Welcome to Friendly Freeport!
Small town living with big business appeal! Freeport has
a long, rich heritage which goes back to the mid-19th century.
Even our founding father, William "Tutty" Baker and
his partners, had commerce in mind when they incorporated the
settlement that would be known as Freeport. From its earliest
days, Freeport has always been a place where newcomers are greeted
warmly and new business is welcomed.
Over the past few decades Freeport has become home to the
headquarters, or major divisions, of four Fortune 500 companies.
Its sometimes referred to as the "Hartford of the West"
because of the large number of insurance companies that have major
underwriting and claims processing facilities within the city
limits. Because of this concentration of commerce and industry,
Freeport attracts business professionals from across the country.
They appreciate the opportunity to experience small town living
in an environment where theres a focus on recreation when
the days work is done.
Freeport and Stephenson County
provide more than 700 acres of parkland; many housing developments
centered on lakes or golf courses; and just enough distance to
the big cities of Rockford, Chicago, and Madison to make them
convenient without daily traffic, noise and congestion problems.
Golf, boating, fishing, snowmobiling, and both downhill and cross-country
skiing are readily available.
The Freeport Area Chamber of
Commerce welcomes you. Feel free to call us anytime; were
your "one-stop shop" for advice on the Freeport area.
We hope youll find our midwestern lifestyle to your liking.
Patricia M. Lee
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Freeport is changing. Already home to four Fortune 500 companies
or their leading divisions, it is attracting new businesses and
industrial firms. These are drawing to the community young and
sophisticated professionals and others, who, in turn, are stimulating
a dramatic change in the fabric of the community.
| As a result,
Freeport looks not only to its wealth of history, but to its future
as a dynamic city.
Long the commercial hub of Stephenson County, Freeport is seeing
rapid growth in its retail sector, as well, providing consumers
with a wider range of quality goods at moderate prices. Throughout
Stephenson County, large and elegantly styled executive homes
are dotting the beautiful wooded hills and valleys that give the
area a mark of distinction. In Freeport and the smaller communities
of Stephenson County, a broad range of quality housing is available,
from comfortable single family homes, townhomes, and condominiums
to apartments for young families and senior citizens.
Both public and private school systems
excel in their task of educating the young people of the city
and county. The Freeport campus of Highland Community College
assures easy access to higher education and appropriate training
in job skills needed by area businesses and industry. Highland
also serves as the local site for classes offered by Columbia
College, for those who desire baccalaureate opportunities.
The areas energetic residents
make full use of 780 acres of well-equipped parkland and other
recreation facilities in the community. At the same time, they
give physical and financial support to the 69 churches and houses
of worship in Freeport, alone.
Stephenson County families regularly
come together as participants and audience for a lengthy list
of festivals and cultural events that fill the areas social
calendar. Ready access to expert medical care is assured through
Freeport Memorial Hospital and several area clinics.
The image of todays Freeport
and Stephenson County is an image of exciting change.
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Its easy come, easy go in Freeports transportation
network. The city is at the center of a large agricultural area
about 25 miles west of Rockford, via U.S. Highway 20. U.S. 20
is a convenient, four-lane divided highway that skirts the communitys
northern edge. At Rockford, it links with Interstates 90 and 39,
giving Freeport residents easy access to the entire Interstate
system. I-90 is the major route between Chicago and Minneapolis-St.
Paul. I-39 extends from Rockford to Bloomington where it links
with I-74 and I-55. From Freeport, Route 20 continues west to
historic Galena, Illinois, and the metropolitan area of Dubuque,
Two other highways, State Routes 26 and 75, tie the city with neighboring
communities in Stephenson County.
Highway 26 links with I-88 to the south. Route 75 extends northeast
to Beloit, Wisconsin, where it intersects with I-43, a route to
Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Freeport air travelers drive the short distance to the Greater
Rockford Airport, located in the southwest corner of Rockford.
