Main Births etc
City of Rockford
none Stan Roszkowski US Courthouse and BMO Harris Bank Center in downtown Rockford
Stan Roszkowski US Courthouse and BMO Harris Bank Center in downtown Rockford
Seal of Rockford.png
Coat of arms
Motto: "The Government Closest To The People"
Nickname: The Forest City
Country United States
State Illinois
County Winnebago
Township Rockford
Elevation 715 ft (218 m)
Coordinates 42°16′11″N 89°04′11″W / 42.26972, -89.06972
Area 61.95 sq mi (160 km²)
 - land 61.08 sq mi (158 km²)
 - water 0.87 sq mi (2 km²)
Population 152,871 (2010) [1]
 - metro 339,178
Density 2,680.4 / sq mi (1,035 / km²)
Founded 1834
Mayor Larry J. Morrissey (I)
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 61101-61110, 61112, 61114, 61125, 61126
Area code 815, 779
Location of Rockford within Illinois
Locator Red.svg
Location of Rockford within Illinois

Wikimedia Commons: Rockford, Illinois

Rockford is a city located on both banks of the Rock River in far northern Illinois. Often referred to as "The Forest City", Rockford is the county seat of Winnebago County, Illinois, USA. As reported in the 2010 U.S. census, the city was home to 152,871 people; the outlying metropolitan area has a population of 348,360 residents. In terms of population, Rockford is the 160th-largest city in the United States.

During the latter half of the 20th century, Rockford was the second largest city in Illinois. As of 2014, it still remains the most populous city in Illinois outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. The current mayor is Lawrence J. Morrissey, an independent re-elected to a third four-year term in April 2013.


1835–1865: Two settlements on the river[]

Rockford was first settled in 1834–1835 by Germanicus Kent, Thatcher Blake, and Lewis Lemon, who came from Galena and established themselves on the west bank of the Rock River.

Halfway between Chicago and Galena, the community was briefly known as Midway, but quickly became known as Rockford, because of the excellent ford across the Rock River. A post office was established in 1837. The settlement was incorporated as a village in 1839, and chartered as a city in 1852. The first weekly newspaper was published in 1840 and the first successful daily newspaper appeared in 1877. Between 1890 and 1930 the city had three daily newspapers.

Rockford Female Seminary was chartered in 1847, became Rockford College in 1892, became fully coeducational in 1958, and became Rockford University in 2013. Its best known graduate is Jane Addams (RFS Class of 1881), the founder of Chicago's Hull House and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Rockford Public Library, the second such institution in Illinois, first opened to the public in August 1872; the library's first dedicated building, a Carnegie library, was completed by 1902.

Winnebago County War Memorial

Although Rockford was a sleepy country village for about the first ten years, it thereafter began to expand rapidly in size and industry and became the seat of Winnebago County. In 1851, the Rockford Water Power Company was organized and in 1852 the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad reached the city. These two events, which brought inexpensive power and transportation to the area, changed Rockford forever. By 1860 Rockford had become a significant, growing industrial center, noted for production of the John H. Manny reaper and other agricultural machinery.

1865–1900: Rockford's industrial revolution[]

In 1876, the Rockford Union Furniture Company was organized by a small group of men led by John Erlander, an immigrant from Småland, Sweden.[2] It was the first of 25 area furniture factories that were formed as cooperatives. Many of the furniture companies were organized with laborers and craftsmen holding significant power, reflecting a different business approach from that of the old Yankee entrepreneur. By the 1880s the furniture industry was using the talents of Swedish-born craftsmen and capitalists, and by the first half of the 20th century Rockford was the second largest furniture manufacturing center in the United States (behind Grand Rapids, Michigan).[3]

1900–1950: Wartime and economic changes[]

Ashton's Dry Goods - a major department store in Rockford during the early 20th century - was the first building in Rockford to surpass five stories when it was completed in 1904.

Streetcars were a popular form of transportation in Rockford between 1890 and 1936. The city had an expansive network.

St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church was built in 1910 to accommodate Rockford's large Italian-American community

Aerial view of Camp Grant

During the first half of the 20th century, Rockford underwent a number of changes that expanded its presence both regionally and nationally. During the first part of the 20th century, Rockford began to see an influx of immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe. Additionally, economic factors of the time led the city to diversify its industrial base. In 1910, the oldest surviving Harley Davidson dealership was founded in Freeport, Illinois by Joseph Kegel. The Joseph Kegel & Company relocated to Rockford in 1923. Kegel Harley-Davidson is the world's oldest family-owned dealership and is still operated today by his grandchildren, Karl and Mark Kegel.[4] In 1917, the U.S. Army opened Camp Grant, one of its largest training facilities in the nation, in order to train infantry for World War I. After the war, the 18,000-acre (73 km2) facility was closed, then later turned over to the Illinois National Guard. During World War II, Camp Grant served as an induction center for the U.S. Army as well as a POW detention center. The USS Rockford, a Tacoma class frigate named for the city, was commissioned in March 1944 and earned two service stars during World War II.

