Model at Dixon Historic Center, real one in Shelbyville, IL
This model was I thought one of the most exciting finds at the Dixon Historic Center visit in January. Although this appears to be a huge round barn it is a model of the Rock River Assembly’s lovely arena built in 1887.
Designed originally by architect Morrison H. Vail from Chicago, the building was used to train Sunday school teachers and to serve as the theater for the Chautauqua gatherings. The Dixon Historic Center brochure states, “Built in 1899, the building had the largest clear interior span of any building in the United States and could seat 5,000 people…”
The Rock River Assembly went bankrupt in 192. Then it was purchased by Dan Holbrook who turned it into a roller rink. The rink remained open until destroyed by fire in 1949.
Architect Peter Wentworth was hired to create the rendition of the arena for the center. He explained, “Vail designed this as a standard structure to be repeated. There is another in existence in Shelbyville so if you want to see it, you should go to Shelbyville. The model I built is almost identical.”