Harwood Place, Est. 1923

In 1922 Tom Fitch Harwood (He lived on Woodland) wrote a letter in the Pantagraph proposing that a new financing model needed to be available for home buyers. At that time the buyer had to come up with 50% of the house price or obtain a 2nd mortgage to make up the difference to buy a home. He observed that while house costs had risen 85 to 100%, the wages of working men had not risen at the same rate. Working families were completely shut out of the housing market in that economy. And if the working families of Bloomington could not buy houses, there was little call for merchants to build houses. 

 

Getting a second mortgage from a bank was impractical and usually involved a friend standing for the second mortgage. Harwood proposed that home building loan associations would lend second mortgages on a more liberal basis than banks. He pointed to other cities that were using such associations and not experiencing the same sort of housing shortage that Bloomington was. Under those plans a man who had saved $500, or less than ten percent of the cost of a home, could get a mortgage for $3000 for a $6000 house (a modest house) and finance the remaining $2500 through the building loan association.  Harwood had a philosophy that there should be houses for middle class people to buy that were good quality and in desirable neighborhoods. Of course, his lumber business would profit from such house sales, but like so many of the businessmen of Bloomington, Harwood was actively engaged in civic organizations that enhanced life in Bloomington and investment in Bloomington.

A year after writing this letter Thomas Fitch Harwood and his father Willis Harwood began the Harwood Place development. The homes planned were described as "Kozy" homes, built for the working man who has saved some money to buy a home. The ads for the homes stated that easy financing would be available and implied that that financing would come through Harwood. The homes built were small bungalows, available for between $4500 and $6000 dollars. All city services were to be provided and another perk was easy access to the city street cars just a couple blocks away. Records at the recorders office show that the houses did not sell immediately. In 1937 Tom Harwood was still selling houses on Harwood Place. Grain prices following WWI had drastically affected the local economy and following that, the crash of '29 further exacerbated the economic atmosphere for home buying and home building. But Harwood persisted and rented the homes out and continued trying to sell them.

 

Now the Harwood Place is a gem, a product of Harwood's work and Dave Beich's restoration of many of the houses there as well as houses all over Bloomington Normal. 

Below are links to entries from the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Censuses. I have also added biographical detail where available. One interesting feature of the 1930's census is that the government was tracing how many homes had radios! The census also asked whether any occupant was a veteran of a war. Three of the men on Harwood had fought in the World War, as had Thomas Fitch Harwood.