One Normal Plaza originally started as the Illinois
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s home and school in 1865 to house and care for
orphans of the Civil War. It later housed orphaned children whose father served
in any war. The campus included cottages for young children, a dormitory-like
building for older youths, a recreation center and administration buildings.
The property was abandoned by the state and, in 1983, the property was sold to
a corporation known as One Normal Plaza, Inc. for $1.753 million for all 68
acres and buildings. Open space surrounding the buildings was leased to the
Town of Normal for recreation activities such as football, volleyball and
soccer. In 1992, Normal bought 22 acres of the land for a public park after One
Normal Plaza, Inc. filed for bankruptcy. The Town also acquired the old food
service building which was turned into an indoor recreation facility, now called the Community Activity
Town of Normal Parks & Recreation added educational signs about monarch butterflies and a photo-worthy set of butterfly wings to Underwood Park in addition to new birdhouses designed to attract birds to the
native habitat area. Read on...