In 1947, Loves Park incorporated, becoming the first suburb of Rockford. The agricultural implement industry was already in decline by the First World War, and the furniture industry was severely damaged by the Great Depression and the Second World War. By the end of the 1960s both were extinct in the city.[5]

Era of movie palaces[]

Coronado Theater

The number of impressive movie palaces built in the 1920s and early 1930s speaks to the thriving economy Rockford had at the time. The Coronado Theater was the largest and most expansive of all these movie theaters in Rockford, complete with an orchestra pit, double balcony, highly ornate design and full array of theatrical and stage equipment. Coronado Theatre, "Rockford's Wonder Theater", was listed during 1979 to the National Register of Historic Places. The Coronado was also the first place Frank Sinatra sang a solo performance [with the Dorsey band]. Other theaters in Rockford included the Midway, Times, State Street, and Auburn Street theaters.

Rockford: The Forest City[]

Rockford was well known for its elm trees, being the reason for its nickname, the Forest City. Of note are the parks and boulevard street layouts in certain parts of the city. Neighborhood parks and wide common grassy/forested areas forming boulevards are found in the older parts of the city. Many of the parks were part of the street layout put down in the late 1890s and early 1900s (decade) when subdivisions of that era were created. These parks typically were an entire city block, or in some cases larger. They would typically have a bowery, and sometimes a cement-lined pool. The boulevards tend to be in slightly newer subdivisions built in the 1920s. In the mid-1950s an epidemic of Dutch Elm disease more or less wiped out the population of elm trees. However, Rockford is still heavily lined with other types of trees.

1950–2000: A changing manufacturing center[]

File:John F Kennedy campaigns in downtown Rockford circa October 1960.png

John F Kennedy campaigns in downtown Rockford circa October 1960

Life Magazine described Rockford in 1949: "It is as nearly typical as any city can be".[6] However, from 1950 to 1989, more than half of the earnings in Winnebago County came from manufacturing, far above the national average.[7] Rockford's 20th century industry revolved around machine tools, heavy machinery, automotive, aerospace, fastener and cabinet hardware products, and packaging devices and concepts. The city's industrial background has produced many important and interesting inventions, among them the Nelson knitting machine, airbrush, electric brake, electric garage door opener, dollar bill changer, and electronic dartboard. Some Rockford concerns of historical interest are: Air Brush Manufacturing Company, Free Sewing Machine Company, GC Electronics, General Cement Manufacturing Company, Haddorff Piano Company, Hanson Clock Company, Hess & Hopkins Leather Company, Norse Pottery Company, Rockford Brewing Company, Rockford Silver Plate Company, The Barber Colman Company, and Rockford Watch Company. Woodward, Inc., formerly Woodward Governor Company, is an innovator in control systems for large machinery and aircraft propulsion and originated in Rockford. Woodward remains a substantial employer in the area, although the Corporate Headquarters have moved to Fort Collins, Colorado.

Rockford has been the home for several companies that manufacture toys. The Testors Company still makes model kits and paint and glue supplies for these kits. The Nylint company produced heavy-duty metal scale toys of construction equipment, such as dump trucks, from 1946 to about 2001, when they went out of business. Tootsie toys, headquartered in Chicago, had a factory in Rockford, where small single-piece die cast cars were made for many years. Although not toys themselves, the red-heeled socks which are used for sock monkeys were originally manufactured in Rockford.

Sundstrand Corporation was formed by the merger of Rockford Tool Company and the Rockford Milling Machine Company in the early 20th century. In 1999, United Technologies Corporation (UTC) acquired Sundstrand Corporation and merged it with Hamilton Standard, creating Hamilton Sundstrand. Hamilton Sundstrand manufactures industrial, aviation, and aerospace products.

Near the outskirts of Rockford in Belvidere, a Chrysler car factory was built in 1965[8] which initially assembled the Chrysler Newport and other large cars and now produces the Dodge Dart.

Two different Rockfords[]

After World War II, Rockford underwent a high rate of population growth. By 1960, the city's population was over 125,000, nearly a 50% increase from two decades before. Although the city's population had been concentrated evenly on both sides of the river up to this time, several infrastructure changes would change Rockford forever.

