Mendelssohn purchases Emerson-Keith Mansion

Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center (MPAC) has purchased the Emerson-Keith family mansion at 420 N. Main St. in Rockford, the former location of the Burpee-Wood Funeral Home.

While long-term use of the facility is yet to be determined, cosmetic upgrades are already under way in the home, said MPAC Executive Director Bridget Fraser.

“This home purchase for Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center will benefit the community in many ways, and presents many future opportunities for the arts in Rockford,” Fraser said. “With the recent cutbacks of music and band in the public school system, we have been making plans to grow their children’s programs to fill in the gap.

“The additional rooms will allow us to enhance and expand youth programs, involving more students through more practice and performance space,” she continued. “The children of the Rock Valley College Children’s Choir are some of the first to benefit from the purchase; they will rehearse in the mansion beginning later this summer.”

The home also offers MPAC a presence on Rockford’s North Main Street “Cultural Corridor,” bringing more entertainment options to the residents and visitors of northern Illinois.

Originally constructed in 1912 as the family home of Dr. Darwin and Belle (Emerson) Keith, the mansion was the original site of Keith School. In fact, the blackboards and coat hooks used by the schoolchildren still exist in the basement of the home. In 1937, the building was sold to Burpee-Wood Funeral Home, which operated there until the sale of the business and building in 2005.

From the July 19-25, 2006, issue

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