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Rockford High School
The first high school in Rockford was established in 1884 but no school building had been built, so the students from Lincoln, Adams and Kent schools met on the second floor of a building at 113 West State Street that was leased for three hundred dollars a year from Mrs. Mary P. Starr. The faculty of the Central High school consisted of Professor A. W. McPherson as principal, Mary Frye as assistant principal, and Miss Jennie Waldo and Miss Anna Lathrop as teachers. About 100 total students were enrolled in Rockford High School during its inaugural year. The first commencement included twenty graduates in 1885.
The selection of a site for the new high school building involved the inevitable struggle between the East and West sides of the river. There was a tie in city council votes for a west side site located at Mulberry and Court Streets known as the T. M. Clark lots or on a site known as the Thurston lots on Madison Street just south of Walnut Street on the east side. The tie was broken by Mayor Alfred Taggert, a west side resident, cast a ballot for the east side location. The property was purchased for five thousand dollars and on March 16, 1885 plans were submitted and accepted from Chicago architect M. L. Beers and David Keyt was awarded the construction contract. The cost of the building was twenty-five thousand dollars
The Rockford Central High School building was formally dedicated on March 18,1886. Addresses were made by Honorable John C. Garver, Honorable E. H. Baker, Mayor Alfred Taggert, Professor J. H. Freeman of Aurora, and Honorable Henry Raab, state superintendent of public instruction. The school was officially opened on March 20, 1886.
Rockford Central High School was built as two separate buildings attached by an underground hallway. This hallway became known as "Rat Alley". It contained rows of wooden lockers and was only accessible by walking through the “haunted area” also known as the shop. In the above picture the Y. W. C. A. can be seen on the left middle while the high school is located on the right.
Rockford High school baseball diamonds located at the 15th Avenue High School stadium were used by the Rockford Peaches girls professional baseball team starting in 1940. The stadium was later renamed to Beyer Stadium.
As the population of the school increased so did the size of the building. The high school had two additions added on in the 1890's. The number of students grew to 600 by 1900, and a third addition was also added before all was done.
This addition was added on to the Chestnut Street side of the building. The postcard above shows some of the schools amenities the school offered including the auditorium, gymnasium and swimming pool.
Rockford High School colors were red and black with a nickname based on those colors - the "RAB’s" for Red And Blacks. Rockford East High School continues to use the nickname, adding an E to the front, creating the word “E-Rabs”, which stands for East Red and Blacks.
Rockford Central High School has the distinction of being the first high school in the United States to organize a band that played at the halftime of a football game, now known as a marching band.
View of the lunchroom where many a hungry student would enjoy food prepared and managed by the Woman's Club
A view of the girls gymnasium, Girls basketball preceded the boys program at Rockford Central High. The first girls basketball team was formed in 1901. The 1903 squad gained the school a championship by defeating a Polo squad that had previously been undefeated followed by a victory over Freeport in the championship of Northern Illinois with a final score of 10-6.
The boys gymnasium. The Rockford High School RABS Basketball team won three state championships in boys basketball in 1911, 1919, 1939, making Rockford the first school to win three IHSA championships in basketball.
The print shop at Rockford Central High where the annual, or yearbook as its called now, was entitled "The Owl". It was founded in 1890 and was published continually until the school was closed. Rockford was the second high school in the country to establish a yearbook.
Rockford High School Auditorium
Rockford High School Arts Department
Rockford High School Botany Lab
Rockford High School Domestic Science
Rockford High School Chemistry Lab
Rockford High School Library
Rockford High School Physics Lab
Rockford High School Typewriter Room
Rockford High School Zoology Lab
Rockford High School first formed a football team in 1893. During the history of the school, 405 football games were played with the Central High School RABS winning 262 of them. Rockford Central was considered a very large school for the Illinois High School Association and because of their size, they had a tremendous amount of athletic success. The RABS overall won eight state championships, including the three boys basketball championships, there were four in track and field in 1896, 1927, 1933, 1935, as well as a swimming championship in 1933. Rockford saw more success from 1910 to 1940 than any other school in the state of Illinois. During a 30 year span, the RABS not only won three championships, they qualified for the state tournament 12 times. The IHSA began hosting a state-wide championship for basketball in 1908. Rockford chose not to participate in the inaugural IHSA State Tournament because they were already considered "Champions of the State" and did not want to defend their title in this new tournament.
By 1935, the attendance at Rockford High school grew too large. The board of education decided it would be best to establish two new high schools one on the East and West sides of the Rock River. In September 1940, Rockford East and Rockford West High Schools were opened and Rockford Central High School was closed. Rockford West, 1914 North Rockton Avenue remained open for 48 years as a high school before it was changed over to West Middle School. Rockford East, located at 2900 Charles Street, is still a functioning high school and carries on the traditions of Rockford Central High School.
On August 24, 2011 the Rockford Board of Education voted to purchase the former Amcore Financial headquarters building at 501 7th Street. The old Rockford High school building which was the long time headquarters of the district would have cost almost one point seven million dollars in repairs, the price of the former Amcore Bank headquarters was $1.825 million. The the old Central High building was demolished in 2015 to make way for a parking lot for a new downtown sports complex.
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