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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Charles E. Hall, Building Contractor


Charles E. Hall was a prominent building contractor in Bloomington from the mid 1920s until his retirement in the 1960s. In the 1920s he built many smaller homes on the East Side, or what is now known as the Founders' Grove neighborhood. Early in his career he and his wife Jennie lived as lodgers on Front Street. Between 1929 and 1930 he separated from his first wife and built his distinctive home at 1924 Oakland and was living there with his parents in 1930.

On the other side of Oakland Street was a beautiful widowed woman named Madeleine Bonnes Lockett who was tragically widowed.

Madeleine was a Frenchwoman, who came to the United States at the age of 12. According to her obituary, she had been educated in private schools in Tunisia and Africa before coming to the states. She married Leonard B. Lockett in 1918. He was an immigrant from Jamaica and a dentist. In 1929, Leonard Lockett died under extremely mysterious circumstances that were never publicly resolved. Lockett was found on a country road near a farm that he owned, shot in the head. Although an inquest was held, and the widow was awarded reduced insurance benefits, no person was ever named as the killer of Leonard B. Lockett. One local historian has given an explanation for the killing and suggested that love triangles often end in death, but the name of the perpetrator was given strictly off the record! Charles and Madeleine did not marry until her daughter had completed her education. Charles built for Madeleine a home to her specifications with large picture windows to look out over the hills and fields of this home off Ireland Grove Road. The Halls lived in Oak Hills, about 4 miles east of Bloomington, for about twenty years until the death of Mrs. Hall in 1965. Oak Hill was often open for the benefit of local charities. (The photo here is of Madeleine and June Lockett in 1924 when she applied for a passport to visit France.)

Charles Hall's life was not without excitement before his marriage to the interesting Madeleine Lockett. In 1929 his business was under attack by the Building Trades Union of McLean County. Hall refused to hire union men on an exclusive basis and was named as being unfair to union labor in McLean County. He was one of just two contractors who refused to have a closed shop. He sued the Building Trades Union for slandering his name and damaging his business. He was eventually awarded just $1,000 of the $50,000 he had claimed in his suit. Although Hall was not a friend to Unions, he was a friend to Bloomington in general. In the 1920s he took on the old Hills Hotel, completely renovated it and operated it as the Tilden hotel for many years. He organized the men and materials to build boy scout camp shelters and cabins at Camp Ta Ta Pochon. He was vocal about the dangers of building the belt line road around Bloomington/Normal, which he saw as the death of many businesses in Bloomington/Normal. Among many homes, he built the home at 30 Country Club Place and developed the subdivision called Eastgate.

For a short time Charles E. Hall was a toy manufacturer. In 1930s he introduced the Midget Town building sets and shipped them out of Bloomington to cities all over the United States. In 1935 a set sold for just a $1.25. Bill Kemp wrote a column about these charming building block sets in December of 2010 and pointed out that one set is part of the toy collection at the McLean County Museum of History.

 

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