Rockford Central High School

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Rockford High School
Rockford Central High School.JPG
Rockford School District 205 offices in 2013 (shortly before demolition)
201 South Madison Street


United States
School typePublic Secondary
School districtRockford Public School District 205
Color(s)  Red
Athletics conferenceBig 7
Team nameRABS (Red And Blacks)
YearbookThe Owl
Rockford Central High School
Rockford Central High School is located in Illinois
Rockford Central High School
LocationRockford, Winnebago County, Illinois, United States
Coordinates42°16′5″N 89°5′29″W / 42.26806°N 89.09139°W / 42.26806; -89.09139Coordinates: 42°16′5″N 89°5′29″W / 42.26806°N 89.09139°W / 42.26806; -89.09139
ArchitectEdward Peterson & Gilbert Johnson
Architectural styleClassical Revival
Part ofHaight Village Historic District (ID87002044[1])
Added to NRHPNovember 20, 1987[1]

Rockford High School (sometimes referred to as Rockford Central High School) was the first school opened by the newly formed, citywide, school district, Rockford Public School District 205 in Rockford, Illinois. Opened in 1885, it served as a high school from 1885 until 1940, then as the administration offices of the school district until 2011. It was sold to the City of Rockford in 2014, and demolished in 2015 as part of a redevelopment project.


Prior to providing a central location for education, students attended two separate school districts, one located on the east side of the Rock River, the other on the west side. These school districts were established in 1854, and opened buildings in 1857. By 1862, each district had established a high school, creating an east-vs-west rivalry that would continue for 22 years.

In 1884, the two districts united into one district, the Rockford Public School District 205. The new district built and opened a single high school located at 201 South Madison Street. The first commencement included twenty graduates in 1885.[2] About 100 total students were enrolled in Rockford High School during its inaugural year. That number grew to 600 by 1900 and by the year 1940, that number would increase to nearly 3,600 students.

By 1935, the attendance at the single high school grew too large. The board of education decided it would be best to, once again, establish two new high schools on the east and west sides of the Rock River. In September 1940, both Rockford East and Rockford West High School opened. Rockford West, located on North Rockton Avenue on the Northwest side of the city, remained open for 48 years as a high school. It now serves as West Middle School for the Rockford Public School System. Rockford East, located on Charles Street, is still a functioning high school and maintains the traditions of Rockford High School.


The Rockford Board of Education voted Tuesday, August 24, 2011, to purchase the former Amcore financial headquarters building at 501 7th Street, Rockford, Illinois, at a cost of $1.825 million. The previous owner of the building was the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This decision was taken because the board would have had to spend $1.7 million on state-mandated repairs to the building in order to keep using it.

In February 2014, the district determined it was spending about $3,000 a month to maintain the empty building. The city of Rockford was planning to build a $21 million indoor sports facility across the street from the building. The city wanted to put a 115-spot parking lot on the site of the building. Members of the Rockford School Board Operations Committee voted in favor of the idea. On September 23, 2014, the Rockford School Board approved an agreement with the City of Rockford to tear down the building, by August 2014, at a cost of $668,804, and to donate the one-acre parcel of land to the city, for the parking area for the proposed UW Health Sports Factory.[3] The city agreed to give the district goods and services in the amount of $488,804, which is the cost of the demolition and remediation minus $180,000, the estimated five-year maintenance expenses for the building. The goods and services the city promised in the agreement included road salt, trees, and sidewalks for the district's elementary schools, and the vacating of an alley near East High School to make room for a new fieldhouse.

Demolition of the building took place in March 2015.[4]

Interesting facts[edit]

Rockford 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.

It was 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.

The Annual, or yearbook as it is called now, was entitled "The Owl".[2] It was founded in 1890 and has been published continually since 1892. Rockford was the second high school in the country to establish a yearbook.

Rockford's baseball diamonds were used by the Rockford Peaches girls professional baseball team starting in 1940.

Girls basketball preceded the boys program. 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 outside of Cook County" with a final score of 10–6.

The building was home to Rockford Public School District's central offices and board of education until February 2012.

The school's colors were red and black with a nickname based on those colors: the RAB's for Red And Blacks. Rockford East continues to use the nickname, adding an E to the front, creating the word "E-Rabs".

The school song:

"Let us voice our loy-al-ty, in a stir-ring, ring-ing cheer.
For the team that fights so splen-did-ly.
For the colors we re-vere - Hoorah! Rah!
Go Rockford go! Right at the foe! Go, Rockford go!
Hoorah! Rah! So go Rockford go!
We're cheering you nearing the goal line, Rockford go!
Plunging, advancing, the ball never yield

Victory we must know (Rah! Rah! Rah!)"


Rockford was considered a very large school for the IHSA and because of their size, they had a tremendous amount of athletic success. The RABS overall won eight state championships, including three in boys basketball (1911, 1919, 1939), four in track and field (1896, 1927, 1933, 1935), as well as a swimming championship in 1933. Rockford became the first school to win three IHSA championships in Basketball.

Boys basketball[edit]

Based on the IHSA Website (, Rockford saw more success from 1910 to 1940 than any other school in the state. During that 30-year span, the RABS not only won three championships, they qualified for the state tournament 12 times..

The IHSA began hosting a statewide 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. More of what can be expanded on this topic is mentioned in a chapter of the book "100 Years of March Madness" by Scott Johnson, among others.


Rockford first fielded a football team in 1893. During the history of the school, 405 football games were played with the RABS winning 262 of them.

Boys track & field[edit]

Besides basketball, Rockford's track and field team excelled above all others. The RABS won four of the school's eight state championships in the arena of track and field. Between 1895 and 1940, Rockford placed in the top 10 of competing schools 11 times, all with the same head coach, Charles E. Beyer.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Miriam C. Carlson, "The Rise and Fall of Rockford Central High School," Illinois History, vol. 18 (Dec. 1998).
  3. ^ "Rockford School District to demolish former administration building". 2014-09-24. Retrieved 2016-06-06.
  4. ^ Rockford Historical Society
  5. ^ John B. Anderson Biography
  6. ^