Rockford Historical Society

Rockford Historical Society News and Updates

February 5, 2015 // 0 Comments

Terry Konkle – President   Two weeks ago the “Nugget of Rockford History” portion of the column consisted of ten statements that were either true or false. Three readers, Carole Holden Christensen, Jan Konkle and Dave Hutchings, contacted me with their answers and comments. Here are the correct answers: (1) False – the last train was well before 2000 (anyone know the date), (2) False – Rockford has won less than sixty state athletic championships, (3) True – the Rockford Chamber of Commerce is located in the north part of the old courthouse building, (4) False – Valley View School is inside the city, (5) True – Jim Haskins was the first principal in our current high school, (6) False – the mayor is a voting city council member, (7) False – the Star Theater was torn down, (8) False – The Rockford Area Historical Society was founded in 1967, (9) True The museum is closed on Mondays and (10) False – The Rockford School Board has less than ten elected members (seven).   It has been suggested that readers might enjoy a multiple choice “Nugget” quiz, so this week five questions will be used with each having four answers given. Number your paper from one to five and write down the letter of the statement that is correct. There is only one right response.   Of the following Rockford area buildings, which is the oldest? North Rockford Middle School Krause Memorial Library Rockford Municipal Building (City Hall) Rockford Welcome Center In Rockford’s oldest known photo taken in 1865, which Rockford Church is pictured? First Baptist Church St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Methodist Episcopal Church Religio-Philosophical Church How many hours a week is the Rockford Area Museum normally open? Ten hours plus by appointment Forty eight hours Twenty two hours Fourteen hours (two each day) Which Rockford business is not located on Main Street? Creative Concepts Rogue River Tavern The Corner Bar Rockford Flower Shop Which person from the following was a Rockford mayor? Bob Boyer Pete Kruer Otto Krause Mary Eadie   Please contact me by e-mail at or by phone at 616-866-0530 with your answers.   Finally, readers might not know that the Rockford Area Museum has several file drawers in the research […]

Historic Rockford manufacturing facility to be razed

September 20, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL   Ironically, while the Rockford Historical Society is gearing up to move its Rockford Area Museum to the vacant 63rd District Court Building adjacent to Rockford City Hall, at the very same time, what might be the oldest manufacturing facility in Rockford is about to be demolished and removed. The Burch Body Works facility, located in the very heart of Rockford on the southeast corner of Rum Creek and Monroe St., was until January 2006 the home of Rockford’s oldest continuously operating business. Dating back to 1866, when it manufactured horse drawn carriages and drays, today Burch is an innovative provider of practical solutions for custom work truck applications in the Great Lakes region, across the country, and around the world. In late December 2005 the employees of Burch purchased the business, but not the property, from its current owner and shortly thereafter relocated the company’s operations to a more suitable manufacturing facility on Childsdale Ave., in Plainfield Township. Speaking for Burch Body Works, LLC, Andrew Laitila said, “We hated to leave Rockford but the antiquated building was beyond repair and a totally unsafe work environment. It was also functionally obsolete and ill suited for any type of commercial business let alone the manufacture and installation of our highly specialized work truck products.” Upon Burch’s move out of Rockford, the property owner placed the beautiful 6+-acre Rum Creek-side property on the market. All attempts, thus far, to sell the property have been unsuccessful. In the meantime, for the past six years, the main building on the property has fallen into further disrepair. Even though securely gated and surrounded by an eight-foot chain link fence, the property has been repeatedly trespassed upon and the building broken into and vandalized. More relevant, at some point in early winter 2011 a major portion of the building, on its northeast corner, collapsed in upon itself. With a great concern for the neighborhood and its citizens and also for those who are illegally entering the property and putting themselves in harms way, the City of Rockford this past spring presented the property owner with a demolition order. The property owner is cooperating and willingly complying, has secured demolition funding, and is currently working through the […]


May 24, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society The Rockford Area Historical Society (RAHS) continues to be a busy group. As part of our fundraising efforts, members of RAHS and others will take part in the annual Parade of Homes event. Thirty-six volunteers will be involved greeting guests over the nine days of showing homes. They will work in pairs with each group doing a four-hour shift. The home we are responsible for hosting is located at 93 Riverchase Drive in Rockford. The viewing times are spread over a three-week period beginning May 25. Schedules and all locations can be found online at Information has also been in recent newspaper ads. Our thanks goes to all the helpers and to my wife, Jan, for coordinating the effort. At the last Rockford City Council meeting, all five council members voted to approve a lease agreement with RAHS. This is a major step forward because now renovation of the courthouse can begin. We have the funds to do this without using pledged money, and it will start very soon. When the renovation is complete in the two large rooms, we are planning a major auction fundraiser before the exhibits go into the building. We need auction items and readers can help us with this. Our auction committee will be out with information soon, so please think about what you might have to donate. Money raised from the auction plus our pledges will pay for exhibits and operations. Donations continue to come in from those who want and are able to help. Recently many have come in from those in the “Golden R” group. More information about the lease and some of the provisions in it will be placed in future columns, but readers are welcome to contact me with questions at (616) 866-0530. A special thank-you is appropriate here to our city council, Mayor Steve Jazwiec, Brien Dews, Mary Eadie, Jerry Coon and  Rich Moll, who, along with City Manager Michael Young, listened to our proposal and allowed us the opportunity to make it work. I know that they had some concerns, but were willing to “let us try.” I am sure in the back of their minds they knew they were dealing with something that […]

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 […]

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