Mark Meichtry  described details of a house at 221N. Bridge St. in Rockton. He explained details of the structure.

By Marianne Mueller
Volunteers from the Rockton Township Historical Society and Rockton Historic Preservation Commission led tours in part four of a six-part series.
“We are in the Rockton National Historic District which was established in 1978 due to the significance of the high concentration of Greek Revival style buildings. Aside from Indian mounds, these buildings were the first permanent structures in this area. The Greek Revival style pays homage to the architecture of ancient Greece, the world’s first democracy.” Historic Preservation and Historical Society member Mary Anne Mathwich said.
The Old Stone Church was built in 1848-50. It was considered Architecturally Significant by the Historical American Building Survey in 1935 and again when it was included in the Rockton National Historic District in 1978.
The architectural style is Early Classical Revival; a variation on Greek Revival. The full height entry porch and large windows and door make it Early Classical Revival. The builder was John Peterson – his house is across the street on the NW corner of Union and Blackhawk.
The limestone used to build the church was from the Bligh Quarry on the south side of the river. The massive timbers were felled and hand hewn from trees in the area. The 1400-pound bell was given to the church by William Talcott, the founder of Rockton. It was thrown to the ground unharmed when the original steeple was destroyed in a 1913 windstorm.
Historic Preservation member Ann Roggee explained details at 408 Green.
“This 1927 tile English Tudor style was built by Jesse Kocher and is one of four or five Tudors in this part of town. Some of the features of English Tudor are: steep roof, decorative brick or stonework, large chimneys, dormer windows, slate or tile roofs, arch and pediment above the front door. Mr. Kocher’s son Lloyd and his brother Keith were also local builders.
Kocher’s grandson, Bob, lives on River St. today. There is a Kocher Street in town, named after the family. It was noted that the red blocks are scored for a reason. Susan Parham talked about why the tiles were never stuccoed and about the cross burning that happened on a nearby lot.
Historic Preservation member Clint Cole led the tour at 203 E. Franklin.
“This building is considered Architecturally Significant per the Rockton National Historic District survey. It is an 1847 limestone Greek Revival.” The US Supreme Court building is Greek revival.
“Because this is a stone building, it also has the heavy lintels above the doors and windows. If you have ever been inside one of these limestones or the early brick homes, perhaps you noticed how thick the walls are. In this house the walls are two feet thick.
“On the rest of our tour we will see variations on the Greek revival style.” The first owner of this house, Ralph Smith, was an early settler. The 2nd owner in 1856 to 1860 was James Gray. He had a lumberyard across the street on Green Street.”
Cole led the tour to 211 E. Franklin, which is a two-story frame. No actual build date is known but is believed to be shown on the 1871 map.
“The style is Greek revival transitioning to Italianate. It may have once had a cupula in the center of the hip roof. It also could have had decorative brackets, or corbels, under the eaves. A 1939 map shows a large greenhouse behind the house. There are a number of these “transitioning to Italianate” homes in town and the surrounding area – many have lost their corbels.”
Architectural and historical significance graces 430 N. Bridge Street. Built of limestone in 1854 it varies a bit as it has some of the characteristics of Greek revival such as the small frieze band windows and sidelight windows around the door, but it also has traits of the more ornate Gothic Revival. Its roof is steeper and the Palladian. (A three section window with the center one larger and arched) window in the front façade is Gothic style.

