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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Your House

Ever wondered what went on in your house before you lived there?? When we bought our house eleven years ago I started studying it. I was massively disappointed to learn that no young people ever lived in our house until the 60s and 70s. (but then I met two of them, which was interesting!!) But I did learn that the Vice President of the U.S. Canary Fanciers lived in my house for a time. I always pictured the house full of canary cages -- pretty victorian ones -- but the reality was a little less romantic:

That's my dining room, taken over by a huge wooden cage filled with canaries.

But at 1604 E. Oakland, Lincoln and Orlena Ross were building dollhouses from cheese and cigar boxes. Lincoln was a retired gas pipe fitter from the local gas works and nearly 80 years old in 1941 when this picture story was created. They had just one daughter, Maxine, who was raised in their home and later lived there with her husband Ross Vinson.

Mr. Ross in his basement workshop, making a tiny table.

Orlena Ross made all the soft furnishing for the houses.

Mr. Ross did complain that the newer cigar boxes contained too much cardboard to be useful for doll furniture.

I thought that Maxine was an interesting person -- she worked as a manager at the downtown Kresge for forty years and was a leader of a Girl Reserves group, even though she never had any children of her own. She was a singer, a pianist and an expert whistler. She was also a member of the Kodaroamers, a local photography club and a national photographer association.

It is fun to research your home by using the local city directories, census records and the Pantagraph! You can get help at the McLean County Museum of History or the Bloomington Public Library.

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Rochelle Gridley
Rochelle Gridley
Jan 14, 2021

City directories have two listings, one based on the name of the person living in the house, like a telephone directory and another list based on the address. Just look in the back of the city directory for the listings by street. The City directory also has information such as where the person worked and what their job was. City directories are also available on


Mar 23, 2020

How cool, so how do you go about looking up your house ?

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