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William Blair

From Bloomingpedia

William T Blair (William Theodore Blair) born May 1, 1856, died October 15, 1938 in Bloomington. Educated in the Bloomington public schools. Degree, B. L. Occupation, hardware business, a dealer in shoes, in 1888 was elected Monroe County Auditor. Married Miss Waldron, daughter of Bloomington pioneer, John Waldron, Sr.

William and wife Julia Waldron Blair lived at 320 W Kirkwood Avenue, which was built for them by Julia's father, John Waldron Sr, in 1884. The home later served as the home of the Eagles Lodge in the 1970s before its eventual demolition in the mid-1970s and now serves as a parking lot for Frame Makers. Julia Waldron Blair became the President of the Bloomington City Hospital Board in 1906.

Blair was known as a pioneer of Bloomington himself and was regarded highly by Bloomington citizens. He was featured in a a newspaper article in the Bloomington Telephone in 1929 discussing how much Bloomington had changed during his time as a resident:

Bloomington (Monroe County, Indiana) Telephone, Jul 8, 1929, p. 1. Written by Edna Moore.

WILLIAM T. BLAIR TALKS OF BLOOMINGTON PAST AND FUTURE Prominent Citizen, Now 73, Born on Farm, Lived All His Life in This Community

William T. Blair, long one of the prominent citizens and leading Republicans of Bloomington, born 73 years ago on a farm, a part of which has since become Maple and Northwestern Heights additions to the city of Bloomington, still enjoys people and relishes life, which to him has always been good. In discussing Bloomington in retrospect, and the city's present needs and advantages, Mr. Blair gave evidence to a very fine and wholesome philosophy of life that has apparently been his buoy and his light.

His story of the Bloomington of his first recollections reads like fiction--the evolution of a small settlement centered about the public square to its present status of the most progressive city of southern Indiana. Mr. Blair speaks of Bloomington from the viewpoint of a civic figure, a man who has figured prominently in party politics and community interests where political faith had no part.

His first picture of Bloomington when he was a small boy recalls a general store owned by William O. Fee on the corner now occupied by Breeden & Company; a grocery and residence in the same building on the corner where the First National Bank now stands; another grocery and home where the Tourner Hotel is now. This store was owned by a man by the name of Campbell, two of whose descendants now reside north of the city.

Mr. Campbell bought eggs for what he could get them, then sold them in accordance with the price he had to pay. He had the eggs labeled with different prices set about the store in baskets. This story of the various prices on eggs has been chuckled over many a time since that day.

Mr. Blair's father settled in 1825 on the farm on which the son was born and on which W. T.'s brother, James N. Blair, now resides within the city limits.

There were saloons in those days, recalled the aged gentleman, on the sites now occupied by the Gem Store, the Evans Barber Shop, and the room formerly occupied by the Western Union telegraph company on West Kirkwood. Mr. Blair's son, James W. Blair, now a prominent local attorney, showed an early indication of what profession he would follow. One day as the son, then in skirts, toddled down the street to his father's store, a boot and shoe store, he had to pass a saloon on the south side of the square. A screen very mysteriously hid the entrance to the saloon, but young Jimmy slipped behind the screen and went within. The bartender, amused at his young customer, asked what he would have. "A dink," proffered the youngster. When the child arrived home, he told of the incident, and added that he wanted to see what was behind the screen. This investigative nature later led the junior Mr. Blair into the legal profession.

The first banking institution, according to Mr. Blair's memory, was located where the Metropolitan Store now is and was known as the Smith-Hunter bank. Many old-time council "fights" and verbal altercations that meant the life of the village centered about such issues as school board appointments, the possibility of the interurban line entering the city, the increase in telephone rates, the removal of the hitch rack around the public square--this last named squabble having occurred in more recent years. Mr. Blair was a member of the city council four years, was Republican committeeman 42 years, and has been election commissioner a long time, the exact length of which he could not recall.

He claims the record for having served on more soliciting committees than any other Bloomingtonian and has never had a refusal when he asked for money for any cause. He has also been active in behalf of the G. A. R. and has served on numerous committees to raise money for victims of floods and tornadoes in various parts of the county.

In talking of the present needs of our city, Mr. Blair lamented the fact that the city streets had not all been made the same width. He also advocates a parking rule reserving enough space in front of each home for a fire truck in case an emergency should arise; and three well-paid councilmen instead of the present nine; fewer policemen to be kept more permanently and instructed in the business of protecting the town. Mr. Blair is modest in his criticism of present conditions and would not change a great many things; he is progressive though a stickler for efficiency in administration of the city's affairs.

Such citizens as Mr. Blair should be hoped for in the coming generations to furnish ballast for the ever-increasing speed of living and haphazard style of management that we sometimes have to admit.