Rockford Area Historical Society News and Updates for 11/9/2017

By Terry Konkle – President

Today (2017), the southeast corner of the intersection of Bridge and Monroe Streets is home to one of the busiest buildings in Rockford. We know it as the Krause Memorial Library. History tells us that the corner once held the city jail and for many years was an open area called Rockford Village Park. The corner also was the original location of the statue dedicated to soldiers of the Civil War. How did the library end up on the location?

Rockford did have a library in the back of the city municipal building at 111 E. Bridge Street dating back to 1929. G.A. Krause and others contributed money and books to make that library a success, but it was too small for our growing city and its library needs. In 1936, G.A. Krause donated $20,000 to build a new modern library building in honor of his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter Dorothea. The village park land was used as the location and the newly constructed Krause Memorial Library opened in October of 1937. Over 2500 square feet could be used for library business at that time.

Then, in 1963, a 1200 square foot expansion took place using a donation by Mr. and Mrs. Adolf Krause to add an east wing. Adolph was the grandson of G.A. Krause. The people of Rockford and the surrounding area were fortunate to have an excellent facility because of donations by the Krause family. In 1967 the library became part of the Kent County Library System, which is now called the Kent District Library, and enjoys the benefits of that program.

Let’s now concentrate on the time span from 1937 and 2017. Those two years tell us that for eighty years our community has had excellent library facilities. It is something we can point to with pride. It is part of what makes our area special. To celebrate the eightieth anniversary of the library, there will be a “Happy Birthday” celebration on Saturday, November 18, 2017.

The Krause Memorial Library will have an open house from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. and everyone is invited to attend. Cake will be served by Library Board Members and the public will have an opportunity to enjoy this positive, special event.

Did Rockford have a library before 1929? Homer Burch in his book “From Sawmill To City” tells that there was a portion of a building on Courtland Street (about the middle of the block between Main and Monroe on the north side) that was our first library, but it was destroyed by the fire of 1878. I know that Rockford High School (burned in February 1922) had a school library and many citizens and some churches had private libraries. Can anyone add more information on this?

In closing, mention should be made that Homer Burch stated: “ By the 1870’s Judson M. Spore and Embra Lapham were already running a book store in Rockford featuring among other items, school books, paper, envelopes and all of the principal papers and magazines of the world” (page 89 of From Sawmill To City). To me, that store sounds like an impressive place and certainly gave the town not only access to books but also to the happenings in the world.

Do not forget to consider supporting the Rockford Area Historical Society raffle fundraiser. Stop into the museum or contact me (email at tnjkonkle@hotmail.com or by phone at 616-866-0530) or other members for details. Also let me know your questions, comments, suggestions and especially corrections. Have a great week!