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posted: 9/4/2013 12:12 PM

House tour showcases Elgin's history, beauty

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  • The Harm Weber Building at Judson University in Elgin will be featured on Saturday's house tour.

      The Harm Weber Building at Judson University in Elgin will be featured on Saturday's house tour.
    Courtesy of Bill Briska

  • 312 Vincent.

      312 Vincent.
    Courtesy of Bill Briska

  • The 18-room Wing Mansion at 972 Highland Avenue will be featured on the Historic Elgin House Tour for the fifth time. "It's so popular, people cannot get enough of it. It's our headliner house," said steering committee coordinator Bill Briska.

      The 18-room Wing Mansion at 972 Highland Avenue will be featured on the Historic Elgin House Tour for the fifth time. "It's so popular, people cannot get enough of it. It's our headliner house," said steering committee coordinator Bill Briska.
    Courtesy of Bill Briska

  • 101 Hamilton.

      101 Hamilton.
    Courtesy of Bill Briska

  • Jennifer Fukala has been restoring her home at 439 W. Chicago St. since purchasing it 4 years ago. "Since I bought it ... it's been a dream of mine to be on the house tour," she said.

      Jennifer Fukala has been restoring her home at 439 W. Chicago St. since purchasing it 4 years ago. "Since I bought it ... it's been a dream of mine to be on the house tour," she said.
    Courtesy of Bill Briska

  • 309 Wing Park Blvd.

      309 Wing Park Blvd.
    Courtesy of Bill Briska

  • 121 Monroe St.

      121 Monroe St.
    Courtesy of Bill Briska

 
By Bill Briska
Gifford Park Association

Few events in Elgin have had as many positive effects on the community as the annual Historic Elgin House Tour, organized by the Gifford Park Association.

This year's tour, set for Saturday, Sept. 7, will mark the 32nd continuous year for this popular celebration of Elgin's heritage.

Six homes and one historic building will be featured. The tour, set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will also offer walking lectures exploring the architecture and history of two different neighborhoods. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the tour; $10 for seniors and children 12 and younger.

The house tour works its positive magic on many levels. The most obvious may be in showcasing beautiful old homes and neighborhoods. Some of the featured residences have been lovingly cared for over the decades -- but not all. Many are examples of homes brought back from the brink of ruin.

One goal of the tour is to demonstrate that houses that have fallen on hard times can be rehabilitated into beautiful homes compatible with today's lifestyles.

The remarkable stories behind these houses have inspired new owners to invest in Elgin. Homebuyers can acquire great properties in pristine condition, or they can become handymen, and women by fixing up the houses themselves.

Today's stewards of old houses are never alone in their efforts. The house tour can help link the technical skills of local contractors and resources of knowledgeable neighbors with homeowners who have got the old house spirit.

Since its inception, the house tour has featured more than 200 homes and 40 public, commercial and religious buildings. By rotating the tour sites, the event has helped foster neighborhood pride.

The tour helps support the efforts of neighborhood groups other than the Gifford Park Association, as well. It all contributes to creating a sense of place and pride in the city's heritage.

Thanks, in part, to the house tour, Elgin now has an active community of preservation-minded citizens throughout the city. City officials are alert to the opportunities created by historic preservation and have helped protect Elgin's architectural treasure trove.

Elginites are not the only ones to enjoy this event. Each year, about one-half of those who attend are from out of town. Many visitors discover aspects of the Elgin they never knew existed. Liking what they see, some have moved here, while others return home to spread the word that Elgin has more to offer than a typical suburb.

Proceeds from the house tour are "recycled" into the community. The Gifford Park Association regularly donates to other not-for-profit organizations; supports youth groups; and added historic signs and landscaping to the public right-of-ways, just to name a few its many projects.

The largest investment has been in the purchase and rehabilitation of four homes, and two more in partnerships with Neighborhood Housing Services.

For information about the Annual Historic Elgin House Tour, visit www.gifford-park-assoc.org and look for the "House Tour" tab.

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