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Freeport, Illinois
Freeport City Hall Building
Freeport City Hall Building
Pretzel City, USA
Location of Freeport in Stephenson County, Illinois.
Location of Freeport in Stephenson County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Country United States
State Illinois
County Stephenson
Township Freeport
Founded 1827
Incorporated 1838
 • Total 11.89 sq mi (30.79 km2)
 • Land 11.88 sq mi (30.77 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.02 km2)
778 ft (237 m)
 • Total 23,973
 • Density 2,017.76/sq mi (779.04/km2)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s) 815/779
FIPS code 17-27884
Wikimedia Commons Freeport, Illinois
Paint the Port
Paint the Port is an annual festival in Downtown Freeport held in September and hosted by the Freeport Art Museum.
Union Dairy
Enjoying a night at Union Dairy in Downtown Freeport
Freeport is home to the mini-Wrigley replica, Little Cubs Field. The field is open or can be reserved for private gatherings such as tournaments, family reunions, or other events.

Freeport is the county seat and largest city of Stephenson County, Illinois, United States. The population was 25,638 at the 2010 census, and the mayor of Freeport is Jodi Miller, elected in 2017. Freeport is known for hosting the second Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858, and as "Pretzel City, USA", due to a popular local German bakery known for its pretzels in the 1850s. Freeport High School's mascot is the Pretzel to honor its heritage.


The community was originally called Winneshiek. When it was incorporated, the new municipality took its name from the generosity of Tutty Baker, who was credited with running a "free port" on the Pecatonica River. The name "Winneshiek" was later adopted, and is preserved to this day, by the Freeport Community Theatre Group.

In 1837, Stephenson County was formed and Freeport became its seat of government in 1838. Linked by a stagecoach with Chicago, the community grew rapidly. In 1840, a frame courthouse was erected and the first school was founded. Within two years, Freeport had two newspapers and in 1853, the two were joined by a third which published in German. By then, the community had a population of 2,000.

On August 27, 1858, the second debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas took place in Freeport and gave the nation direction in the following years. Although Stephen Douglas won the election and retained his U.S. Senate seat, his reply to a question on slavery alienated the South, which called it the "Freeport Heresy", and split the Democratic Party. This enabled Abraham Lincoln to win the Presidency in 1860.

A monument to the debate was dedicated in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt and stands at this site. A life size statue recreating the event was dedicated in 1992. Another renowned statue, Lincoln the Debator by Leonard Crunelle, is a focal point in the city's Taylor Park. In many years there is also a reenactment of the debate, which has been shown on C-SPAN.

Freeport is known as the "Pretzel City", and its public high school's team is named the Pretzels. The nickname is a reminder of Freeport's ethnic heritage; in the late 1850s, many Germans, both from Pennsylvania and from their European homeland, resettled in Stephenson County bringing with them their love of pretzel snacks. In 1869, a German immigrant named John Billerbeck established the Billerbeck Bakery, which distributed so many pretzels to residents that the local newspaper later dubbed Freeport the "Pretzel City". The city later capitalized on this nickname in 2003 by starting Freeport's first Pretzel Festival.

Freeport is home to the oldest Carnegie Library in Illinois and one of the first Carnegie Libraries designed by the famous Chicago architectural firm of Patton and Miller. It is being renovated into Freeport's City Hall.

Before February 1893, a large square of land was purchased from the former Keller-Wittbecker farm in East Freeport. Some of this land had recently been subdivided and platted as the "Arcade Addition". The Arcade Manufacturing Company had been in operation since 1885 when the previous Novelty Iron Works had gone out of business at the corner of Chicago and Jackson streets. That earlier company began as early as 1868. After the 1892 fire, the Arcade Manufacturing Company built an entirely new factory in the Arcade Addition of East Freeport, where they produced coffee mills and other metal products.


Freeport Il Downtown2
Buildings in downtown Freeport, Illinois

Freeport is located approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of the Wisconsin state line, and at the center of a large agricultural area, located about 25 miles (40 km) west of Rockford.

According to the 2010 census, Freeport has a total area of 11.79 square miles (30.54 km2), of which 11.78 square miles (30.51 km2) (or 99.92%) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) (or 0.08%) is water.

U.S. Route 20 is a four-lane divided highway that skirts the community's northern edge. At Rockford, it links with Interstates 90 and 39, giving Freeport residents access to the entire Interstate system. I-90 is the major route between Boston and Seattle. I-39 extends from Rockford to Bloomington, where it links with I-74 and I-55. From Freeport, U.S. 20 continues west to Galena, and the metropolitan area of Dubuque, Iowa.

The area code for Freeport is 815 with an overlay area code of 779 as of March 17, 2007.


Climate data for Freeport, Illinois
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 25
Average low °F (°C) 9
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.331


Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 491
1850 1,436 192.5%
1860 5,376 274.4%
1870 7,889 46.7%
1880 8,516 7.9%
1890 10,189 19.6%
1900 13,258 30.1%
1910 17,587 32.7%
1920 19,669 11.8%
1930 22,045 12.1%
1940 22,368 1.5%
1950 22,467 0.4%
1960 26,628 18.5%
1970 27,736 4.2%
1980 26,266 −5.3%
1990 25,840 −1.6%
2000 26,443 2.3%
2010 25,638 −3.0%
2020 23,973 −6.5%
Census Quickfacts

As of the census of 2000, there were 26,443 people, 11,222 households, and 6,845 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,316.9 people per square mile (894.8/km2). There were 12,471 housing units at an average density of 1,092.7/sq mi (422.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.77% White, 13.81% African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.97% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.00% from other races, and 2.22% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.12% of the population.