In 1958, the Northwest Tollway (Interstate 90) was completed. To minimize its impact on neighborhoods, the highway was routed not through the city itself, but near the Winnebago-Boone county line several miles from what was then the eastern city limits. The only access to I-90 was an exit on State Street (U.S. Route 20), which was the city's main east-west thoroughfare. The interstate access would lead to a shift in commercial growth from downtown to nearly exclusively on the east side for the next four decades. In 1964, Rockford College relocated its campus from south of downtown to a location near the eastern edge of the city of the time. A year later, Rock Valley College was opened even further to the east. As the 1960s turned into the 1970s, new-home construction shifted almost entirely to the east side. In the mid-1970s, a pedestrian mall was constructed downtown. Intended to increase foot traffic for struggling downtown businesses, it had the reverse effect; many shoppers who still spent money went to indoor malls in the area along with strip malls that sprouted up on the east side throughout the 1980s and 1990s. After decades of controversy, the last part of the downtown pedestrian mall was removed in 2009.

"The Big Orange Box"[]

In 1979, construction began on the MetroCentre, a 10,000-seat multi-purpose arena located on the west side of downtown. It opened in 1981 with concerts by Dionne Warwick and The Rolling Stones. The MetroCentre, nicknamed the "Big Orange Box" due to its monochromatic appearance, also has played home to a number of Rockford's professional sports teams along with hosting other events.

2000–present: Building a new image[]

The downtown East State Street corridor has been a central focus of downtown revitalization efforts

A riverwalk has been built behind the Rockford Art Museum and the Burpee Museum as part of the downtown revitalization efforts

Since the late 1980s, Rockford has been listed at times as one of America's worst cities by Rand McNally and MONEY, sometimes being ranked among the ten worst cities.[9] This may have been due to the lack of jobs and high number of outdated or closed factories. Crime on the west side of town was endemic with areas of old established neighborhoods in blight. The homicide rate in these areas was quite high. Many houses were vacant. Rockford was also ranked #3 on Forbes 2013 America's Most Miserable Cities list, mainly due to its excessive tax rate for the city's size as well as its high unemployment rate.[10] The city government has developed many programs to attempt to address these problems and has seen some success. In February 2009, The Wall Street Journal published a series of stories on Rockford and its mayor focusing on various challenges faced by the city, including higher unemployment and lower education levels of workers compared to some cities.[11]

New commercial and residential development have begun taking place in the downtown area. The Main Street Corridor is expected to be redeveloped. Construction from the downtown area, south to U.S. Route 20 was expected to begin in 2007. In 2007–08, the BMO Harris Bank Center in downtown Rockford underwent a number of interior and exterior renovations.

Looking into the future[]

The Rockford economy has suffered since the decline of the manufacturing industry in the late 1980s. Many of the family-owned companies that once inhabited Rockford were acquired by larger companies; the larger companies then relocated the products being made to lower wage parts of the United States or sent them overseas altogether. The city's new focus relies on high-technology businesses, tourism generated by museums and its park system, and the westward growth of the Chicago metropolitan area. Swedish American Hospital began construction on a new cancer center out near the Riverside Boulevard interchange with Interstate 90.[12]


According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 61.95 square miles (160.4 km2), of which 61.08 square miles (158.2 km2) (or 98.60%) is land and 0.87 square miles (2.3 km2) (or 1.40%) is water.[13] Neighboring communities that border Rockford, and are considered an integral part of the Rockford metro area, are the cities of Loves Park, Machesney Park, Belvidere, and the villages of Winnebago, Roscoe, Rockton, Poplar Grove, New Milford, and Cherry Valley. The Rock River is the traditional center of the Rockford area and is its most recognizable natural feature. Also of note, South Beloit, Illinois and Beloit, Wisconsin are part of this continuous urban area that stretches for approximately 30 miles along the Rock River from the Chicago Rockford International Airport north to the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.


Due to its location in the midwest, naturally a deciduous forest, Rockford's climate contains four clearly defined seasons. Summers are usually warm with the average high temperature in July, the hottest month, being 83 °F (28 °C). The winter months can bring bitterly cold air masses from Canada. The average high temperature in January, the coldest month, is 27 °F (−3 °C). June is Rockford's wettest month while February is the driest. During a typical year, Rockford receives 36.63 in (930 mm) of precipitation.

Rockford and surrounding areas are prone to violent thunderstorms during the months of March, April, May, and June. On April 21, 1967, the neighboring town of Belvidere was struck by a violent F4 tornado, in which twenty-four people were killed and hundreds more injured at Belvidere's High School. Other severe weather events, such as hail and strong winds are common in these storms. On July 5, 2003 at 04:03, microbursts caused major damage on both the east and west sides of Rockford. Approximately 70,000 people were without power, with many on the west side suffering in the heat without electricity for a week. It took months for the damage to be completely cleared, but because the storm struck so early in the morning there were no injuries or fatalities. However, these sometimes violent storms bring the majority of summer rainfall.

