Proctor Recreation Center Celebrates 100 years

By Garry Moore

February 17, 2013 Updated Feb 18, 2013 at 12:56 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- If walls could talk...

Maybe they'd tell of a time when Woodrow Wilson was President in 1913, 12 years before Caterpillar was founded. When Peoria was known for vaudeville and whiskey, and the residents of the city needed a recreation center. Philanthropist John C. Proctor laid out the plans for such a place in his will.

Walls can't talk, but Proctor Center Director Jonelle McCloud has pictures.

"I learned a lot about Proctor Center, how it started in 1913," said McCloud. "The Park District didn't buy Proctor Center until 1930."

The pictures span the decades. Showing when public baths were installed, because of the city's inadequate plumbing system.

When almost every sport you could imagine was represented in teams and leagues in every season.

"People come here from all over," said McCloud. "I've gotten ideas from different people and I'll ask them have you ever been to Proctor Center and they've sent me photos and pictures."

The Proctor Center has been a fixture through changing times. Even changing demographics. When many whites began to leave the southside, Proctor stayed.

Muhammed Ali came to visit, Sand Street changed to DuSable, the African American Hall of Fame Museum was added, and now there are more plans for expansion and renovation.

"We had upgrades outside. We had the matching grant fund for out there and we plan on putting air conditioning in the auditorium."

If the walls of the Proctor Center could talk, maybe they'd tell you that when it comes to people needing outlets, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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