Two downtown attractions are utilizing vacant green space, giving people opportunities to relax over lunch and learn about the political history of the area.
The corner of West State and Church streets, a city-owned lot, is now the home of a community lunch area. The corner is complete with picnic tables, tents and the popular hot dog stand owned by Gino Gosseaux. Gosseaux’s stand was formally located on the Main Street Pedestrian Mall.
“When they started doing construction on the mall,” said Judy Barnard, “we lost our place to have lunch. We started to look over this green space and decided it would be a good substitute.” Barnard, who helped spearhead the project, does contractual work for Winnebago County.
Others behind the new lunch area are Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R), Winnebago County Maintenance Department, Rockford Park District and the City of Rockford. The Winnebago County Forest Preserve District, On the Waterfront, Tyler’s Landscaping and Berg Tent donated picnic tables and tents.
Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times, played a vital role in keeping the lot green, forgoing the addition of stones and rocks. The lunch area is open through Labor Day.
Christiansen’s brainchild, a park called Lincoln Courthouse Square, is under construction on the corner of Church and Elm Streets. That project will include a donated bust of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, sitting areas and plaques dedicated to the 16th president’s ties to Rockford and Winnebago County.
“It will give you a history of Lincoln in our community,” Christiansen said. “It is the very spot where Lincoln supporters celebrated when he ran for Senate.”
The park will include a public overview of the famous “Reaper Trial” of the 1850s, in which Lincoln served as co-counsel. During that trial, John Manny, a Rockford businessman and inventor of a wheat reaper, was unsuccessfully sued for a patent the McCormick Co. of Chicago accused him of stealing.
“That trial led to the manufacturing boom in our area,” Christiansen added.
Lincoln Courthouse Square will be publicly dedicated Saturday, Sept. 27. The event will include a dinner and Civil War re-enactment, complete with a ceremonial march down Church Street.
from the August 5 – 11, 2009 issue