~~ After the Fire: We Keep Going. It’s What We Do ~~
Citizen-led fundraising campaign begins for removal of historic entry at former Rockford Cabinet Company
Volunteers seek donations, partner with members of the arts and business community
ROCKFORD, ILLINOIS - A group of Rockford residents is working to raise the money needed to remove the stone entryway from a former factory destroyed by a massive fire on January 6, 2015. The stone structure at the former Rockford Cabinet Company remained intact despite the fire that ravaged most of the 92-year-old building to which it was connected at 1916 11th St.
The group mobilized soon after the fire via Facebook on the Rockford Reminisce page, wanting to explore if the ornate door frame could be saved. Built in 1923, the entry is adorned with distinctive details that make it unique and noteworthy. The company’s name is engraved in the stone on the curved lintel, which is flanked on either side by an R that sits atop art deco eagle sculptures.
Mike Harris Mason Contractors was asked by the group to inspect the piece and determine if it can be salvaged. The company concluded that it was not damaged by the fire, and therefore can be removed safely and relocated to another site.
The goal is to re-purpose the entryway, locating it in a place readily accessible to the public. The group is working to find a permanent site for the entryway that is historically and contextually appropriate.
The first phase of the fundraising effort is underway. Donations are being accepted from the general public, and corporate contributions also are welcomed. Phase I aims to raise a minimum of $5,000 for the entryway to be removed from the current site and placed into storage. After a permanent location has been chosen, Phase II will begin, which involves reconstructing the piece at its new home. The cost of Phase II will be known after the location has been selected.
The entryway was recently sold to members of the group by the owner of the building for $1.00 so they can proceed with plans to remove and relocate it. The owner also donated a limited number of bricks to be used in conjunction with the fundraising effort.
The Rockford Area Arts Council, a non-profit organization, is providing the donation hosting site for Phase I at artsforeveryone.com. This partnership allows for contributions to be tax-deductible. Rockford Area Arts Council President and CEO Anne O’Keefe said, “The Rockford Area Arts Council is happy to partner with a group of dedicated volunteers for the preservation of the Rockford Cabinet Company arch. RAAC’s mission is to support, promote and develop the arts for everyone and as this structure has architectural significance to Rockford, we are excited to be part of the project. Hats off to the volunteers who have a vision for this gem.”
Other members of the business and arts community are joining the effort. Bygone Brand, a local T-shirt company specializing in historically iconic designs, is producing custom T-shirts for the project, featuring the original logo of the Rockford Cabinet Company. Keith and Amy Watson, owners of Bygone Brand, are donating all proceeds to the project. “It’s important for us to support this preservation effort, and show future generations what made our city so great and have pride where they come from,” stated Keith Watson.
The T-shirts can be purchased at (currently unavailable) or by contacting the Facebook page Rockford Redux at www.facebook.com/rockfordredux. The website www.rockfordredux.com also links to both donating and the T-shirts.
The volunteer group is comprised of Michael B. Smith, Matthew Gibbons, Beatrice Z. Miller, Doug Cohen, Pam Klingenberg Hein, Jeremy Klonicki, and Don Woolery. Smith said, “A ‘Real, Original Rockford’ should include, quite literally, the real and honest elements of our city’s origin. The Rockford Cabinet Company entrance is a testament to our city’s hardworking, ‘can-do’ spirit, even when disaster strikes. It reminds us that our manufacturing industry has deep roots; it encourages us to continue innovating and collaborating for a better future.”
Klonicki, a local artist and owner of MainfraiM art studio, is creating a special fundraising item, utilizing bricks from the building, to be used as gifts for a certain level of donations.
The Rockford Cabinet Company was founded in 1880 at 309-311 South Main St. It grew rapidly, acquiring other businesses and expanding its line of products. After a long period of sustained growth, it erected a new factory building in 1923 at 11th Street and 18th Avenue. At 187,000 square feet, it was considered to be one of the largest furniture factories in the world. Oscar Landstrom would buy Rockford Cabinet Company and eventually rename the company to Landstrom Furniture Company.
The building housed other interesting enterprises. WWII soldier uniforms and other garments, such as men's coats and jackets, were made here by W. Shanhouse & Sons, an internationally-known clothing manufacturer. Shanhouse occupied the building from July 1941 until 1951. The Shanhouse corporate office remained in the building until 1957. Carter Corporation, best known for its manufacture of toys and electronic items, moved into the building in 1958 and continued operations there until 1989. Asher Tool was an occupant in the most recent years.
Michael B. Smith
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Fundraising Goal As Of March 6, 2015
Look at all the support you’ve shown!
In 10 days, we have raised $2,200 towards the salvaging and saving of the Rockford Cabinet Company entryway.
This would not be possible without the generous support of
RAAC Rockford Area Arts Council
...and you: Our donors!
Haven’t supported yet? You can:
1: Give a tax-deductible contribution today:
2: Pick up an RCC shirt: Currently unavailable
More great news to come. Thank you!
NATIONAL LOCK to Store Rockford Cabinet Entryway!
Two of Rockford's former manufacturers are teaming up in the most unlikely of ways. Like a loyal friend from the old neighborhood, the National Lock building is coming to the aid of the weary and beleaguered Rockford Cabinet Co. Providing a temporary space for its cohort from around the corner, National Lock will host the safekeeping of the entryway until a new home has been selected.
Judy Gambrel, owner of the National Lock building, has offered to store the historic icon for free in her spacious building. We are so very grateful for her generosity and support. Judy believes that this dynamic duo is a great match: "All those companies helped build Rockford and often worked together. It's interesting to think that National Lock cabinet hardware could have been on pieces manufactured by Rockford Cabinet."
Judy also pointed out that the numbers 1923 are a common denominator that unite the two pals - the National Lock building was built in 1923, and its mighty clock tower still features a 1923 Seth Thomas. Construction began for the Rockford Cabinet Co. in 1923, and Judy's late husband, Maury, was born in 1923. She suggested, "You might ask the public to donate $1,923.00 or $192.30 or $19.23." That's a great idea!
MEDIA ADVISORY: News Conference
VISIT US AT ARTSCENE
Visit Us at ArtScene at The Nordlof Center, 118 N. Main Street, Friday, April 10 from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday, April 11 from 3-9 p.m.
Meet the volunteers from Rockford Redux, comprised of area residents who are working to salvage and repurpose the entryway to the former Rockford Cabinet Company building. View images of the decorative limestone entry, purchase a brick from the building, repurposed and designed by MainfraiM, pick up a Bygone Brand shirt with the original Rockford Cabinet Company logo and show your support!
How Our Entryway Could Look
Our team is working hard to find a suitable home for the iconic Rockford Cabinet Company entryway, which was saved thanks to your support. This rendering, created by Larson & Darby Architects, helps our potential site leads envision just how striking this piece can be once reconstructed.
Special thanks to Gedeon Trias at Larson & Darby for this beautiful rendering. Friends, please share this post and show your support for this project! We will continue to update you as we make progress.