Re-Living the Past
City of Loves Park
The first record of ownership of the land that is now Loves Park shows Widow Strawn as having purchased 470 acres for $1800. In 1877 she sold 236 acres to Francis and Margaret Weldon who farmed their acreage and used a portion of it for outings of Rockford’s Beefsteak Club. The Park became known as Love’s Grove after 1901. In that year the Weldon family sold the farm to Malcolm Love, a civic leader who once was an alderman in Rockford.
Loves Park became a popular excursion destination for those cruising the Rock River. Love, his land purchase and popular picnic grounds are symbolized in Loves Park’s name today. Records show that the transition from farm land to residential lots began in 1909 when Love sold a tract which became Eastwood and Stockburger’s first 95-lot subdivision. But they weren’t thinking in terms of building a city...in fact they laid out large lots suitable for garden plots and chicken houses and called them “chicken farms”. Purchasers of the first lots used them in exactly the manner the developers envisioned.
The 1920s roared in, bringing business and industry including a newspaper and a gas station. The 20s crept away leaving behind financial problems. As annexation to Rockford was resisted, the non-city took on more and more city attributes. In 1927 and 1939 the community considered annexation to Rockford and again said no. In the early 40s other concerns took precedence. The city was ready for self-government and incorporated as the City of Loves Park in 1947.
By that time there was no question that the new city’s name should be Love’s Park...the only question was whether or not to use the apostrophe. The voters decided to drop it ... and Loves Park it became.
Village of Machesney Park
Before 1835, Machesney Park was known by the Indians as Big Bottom, probably in reference to the Rock River and its seasonal flooding. The Village of Machesney Park lies within Harlem Township, one of 14 townships in Winnebago County. The early Dutch settlers chose the name Harlem to remind them of the Netherlands.
Machesney Park derives its name from Fred Machesney, an early airplane pilot of the 1920s. He dreamed of operating a private airport and in 1928 he chose the site now known as Machesney Park Mall for his airport. The area saw changes as people from Rockford began to use paddle wheel pleasure boats along the Rock River. Much of the land along the river became popular for picnicking. Later a rail line connecting Rockford and Beloit, Wisconsin passed through Machesney Park along North Second Street. Availability of public transportation, combined with a desire to live on the river, encouraged people to locate their homes and businesses in the area. Throughout the 1950s, a time that saw a housing boom, the area continued to grow and take on a more urban appearance.
In 1974, Fred Machesney sold his airport to J C Penney Company to build the Mall, but not before he set an impressive record. Machesney Airport was the oldest privately-owned, continuously operated airport in the nation, a record yet unsurpassed today. In the same spirit of adventure, progress, determination and individuality of Fred Machesney, the Village of Machesney Park was incorporated in February of 1981.