Place orders at Command Post restaurant

Place orders at Command Post restaurant

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

Yolanda and Stan Wiesensel want to ensure that the memories of the historic Camp Grant don’t march away as time passes. Camp Grant virtually surrounded the Rockford Airport and housed thousands of soldiers during World War I and World War II. The only modern-day Camp Grant memorials consist of a few dilapidated and vacant apartments that were once barracks for soldiers from across the country.

In 1996, with a love for Camp Grant history, the Wiesensels opened the Command Post restaurant, 1004 Samuelson Road. The restaurant is located in the building that served as a fire station in World War I and an induction center in World War II.

After World War II, the building has been the barracks of various enterprises, the last being Jenny’s Restaurant. “Since World War II, it’s been a machine shop, an egg plant and a restaurant,” she said. “When we started to name it, we kept saying it was on a military base. The command post is where the officers would come in, receive their orders, and go.”

The Wiesensels were fascinated by this history when they came upon the site. They happened to see the “For Sale” sign on the property, which is near their New Milford home.

They decided that converting at least one part of the camp into a restaurant might preserve a small part of Rockford history. “A lot of young people didn’t know Camp Grant was here,” Yolanda said.

The Wiesensels’ interest in preserving that history has blossomed into a large collection of memorabilia.

Upon entering the Command Post, one of the first things that strikes the eye is a display of old sheet music, mostly from the World War I era, adorning one wall in a museum-like, glass case. Other mementos include photos, postcards and art depicting the camp’s barrage of residents, buildings, activities and patriotic flavor.

“We started collecting cards, and it just grew,” Wiesensel said. “Camp Grant was a city within itself. It was all self-sufficient. They installed lights. They built bridges. They had their own newspaper.”

The camp began in the early days of World War I and was bounded on the north by the city of Rockford, farmland on the east, and the Kishwaukee and Rock rivers on the south and west, respectively.

Named for General and President Ulysses S. Grant, the camp occupied 5,460 acres and housed hundreds of thousands of civilians, soldiers and nurses.

Pat Cunningham’s Big Town, Little City, draws a great picture of Camp Grant’s creation: “The building of Camp Grant ‘was something of a miracle,’ as one local historian put it. In just five months, more than 1,500 buildings were constructed on 2,200 acres. The job required 48 million board feet of lumber, 300 miles of wiring, 30 miles of water pipe, 170 carloads of plumbing equipment, 1,000 tons of nails and 150 acres of roofing.”

Cunningham’s history also points out that soldiers and sailors returning from Europe brought Spanish flu home. That flu infected Camp Grant and Rockford residents in epidemic proportions, killing more than 1,400 people locally and 21 million nationwide.

The end of WWII marked the beginning of the decline of Camp Grant as parts of it were converted to civilian use, torn down or abandoned, like the largely forgotten, huge outdoor amphitheater to the west which became overgrown with scrub brush and used as a dump.

The Command Post is really the only place in Rockford keeping the memories and flavor of Camp Grant alive.

Yolanda Wiesensel said that most of the food she serves is identical to what Camp Grant residents ate. “The only thing I don’t serve is liver and onions,” she said. “And I know they had liver and onions.”

The dine-in/carry-out restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday. Breakfast is served anytime, and patrons can enjoy a Friday fish fry from 4 to 8 p.m.

The menu marches right along with the mission of the Command Post. Listed in the wide range of menu items are sections entitled “Privates—Hot Sandwiches” and “Privates-Cold Sandwiches.”

Ideal for business meetings and family gatherings, the Command Post offers a real down-home, old-fashioned atmosphere and home cooking that is definitely great grub.

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