The city is also prone to severe snowstorms in winter, and blizzards are frequent winter occurrences. On January 13, 1979 over 9 inches (23 cm) of snow fell on Rockford in just a few hours during one of the strongest blizzards in the city's history. The city averages approximately 38 inches (97 cm) of snowfall in a normal winter, but greater amounts are common. The snowiest winter in the history of the city was the winter of 1978–1979, when 75 inches (191 cm) of snow fell.

The record high temperature is 112 °F (44 °C), set on July 14, 1936 during the Dust Bowl,[14] and the record low temperature is −27 °F (−33 °C), set on January 10, 1982,[15] though a low of −25 °F (−32 °C) has occurred as recently as January 16, 2009.

Climate data for Rockford, Illinois (Chicago Rockford International Airport), 1981−2010 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 63
Average high °F (°C) 29.5
Average low °F (°C) 13.5
Record low °F (°C) −27
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.37
Snowfall inches (cm) 10.6
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 9.4 8.3 10.5 11.3 12.2 10.4 9.4 9.7 8.3 9.4 10.2 10.2 119.3
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 8.2 6.0 4.0 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1.8 7.2 28.3
Source #1: NOAA (extremes 1893–present)[16]
Source #2: The Weather Channel (records),[17]


In recent years Rockford has recorded some of its worst flooding to date. Five inches (127 mm) of rain were dumped onto Rockford on September 4, 2006, leading to the destruction of twenty homes while damaging hundreds more.[18] Less than a year later on August 7, 2007, Rockford was again hit by rain when between 5–7 inches of rain fell. Many streets, including major thoroughfares like North Alpine Road and East State Street, were flooded, along with fears of the Alpine Dam breaking.[19][20] The following day, Governor Rod Blagojevich declared both Rockford and Winnebago County a state disaster area. With this declaration, he dispatched both the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to assist the city. Debris removal, law enforcement, damage assessment, and other duties were offered by the governor.

However, Rockford's worst recorded flooding was on July 18, 1952, when a total of eleven inches (279 mm) of rain deluged the city. This caused the drowning death of two residents, and the destruction of $1 million in property. This would lead though to a multi-million-dollar drainage program.[21]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 6,979
1870 11,049 58.3%
1880 13,120 18.7%
1890 23,584 79.8%
1900 31,051 31.7%
1910 45,401 46.2%
1920 64,651 42.4%
1930 85,864 32.8%
1940 84,637 −1.4%
1950 92,927 9.8%
1960 126,706 36.4%
1970 147,370 16.3%
1980 139,712 −5.2%
1990 139,426 −0.2%
2000 150,115 7.7%
2010 152,871 1.8%
Est. 2012 150,843 0.5%
Census Quickfacts [22]

As of the 2010 census,[23] there were 152,871 people and 66,700 households. Rockford is in the center of its namesake metropolitan area. The racial makeup of the city was 65.1% White (58.4% Non-Hispanic white), 20.5% African American, 0.4% Native American, 2.9% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 7.5% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.8% of the population.[24]

The median income for a household in the city was $55,667, and the median income for a family was $65,465. Males had a median income of $37,098 versus $25,421 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,781. 14.0% of the population and 10.5% of families were below the poverty line. 19.6% of those under the age of 18 and 8.0% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

In the late 1950s, Rockford surpassed Peoria as Illinois' second largest city, holding onto that position for nearly half a century before being overtaken by Aurora after a special census held there in 2003. Note that Rockford was not recounted at the same time so this is not necessarily a direct population comparison.

Law and government[]

Rockford City Hall in the East Rockford Historic District

Rockford is the county seat of Winnebago County. In a fashion similar to other cities its size (or larger), local government is split into executive and legislative branches. The mayor of Rockford is chosen in a general election every four years. The Rockford City Council consists of 14 aldermen, individually elected from each ward in the city.

Crime rates (2007)
Crime type Rate*
Forcible rape:68.3
Aggravated assault:689.7
Violent crime:1,176.3
Motor vehicle theft:404.8
Property crime:5,761.3
* Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.

Source: 2007 FBI UCR Data

Rockford City Council[]

Rockford is divided into fourteen wards which elect one alderman each. The City Council, as of May 2013, consists of:[25]

  • 1st Ward
    • Tim Durkee (R)
  • 2nd Ward
    • Jamie Getchius (R)
  • 3rd Ward
    • Tom McNamara (D)
  • 4th Ward
    • Kevin Frost (R)
  • 5th Ward
    • Venita Hervey (D)
  • 6th Ward
    • Vernon Hilton (D)
  • 7th Ward
    • Ann Thompson-Kelly (D)
  • 8th Ward
    • Jeanne Oddo (D)
  • 9th Ward
    • Teena Newburg (I)
  • 10th Ward
    • Frank Beach (R)
  • 11th Ward
    • Karen Elyea (D)
  • 12th Ward
    • John Beck (R)
  • 13th Ward
    • Linda McNeely (D)
  • 14th Ward
    • Joseph Chiarelli (R)