The airport is served by Northwest Airlink which connects to more
than 400 domestic and international destinations. Limousine service
to the airport is available to all residents of Stephenson County.
Eight air freight services also serve the airport, which is 35th
in the nation in the number of cargo flights that arrive and depart.
It is the second busiest UPS hub in the United States. It is Foreign
Trade Zone #176 and a Port of Entry for U.S. Customs.
Freeports Albertus Airport is a base for private and corporate
aircraft. Located three miles south of the city, the airport accommodates
small jets with a 5,500-foot-long paved and lighted runway. Two
grass runways, 2,800 and 2,700 feet in length are used by small
privately owned planes. The airport offers flight training and
charter service. Chicagos OHare International Airport
is about 90 minutes from Freeport.
The shipping needs of the citys business and industry
are served by the Canadian National Railroad and by some 50 motor
freight carriers. One of the motor freight haulers has a terminal
Taxi service is available in Freeport and the Stephenson County
Senior Center provides door to door transportation for the elderly.
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In 1827, German settlers from Pennsylvania began arriving in
the Freeport area to make their homes. Among them was William
"Tutty" Baker, credited as the founder of Freeport,
who built a trading post on the banks of the Pecatonica River.
A generous man, Tutty Baker began operating a free ferry across
the river and even invited travelers into his home for meals and
Originally called Winneshiek, the community took its name from
the fact of Bakers renowned generosity "Free
Port" when it incorporated. Winneshiek was later adopted
and is preserved to this day by the Freeport community theatre
group. Each August, Freeport remembers Tutty Baker with a joyous
In 1837, Stephenson County was formed and in 1838 Freeport became
its seat of government. Linked by stagecoach with Chicago, the
community grew rapidly. In 1840, a frame courthouse was erected
and the first school was founded. Within two years, Freeport had
two newspapers and in 1853 the two were joined by a third which
published in German.
By then, the community had a population of 2,000.
On August 27, 1858, the most significant of the historic Lincoln-Douglas
debates took place in Freeport and gave the nation direction in
succeeding years. Although Douglas won the election and retained
his senate seat, his reply to a question on slavery alienated
the South, which called it the "Freeport Heresy," and
split the Democratic Party. This enabled Lincoln to win the presidency
A monument to the debate was dedicated in 1903 by President
Theodore Roosevelt and stands at its site. A life size statue
recreating the event (pictured here) was dedicated in 1992. Another
renowned statue, "Lincoln the Debater," by Leonard Crunelle,
is a focal point in the citys Taylor Park.
The Stephenson County Historical
Society preserves local history in "Bohemiana," an Italianate
mansion once owned by Oscar and Malvina Taylor
and listed in the National Register
of Historic Places. The Taylors devoted their energies to creating
an arboretum at the site and today it contains the largest variety
of old trees in the county. Also on the property are a Farm Museum,
a relocated one-room schoolhouse, and an 1840 log cabin.
The Taylors hosted many guests
at Bohemiana, including such well known personalities as Horace
Mann, Horace Greeley, Stephenson County native Jane Addams, Edward
Everett Hale, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Freeport is the birthplace of
several celebrities. Among
them is Calista Flockhart, the star of the Fox Networks
acclaimed "Ally McBeal" television show. Other noteworthy
personalities born in Freeport include Luella Parsons, the famous
columnist; Deacon Davis of Harlem Globetrotters fame; and Robert
Johnson, founder of BET.
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From a base at Freeport, there is much to see and do in the city,
Stephenson County, and all of northwest Illinois even venturing
into southwestern Wisconsin and touching on Iowa.
The Freeport area has many appealing places to stay, from delightful
bed and breakfasts and quality hotels to great places for family
camping, like Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Park, just north of Lena.
The 715-acre park surrounds a 40-acre lake and offers 177 campsites,
most with electricity. The park offers swimming, fishing, and
boating, plus trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Stephenson County is home to dozens of restaurants, a generous
mix of excellent family dining and fast food outlets, spiced with
a few exceptional restaurants catering to ethnic and gourmet diners.
