Elgin House Tour showcases city's beauty
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There's something deeply gratifying about putting in countless hours of meticulous restoration work to spruce up one's historic home and then showing it off to the world.
That's what Elgin resident Jennifer Fukala said she's looking forward to when her 1918 post-Victorian style home on Chicago Street makes its first appearance in the 32nd annual Historic Elgin House Tour featuring Elgin's near west side on Saturday, Sept. 7.
"Since I bought it 4˝ years ago, it's been a dream of mine to be on the house tour," said Fukala, who was a tour docent last year, and has participated as a spectator several times.
The annual tour, organized by the Gifford Park Association, will feature six homes, including the 18-room Wing Mansion at 972 W. Highland Ave., one of the Chicago area's premiere examples of Victorian-era architecture and interior decor, said steering committee coordinator Bill Briska.
This is only the fifth time in 32 years that the Wing Mansion is featured on the tour, he said. "It's so popular, people cannot get enough of it. It's our headliner house."
Committee member Dan Miller agreed.
"It's 'the belle of the ball.' The detail just knocks your socks off," he said.
Also included are visits to the Church of the Brethren and the administration building of Judson University, which celebrates 50 years in Elgin this year.
The near west side tour includes a variety of architectural styles spanning half a century, from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, Briska said.
"From the regular working man's house to rather upscale homes owned by business owners and professional people, we have that great swath," Briska said.
Proceeds have been funneled back into the community over the years.
That included planting about 110 trees in neighborhood parkways, supporting summer camps offered by the Elgin Police Department's resident officer program, creating historic street signs, funding landscape projects at the former YWCA site, and more, Briska said.
"Except for the stuff we send out to professional print shops, it's all volunteer work," he said. "It easily entails 1,000 hours of work. We start planning in January, and it takes about 200 volunteers the day of the tour, including 165 docents," he said.
The mission is to promote Elgin, Miller said.
"We bring people from out of town, that's what it's really all about, because we have a bad image from the outside, and even from some Elginites," he said. "We want to show people the true beauty of Elgin."
The tour also will feature walking lectures exploring the architecture and history of two different neighborhoods.
The first walking lecture will feature the near west side and will be led by Fukala, who is also vice president of the Near West Neighbors Association. It sets off at 10 a.m. from West Chicago and Jackson streets.
The second walking lecture, which starts at Lawrence Avenue and Wing Park Boulevard at 1 and 3 p.m., will feature homes constructed between the 1940s and 1960s. It will be led by architectural historian Rebecca Hunter.
The event also celebrates dedicated homeowners, Briska said.
"There are houses brought back from the brink of ruin that we use as a showcase to celebrate people who practice good stewardship of these houses over the years," he said.
The tour is just an overall positive, enjoyable activity, Fukala said.
"People that come on the tour, they just love old homes," she said. "People just can't wait to see what these houses look like on the inside."
Tour hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and registration takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Church of the Brethren 783, W. Highland Ave.
Adult tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the event (cash or check only). Visitors 65 and older and kids 12 and younger pay $10.
Tickets are online at gifford-park-assoc.org/annual-house-tour/2013-tickets, or in person at Ziegler's Ace Hardware stores on Spring Street and Lillian Street; Jewel-Osco stores on Summit Avenue and Larkin Boulevard; or Al's Cafe & Creamery on DuPage Court in downtown Elgin.
For more information, contact Briska at (847) 695-4022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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