemm’s department store was a family concern and was started in 1873 by Carl’s father, Karl Klemm, after he immigrated at the age of 28 and worked an apprenticeship for his cousin in Springfield. Karl said to his children “Getting  $5 a week from my cousin was not my idea of the land of plenty.” Klemm’s was one of three large local department stores in Bloomington and at one time  manufactured its own line of overalls. A Pantagraph article in 1923 indicates that the 50th anniversary was celebrated with a revue and dance, accompanied by the “Klemm Orchestra.”


Frances, Jeanne and Patricia would have lived a charmed life in this beautiful house, the daughters of a wealthy store owner and his stylish wife. Their parties, associations and accomplishments were regularly published in the Pantagraph. Carl Klemm was an avid golfer and often champion at the club.


Patricia Klemm (IWU) was married at 1314 E. Washington to Tom Wachob of Bloomington, a medical school student in Chicago. (1944) Tom served during WWII  and after he completed medical school, they moved their family to Missouri.  Betty Klemm attended Duke University in 1935 along with neighbor Carroll Costigan. Betty married Otis Johnson in 1939, but he died in 1941 following brain surgery and an extended hospitalization. She married again to Stanley Holzhauer who was dean of students at BHS. Jeanne Klemm attended college in Ohio and after graduation joined the WAVES for two and a half years. After her term of service she married Maurice F. Stevenson in Florida in 1946 and later made her home in California.


1404 E. Washington


This home was built in 1906 by Arthur Pillsbury for Robert and Mary Murphy. Mr. Murphy was a department store owner who moved to Illinois from New York as a young man. Prior to coming to Illinois Mr. Murphy fought in the Civil War and worked in the retail business in Indiana. Mr. Murphy came to Bloomington in 1886, and owned and operated “Lambert and Murphy’s New York Store.” This was a large department store on the north side of the square carrying personal clothing and luxury home furnishings. Robert Murphy owned another store in Sterling, Illinois which his son Frank operated. This home would have been beautifully decorated with carpets and furnishings befitting a wealthy retailer.


In 1885 a story appeared in the Pantagraph regarding Mr. and Mrs. George Henderson, who had been employees at Lambert and Murphy’s before moving to Wisconsin. In June of 1885  Mr. Murphy was called to his former employee’s bedside in Wisconsin, and he promised at that time to look after the Hendersons' daughter, Bessie. The Hendersons died of consumption days later, and  Robert and Mary Murphy travelled once again to Wisconsin and carried little six year old “Bessie” home with them and made her their daughter. In February of 1885 the Murphy's older daughter, Carlota, had died of a long standing heart ailment at the age of sixteen.  


In 1896, Mildred Murphy became the bride of Leroy Whitmer. Leroy was an attorney who later purchased the American Furnace and Foundry Co. They had one son and when Robert Peter was a young boy, the Murphy’s and Whitmer’s built homes on Washington Street and lived next door to one another. In 1914 Robert Murphy suddenly died, and at some point, Mary Murphy moved next door to live with her daughter and son-in-law. During WWI Robert Peter was an officer in an artillery unit, and after the war he completed his engineering degree at Northwestern and a law degree at IWU. He then joined his father as a board member of the American Foundry and Furnace Co. After his marriage in 1928, Robert Peter Whitmer lived at 1404 with his bride, Sarah Jeannette McFadden of Peoria.  She died in 1941 and he remarried in 1944 to Violet Sundblom. Robert developed the “Climatemaker Heating Slide Rule,” a device that measured heat loss in buildings. In 1950 he sold out his interest in the furnace company to pursue the development of his invention. Robert Peter suffered a stroke in August 1951 and died.


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