14 W Stephenson St / Number 1 Martin's Block
Number 1 Martin's Block, originally built in 1854, is the oldest building documented in Downtown Freeport that is still standing. It is the only remaining part of what was known as Martin's block which was a larger 60 foot wide by 60 feet long, three story brick building erected by Martin and Karcher. It is one of the few downtown buildings that maintained use of the upper floors throughout it's history. In the late 1850s or early 1860s when street names began to be in use the address was known as 108 Stephenson St. When the city renumbered streets in about 1921 it was then known as 14 W Stephenson St.
It is currently home to Wall of Yarn, a local yarn store, at 14 W Stephenson St and Exchange Street Printery at 15 W Exchange St.
fall 2021 window replacement
fall 2021 window replacement
Backstory and Context
Number 1 Martin's Block, originally built in 1854, is the oldest building documented in Downtown Freeport. It is the only remaining part of what was known as Martin's block which was a larger 60 foot wide by 60 feet long, three story brick building erected by Martin and Karcher.
Dr. Chancellor Martin owned Number 1 Martin's Block and it passed down through his descendants: to son John Martin, then to daughter Ella Kintzel who died in 1953. Her sons sold the building to Maurice Rothstein in 1961. The building became part of the Maurice and Edna Rothstein Trust in 1983 and the trust conveyed the building to Kiriakos Agavanakis in 1986. Kiriakos then conveyed the building in 1993 to Thomas Nettles and Betty Roliardi as tenants in common. In 1999 Thomas purchased Betty's interest in the building and later he sold the buiding in 2017 to the current owners. Number 2 was sold to William Walton and it burned down in 1971. Number 3 was owned by Karcher and was replaced in the 1940s when Sears opened.
The first floor of Number 1 Martin's Block was extended from 60 to 90 feet in 1867 By August Ford who ran a business there at the time. The first floor was later extended to it's current length of 155 feet all the way to Exchange Street in the late 1960's or early 1970's making it the last building on the block to extend from Stephenson Street to Exchange Street. After the fire occurred next door, the upper stories of this building were renovated and the front windows facing Stephenson Street on the third floor were bricked over and the windows facing Exchange Street were replaced by a large sliding glass door in the center of the wall, while on the second floor the windows were replaced by smaller windows. The front façade on the first floor has changed throughout the years with the current Stucco and glass windows were installed in the 1970s.
The inside and outside are both currently being renovated by the current owners, Jeffrey Wall and Dennis Rinkenberger who purchased the building in 2017. In 2021 the brick was removed from the third floor windows and windows on both the second and third floors were replaced with windows that went back to the original size windows. While indoor renovations are slowly progressing, the current plan includes replacing the first floor façade and replacing it with something close to the original as seen in an early ambrotype probably taken around the grand opening for Ford & Housel in when they moved into the building in November of 1855.
March 1854: Construction begins
Nov 1854: First tenants move in
late 1854 - sometime before Nov 1855: G W Sickafoose Dry Goods store
1855 - at least 1861: Third Floor: Journal Printing & Office (Judson and McClure publishers)
Early 1855 - at least 1861: Upstairs on 2nd Floor: U D Meacham Attorney at Law)
Nov 1855 - about 1864: Ford and Housel (watch, jewelry and fancy goods store)
about 1864 - about 1867: A W Ford & Co (Same company but now no longer partners with Mr. Housel)
about 1867 - about 1874: Ford & Wise (Same company but now Mr. Ford is partner with Mr. Wise)
1867 City Directory lists Upstairs: Dr. Leland A Babcock, and lawyers T.F. Goodhue and George Purington
1875 - 1877: C G Sanborn (Books, Stationary and Wall Paper)
Directories missing from 1878-1883
1883 - 1885: C H Pixley (Watches)
1884 - 1900: Mrs H E Boger (Millinery and Fancy Goods rented space in Pixley then Ford and Son when Pixley sold to R Dobbie and back to A W Ford )
1886 - 1889: R Dobbie (Jewelry store purchased store from C H Pixley)
1889 - 1904: A W Ford and Son (Jewelry store)
1905 - 1921: Miss Mary Summers (Millinery store)
1922 - 1928: Newark Shoe Store
1931 - 1967: Winslow Shoe Store
1968 - 1979: Stone's Hallmark
1981 - 1984: Creative Urge Needlecraft
1986 - 1987: Electronics Plus
1989 - 1990: Webermeier Music Center
1991 - 1993: Cornerstone Casuals (Ladies Clothing store)
1997 - 2010: Frame-N-Art (pictures and framing)
2011 - Present: Wall of Yarn (local yarn store)
Freeport Weekly Journal (Freeport) April 13th 1854. .
Freeport Weekly Bulletin (Freeport) September 14th 1854. .
"Ford and Housel advertisement." Freeport Journal (Freeport) November 15th 1855. .
Deed Book P. Volume P-284 Page 194-195. Freeport, IL. Stephenson County Clerk.
1857: The Freeport and Rockford General and Business Directories and Stephenson and Winnebago Counties Advertiser for the Year 1857, published by Hall & McEvoy in Chicago, IL in 1857
1861: Freeport City Business Directory and Advertiser for 1861, published by Umberhine & Gustin's, Indianapolis, IN
1867-1868: Freeport City Directory, published by Edwards, Greenough & Deved, St Louis, MO
1868-1868: Freeport City Directory with a Historical and Business Review; also a Business Directory of the different towns in the county, compiled by M W Riley, Published by Kauffman & Burgh, Freeport, IL, 1868
1872-1873: Holland's Freeport City Directory for 1872-73, published by Western Publishing Company, Chicago, IL
1873-1874: Bailey's Freeport Directory 1873-74 (frontice page missing so no publisher info)
1875-1876: Pryor & Co's Freeport City Directory for 1875-6, published by Pryor & Co, Freeport, IL
1876-1877: Gardner & Gaines' Business Directory of Stephenson County for 1876-7, published by Gardner & Gaines, Freeport, IL Sept 1876
1877: Holland's Freeport City Directory for 1877, published by Holland Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1877
1884-1885: The Standard Freeport City Directory for 1884-5, published by Kepstine & Co, Clinton, Iowa, Sept 1884
1887-1888: Freeport City Directory 1887-88, published by Wm J Simm, Freeport, IL
1894-1895: Freeport City Directory (frontispiece missing so no publisher info)
1898-1899: Freeport and Stephenson County Directory for 1898-99, compiled by Freeport Directory Company, printed by W H Wagner & Sons, Freeport, IL 1898
From the collection of the Stephenson County Historical Society
Downtown Building Survey in Collection of the local history room in the Freeport Public Library