Founding and Incorporation
The Litchfield Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) was organized in 1898 by a group of 28 civic-minded men, under the name of the Litchfield Board of Trade. One year later, with $7.00 in the treasury, an Industrial Committee was set up with David Davis as chairman. It was through this committee that negotiations were first made in 1904 with R. Lewis Redpath, resulting in the purchase of Mike Cleary's cornfield as the site for the American Radiator Company. This group became known as the Merchants' Protective Association of Litchfield and was incorporated as the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce on May 3, 1907.
Early Contributions to Business Growth
At the time the Brown Shoe Company located here in 1917, the Chamber took the lead in raising the $60,000 to make their opening here possible. Later, another $25,000 was raised for an addition to the plant. When the Hoffman Forge came here in 1949, the Chamber again raised the $7,000 necessary for this business employing 23 men. The efforts of the Chamber brought to Litchfield in 1951 the Roll-Away Skate and Aerflyte Shoe Companies, at which time the Industrial Committee again raised $20,000 to assist with their locating here.
Significant Chamber activities by committees included Greeter Service to new families, a new street lighting system, a Community Planning Survey, an employment survey, weekly radio broadcasts discussing vital national issues, study and recommendations of legislative matters with the State and National Chamber, highway and lake planning, a farm program, assistance in compilation of city directories, financial support of matron for Library Rest Room, shrubbery in Library Park, an ordinance recommended and passed affecting peddlers, solicitation screening, downtown garbage collection, and negotiations for the Illinois National Guard, as well as the Illinois State Employment Office, scrap drives, a War Bond Drive, and support of grade and high school bond issues.
The Retail Division embraced such activities as Christmas decorations for the downtown district, the Christmas on Wheels parade, Santa Claus, Style Shows, Dollar Days, a survey of retail service to shoppers and retail clinics, Business-Industry-Education Days, Vocational Guidance and Distributive Education programs with the schools, and prizes for the annual National Employ-the-Physically-Handicapped Poster contest.
The Chamber was also instrumental in organizing the Litchfield Community Chest, whose campaigns were conducted each year. The preliminary work of activating a Centennial setup was done through the Chamber's Board of Directors, whose office served as headquarters for the Centennial Board's business transactions.
Continuing Our Legacy of Service
Today, the Chamber is located in the former Carnegie Library Building at 400 N. State Street and continues its mission of serving the Litchfield business community and its residents.