Largest employers[]

According to the City's 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[26] the largest employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Rockford Public School District 4,800
2 Chrysler (Belvidere Assembly Plant) 4,700
3 Swedish American Hospital 2,600
4 Rockford Health System 2,500
5 UTC Aerospace Systems 2,200
6 OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center 2,000
7 United Parcel Service 2,000
8 County of Winnebago 1,602
9 Woodward 1,200
10 City of Rockford 1,135


Roads and highways[]

Rockford is linked by highway to Chicago, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Madison, Wisconsin; and Dubuque, Iowa. In recent decades, the city's location has worked to its advantage in attracting jobs in the logistics and transportation industries. Public transportation in the city is provided by the Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD); however, public transit infrastructure in Rockford is not at the level of comparably sized communities.

Interstate 90 I-90.svg

The intersection of I-90, I-39 and US-20

Completed in 1958, the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (known as the Northwest Tollway until September 2007) links the Rockford area both to Madison, Wisconsin and the northwest Chicago suburbs. From Rockford north, I-90 replaced U.S. Route 51 in Illinois. I-90 also links the city with Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as I-43 joins it 2 miles north of the state line. The tollway was partially responsible in the city's rapid growth eastward from the 1960s to the late 1990s.

U.S. Route 20 US 20.svg

U.S. Route 20 goes through Rockford twice. The original highway is now an east-west business route (State Street) that divides the city to the north and south. From the 1970s to the late 1990s, the area was core to commercial development in the city. Rockford also marks the point where U.S. 20 and Interstate 90 no longer parallel each other.

In 1965, a US 20 bypass around the southern end of the city was completed, joining the Northwest Tollway near Cherry Valley. The bypass (known as "Bypass 20") joins State Street west of the city near the village of Winnebago, Illinois. East of Interstate 90, U.S. 20 is a 4-lane divided highway parallelling I-90. From the west, U.S. 20 provides a link to Freeport, Galena, and Dubuque, Iowa. However, much of the highway west of Freeport is a winding two-lane road that discourages truck traffic.

Interstate 39 I-39.svg and U.S. Route 51 US 51.svg

Built in stages between the late 1970s to its completion in 1992, Interstate 39 served as a replacement for U.S. 51 south of the city. Starting from the U.S. 20 bypass, the highway directly links Rockford to Bloomington and Normal, Illinois. Its construction allowed better access to Chicago from the south via Interstate 80 and Interstate 88, also allowing for a bypass around the city of Chicago to Wisconsin. U.S. Route 51 overlaps Interstate 39 throughout the Rockford area.

Other roads/highways
  • Illinois 2.svg Illinois Route 2 (South/North Main Street)
  • Illinois 70.svg Illinois Route 70 (Kilburn Avenue)
  • Illinois 251.svg Illinois Route 251 (North Second Street, Kishwaukee Street, Harrison Avenue, 11th Street)
  • Raoul Wallenberg Expressway (proposed, never built)
  • The Veterans Memorial Beltway consists of four-lane surface roads that create a continuous outer loop around the city. The roads that make up the beltway include Perryville Road, Harrison Avenue, Springfield Avenue, and Riverside Boulevard.


Main Terminal at Chicago-Rockford Int'l Airport

In 1946, after Camp Grant was permanently closed, the Greater Rockford Airport was built on the western portion of the property. Rockford's airport is the Chicago Rockford International Airport (formerly Greater Rockford Airport). Built on the western end of the former Camp Grant U.S. Army training camp, it is located in the southern end of the city. The Greater Rockford Airport was opened in 1946; the current passenger terminal was completed in 1987. The airport is currently home to United Parcel Service's second largest air hub. It is presently ranked as the twenty-second largest cargo airport in the nation when measured by landed weight.[27] Passenger service is currently offered by Allegiant Air along with several other charter operations. The airport markets itself as an alternative to Chicago airports for leisure travelers, particularly emphasizing its free long-term parking.

Machesney Airport, located north of the city, was opened in 1927 as a private airport serving the Rockford area. During World War II, the airport was utilized by the Army Air Corps. After the war, it again served as municipal airport, closing in 1974. After its closure, the Machesney Airport became the site of the Machesney Park Mall, built in 1980.



Currently (as of July 2012), the Rockford region is not served by passenger rail service. From 1974 to 1981, Amtrak provided service to the city via the Black Hawk route, linking Rockford with Dubuque, Iowa and Union Station in Chicago. In September 1981, the Black Hawk was discontinued as part of Amtrak funding cuts.

