The Rockford Files

Rockford in the Springtime

I first entered Rockford the way that most people do when they’re coming from the east, taking the exit off I-90 onto East State Street, where the ramp T-bones into the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center, now closed for good but then, in November 1995, still home to “the world’s most comprehensive collection of clocks, watches and other timekeepers—rivaling the renowned clock room of the British Museum and the other famous clock collections in Europe.”  Twenty-five years old at the time, the Clock Tower stood as both a reminder of the industrial craftsmanship of Rockford’s past and a promise of the city’s glorious future, in which the fertile farmland of Northern Illinois would disappear under acres of parking lots crowned with chain stores and restaurants—asphalt to asphalt, box to box.  A few years later, the Time Museum would disappear as well, when Seth Atwood, scion of one of the earliest families to settle this stretch of the Rock River and an industrialist and philanthropist in his own right, put the collection that he had spent so many years assembling in his hometown up for auction at Sotheby’s (from which the catalog text above was drawn), to be divided up and scattered to the four winds.  Tempus fugit, literally.

As I turned west on a slush-covered East State Street on that cold, gray day, I saw the future of Rockford rising up among fields...

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