There were 11,222 households, out of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 12.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.0% were non-families. 33.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 24.5% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 18.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,399, and the median income for a family was $43,787. Males had a median income of $35,870 versus $25,095 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,680. About 9.9% of families and 13.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.6% of those under age 18 and 9.5% of those age 65 or over.

Parks and recreation

Freeport Il Lincoln the Debater1
Lincoln the Debater by sculptor Leonard Crunelle, in Taylor Park
  • Krape Park was awarded "Outstanding Multi-use Facility" award by the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association. Heavily wooded Krape Park features a picturesque waterfall that tumbles down from a high limestone bluff. One can ride paddle boats, play mini golf or play on one of the three playground areas.
  • Bidwell Park a 2-acre (8,100 m2) park presented by the heirs of Orlando B. Bidwell, features a small shelter with restrooms, a softball field, and a playground.
  • Knowlton Park, a 1-acre (4,000 m2) park presented by the descendants of Dexter A. Knowlton to mark the 100th anniversary of his arrival to Freeport, features a bronze tablet and tall black maple trees to shade benches and play equipment.
  • Read Park features the Read Park Family Aquatic Center and a skate park. One of the larger parks in Freeport, it also features a large pavilion, basketball courts, children's playground, shuffleboard courts, tennis courts, and softball fields. It is also home to the newly added Little Cubs Field.
  • Oakdale Nature Preserve has over 133 acres (0.54 km2) of forests, streams and restored prairies including more than four miles (6 km) of trails as well as a 1/3-mile hard-packed accessible trail. It includes a lodge, an auditorium and a nature center.
  • Taylor Park, a 74-acre (0.30 km2) park acquired in 1911, features three lighted softball fields, concession stand, basketball courts, picnic shelter and Abraham Lincoln statue. This statue, located in the southwest section of the park, was sculpted in 1928–29 by Leonard Crunelle. Its dedication on August 27, 1929, was attended by many notable guests, and was covered by newspapers across the country.
  • Wilbur Park, a 1-acre (4,000 m2) park donated by local industrialist W. T. Rawleigh and named after his son (who died during World War I), was deeded over to Freeport Park District on July 13, 1948. The park features landscaped terrain and playground equipment.


Freeport Il Freeport Library1
The Freeport Public Library on the cusp of downtown Freeport


Tourist sites in the area include the Don Opel Arboretum, a botanical garden with over 3,000 different species of ground coverings, trees and shrubs. The Stephenson County Historical Society Museum includes Oscar Taylor House, a one-room schoolhouse, the Industrial/Arcade Toy Museum, an Irish homestead log cabin, and an arboretum. The Freeport Art Museum is located on N. Harlem Avenue.


Public schools

  • Freeport High School
  • Carl Sandburg Middle School
  • Freeport Middle School
  • Jones-Farrar Magnet School
  • Blackhawk Elementary School
  • Center Elementary School
  • Empire Elementary School
  • Lincoln-Douglas Elementary School
  • Taylor Park Elementary School

Private schools

  • Immanuel Lutheran
  • Aquin Catholic Schools
  • Tri-County Christian Schools
  • Open Bible Learning Center


  • Highland Community College offers 68 degree and certificate programs.
  • Columbia College-Freeport, located on the Highland Community College campus.

Notable people

  • Joseph M. Bailey, jurist and legislator
  • Dan Balz, award-winning political reporter for the Washington Post
  • Ken Behring, owned the NFL's Seattle Seahawks
  • Harry Boeke, Illinois state senator and businessman
  • Carl Cain, 1956 Olympic basketball gold medalist, University of Iowa basketball player
  • John Callahan, Major League Baseball player
  • Janet H. Clark, Minnesota state legislator
  • Alfred A. Cohn, author, journalist and newspaper editor, Police Commissioner, and screenwriter of the 1920s and 1930s
  • A.D. Condo, cartoonist
  • Richard Wayne Dirksen, organist and choirmaster
  • William Eckert, Air Force general, Major League Baseball commissioner
  • Calista Flockhart, actress
  • James B. Goetz, Minnesota Lieutenant Governor
  • Tuffy Gosewisch, Major League Baseball player
  • Charles Guiteau, assassin of US President James A. Garfield
  • Corky Hale, jazz musician
  • Clare Winger Harris, science fiction author
  • Oscar E. Heard, Illinois jurist
  • Homer Hillebrand, Major League Baseball player
  • Donna Jogerst, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player
  • Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET)
  • Francis Lamb, Wisconsin State Assemblyman
  • Edward E. Laughlin, Illinois State Senator and lawyer
  • Gerald McClellan, middleweight boxing champion
  • John Meyer, Illinois State Representative, lawyer
  • Ravi Patel, film and TV actor
  • Jason Pearson, Major League Baseball player
  • Preston Pearson, National Football League player
  • Trisha Paytas, YouTube personality
  • William Buckley Peck, physician, surgeon, and founder of the Inter-State Postgraduate Medical Association of North America
  • William Thomas Rawleigh, industrialist, Illinois State Representative
  • Harlan Rigney, Illinois State Representative
  • Stephen A. Rigney, Illinois state representative
  • William Avery Rockefeller, father of John D. Rockefeller
  • Adolph Rupp, head basketball coach Freeport HS 1926-30 and Univ. of Kentucky 1930–72, for whom Rupp Arena is named.
  • Manuel Seal - Grammy-award-winning producer
  • Ted Snyder, songwriter
  • Charles J. Stine, silent film actor
  • Tiffany Thayer, author, actor, Thirteen Women
  • Alice Bradford Wiles, Chicago clubwoman, lived in Freeport
  • Steve Luecke, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, 1997-2012
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