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posted: 9/2/2012 5:00 AM

SWAN houses featured in Historic Elgin House Tour

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  • This house at 313 Perry St. will be on this year's Historic Elgin House Tour.

      This house at 313 Perry St. will be on this year's Historic Elgin House Tour.
    Photo courtesy of Bill Briska

  • This house at 626 Orange Street will be on the 2012 Historic Elgin House Tour.

      This house at 626 Orange Street will be on the 2012 Historic Elgin House Tour.
    Photo courtesy of Bill Briska

  • The view from the street of 670 Oak St. in Elgin, part of upcoming tour of homes.

       The view from the street of 670 Oak St. in Elgin, part of upcoming tour of homes.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • A second bedroom fills with midday sunshine at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour.

       A second bedroom fills with midday sunshine at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • The backyard is well stocked with annuals and perennials, and because of its depth it's easy to forget you're in the heart of Elgin at 356 Jewett St.

       The backyard is well stocked with annuals and perennials, and because of its depth it's easy to forget you're in the heart of Elgin at 356 Jewett St.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Although it's not the largest bathroom in the city, the decor and updated fixtures in this Oak Street home make it an inviting space.

       Although it's not the largest bathroom in the city, the decor and updated fixtures in this Oak Street home make it an inviting space.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Homeowner Jean LeRoy took out part of the wall between her kitchen and dining room to create a more open floor plan at 670 Oak St. in Elgin.

       Homeowner Jean LeRoy took out part of the wall between her kitchen and dining room to create a more open floor plan at 670 Oak St. in Elgin.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • This house at 400 Walnut Ave. will be on the 2012 Historic Elgin House Tour.

      This house at 400 Walnut Ave. will be on the 2012 Historic Elgin House Tour.
    Photo courtesy of Bill Briska

  • The entryway/sunroom at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour.

       The entryway/sunroom at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • A library of sorts was built in the basement, complete with raised wooden floor, at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour. It's now used as an office and display space for family books, photos and other items.

       A library of sorts was built in the basement, complete with raised wooden floor, at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour. It's now used as an office and display space for family books, photos and other items.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • This house at 331 Griswold Street will be on the 2012 Historic Elgin House Tour.

      This house at 331 Griswold Street will be on the 2012 Historic Elgin House Tour.
    Photo courtesy of Bill Briska

  • A second bedroom features these paneled closet doors with storage doors above each one at 670 Oak St. in Elgin, part of upcoming tour of homes.

       A second bedroom features these paneled closet doors with storage doors above each one at 670 Oak St. in Elgin, part of upcoming tour of homes.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Antique bottles line a window sill between the dining room and sunroom at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour.

       Antique bottles line a window sill between the dining room and sunroom at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • A large deck in the backyard, accented with hanging window frames and etched glass, is a focal point of relaxation at 670 Oak St. in Elgin.

       A large deck in the backyard, accented with hanging window frames and etched glass, is a focal point of relaxation at 670 Oak St. in Elgin.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Interior and exterior shots at the home at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour.

       Interior and exterior shots at the home at 356 Jewett St. in Elgin, part of the upcoming house tour.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

 

The South West Area Neighbors portion of Elgin, while full of early homes, does not have the big, flashy Victorian mansions that older parts of town can boast.

The neighborhood has no major streets running through it, leaving many residents ignorant of its charm. But organizers of the Gifford Park Association's 31st annual Historic Elgin House Tour are hoping to change that.

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The tour features six homes and one church in the SWAN neighborhood, none of which has been featured before on the tour.

Kathy Moore, whose home at 356 Jewett St. will be open to the public, said the houses in the SWAN neighborhood may not have the "wow" factor bigger historic homes have, but they're affordable houses for families.

"A lot of us feel the neighborhood is a hidden gem in Elgin," Moore said. "We just feel that the tour is going to show people a neighborhood in Elgin that they never knew existed before."

The tour is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, with guides at each site ready to point out special features of each home. Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, will serve as the registration point for the day at 330 Griswold St.

Two of the six featured homes are mail order houses from companies like Sears. Besides getting a look inside these early 20th century builds -- shipped to buyers with everything pre-cut and ready to assemble -- tour participants are able to embark on two, 30-minute walking lectures about some of the 32 "kit houses" in the neighborhood.

Rebecca Hunter, an Elgin resident and national expert on catalog and mail order "kit" homes, will lead groups at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., explaining how to identify these houses as well sharing the history about who built and lived in the ones along the walking route.

Bill Briska, a local historian and one of the historic house tour organizers, said the period of popularity for the mail order houses aligned with an industrial boom in Elgin that put plenty of wage earners in the market for homes. There are about 300 such houses in Elgin.

Briska said a big Queen Anne across from the church is one of the "headliners" of the tour. It was completely gutted by a former owner and then left behind. A more recent owner eventually finished the project and saved the house from ruin -- much to the delight of residents like Briska.

"That's the thing about that neighborhood," Briska said about SWAN. "It hangs in the balance between renaissance and ruin. It needs people who want to save the houses and preserve the architecture."

For just such a prospective buyer, the featured home at 670 Oak St. is for sale.

But whether people are looking to buy, learn more about Elgin's history or get a peek inside some pretty houses, the historic house tour will provide a local option for Saturday entertainment.

Pre-sale tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for senior citizens and students 12 and younger. Tickets on the day of the tour are $5 extra. Visit gpaelgin.org for presale locations or to buy online.

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