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Remembering Razed Neighborhood At Second And Rogers

A view of Building Trades Park from 611 W. Second St. in 1958

View of Building Trades Park from 611 W. Second St. in 1958 (Courtesy Photo)

Every time Michael Carter gets his blood drawn, he asks the IU Health Bloomington Hospital employee, “Do you know where we’re standing right now?” They always say, “No, I don’t know.” 

“I say, ‘Well I used to live right here, this is our house right where we’re sitting,’” Carter said. “And they’re always like ‘Wow! That’s cool. I didn’t know what was here.’ I said, ‘Well, there’s a neighborhood here.”   

Carter said it was the type of neighborhood that no longer exists - a neighborhood where nobody locked their door, and kids spent every hour of sunlight in the park.  

“In those days there weren’t any suburbs in the early ‘50s,” Carter said. “People lived in town, so consequently, in the summertime you wouldn’t believe how many children were here- hundreds.” 

Carter grew up directly across from Building Trades Park at 611 W. Second St. He was born just behind his neighborhood in the Kohr Administration building, the last remaining structure of the original hospital site.    

Michael Carter and his cousin, Patty, on the side of 611 W. Second St.
Michael Carter and his cousin, Patty, on the side of 611 W. Second St.

His single-story house was divided into five units. Carter’s maternal grandparents lived in the back. His father’s parents lived 50 steps away at 611 ½ W. Second St.  

Carter’s entire family lived in the neighborhood, and he used it to his advantage.  

“One of them liked Cokes and the other liked Pepsis,” Carter said. “I would get a Coke from the one and go up and get a Pepsi from the other. And they would never tell my mom about it…you know how grandparents are. ‘We won’t tell her’- and they never did.” 

Carter walked one block west to Hunter grade school every day, and eventually three blocks east to the old Bloomington High School at Seminary Square.  

The John R. East coal yard was directly east of the Carters’ home at the corner of Second and Rogers. Carter said neighborhood kids played on the coal, often coming home filthy.  

In the summer, children spent every moment in the park playing games like tetherball, zell ball – which is tetherball with a tennis ball - and knock-off, a forerunner to air hockey.  

While he won the city championship in knock-off at age 12, Carter said his favorite childhood memories are with his older friends. 

“I was younger than a lot of them,” Carter said. “I grew up being called ‘Mikey’ to most of the guys who were a few years older. And they would put me up to stuff, you know how that works- throwing rocks.” 

Michael Carter in the front yard of 611 W. Second St.
Michael Carter in the front yard of 611 W. Second St.

In 1962, the Carters left the soon-to-be razed neighborhood and moved to the west side of town.  

Carter said everyone in the area knew hospital construction was coming in the mid-1950s. He cannot remember any families fighting the move.  

“People knew it was going to happen, it was just a question of when,” Carter said. “I don’t think people wanted to leave, but it was a foregone conclusion that there was gonna be a hospital there and they needed that land…which they don’t now apparently.”  

Fifty-six years after its completion, the hospital is set to come down and Bloomington is looking to rebuild the neighborhood.  

The proposed redevelopment plan seeks to turn the 24 acres into a multi-use hub with a “people-first street design,” including a greenway passage to the B-line trail.  

The city intends for the project to link the Prospect Hill and McDoel Gardens neighborhoods with a variety of diverse housing and shopping.  

Carter said he is hopeful for the future of the site, so long as something happens to it. He said cities often tear down old hospitals and leave the land to rot.  

He does not know what the third stage of life will look like for the Second and Rogers neighborhood, but he knows it will never be the same.  

If you could wave a wand, it would be nice to put it back the way it was,” Carter said. “But that can’t be because I think most of these families that live up here now are older people.”  

To learn more about the current redevelopment project, visit bloomingtonhospitalsite.com.

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