Firefighter Museum Could Be Coming to Rockford

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Three years after 9/11, there is still no museum to honor the brave men and women who put their lives on the line fighting fires every day. However, a group of community leaders wants to change that by bringing the first such museum to Rockford. That museum could mean big bucks for our city.

The old Barber-Colman factory on S. Main St. has been an eyesore for years. But right now, community leaders are hoping to change that.

"The size of the building, the quality of the building, this could be an ideal place for a firefighter's museum," says Illinois State Sen. Dave Syverson.
They are hoping to bring the nation's first ever firefighter museum to Rockford.

"I think this is a project that can start right now and move forward very quickly and we can see it become reality in the not too distant future," says businessman Dave Carlson.

"We see it as a national project that could do a lot for Rockford," adds Rockford 5th Ward Ald. Victory Bell.

"You don't hear a lot about what goes on in the fire services unless you have maybe something that's catastrophic happen," says E.J. Dilonardo, president of the Rockford Firefighters Union.

The museum would chronicle the history of firefighting, detailing such notable events as 9/11, the Chicago Fire, and other events. However, officials say it would not be the only new business coming to town.

"We need rail service and a project like this would bring rail service," Carlson says.

"It could create a lot of tourism and tourism creates jobs and jobs could then be tied in with a potential hotel in the future," Bell adds.

That potential impact gives hope to those who grew up in the area.

"We need a positive aspect on this end of town because all we get is negative," says Mary Castro, who grew up on Rockford's southwest side.

"We need something that brings investment from outside, we need something that brings tourists," adds Dave Carlson.

Those involved in the planning process say they are going to try to avoid using city funds for the museum. They will try to use only state, federal, and private funds to finance the project.

The project is still a long way from becoming a reality. All involved say they need the support of our community before taking it to the next level.