During the 2000s, interest increased in relinking the Rockford and Chicago regions together by rail. In 2006, the Northern Illinois Commuter Transportation Initiative proposed extending Metra train service from the western Chicago suburbs to Rockford.[28] Although Metra service has not been brought to the city, Amtrak is in the process of being returned. In late 2010, after several years of study, Amtrak made a decision to revive the Black Hawk route; along with the construction of an all-new train station. Initial service is expected to begin in late 2014 over Canadian National rails.[29]


Rockford is served by several different freight railroad lines, the Union Pacific, the Canadian National, the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern (Canadian Pacific), and the Illinois Railway. The Union Pacific line from West Chicago terminates in Rockford, at a small yard. Canadian National line from Elgin enters from the South-East, and leaves in the North-West. They have a small yard, where they interchange with the Illinois Railway. The Illinois Railway Rockford Line comes from the South, joins the Canadian National line, where they continue on trackage rights to the Canadian National yard. Canadian Pacific (Iowa, Chicago, and Eastern) runs on Illinois Railway trackage rights from Davis Junction, and leaves on their own trackage to the North. All of the railroads interchange at a yard off of Main Street. The Union Pacific Railroad’s Global III Intermodal Facility is located approximately 25 miles (40 km) south of Rockford in Rochelle, Illinois, a community of 10,000. The complex is one of the largest intermodal facilities in the world. Construction on the state-of-the-art facility was completed in 2003 in Rochelle due to the close proximity to four interstate highways (I-39, I-88, I-80, and I-90) and rail routes.



Although Rockford is located in a large metropolitan area, the region does not feature any locally based public 4-year universities; the closest such institution is Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, 45 miles (72 km) away. Along with Rockford University (a private 4-year school of just under 2000 students), the city is the home to Rock Valley College (a 10,000-student community college), Rockford Business College (re-branded as Rockford Career College in 2009), and St. Anthony College of Nursing.

University of Illinois College of Medicine and Pharmacy, Rockford

Bengt Sjostrom Theatre at Rock Valley College

In addition, it hosts several satellite branches of other schools, including Judson University (based in Elgin), Northern Illinois University (based in DeKalb), Rasmussen College[1], Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University as a part of their "Worldwide campus",[30] and the University of Illinois College of Medicine (based in Chicago).

Rockford University is best known for graduating Jane Addams, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her efforts to promote international peace and justice. Laura Jane Addams (1860–1935) entered what was then Rockford Female Seminary in 1877 and became the first graduate to receive a B.A. degree from the newly accredited baccalaureate institution in 1882 (the school was renamed Rockford College in 1892, and Rockford University in 2013).

Rock Valley College is a community college with several locations in the Rockford area. The main campus is the site of the Bengt Sjostrom Theatre. The former outdoor theatre now features a motorized retractable roof constructed during 2003.

Public School District 205[]

Serving Rockford, Cherry Valley, and portions of Winnebago and Booone counties, Rockford Public School District 205 covers an area of roughly 170 square miles (440 km2). With an enrollment of approximately 27,000 students, it is the fourth-largest school district in the state (by enrollment). District 205 consists of four high schools (Auburn, East, Guilford, and Jefferson), six middle schools, and 29 elementary schools; the district also operates a variety of early-childhood and alternative education centers.

Private schools[]

In addition to its public school system, Rockford supports 27 sectarian and nonsectarian private schools ranging from elementary to secondary education.

Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens

"Jane" at the Burpee Museum

File:Rockford Symbol.jpg

The Symbol, a large modern art sculpture by Alexander Liberman.

Tinker Swiss Cottage, a National Register of Historic Places listing

Points of interest[]

  • Lake-Peterson House, the former home of Pehr August Peterson, is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places
  • Erlander Home Museum is the site of the Swedish Historical Society of Rockford. It is located in what was the home of Swedish immigrant John Erlander, former president of the Rockford Union Furniture Company. This is the cultural centerpiece of Rockford's Swedish ancestry community.[31]
  • Rock Cut State Park is located within the county to the northeast.
  • Anderson Japanese Gardens has been ranked the top Japanese garden in North America. The garden was designed by Hoichi Kurisu with bronze angel sculptures by Carl Milles.
  • Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden is also a popular attraction. The facility contains 150 acres (0.6 km2) of rare trees and shrubs.
  • Burpee Museum of Natural History, located just north of downtown, is home to Jane the Rockford T-Rex.
  • Discovery Center Museum contains a large and well-respected interactive children's science exhibit.
  • Rockford Art Museum completes the entire museum campus.
  • Coronado Theatre, an ornately decorated vaudeville movie theater located in downtown Rockford. The theater was completely restored in 1999.
  • Faust Hotel, the tallest building in Rockford, was built in 1929 and has many art deco features. It has a tower several stories above the rest of the building, topping off at 15 stories (186 ft) The Hotel Faust was the center of social life and visits by V.I.P.s for decades. The 'Faust' building is now used as apartments for the elderly.
  • Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum, a preserved "cottage" built in 1865, provides a glimpse into life in the 19th century. It combines exterior elements of a Swiss Chalet with elements from Victorian. A swing foot bridge, razed in 1976, ran from the cottage crossing the Kent creek bluffs and was a popular place to visit for many years. From October 2004 until June 2005, Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum worked to rebuild the bridge. Engineers Willett, Hofmann & Associates and Civil Constructors designed and built the new bridge.
  • Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center is the oldest continuous community music organization in the United States. It exists to provide quality music for all people of the northern Illinois region through live performances by local and world-renowned artists.
  • Rockford is also the home of the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps.
  • Midway Village and Museum Center is a picturesque turn of the 20th century Victorian village featuring twenty-six historic structures and heritage gardens. Its grounds include a 55,000 sq ft (5,100 m2). Museum Center that offers five exhibition galleries of Rockford's unique and ethnic history, a collection of antique and handcrafted doll houses in the Old Doll House and a working replica of a water powered machine shop at its Severin Lake entrance.
  • Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza is a park that celebrates the United Nations' International Day of Peace on September 21 .

