HISTORY OF THE CLUB
The University Club is a private social and event club — and a legendary piece of local history, having played host to Rockford historical figures for more than a century.
The UClub was formally founded in April 1911. According to club records, several men, led by a Mr. Warner Hays of Chicago, arrived by horse and buggy and formed a university club in Rockford in the early 1900s. It officially opened in 1911 as a place for college and university graduates to nurture ties to their alma maters.
The first annual dinner was held Feb. 3, 1911, in the “new” Mendelssohn Hall, located on North Main Street. Early on, club members met in a variety of places: the Christian Union Church; the Elks Club; the Trust Building; and the Lafayette Hotel. After 37 years, the UClub formally moved into the Duncan Forbes home at 945 North Main Street on March 20, 1940 to create its permanent quarters.
[FunFact: The previous owner’s father, Harry Forbes, was World bantamweight boxing champion, 1900-03.]
The home and land was formally sold to the UClub by Duncan Forbes in 1945 for $30,647.00 — equivalent to more than half a million dollars in today’s economy. The original home was designed in 1907 by architects Frost and Granger. Frost was responsible for designing Navy Pier in Chicago.
The UClub has undergone many additions and rennovations — each an answer to the day’s needs and fashions, such as a cozy library, spacious dining room and living room, intimate bar area, backyard swimming pool and the only known squash court around. But it still retains its original charm and historic roots.
[FunFact: The UClub provided quarters for many of Rockford’s bachelors. Room rentals discontinued in 1968.]
The most significant change took place in 2002, when the UClub became the last university club in the nation to accept female members, breaking its 91-year tradition, and welcoming the gender addition.
The University Club believes in giving back. Since 1950, it has awarded scholarships to one, two or three high school seniors each year. Students are chosen from public and private schools in Rockford and Loves Park, and selection is based upon grades, essays and extracurricular activities. Each scholarship amounts to a total of $6,000 over four years.