A book written by Edson Carr, former editor of the Rockton Herald, called The History of Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois, 1820 to 1898 talks about the first owner of this house, Russell Nelson; the proprietor of Rockton’s first meat market. The story is told that customers carried meat home on skewers, as paper wrappings were in short supply. The town dogs soon caught on and were often in hot pursuit of the customers and their meat.
Mr. Nelson was a shoemaker by trade. He went to Pike’s Peak during the 1859 gold craze and never returned. Nelson had sold the house in 1857 to C. F. Chamberlain, who kept a drugstore. Chamberlain “greatly improved” the house by adding a number of Gothic details. Sometime after that is likely when the “gingerbread” at the eaves was added.
At 431 N. Bridge St, is an architecturally significant 1850 brick Greek revival. The decorative brick frieze band is where we usually see a wide wood piece, but here they use the brick work to express that characteristic of Greek revival style.
This house has a transom window over the door, as many Greek Revivals have sidelights, transoms or both. The brick buildings like this are often painted because the local brick is rather soft and the paint helps preserve it. General William Richardson lived here. He was a General of the State Militia in the War of 1812. He died in 1860.”
Historical Society President Marilyn Mohring outlined details at 309 N. Bridge St. This brick Greek revival has a front part which was built in 1851 of local red brick; the rear part added in 1870 is a cream brick with a frame addition on top of that.
This is another example where the brickwork replicates the look of the wide wood frieze band. It is possible that large trees to make the frieze band were all gone when this was built. More features include a transom window over the door and the small frieze band windows.
Charles Reed, the first owner, was a veteran of the War of 1812. Reed is also credited as the founder of the city of Joliet Illinois. He worked as an agent for the Illinois State Legislature in 1836 to 1849 when he made acquaintance with Abe Lincoln. In 1861, Reed wrote to Lincoln in support of emancipation for all slaves of rebels, not just those who fought with the north. He is buried in the Rockton Cemetery.
Historic Preservation Commission member Mark Meichtry reviewed features of 221 N. Bridge St. holding architecturally and historically significance this one and half story hip-roof Greek revival limestone was built in 1851.
A frame kitchen and garage were added in 1927 and has a bunch of little frieze band windows. It was the home of William Weld, one of Rockton’s first lawyers and a Justice of the Peace. A front porch was added in Victorian times and has since been removed.
Some of the other Greek revival features are the heavy lintel above the doors and windows and the sidelights around the door. Stories about the frieze band windows have attracted some other names and myths which were explained on the tour.
In the 1963-64 school years, Rockton 8th graders were given an assignment to write a story about an historic Rockton house and these were then published in the paper. One student described the windows as “Look out windows” where “Early occupants used to kill Indians from the garret windows.”
Another student, writing about 203 E. Franklin, wrote “there are four small peek or kneel windows. The windows were made so the people could shoot out at Indians if the time came.” All theories are unfounded as these are frieze band windows and they are that size because that’s what fits in the space.”
Mathwich spoke about 221 E. Chapel St., which is an 1849 or 1855 brick Gothic Revival or Folk Victorian. It has several additions and the gable window is rather fancy for an early building; this may not be the original building or much remodeling was done in the 1870s to 1890s.
It was once the Jonathon Strickland home. He was in the mercantile business. Col. Henry Shibley and wife Ruth bought the home in 1856. He ran a store in the New England House hotel and, for a short time, also owned the Northwest Paper Mill in Rockton.
The original owner of property at 214 E. Chapel was Pearley Burnham and this house was built sometime around 1849 to 1853; a brick Greek Revival. Per Carr’s History of Rockton, Burnham would “Send his teams to the lake Michigan, hauling loads each way. He owned land on the Pecatonica River and hauled wood into town to sell. He became so crippled from hard work and exposure that when he got so bad as to be unable to work, his brother came and took him home to Maine.” The placement of the frieze band is still showing, but the heavy cornice and cornice returns are gone. A 1968 picture shows the frieze band and cornice returns. You can see where a front door once was.
There are around 160 buildings that are considered contributing structures in the National Historic District, some of which were featured on tour number four. Originally there were 166 but a few have been lost.” Mathwich advised, “If someone wanted to do some restoration on these types of buildings, they should acquaint themselves on tax incentives for appropriate rehabilitations. The incentives are overseen by the State of Illinois.
“This designation does not protect these buildings from inappropriate alterations or demolition. If a property owner is interested in protecting their property from demolition, only a local landmark or local historic district designation can do that.” Financial incentives are also available with this local designation. Rockton has two local landmarks thus far.”
211 E. Chapel is a frame Greek revival but difficult to tell. It has the low pitch roof, symmetrical window placement, and front gable style with wing. The frieze band, small windows, cornice returns, porch, if they existed, have all been gone since at least 1968. The foundation has been re-done.
Rogee led all to 221 Green St., a Frame Greek revival with Victorian era additions. The windows on the north side probably aren’t the original size as this is a one and a half story building without an attic; the roof is the ceiling on the second floor. These long windows may have replaced the typical small frieze band windows and must just about reach the floor.
Meichtry shared interesting facts about 309 Green St. “This large, 2-story frame Greek revival built in 1840. Benjamin Fletcher came here in 1838. He built and lived in this house and was a general master mechanic, having a hand in many of the early Rockton industries.
“In 1855 this was the home of a famous Civil War General Elon Farnsworth who was promoted to Brigadier General at the age of 26. Upon orders Farnsworth led a charge resulting in Farnsworth and 60 of his men being killed in what was possibly an unnecessary attack. By then the tide had already turned against the Confederacy.
This is a well-known incident of Civil War history. The Rockton Historical Society museum has a display with Farnsworth’s sword and sash, commissioned artwork, letters and other artifacts that more completely tell the story. Farnsworth’s very large monument is in the Rockton Township Cemetery where he is buried.
At 321 Green is a Frame Shingle Victorian. “The Victorian period buildings move away from the symmetry of the Greek Revivals, you can’t draw a line anywhere and create mirror images,” said Mathwich. The rounded half tower of the porch, decorative window glass and the shingled pieces at the roof peaks are features of the Shingle style. The railroad came to town in 1865 and that allowed for less expensive machine-made wood products to be brought in instead of relying on the materials available locally. It is estimated that this was probably built between 1880 and 1900.”
At 203 E. Union St. is an 1846 frame home that could be Gothic Revival with its steep roof or Folk Victorian. It’s possible that it was remodeled in the 1870’s or 80’s and the ornamentation, such as that around the windows and the porches with spindles, was added then.
The original home was owned by Issac Adams, an early settler who arrived in Rockton in 1835. Adams was a storekeeper, having a store on the Stone Block on Main Street. George and Ruth Ellis owned the home in 1884; George was engaged in blacksmithing, wagon and carriage works and at one time managed the New England Hotel on the Stone Block.
“Greek revival is an important architectural style here. We hope you can start seeing Greek Revivals, here in Rockton and elsewhere,” concluded Mathwich.

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