The Rockford area is also known as an outdoor destination, especially in the non-winter months. Numerous forest preserves surround the Kishwaukee River valley, five miles (8 km) southeast of the downtown area. Both the Rockford Park District [2] and Winnebago County Forest Preserve District own and operate numerous golf courses as well. In fact, Golf Magazine called Aldeen Golf Club one of 50 excellent national golf courses one can play for under $50. Aldeen was ranked #38 in the nation in 2004.

Notable people[]

Sports teams[]


  • Rockford Ravens Rugby (Rugby; Chicago Area Rugby Football Union 1976–present)
  • Rockford Foresters (Baseball; Midwest Collegiate League 2010–Present)
  • Rockford IceHogs (Ice hockey; UHL 1999-2007, AHL 2007–Present)
  • Rockford Aviators (Baseball; Frontier League 2002-2009, Northern League 2010, Frontier League 2011–Present)[32]
  • Rockford Rage (Women's Roller Derby; 2006–Present)[33]
  • Rockford Raptors (Indoor football)
  • Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps (Drum Corps International/marching music; 1956–Present)


  • Rockford Forest Citys (Baseball, 1871)
  • Rockford Rampage (Indoor soccer; AISL 2005-2008, NISL 2008-2010)
  • Rockford Fury (Basketball; PBL, 2006–2008)
  • Rockford Lightning (Basketball, 1986–2005)
  • Rockford Peaches (Women's baseball, 1943–1954)

The Rockford Peaches[]

During the early-to-late 1940s the Rockford Peaches (of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League) were one of the first all-female baseball teams in the world. They played their home games at Beyer Stadium which was razed in the 1990s. A placard displays where the stadium once stood, along with additional historical information. Although the 1992 motion picture A League of Their Own features the Rockford Peaches, all of the characters playing on the team were fictional, and the team did not participate in the league championship series in 1943 as depicted in the film. The Peaches won the league championship in 1945, 1948, 1949, and 1950.

Surrounding communities and suburbs[]

Sister cities[]

  • Ukraine Brovary, Ukraine [34] since 1995
  • People's Republic of China Changzhou, Jiangsu, China since 1999
  • Sweden Borgholm, Sweden[34] since 2002
  • Romania Cluj-Napoca, Romania[34] since 2005
  • Italy Ferentino, Italy[34] since 2006
  • France Vaux-le-Pénil, France[34]
  • Germany Schwieberdingen, Germany[34]
  • Kyrgyzstan Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan[34]
  • Hungary Taszár, Hungary[34]


Print media[]

  • Rockford Register Star [3], Daily Newspaper. Founded 1855. Circulation: 50,000.
  • Rock River Times, Weekly Newspaper. Independently owned since 1987. Circulation: 22,000.
  • Community Bargain Hunter, Weekly Classified Publication. Founded 2006. Circulation: 16,000.
  • Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, Monthly Magazine. Founded 1977. Features a monthly column about Rockford titled "The Rockford Files" by executive editor Scott P. Richert.
  • Rockford Indie Press, Bi-monthly newspaper. Founded 2011. Circulation: 4,000.
  • Northwest Quarterly, Quarterly Magazine. Circulation: 176,300.


  • WREX (13.1 NBC affiliate, 13.2 CW affiliate, 13.3 MeTV affiliate)
  • WTVO (17.1 ABC affiliate, 17.2 MyNetworkTV affiliate)
  • WIFR (23.1 CBS affiliate, 23.2 Antenna TV affiliate)
  • WFBN-LP 33, IND (repeats WCIU-TV Chicago)
  • WQRF-TV (39.1 Fox affiliate, 39.2 Bounce TV affiliate)

Rockford is one of a few markets in the United States with no PBS station of its own. PBS in the Rockford area is available on cable through WTTW in Chicago, and Wisconsin Public Television affiliate WHA-TV in Madison.


