This Greek Revival, Italianate architectural style Graham-Ginestra House is on the National Register of Historic Places in Winnebago County, Illinois. The house represents the homestead of two prominent families who started successful businesses in Rockford: Freeman Graham, Sr. and Leo Ginestra.
Freeman Graham was a business man from Connecticut and had this architectural marvel constructed in 1857 for his family.The home was in the Water Power District where Freeman managed a farm inplements company Everson, Talcott & Co. as well as being co-owner of the Rockford Cotton Mills. He also built the first sour mash distillery in Illinois. He was one of the first settlers on this southwest side and an elected Fifth Ward Alderman. Upon Freeman's death the businesses went to his three sons and house to his daughter Julia. She and her husband Henry S. Warner, secretary-treasurer.of the Graham Match Co. lived in the house until 1927.
The House was then sold to Sicilian Immigrant Leo Ginestra and his wife Mary. Leo was a mechanic and owner of a mobile home park nearby. The Ginestras had two children. The home became part of the Italian community in the middle of the community commercial thoroughfare. The house was left to surviving daughter Therese Ginestra-Schmeltzer and her husband Donald. Therese kept the home open for touring and tea parties. In 1982 the home next door was purchased and torn down to make room for a FORMAL ENGLISH GARDEN AND GAZEBO. Son Michael designed an OGEE ARCH THAT CREATES A CONNECTION BETWEEN THE HOUSE AND GARDEN AREA. Michael remembers horses and buggies stored in the buildings behind the house.
Therese and Donald kept the Italian Columns, parquet floors, and edged glass stained windows in perfect repair. By accident, THEY DISCOVERED HAND PAINTED CEILING MURALS IN NUMEROUS ROOMS AND SPARED NO COST IN UNCOVERING AND RESTORING THEM. THE ARTISTS WHO RESORED THE ARTWORK AT GRAND CENTRAL STATION BROUGHT THE RESORATION PIECES BACK TO THE HOME FOR ALL TO ENJOY.
Before Therese's death she shared with her children HER STRONG DESIRE TO CONTINUE TO KEEP THE HOME OPEN AS A MUSEUM. She and her husband went to great lengths to preserve this historic resource by contacting the United States Dept. of Interior and the Natl Park Service to ititiate its recognition on THE NATIONAL REGISTRY OF HISTORIC PLACES in 1979. After Therese's passing the Graham-Ginestra home was sold in 2004 to a private investor. For reasons unknown, the house was closed to tours four years later in 2008.
The Ethnic Heritage Museum has purchased this Graham-Ginestra house. It fits perfectly with the museum mission of perserving the cultural history of Rockford's early beginnings in the area This charming spot can once again host tea parties as Therese once did. Visitors can tour the beautiful interior and enjoy the picnic area in the lot between. Many on the museum board have contributed to this fine purchase. Additional community funding support will be directed to this purchase and help fund programs to share this fascinating history.
If you'd like to donate, go to our Donations page.
For any further information, call Graham-Ginestra Chairman Dick Berman at 815 289-3553. Thanking you in advance for helping us with Graham-Ginestra and restoring this southwest Rockford landmark.