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Modern day


1975 - Present


After 200 years of growth and setbacks, Bloomington continues to strive for diversity, creativity and innovation as it fosters a community of artists, leaders and academics.

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One family who forged Bloomington: The Seward legacy

Allen Dunn

When Allen Dunn was born in 1954, his family lived in a house on 10th Street, at the present day site of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business’ Hodge Hall.

His mother was Janet Seward Dunn, daughter of Fred and Dorothy and sister of Janet. His father was George Dunn, whose family worked bottling Dr. Pepper. “They were the first bottlers east of the Mississippi,” Allen says. “I’m equally as proud of my Dunn side.”

Allen’s father was a World War II veteran who commanded a company of African American soldiers. He was wounded in the line of duty and later received a Purple Heart. George died when Allen was 2, and Janet raised the couple’s four boys on her own. “I’m proud of her,” Allen says. “I’m proud of my father.”

When Allen was growing up, IU’s Memorial Stadium was right across the street, where the present-day Arboretum is located. He remembers that his older brothers would park cars for people during events and charge them between $1 and $5. He also remembers the fireworks launched from the stadium on the Fourth of July. “You’d wake up on July 5th and there would be spent rocket shells in the yard,” he says.

When Allen was in the 3rd grade, his family had to sell their property to Indiana University and move. His mother purchased and refurbished a house on the corner of Atwater and Third Street. An iron fence made at Seward & Co. encircled Allen’s home and the house next door, where his grandparents, Fred and Dorothy, lived.

Allen attended Bloomington High School, where he played football during a period when the team didn’t lose a single game in six years. Throughout high school, Allen worked summers at Seward & Co., manning the front desk. “But I wanted to be a physician,” he says. “Not manage an industrial supply company. It was all about getting your GPA and punching tickets.”

Amid IU social activities for his fraternity Phi Delta Theta, concerts at the Bluebird and dates with his future wife, Susan, Allen earned his degree in pre-med. He received his medical degree and served his residency at the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

Allen and Susan married in 1983 and had a daughter, Erin. That same year, Seward & Co. took its final breaths. The company had tried to modernize during the 1980s recession but hadn’t succeeded. The board made the decision to declare bankruptcy, and Seward & Co. was no more.

“It had survived other recessions, other depressions,” Allen says. “It was sad. It was the longest-running continuously owned family business in the state. ”

Allen returned to Bloomington with Susan, Erin and the couple’s son, David, to pursue his career in anesthesiology. Soon after, he became a founding partner of Bloomington Anesthesiologists PC and served as its first president.

Today, Allen still works as an anesthesiologist. His son David has joined Allen’s practice, and Erin works for Teach for America in Cincinnati.

As Allen approaches retirement, he’s been thinking a lot about what he’d like to do with his extra time. “This bicentennial brings things back into focus,” he says. “It brought me out of my little tunnel vision.”

He plans to support the Monroe County Historical Society in the coming years and be more active in the community. And he hopes to impress upon his children and grandchildren how important it is to learn about your family legacy. “I’m nothing special in this town,” he says. “The town changes. But it’s kind of cool to think that I’m in the background of a family that did something.”

This year, the Monroe County Historical Society is naming Austin Seward’s original fish weathervane in honor of the city’s bicentennial. Children under 14 are invited to submit suggestions to the History Center at 202 E. 6th St.

The staff of 812 knows a lot of remarkable fish-related names are out there ­– from “Nemo” to “Bubbles” to the appropriately simple “Fishy” ­– but we have a few suggestions of our own.

Try Austin, Fred, Doris or Marilyn. Or maybe you’d like to call it Allen. If you’d like to include them all, we have a suggestion for that, too. Seward might work, to honor the family who put the fish there and has shaped the city in countless other ways since.

The Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District is launched.

From its inception in 2006, the Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District, or BEAD, has transformed the city’s downtown. Sean M. Starowitz, BEAD’s assistant director of the arts, says the district is a key to a viable downtown. “Arts and culture is a big part of what Bloomington does, so we make sure that lens is brought to the table in a variety of different ways.”

BEAD encompasses 10 different areas, with a focus on arts, music and entertainment. One area, the Show District, focuses on live performances and encompasses all entertainment venues from the iconic Buskirk-Chumley Theater to The Bluebird nightclub. Live performances are all rooted in this district whether it be a musical performance, a reenactment of a play, or watching the Rocky Horror Pictures Show during October there’s guaranteed to be a performance for everyone to love. Kirkwood Avenue is the character district that brings the culture of Bloomington to Indiana University. Connecting the Courthouse Square to the Sample Gates, Kirkwood has become a beacon of socialization not only for college aged adults, but for everyone in the Bloomington community. The endless amount of activities, from shopping to eating, and culture that present themselves on this one street encompasses everything the BEAD stands for and brings a sense of community to the ever-growing city.

The most notable area within the BEAD may be the B-Line Trail, which stretches 5.1 miles from Adams Street southward to Country Club Road and features historic markers and public art. The trail passes the Showers complex (and the Farmers Market on Saturdays from April to November), the WonderLab Museum, the Warehouse recreational gym and Seminary Square shopping center. In December 2016, plans to expand the B-Line Trail were announces presenting an addition to the south end of the trail, called Switchyard Park. The plans for Switchyard Park include the development of a signature urban park that encompasses the history of the site, but also focuses on restoring the environment. No timeline has been estimated for development of the park, but instillation began in spring 2017.

In addition to the constant presence of art within Bloomington, The Bicentennial Committee has been working with the Bloomington Arts Commission to seek a qualified musician to commission a bicentennial theme song. “This is a new approach to music making in context to place making in the city,” Starowitz says. “It’s a unique opportunity for us to think about the music legacy here in Bloomington and try to capture that momentum in the community.”

Charlotte Zietlow (1934 – Present)

Politician and activist

Charlotte Zietlow is often referred to as Grand Dame of Bloomington for her work in politics and in the community.

She grew up as Lutheran minister's daughter and learned the importance of helping others by her father’s example. “I was trained to be a public servant,” she says. While teaching German at the University of Michigan in 1960, she started her life in politics by campaigning door to door for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign.

Later, while visiting her husband’s family in Czechoslovakia, she witnessed the people of Czechoslovakia right to speech being silenced. She likened this to Bloomington residents being scolded and ignored at city council meetings and said to herself, “I can do better than that.”

In 1971, she ran and won a seat on the city council. The local newspaper headline read, “Ph.D housewife elected to city council.”

She was one of eight new members, and served as council president. She was pro-choice and pro-family planning and also organized a campaign to help preserve the Monroe County Courthouse by going door to door for donations.

In 1973, when she and a friend tired of hearing that women couldn’t understand a budget, started a kitchen shop on the Square. “We started Goods for Cooks to show them that we could do it and because we liked the idea.” The store is still open today.

1981 till 1988, she was a Monroe County Commissioner. She resigned to become the executive director of the Monroe County United Way and later worked for Planned Parenthood and Middle Way House, two local non-profits.

Charlotte says her greatest accomplishment is learning how to get along and work with people that you don’t agree with.

“She’s a force of nature, and she’s an amazing woman,” says historian James Madison. “She still is pushing and not taking no for an answer in politics and in government.”

Then and now