Although this is a list of radio stations based in the Rockford area, the signals of radio stations from both the Chicago area and southern Wisconsin also are commonly received in the city.

AM Radio stations
  • WNTA 1330, Spanish-language News/Talk
  • WROK 1440, News/Talk Radio
  • WLUV 1520, Classic Country
  • WTJK 1380, ESPN Radio
FM Radio stations
  • WFEN 88.3, Christian Radio
  • WNIJ 89.5, NPR (operated by Northern Illinois University)
  • WNIU 90.5, NPR Classical Radio (see WNIJ)
  • WGSL 91.1, Christian Radio
  • WRTB 95.3, Classic Hits/Adult Contemporary Radio
  • WKGL-FM 96.7, Classic Rock Radio
  • WZOK 97.5, Top 40 Radio
  • WXXQ 98.5, Country Radio
  • W263BJ 100.5, News/Talk Radio
  • WQFL 100.9, Christian Radio
  • WGFB 103.1, Adult Contemporary Radio
  • WXRX 104.9, Modern Rock Radio
  • WYRB 106.3, Hip Hop/Rhythmic Contemporary
  • WLEY 107.9, Mexican Regional, Aurora

See also[]

  • Irish Marching Society
  • Winnebago County War Memorial
  • Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps
  • Rockford Symphony Orchestra


  1. ^ "Table 1: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places Over 100,000, Ranked by July 1, 2008 Population: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008" (CSV). 2008 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. July 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  2. ^ John Erlander (Swedish Historical Society of Rockford)
  3. ^ Lundin, Jon W. "Rockford, An Illustrated History, Windsor Publications 1989 p. 8
  4. ^ "Kegel Harley-Davidson; Worlds Oldest Dealer". 
  5. ^ Rockford Swedes: American Stories (by Niel M. Johnson and Lilly Setterdahl with introduction by Ulf Beijbom. American Friends of the Emigrant Institute of Sweden. 1993)
  6. ^ Rockford, An Illustrated History, (by Jon W. Lundin, Windsor Publications. 1989)
  7. ^ Lundin, Jon W. "Rockford, An Illustrated History, Windsor Publications 1989 p. 12
  8. ^ "Our Locations". Chrysler Group LLC.. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Rockford Register Star newspaper/Archives, from June 8, 2003 article entitled, "Sierra Club names best, worst developments," by Chris Green.
  10. ^ Badenhausen, Kurt (2013-02-21). "America's Most Miserable Cities 2013- #3 Rockford, Ill.". Forbes. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Merrick, Amy; Thurow, Roger (2009-02-24). "Mayor of Illinois City Hopes Against Hope". Wall Street Journal ( Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  12. ^ Welcome to Rockford and the ‘very cool’ world of Rick Nielsen – Rockford, IL – Rockford Register Star
  13. ^ "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files for Places – Illinois". United States Census. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  14. ^ "July Daily Averages for Rockford, IL". The Weather Channel. 2012-02-27. 
  15. ^ "January Daily Averages for Rockford, IL". The Weather Channel. 2012-02-27. 
  16. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  17. ^ "Monthly Averages for Rockford, IL". The Weather Channel. 
  18. ^ IL sees flooding Retrieved on August 08, 2007
  19. ^ Rockford's Flooding Same Story Again for Dozens of Victims Retrieved on August 08, 2007
  20. ^ Downpours flood northern Illinois Retrieved on August 08, 2007
  21. ^ Rockford Weather Records Retrieved on August 08, 2007
  22. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. 2013-02-20. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  23. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  24. ^ "Race, Hispanic or Latino, Age, and Housing Occupancy: 2010". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  25. ^ "Wards and Aldermen". The City of Rockford. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  26. ^ City of Rockford CAFR
  27. ^ Fly RFD, Chicago Rockford International Airport
  28. ^ Bona, Thomas V (April 30, 2008). "All aboard? Commuter rail could take 3 to 5 years". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  29. ^ "Amtrak Black Hawk". Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Embry-Riddle Worldwide". Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  31. ^ Erlander Home Museum (Swedish Historical Society of Rockford)
  32. ^ RiverHawks headed to Northern League
  33. ^ "Rockford Rage home page". Rockford Rage. 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h "Interactive Directory: Rockford, Illinois". Sister Cities International.,%20Illinois. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 

Further reading[]

  • Sutrina, Katie. "The ‘Rosies’ of Rockford: Working Women in Two Rockford Companies in the Depression and World War II Eras," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 102 (Fall–Winter 2009), 402–28.

External links[]

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Template:Illinois cities and mayors of 100,000 population

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