Sawyer Mansion becomes Elgin landmark

  • Elgin's Sawyer mansion.

    Elgin's Sawyer mansion. Contributed photo

  • Nancy Farquhar of Elgin lives in the "Sawyer Mansion" with her husband and several of her eight children. Elgin City Council members recently voted in favor of giving the house historic landmark status. Farquhar enjoys spending time in the sitting room, often knitting or reading.

    Nancy Farquhar of Elgin lives in the "Sawyer Mansion" with her husband and several of her eight children. Elgin City Council members recently voted in favor of giving the house historic landmark status. Farquhar enjoys spending time in the sitting room, often knitting or reading. BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/24/2011 12:29 PM

Some people call it the Sawyer Mansion, but Nancy Farquhar and her family just call it home.

Farquhar and her husband Dann bought the house at 806 W. Highland Ave. in Elgin about 12 years ago, mostly because it was big enough to fit them and their eight children.

 

But Farquhar said it was more than that. The first time she stepped into the house she fell in love. The smells and the color scheme all reminded her of "grandma's house." And, really, Farquhar has always loved old things, whether it was books or linens or china.

"Holding an item, or just being in a room that has a sense of history to it means a lot to me," Farquhar said. "It's the sentimentality of my old stuff that draws my heart."

Elgin councilmen approved a proposal to declare the mansion a historic landmark at the March 23 council meeting. Farquhar said the designation will make it easier to complete restoration projects and help with future preservation.

William Sawyer, an Elgin businessman, had the house built in 1893 by W.W. Abell, a prominent local architect who also designed several other landmark homes.

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The living space in the mansion spans 8,738 square feet between the two main floors and a basement. The attic is used mostly for storage but has high ceilings and potential for future finishing.

That is a lot of space for historic beauty, but also a lot of space to clean. The Farquhars seem to manage with the help of family cleaning on Saturdays.

"That is one of the advantages of a big family," she said. "The kids all pitch in and we work together on the chores."

The oldest two Farquhar children have moved out but depending on who is away at college, there is the potential for six extra sets of cleaning hands.

And sometimes those hands help with restoration.

The family has done a lot of work on the house since they bought it but continue planning for more.

Designation as a historic landmark will give the Farquhars the opportunity to apply for 50/50 grant funds from the city for projects on the house. Homeowners in the various historic districts or owners of other landmarks can apply for up to $20,000 in the annual grant program. Council members approved the disbursement of $100,000 in funds at the same March 23 council meeting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Farquhar said they definitely plan to apply for those funds in the future. Planned projects include restoring six decorative gables that should be on the house but aren't and putting balustrades on the front porch.

Maintaining and restoring the house is more than a hobby for the family. And the historic significance is always at the front of their minds.

"I just feel it's an honor to be able to live here and carry on a little piece of Elgin's history," Farquhar said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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