Rockford Public Library – history of, Dave Oberg

Rockford Public Library

Article on history of the library by David Oberg

Rockford Library Association founded in 1852

In 1855, the Young Men’s Association proposed creating a library

In March 1857, shareholders paid $50 each to join

The first library was on the 3rd floor of the Robertson, Coleman Company, consisting of 1,000 volumes and 38 periodicals

During the Civil War, interest in the library declined, and the books were sold at public auction in 1865

The next version of the Rockford Public Library was founded by Elias Cosper, 1872

The Rockford Library reading room was opened on 08/01/1872

On 02/01/1873, the circulation department opened on the 2nd floor of northwest corner of State and Main, on “Wallach’s Block”

In July 1876, the library moved to the Post Office, on the 100 block of West State Street

In 1878, the library had its first withdrawals: 38 volumes worn out and 3 not returned by borrowers

In 1891, Mayor Starr appointed three women to the library board

In 1895, the board established 6 traveling libraries

In 1896, the library instituted a card catalogue

On 03/06/1901, Andrew Carnegie provided the opportunity to expand the library

The architects for the new library were Bradley and Carpenter

After discussion and delays the location on Wyman Street was chosen

The library was designed with twin entrances, East and West

In 1903, the new library housed a natural history collection. It was called the “Beattie Memorial Museum”

In 1904, the Rockford Public Library was free to Rockford residents, and $2 a year to Winnebago County residents

Also in 1904 the library has its first Child’s Room, and a branch on 7th Street

1905 photograph of library; Main Hall and Delivery Room

By 1917, there were library substations at Highland and Montague schools

In 1918, a thousand cards were given to Camp Grant soldiers

Also in 1918, a new Southeast branch was located at 1217 4th Avenue, and two deposit stations were created: at the W.C.T.U. (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) and at 1616 West State Street

By 1920, Rockford Public Library books were in 50 area schools

The Montague Branch Library was dedicated on 05/24/1923. The architect was Chester E. Wolfley. Montague was established in large part due to the St. Angel family

In 1925, the library opened the Fine Arts Room

By 1925, the Main Library was joined by five branches: Southeast, Highland, Montague, Rowland and West End

In 1929, circulation had risen to more than 500,000 items a year


Source:  “Nuggets of History”, Volume 44, December 2006, No. 4

Main St., No., 902 – 910 – Windsor Apts.

Windsor apts.


Picture source: postcard was for sale on

Article listed in Rockford Register Star 3/15/1998 states that the Windsor Apartments were built in 1916 by Bradley and Carpenter Architects. The first residents moved in in 1917.

1998 Restoration by David Hagney architects