The Barnes Mansion

A Historic Home

Creating a masterpiece

In 1893, the Williams Fletcher Barnes house was built during a severe economic depression. It was one of the finest homes in Rockford, costing more than $30,000 at the time. A showplace with 15 rooms, a turret, two porticoes, and hand-carved solid cherry paneling in the foyer, reception area, and first-floor hallway. During the building of the home, W.F. Barnes employed local immigrants to assist with the intricate interior woodworking, paying anywhere from $0.50 to $1.00 per day for their labor.

The home was the location for some of the fanciest and most beautiful parties in Rockford.  Popular “lawn parties” included an orchestra playing on the front steps of the home.  The family inhabited the first and second floors of the home. The basement featured the family’s kitchen, staffed by servants, and food was served by entrances to the living quarters through multiple servant doors coming out of the separate servant hallway.

The mansion becomes part of our community.

In 1937 Amy Lane, a daughter of W.F. Barnes, sold the building to the Rockford Park District for $12,000. The Rockford Park District set up its offices on the first floor.  Soon, Burpee Museum opened its doors to the public on the second and third floors in 1942. Burpee expanded its occupation of the house to include the first floor and basement in 1971 when the Park District relocated offices.

The Barnes home today

When Burpee expanded and moved to its current location, Burpee Museum continued to maintain the home for offices, laboratories, and storage.  Today the first floor has been restored to its original glory and is available for rentals from wedding receptions to baby showers to themed birthday parties.