Submitted by scott on

In 1863 the Rockford post office was located on S. Main Street what was then the Holland Block. At that time there was no mail delivery and people living on the east side of the river were forced to walk to retrieve their mail. So great was the agitation that several prominent citizens talked of building the post office on West State Street. Finally Horace Brown came forward and said that if he could be assured of the post office he would build a structure to house it. This assurance was given and the construction was begun. When the building was completed Mrs. Smith, who was postmistress at the time, moved the office to the 100 block of West State Street where it remained for more than a decade, there were two other storefronts in the building. There had long been a need for a large hall and the second story of the building had been fitted up for this purpose, it had a seating capacity of nearly 1,000. Its proportions were 64 by 90 feet; architecturally it was plain, four walls, a small stage, limited dressing rooms and a small gallery. Wood bottom chairs and settees of the same material were the only seats provided for the patrons and upon occasions when the hall was wanted for some swell social function these would be removed and the floor cleared for the dancers or for the booths of bazaars and fairs. It was sure enough a “sweat box” when the big sheet iron stoves were piping hot and the house was jammed to the orchestra pit on a winter’s night and the windows were corked down tight. The first public meeting was on November 17, 1864 when the hall was formally opened, when a ratification of the election of Abraham Lincoln to his second term as president of the United States was held. Most were away to war but there was a rousing meeting nevertheless and several prominent men in the city and soldiers on leave of absence were present. The addresses were of an intensely patriotic nature, judging from the reports that had been preserved, and prayers were also offered for the boys on the battlefield. Dr. J. P. Norman, the original successful amusement manager in Rockford leased the space in the Horace Brown Building in January 1865, and from that day forward it was the principal entertainment venue in Rockford until the Grand Opera House was opened.

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