Category: Elgin IL Historic House Friday

443 W. Chicago Street

443 W. Chicago Street

The snow is gone and the sun is out – it’s a great day for a walk! This week’s house was inspired by the Near West neighborhood and the new initiative #ElginWalks. Visit for maps, walking challenges and even ways to win prizes!

443 W. Chicago Street was built in 1891 for Thomas and Martha McBride for $1,500. Thomas was the bookkeeper for his father’s company, Henry McBride and Company, which sold coal, wood, lime, cement and stone.
Martha and Thomas had three children, Stanley, Walter and Waneta. Sadly, Thomas died in 1903 at the young age of 40 leaving the family with many business debts. Due to this, the house was sold at a sheriff’s auction in 1909 where Martha was the only bidder. She kept the family home until her death in 1925.
443 W. Chicago Street is considered a part of the Spindlework sub-type of the Queen Anne Style. The home displays much of its original features including the intricate vergeboard found at the front and cross gables, the squared bay window with top panels and brackets and the delicate spindlework porch supports with lace-like brackets and frieze found at the front porch.
While you are in the Near West Neighborhood, don’t forget to check the progress on the Nancy Kimball Cobblestone House Project at 302 W. Chicago Street!
Text adapted from

1895 Map of Elgin, IL
117 Tennyson Court

117 Tennyson Court

Happy Good Friday, Elgin! There is this tiny street in the Elgin Historic District called Tennyson Court that I just love. The homes on this street are all very neat in their own right, but the house at 117 Tennyson Court is a real beauty. This is also one of the oldest houses in Elgin being built in the 1850’s for Edmund and Lucy Gifford along with their nine children. Edmund was an attorney that brought the first law library to Elgin and was the first superintendent of the public school system in Elgin.

The house originally faced Division Street before the lot was subdivided in the early 1900s. You can see the development of Tennyson Court by the images of the Sanborn fire insurance maps. In the first image from 1891, the street doesn’t officially exist! By 1903, there were about 10 houses, and the 1950 image shows what the street looks like today.This Second Empire style residence, now a three-unit, was a single family home only for a short time: It had been converted to a two family home by 1914. In 1981, the home underwent an extensive renovation, including removing the white paint from the brick exterior. In 1993, it was on the Historic Elgin House Tour. Read the full story in the tour book here:

Notice the mansard roof has several patterns of shingles with a painted cornice supported by decorative brackets. These details are my favorite part of the house.

Text and photos adapted from Gifford Park Association Historic Elgin House Tour booklet from 1993 and also

571 Center Street

571 Center Street

For this week’s house, I wanted to feature a house owned by a doctor or nurse as a tribute to all the hospital staffers working around the clock during this unprecedented crisis.
Looking through Mike Alft’s book “Elgin: An Amercan History” I found Dr. Carlton E. Starrett, who served in the Spanish-American war. He and his family lived at 571 Center Street – which was a little hard to research because it doesn’t exist anymore! Luckily, it was listed in Steve Stroud’s book There Used to Be.
This house was built in 1886 for $5,000 by the Turnbull Brothers for Henry Adams, who was the president of the Western Card Company. The next owners were the G. W. Sears family, who were in the books and stationery supplies business. The next family to move in were the C. N. Black family who are pictured in the first photo, and the Starrett family moved in around 1896. According to an article in the Elgin Daily Courier from March 26, 1920, the home was sold to St. Joseph Hospital for $10,000. It was then used as a residence for the nurses until the early 1970’s. The home was razed in 1973 along with the old hospital and the entire block became St. Francis Park. I couldn’t find many photos of this house. If anyone has exterior or interior photos – please share!

406 Prospect

406 Prospect

This is a map from 1855 that showed property owners and land plots. As you can see, Mr. Schoonhoven’s home is on a nicely wooded plot

This week’s house came about because I was looking for a DIFFERENT address on Prospect Street – and this one caught my eye as well. 406 Prospect Street was built in 1854 for Thomas and Catharine Schoonhoven. According to an article in the Elgin Daily Courier, this home was built for $8,000. That was a lot of money in 1854!! Thomas was a farmer in nearby Hanover Township. He and his wife Catharine had 8 children – I guess that is why they needed such a large house. In 1869, Zabina Eastman and his wife Mary Jane bought this house and stayed until about 1880. An investor purchased it and then sold it to George and Mary Mathilda and their 3 kids. James Covey, a local builder, boarded with them. (You will hear more about the Covey’s in another post. 😉 ) Employees from George Congdon’s shoe and boot factory also boarded here.
FUN FACT (and something that made this a little challenging to research) This is on the corner of Cherry St and Prospect – it was first known as 274 Cherry Street, but today it is 406 Prospect Blvd.
Sources: There Used to Be – Vol III by Steve Stroud.

This is from a hand drawn map from 1880.
443 E. Chicago Street

443 E. Chicago Street

I was recently introduced to The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) (Link to the website in comments below) from an email the Gifford Park Association sent to its members. This email also featured the A. B. Hinsdell House at 443 East Chicago Street that was included in the HABS survey. This is one of the oldest homes in the Elgin Historic District being built around 1845.

A. B. Hinsdell began his years in Elgin Township as a farmer. In the 1850s he bought wagons and he and son Oliver hauled building supplies and grain from Chicago to Elgin. He was a leading force in the establishment of Elgin Academy and Hinsdell Street was named for him. At some point in the 20th century the house was converted to the Restville House Convalescent home. In 1966 it was brought back to a single-family home. The most unique feature of the home is a spectacular unsupported circular staircase along the curved wall in the square entry hall. This greets you as you enter the front door. There is an elegant carved frieze on the stringer that follows the curved stairs.

This home was on the Historic Elgin House Tour in 1985 and 1996.
See the booklet page from 1985.
See the booklet page from 1996.
There is a majestic oak tree on the east lawn that is approximately 500 years old. Perhaps that tree, already mature and attractive, is the reason Hinsdell chose this spot for his home.

SOURCES: Many thanks to Dan Miller for providing this info! Housewalk booklet pages from Color photo from

703 Raymond Street

703 Raymond Street

Happy Friday! Who likes brick houses? 703 Raymond Street is a beauty. This home is associated with Paul Kemler Sr., a prominent resident of Elgin’s history. In 1889, he built an extravagant home with the masonry work completed by Jacob Lind & Sons, and total construction costs of $4,200.

Born in Germany, Kemler moved to Chicago in 1856 and worked as a tanner. By 1861, he had responded to Lincoln’s first call for troops and volunteered for the Civil War in the 24th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, serving under General Grant’s command. By the end of the decade, he had not only survived the war but became a patrolman on the Chicago police force. After four years on patrol, he moved to Elgin and ran the Washington Hotel. Extremely active in local civil societies and politics, Kemler eventually had everything from an Odd Fellow lodge named after him to serving as a city alderman in Elgin marking his legacy.

This home was awarded a house plaque in 1988, but since is located outside of the National Watch Historic District, it was also awarded “Landmark” status by the Elgin Heritage Commission in 2009. Check out the other Landmark Buildings in Elgin.

Information and pictures pulled from, the 2009 application for Landmark status, and “There Used to Be-Vol 3” by Steve Stroud