Rockford Area Museum

We are all part of the history of Rockford

February 2, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL History is a living thing. It’s not only about the past, history is being made today and it will continue being made tomorrow and into the future. You may think history is boring and you may well have hated it in school but nevertheless, everyone plays a role in the making of history. This article may be rather long and redundant but bear with us and see if you don’t identify yourself at some point in our narrative. For many years the Rockford Historical Society has operated the Rockford Area Museum (RAM) in an overcrowded and inadequate antique of a building adjacent to the Rogue River Dam in downtown Rockford. The current RAM houses the past history of the greater Rockford community and because of its size and condition it is totally inadequate to the task. One cannot turn around in the RAM without bumping into one’s self. It is so full of the artifacts of the area’s history that exhibits overflow into one another and cannot be separated to be adequately appreciated. Many large and important artifacts are out of sight and stored elsewhere. The RAM building lacks the simple necessities of running water and restrooms. Lacking air-conditioning, it is stifling in the summer. It is poorly lit making it difficult to discover the many treasures hidden within. The RAM, in this location, lacks adequate parking for volunteer staff and visitors. We could go on and on but you get the idea. The rhetorical question should be, can’t the Rockford community do better? “Given what the volunteers of the Historical Society have had to work with these many years, they have done an absolutely wonderful job,” said Museum Consultant Gerard Adams, “but it’s time to take the RAM to the next level. What the RAM now has is an antique shop without prices. What the RAM needs is to provide visitors an ‘experience’ in history.” (Adams is a highly credentialed museum designer who at one point served as curator/collection manager at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.) Always harboring a desire to move the RAM to larger quarters, the Historical Society and its many supporters were afforded a one-year window of opportunity to relocate the RAM to the vacant […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

February 2, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society My writing this week will be devoted mostly to sharing some information about the history of the Rockford area. I call this a “Did YouKnow” column. Did you know: • Smith Laphams’ daughter, Amy Ann, was Rockford’s first school teacher. • Fremont Street was named after John Fremont who was the Republican presidential candidate in 1856. His running mate as vice president was William Dayton, and Dayton Street is named for him. Fremont lost to James Buchanan. • In 1869, Rockford built a new three-story brick school building by bonding the district for $20,000. The school housed all grade levels most of the time for many years before being destroyed by fire in February 1922. • A new school, with all rooms on one floor andhousing all grades of Rocford students from 1923 to 1954, was built on North Main Street. • Parkside Elementary School was built to ease the overcrowding of the school on North Main by moving the lower grades out of the building to the new location on Lewis Street. • The coming of the railroad to our town caused a name change from Laphamville to Rockford, because railroad officials wanted a different name. • A major fire in April 1878 destroyed several Rockford downtown buildings. • Another fire in December 1883 demolished about 75 percent of the Rockford downtown businesses about 10 days before Christmas. • A third fire in April 1896 burned out businesses on the block between Bridge and Courtland streets on the east side of Main Street. • Many of the brick buildings that are now (2012) on the east side of Main Street between Bridge and Courtland were built after the fire of 1896. The Hessler Opera House is one of them. So is the building housing the Rogue River Tavern. Let’s conclude this section with a trivia question. If you know the correct answer, contact me at (616) 866-0530 or The Rockford Squire at (616) 866-4465. Each correct responder will receive a surprise gift that can be picked up at the Squire office. The trivia question is: “In 1910, what was the tallest building in Rockford?” Finally, please consider supporting our project of moving the museum. Donations can be sent to: Rockford […]

R.A.M. artifact #10

February 2, 2012 // 0 Comments

History museum remembers ‘high tech’ of the past Over the past decade, we have marveled at the changes in the technology of music. iPods, file-sharing, music in everyone’s phone, speakers that fit into your pant’s pocket, the list goes on and on. While these changes have been amazing, they were “next versions” of existing models in many cases. Think back to the “before and after” of any recorded sound at all. Think of the change to the household with the introduction of music… recorded sound. This beautifully rendered example of an early household phonograph is a prominent member of your history collection. Look for it in your new Rockford Area Museum.

Rockford jazz band to perform at museum fundraiser

February 2, 2012 // 0 Comments

Audiences will be treated to a double barreled musical treat on February 18 when Mark Randisi presents his Big Band “Sound of Sinatra” tribute for the benefit of the new Rockford Area Museum. It has been confirmed that the Rockford High School jazz band will be performing prior to the main show. Beginning at approximately 7:15 p.m. and continuing throughout the audience seating, this group of outstanding young musicians will display the talent that always makes the Rockford jazz band an audience favorite. This band is just one of the many talented groups that contribute to the Rockford band program’s reputation for excellence. Under the direction of Cullen McCarthy, the jazz band can be seen throughout the year performing at community events including performing as the house band for the Annual Chamber of Commerce Dinner/Meeting every January. The group, which is comprised of 19 student musicians from the ninth to 12th grades, will be playing a wide variety of music. Selections will include traditional swing music, Latin jazz and contemporary selections with an emphasis placed on traditional swing music. The jazz band is the second local group participating in the show. The Rockford Community Children’s Choir will join Randisi to recreate a famous Sinatra scene in which “Old Blue Eyes” sang the song “High Hopes” with a group of youngsters. The combination of Randisi’s natural voice and the nationally recognized Johnny Trudell Big Band could make audience members think they are listening to some of Frank Sinatra’s original recordings. Trudell is currently the musical director of Detroit’s Fox Theater. He was also the lead trumpet player for Motown Records, when he recorded with greats such as The Supremes, Smoky Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and many others. Randisi has appeared throughout the U.S. and in Europe thrilling audiences with his natural, authentic and respectful presentation of Sinatra’s greatest hits. This promises to be a rare opportunity to enjoy world class entertainment in the comfortable atmosphere of the Rockford High School auditorium, while helping to create a new Rockford Area Museum that will benefit the entire community. Tickets, starting at just $35, are available online at or at the following Rockford area locations: The Rockford Squire, Double Take, Antor Travel, Creative Concepts, Rockford Ambulance, Dish Network on Plainfield […]

R.A.M. artifact #8

January 12, 2012 // 0 Comments

Childsdale Mansion Pottery Collage These are pottery pieces from around the vicinity of the Childsdale mansion. Childsdale, originally called Gibraltar, was comprised of a paper mill and the houses surrounding it as well as the mansion, built by the namesake’s son, Horace Childs. The mansion burned in a suspicious fire shortly after its owner died in 1934. This assemblage was created by Rockford Area Museum staff to serve as a time capsule display of another day.

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