ROCHELLE — Most people in Rochelle probably know about the famous hanging that took place in the 19th century at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Cherry Avenue in downtown Rochelle. But did they know the building standing there now is not the actual building where the hanging took place?
According to local historian Terry Dickow, the actual building was torn down around 1895, and was replaced by a new one around 1905.
“It’s the right location, but a different building,” he said.
That is one of the many interesting facts awaiting anyone who attends the first historical walking tour of downtown Rochelle, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 12. The “Then and Now Walks,” which will be hosted by Dickow, will be held on the second Friday of every month from now through October.
Dickow, a member of the Flagg Rochelle History Museum board of directors, said there have been self-guided tours before, but this is the first to be held with a guide. It will start in front of the history museum, located at Sixth Street and Fourth Avenue, and make a circle back to the museum, including about 10 scheduled stops.
Depending how it goes, the mile-long tour should take about 45 minutes, maybe longer. Those attending should be aware that there are very few places to sit so they will be on their feet virtually the whole time. And, since this is the first walk, it isn’t certain how wheelchair-friendly the walk will be, especially since it will cross the railroad tracks.
Dickow said he got the idea for the walking tour, which should be as entertaining as it is informational, about three years ago.
“I have always loved history and learning about the past,” he said. “I thought the walk would be informative and entertaining, not only for the people going with me, but for me also. When I taught fifth grade in Rochelle, my favorite subject was always history. Most people look at the subject of history and think of old dead guys from long ago, but history is going on all around us, every day. Being aware of our past helps us to plan for the future, at least that is what I think.”
Dickow is hoping that those going on the tour will offer some insights on the buildings and the people who populated those buildings, as well as this town, that he isn’t aware of.
“I hope people will add their own personal experiences and memories,” he said. “Those stories might even be added to future walks.”
Admission for the walk is free, but a free will offering will be taken when it is over.
Dickow said a group of about 20 is probably ideal for the walk, but no one will be turned away. “Larger groups would be great,” he said, “but a group can get too big and take away from the give and take I hope to have with the people.”
There is no registration for the first walk, but – again depending on the crowd – that may change in the future.
Once the walk is completed, those attending may want to visit the museum, which will be open, to see the exhibits.
Future walks are scheduled for: June 9, July 14, Aug. 11, Sept. 8 and Oct. 13. All walks are scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m., however Dickow said the October walk may be moved up depending on how fast it gets dark.