The rich past of the area is everywhere
to be seen, from Freeports Lincoln-Douglas statue commemorating
the second and decisive Debate to Lenas 1895 water tower,
from Freeports Bohemiana mansion to the Apple River Fort
at Elizabeth, from Freeports Old River School Historic District
to Kents Blackhawk War Monument and the historical museums
in Cedarville, Lena, and German Valley.
Antiquers revel in touring the
towns and hamlets of Stephenson County and poking around in the
many antique shops to be found along the way in places like Lena,
Pearl City, and in Freeport itself. Avid shoppers enjoy browsing
in Freeports downtown district and
nearby shopping centers as well
as in the countys several smaller communities. In Davis,
Freeport, and Lena are shops that sell specialty foods: cheese,
candy, old-fashioned potato chips, and farm raised beef and pork.
Area apple orchards also draw crowds of visitors during their
On selected weekends in spring and
fall, the Fever River Railroad delights whole families in small
ways. The amazing HO gauge model railroad measures 103 by 24 feet
and is highly detailed, with actual buildings duplicated in miniature
along its right-of-way.
For art lovers, the Freeport Arts Center
is a genuine treat. The centers six galleries feature Native
American pots, dolls, and baskets; 19th century European paintings
and sculpture; Asian decorative arts; Egyptian, Greek, and Roman
antiquities; Oceanic ceremonial masks and other pieces; and contemporary
There are special attractions in Stephenson County that amuse
and amaze visiting families. A carriage service in Ridott offers
rides in an expertly restored antique horse-drawn carriage providing
memorable photo opportunities. The naturally flowing artesian
well in Winslow has been pouring out thousands of gallons of pure
water each day since 1927.
Just beyond Stephenson County are places that are a delight
to visit. One is historic Galena, where practically the entire
community is listed in the National Register of Historic Places
and Main Street is lined with quaint boutiques and excellent restaurants.
Straight north of Freeport is Monroe, Wisconsin, the states
cheese capital. A few minutes west of Galena, visitors can enjoy
gaming aboard a riverboat casino.
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The rolling and wooded landscape of the Freeport area has provided
builders with the perfect canvas on which to convey their art.
Quiet, picturesque home sites are often sheltered in wooded hills,
look out on shaded parks or on the sunny fairways of a golf course,
or overlook a lake, pond or creek.
Freeport homes range widely in age, size, style, and price.
Great homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are found
along Stephenson Street as it stretches westward between downtown
and Park Boulevard. Lining this colorful, tree-shaded thoroughfare
are Victorian, Tudor, Federal, Italianate, and other rich styles
from the decades surrounding the turn-of-the-century.
Many newer executive style homes dot the hilly area surrounding
wooded Krape Park and along the fairways of the Freeport Country
Club. More new executive style single family homes are found in
the north and west areas of the city, in the vicinity of 36-hole
Park Hills Golf Course, and in sparkling subdivisions like Deer
Hills, Wildwood Estates, and along Forest Road, in the southwestern
part of the community.
Both new and long established areas of the city display a variety
of styles: Cape Cods, bungalows, American Foursquares, split-levels,
and apartments. Cherokee Hills subdivision offers both contemporary
townhomes and modern single family homes. Indian Springs combines
ranch style duplexes and single family homes. Country Club Condominiums
are nestled into a wooded area next to Krape Park and the Freeport
Westport Village townhomes, Kiwanis
Manor Apartments, Westwind Apartments, and Cheshire Court Apartments
line Kiwanis Drive,
near the sprawling and beautiful
campus of Highland Community College. Several apartment complexes
in Freeport and Stephenson County offer independent living for
In the rural countryside around
Freeport, large single family homes share the views with prosperous
family farms. The several small communities of Stephenson County
offer the same range of homes as are found in Freeport, but in
an environment of small town familiarity.
