Dean Karau on Kewanee history: From Eastlawn to Westlawn: Kewanee’s postwar housing boom

Nathan Law

After World War I, Kewanee’s population held steady – in 1920, it was 16,026; in 1930, 17,093; and in 1940, 16,901.  But between 1940 and 1946, our hometown’s population increased by 20 percent. The growth was fueled by Kewanee’s major manufacturers ramping up to produce war material and hiring more […]

After World War I, Kewanee’s population held steady – in 1920, it was 16,026; in 1930, 17,093; and in 1940, 16,901. 

But between 1940 and 1946, our hometown’s population increased by 20 percent. The growth was fueled by Kewanee’s major manufacturers ramping up to produce war material and hiring more workers to achieve their war footing goals.

Because all industry was focused on the war effort, little or no new housing went up in Kewanee during the war. But after the war ended, men began to return home to their families or to start families. But the Fairview Apartments had a long waiting list, and there were few other options. Soon, Kewanee experienced a housing shortage.

Kewaneean Fred Kindle gets some yardwork help for his new house.

But planning for the end of the war began as early as December 1943, when Philip D. Adler, Kewanee Star-Courier publisher, led the Committee for Post War Planning. Kewanee leaders recognized a need for housing. At the organizational meeting of the committee, Adler said “We have a lot of work to do. We need small homes . . . We have got to provide homes . . . .” The group also recognized that building those homes would offer employment to many of the returning veterans.

In 1944, the committee announce preliminary plans for at least 25 new homes to be built after the war ended.

Robert P. Hatcher
Philip D. Adler

In January 1945, the non-profit corporation, Kewanee Homes, Inc. was created. With Robert P. Hatcher as its president, Kewanee Homes initially was financed by local industry, merchants, and labor groups.

In March, Kewanee Homes purchased 19 acres of rolling terrain north of Windmont Park on which the initial 25 homes would be built.  But the group would need more funding to proceed.

Money from the Illinois legislature’s 1945 Housing Grant Act, distributed through the State Housing Board, was funneled through the Henry County Housing Authority into the breach.

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