Fish fry fundraiser Saturday to turn Elgin historic home into public building

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct date of the fundraiser.

After having fallen into disrepair, a historic house on Elgin's near west side is being revived by plans to turn it into a public space for residents and community groups.

The Nancy Kimball House, an 1846 cobblestone building at 302 W. Chicago St., has been vacant since the city bought it in 2009. By then, the 1,500-square-foot space had been divided into six apartments that attracted unsavory residents and frequent police calls, Elgin History Museum Director Elizabeth Marston said.

The museum and the Elgin Area Historical Society are working to restore the house, which they hope will improve the neighborhood while preserving a piece of Elgin's history, she said.

"This was a very important landmark of the town," Marston said.

The Kimballs were among the city's founding families. Nancy Kimball, whose sons William and Samuel served as mayors, lived in the house that had a prime view of downtown across the only bridge in Elgin at the time, Marston explained.

The plans for the house call for a "hands on" workshop area on the first floor, an exhibit and meeting area on the second floor, and office space on the third floor.

The goal is to make the building useful to the neighborhood and create a sense of community pride around it, Elgin Area Historical Society President Bill Briska said. "It's not just about the home. It's really about the whole neighborhood and the community."

The city council gave the green light to the conceptual plan earlier this year. The city is not contributing money to the project, which kicked off thanks to a Kane County Riverboat grant of $46,000 that paid for architectural plans.

The museum started fundraising last year and has received about $90,000, which has paid for the building of a new foundation and south wall. Main donors include E.C. "Mike" Alft and the Gifford Park Association, Briska said.

"We hope this will spark the west side like the Gifford Park Association has done for the east side," Briska said.

The museum and the Near West Neighbors Association of Elgin are hosting a "Save the Cobblestone Benefit Party" from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Crystal and West Chicago streets near the house.

There will be a fish fry for $10 per plate plus a raffle, silent auction, virtual tours of the house and walking tours of the neighborhood.

  Elgin History Museum Director Elizabeth Marston, along with Bill Briska, president of the Elgin Area Historical Society, talk about efforts to preserve and restore an 1846 cobblestone home, known as the Nancy Kimball House. Rick West/
  Bill Briska, president of the Elgin Area Historical Society, points out some of the work being done to restore an 1846 cobblestone home, known as the Nancy Kimball House in Elgin. Rick West/
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