I had the chance to experience three things I enjoy today: history, learning about different cultures and maps! I stopped at the Ethnic Heritage Museum along South Main street this morning and also received a tour of the Graham-Ginestra house next door.

Rockford history fascinates me. From the different historic downtown buildings to manufacturing sites to different groups of people that settled and left their mark on this city. I think it’s important and neat to learn about a city’s history because it helps explain why things are the way they are today. It’s also fun to imagine a time not too long ago when things were very different.

The Ethnic Heritage Museum, built in the 1850s, sits on the corner of Loomis and Main Streets. It isn’t over the top but a simple laid-back, personal place. That’s what I like about it! The grounds outside are magnificently well kept as well as the building itself.

The museum is devoted to six primary immigrant groups that settled in southwest Rockford. African-American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and Polish people have all called this part of the city home.


One exhibit that fascinated me was the Italian room and in particular a map on the wall. When the Italians immigrated to Rockford they lived in the same southwest region, however their neighborhoods were closely aligned to the providence in Italy which their family came from. For example, Romans, Venetians and Sicilians all lived in specific neighborhoods.

Italian Neighborhood Map

Being familiar with Rockford history, a question popped up while I was touring. Where was the exhibit on Swedish and German history? I asked a museum volunteer and she happily explained this museum simply highlights the groups who influenced the south and west part of Rockford. The Swedish settled on the east side of the river and the Germans on the northwest side in the Kilburn Avenue area. It all made sense now!

The Ethnic Heritage museum is located at 1129 S. Main St. and is open on Sundays from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Tours can also be scheduled during the week by calling 815-962-7402. Admission is $5 for students, $7 for adults and $15 for a family.

Stop out and experience the grounds for yourself. Bring questions and you’ll leave with a deeper appreciation for this city we call home!