Redevelopment of the Former Barber-Colman Factory in Rockford

 The former Barber-Colman Co. complex on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in south Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

ROCKFORD — Developer J. Jeffers & Co. on Tuesday announced it has signed its redevelopment agreement with the city, officially marking the start of a massive undertaking to transform the vacant Barber-Colman factory into a mix of apartments and businesses.

The Milwaukee-based developer made the announcement less than 24 hours after City Council members unanimously approved the agreement Monday night. The vote came after more than a week of contentious debate, and J. Jeffers’ announcement signals its commitment to go forward with the project.

“We have been working in full collaboration with Rockford city staff to make Colman Yards a reality the past two years,” Joshua Jeffers, CEO and founder of J. Jeffers. “The level of perseverance and due diligence needed to align the large-scale, highly complex capital resources and deal parameters of this project is a victory for the thousands of hours of effort inside our organization, across all of City Hall, the offices of our many local Rockford partners, and for the community at-large.”

The company expects to start the $170 million first phase of the project later this summer. In that phase, with portions expected to be complete in 2025 and 2026, nine long vacant historic buildings along South Main and Loomis streets will be redeveloped into 334 apartments and 105,000 square feet of commercial space. A new 336-space parking deck would also be built.

The total project would be built in phases over roughly a decade and is expected to cost roughly $430 million. It would transform the 26-acre site into 964 living units and roughly 130,000 square feet of commercial space.

“I’m thrilled that, after two years of research, due diligence and design work, we have a signed development agreement with J. Jeffers for our Barber-Colman complex,” Mayor Tom McNamara said in a news release. “This will be a transformational project for our entire community and will be an incredible complement to our other redevelopment efforts, including the recently renovated Embassy Suites Hotel, along a major thoroughfare into our city. We’re grateful for J. Jeffers’ partnership, and we can’t wait to see the incredible vision for Colman Yards become a reality.”

J. Jeffers said the past two years has included more than 20 rounds of public meetings, numerous community engagement sessions, a request-for-proposal bidding process with a state prevailing wage agreement, thousands of hours on design and construction planning, grant writing, public incentive applications and complicated capital markets and loan commitments.

“We would especially like to thank Mayor McNamara, the resilient and capable city of Rockford staff, the supporting City Council members and the entire community of Rockford for the amazing amount of support and civic engagement we received for this development,” Brian Loftin, chief development officer for J. Jeffers & Co., said in an a news release. “When we began this open journey of imagining what’s possible for the Barber-Colman site in conjunction with the city and all that participated from the very beginning, we felt the energy of change and greatly appreciate their willingness in shaping this collective vision.”

The former manufacturing site dates back to 1907 and at one time employed more than 3,000 people. Barber-Colman operated on the site until 1984, when the business was sold to Reed-Chatwood Inc., which operated until the late 1990s. The city has owned the property since 2002, and J. Jeffers & Co. will buy it for $500,000 as part of its redevelopment agreement.

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at  or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

Source: Haas, Kevin. “Developer J. Jeffers & Co. Signs Deal Committing To Redevelop the Former Barber-Colman Factory in Rockford.” Rock River Current. July 18, 2023. Accessed July 20, 2023.

A Brief History of Blackhawk Furniture Company

View this brief history of Blackhawk Furniture Company from Midway Village Museum’s Rockford Furniture Industry Resource Packet , found at this website link

Source: Midway Village Museum. Rockford Furniture Industry Resource Packet. Creation date unknown. Accessed June 23, 2023.

Eclipse Gas Stove Company in 1913

Joe Prinzivalle (1891-1949) started working at Eclipse Gas Stove Company in 1913.  He was a molder in the foundry. He likely returned to that job after he finished his hitch in the US Army (8 June 1917 – 26 Sep 1919).

Joe, like many others, ended up with silicosis from working at that factory.Photo date is uncertain.

This image was attained by donation at RPL’s Community Scan Day event on April 8, 2023.

West End Furniture Co. from Rockford, Illinois

Please enjoy these scans from multiple sources about the West End Furniture Co.

All sources can be found at RPL’s Local History Room and Archival Collection.

“West End Furniture Co. was in business in Rockford from 1890 to 1941. The company made bedroom
furniture, bookcases, buffets, desks, folding beds, tables and other furniture and offered lines of “medium”
and “fine grade” furniture. Many Swedish furniture makers settled in Rockford, and at one time it was the
second largest center of furniture manufacturing in the world.” – Source: Terry and Kim Kovel | November 13, 2014 | The Daily Herald (Everett, WA). Accessed on April 7, 2023 from Newsbank.

1904 West End Furniture Co. Catalog Cover and pages 24-25.

The Rockford Furniture Herald, June 1926 cover and page 11.

The Rockford Furniture Herald, December 1926 cover and page 18.

The Rockford Furniture Herald, June 1927 cover and page 11.

The Rockford Furniture Herald, February 1930 cover and page 7.

The Rockford Furniture Herald, 1930 cover and page 15.

Rockford Inventor: Clifford N. Johnson with Johnson Pen Company

Source: Haugen, Doug. “The Johnson Pen Company.” The Pennant, Fall 2021, p. 28-35.

Please use our search tags to find more information about Clifford N. Johnson.

Article is posted with the author, Doug Haugen’s, permission on October 28, 2022 via email.