Local Devolutions

Most Rockfordians are familiar with the garishly modern Winnebago County Courthouse at 400 West Main Street, which is easily recognized by its filthy cement exterior and offensive “contemporary” style.  It was not that much better at the turn of the 20th century, as far as I knew, until I received a copy of Eric A. Johnson’s Rockford: 1900-World War I.  A pictorial history, the book displays what Rockford was before developers ruined some of her most prized landmarks, theaters, and public houses.  (Among our most impressive buildings was the old court house, designed by Henry L. Gay in French-Venetian-American style between 1876 and 1878.)

Although it is not the angle Johnson himself took when compiling the postcards and writing the bylines, what Rockford locals once had was a beautiful and classic downtown with elegant residential neighborhoods to match—and now most of that is gone.  Although the renovation of the Coronado Theater, the grandeur of Memorial Hall, and great preservation work done by various companies are all things that locals should be proud of, Rockford: 1900-World War I displays an entirely different city.  The book offers 128 pages of beautifully preserved postcards that do not read “Just Saying Hi From Rockford, Ill.” and are accompanied by informative descriptions that help the reader to identify modern neighborhoods and how they looked...

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