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Rockford’s Courthouses

Rockford’s first court session  was held in the home of Daniel S. Haight on October 6, 1837. Haight was the sheriff and much of the county’s business took place in his home until the next year when a frame building was constructed to hold the Circuit Court.

By 1874 the courthouse was too small and the city looked for an architect to design a new structure. Henry L. Gay of Chicago was chosen for the $165,000 project, and construction began.

On May 11, 1877, with the new building close to complete, disaster struck. The 500 ton dome suddenly collapsed, crashing through the floors below. Nine men were killed and a coroner’s jury started investigating the same day. The architect and the County Board were both found to be at fault, one for the faulty design, the other for neglecting to closely study the building plans.

85.109(I).287 - watermarked

After procuring new designs, and with a final cost of $211,000, the building was dedicated in October of 1878.

 

97.5.76I - watermarked

Additions were made in 1916, and the grand front staircase was removed. By the early 1960s metal pieces were ripped from the dome by high winds an in 1964 the dome was removed from the building for safety reasons, along with the 4 statues on the roof corners.

November 16, 2014 marks the anniversary of the start of construction on the first nine story building in the new courthouse complex, started in 1969 and located at State and Church Streets. By 1972 the second phase was dedicated, later adding a public safety building to complete the project.

The statue, ‘Charity’ (seen below) is one of the 4 statues that graced the top of the 1878 Courthouse building. This statue is on display at Midway Village Museum.

97.5.16 and 97.49 (double numbered)

 

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