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Tucked away in rural Northwest Illinois, Freeport delights all
who come with sights, sounds, and wonders that have lasting appeal.
The Winneshiek Players theatre group has performed a variety
of dramas, comedies, and musicals for area residents for more
than 70 years. Staged in their own 210-seat theater, Winneshiek
Playhouse, the more than 400 members present an annual season
Highland Community Colleges jazz band, show choir, community
band, and community orchestra perform at the Ferguson Fine Arts
Centre. Summerset Theatre productions run on a June through August
schedule. The Freeport Community Concert Association presents
everything from big band to symphony orchestra, from classical
to jazz soloists. The associations annual season runs from
September to April.
All concerts are presented at the 1200 seat theatre of the Masonic
Temple in downtown Freeport. Periodically other special entertainment
events are also held at the Masonic Temple Theatre.
Each Sunday evening of summer, the Freeport Concert Band offers
a free concert at the Krape Park band shell. The Freeport Choral
Society presents concerts throughout the year, including a summer
pops concert at the band shell.
Movies fans see all the latest Hollywood film releases at downtown
Freeports eight screen Lindo Theatre.
The Freeport Arts Center is a treat for art lovers. It contains
six enriching galleries that include 15th to 19th century painting
and sculptures; Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities; Native
American works and Pre-Columbian artifacts; 17th and 19th century
decorative arts from Japan and China; ceremonial masks, pottery,
and musical instruments from Oceanic and Southeast Asian cultures;
works by contemporary artists, and monthly exhibits of local student
artwork. The Art Centers W.T. Rawleigh collection features
one of the best collections of Florentine mosaics in the world.
The Philip Dedrick Collection displays Pre-Columbian pottery and
Oceanic and African art. The Kenneth Parvin Memorial Collection
consists of ancient gold jewelry, Roman glass, and other ancient
For history lovers, the citys Silvercreek Museum offers
25 rooms of memorabilia from the late 1800s through the
1900s. They can also take a ride on the Silver Creek and
Stephenson Railroad, riding in three antique cabooses and a covered
outdoor passenger flat car pulled by a 36-ton, 1912 Heisler steam
Freeports downtown public library is a cultural focal
point in the community. The library has nearly 120,000 volumes,
plus numerous videos, films, records, audio cassettes, CDs
and other items. It boasts a computer center and a large local
history collection. Total annual circulation at the library is
in excess of 310,300.
More than a dozen area festivals highlight Stephenson Countys
calendar of events. Among the biggest is the Tutty Baker Days
Festival, honoring the memory of Freeports generous founder.
The early August celebration attracts thousands of visitors each
year. The festival features live entertainment, an arts and crafts
show, food, a beer garden, historic tours, and special childrens
rides and activities. A 5K run, a one-mile fun walk, and a sport
card show are also parts of Tutty Baker Days in downtown Freeport.
The Stephenson County Fairgrounds is the site of the seven-day
Stephenson County Fair, the annual two-day Steam Threshing and
Antique Show, and the one day Stephenson County Fibre Art Fair.
All three attract big crowds. The County Fair retains the traditional
features of county fairs: livestock judging, tractor pulls, country
and western entertainers, food, and midway rides.
High school sports enthusiasts fill the stands at home games
for the Freeport "Pretzels" and the Aquin Bulldogs.
From May through September, stock car race fans pack Freeport
Raceway Park for its schedule of races.
Numerous festivals and events take place in the smaller towns
of Stephenson County. Pearl City is host to the annual Homecoming
Festival in June. Lena holds its Winterfest in mid-January, Stagecoach
Trail Festival in June, and Fall Festival in September. In July,
German Valley holds its three day German Valley Day celebration.
About the same time, Rock City celebrates Rock City Day. In all,
close to 125 separate festivals and events are enjoyed each year
by Stephenson County residents.
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