Why a Georgia couple was able to buy an Elgin mansion for $1

A couple from Georgia bought an 1885 historic mansion in Elgin for $1 and plans to slowly rehab it and eventually live there.

Ramona Jones said she was drawn to the David C. Cook mansion at 105 N. Gifford St. as soon as she stumbled onto it during a Google search about real estate. The $1 sale price set by its owner, Mutual of Omaha Bank, was attractive, but not so much the estimated $1.2 million or more that it would cost to restore it into a single-family home, she said.

“I left it alone for a couple of months ... but there was something about it,” said Jones, who lives with her husband, Sam, and two of their six children in Lithonia, a suburb of Atlanta.

So Jones started doing research, calling the bank and city and county officials to find out more. Eventually, she persuaded her husband to take the plunge, and the $1 sale closed Friday. The market value of the home was $460,000 in 2016, county officials said.

Jones, 42, said she owns a beautician shop, does interior decorating and is very handy. Sam, 50, is a commercial truck driver and handyman, and her father is a builder. The couple have rehabbed two Georgia homes, an Italianate mansion and a midcentury modern home, Ramona Jones said.

The 12-room house in Elgin was inhabited until 1945, when it was turned into a nursing home — most recently Bowes Retirement Home, which closed in 2010. Several additions were built over the years; Jones said she and her husband haven't made any decisions about knocking them down.

The plan is to tackle the project one room at a time.

“We're just going to take our time with doing things,” she said. “It's such a big house, it doesn't make sense to try to start so many projects.”

Dan Miller, president of the nonprofit Gifford Park Association, said he's elated the home has new owners who want to rehab it. The association had commissioned a cost study, and Miller volunteered to market it and show it on behalf of the bank.

Jones said she liked the feel of Elgin and particularly the neighborhood.

“When we met the (nearby) homeowners, it seems like it's a pretty close-knit neighborhood. Everybody seems to look out for one another,” she said. “I like that it's a smaller city but still close enough to Chicago.”

Jones said some people tried to discourage her from buying the home because of the magnitude of the project. “Nobody knows our finances,” she said.

Mutual of Omaha Bank hadn't paid property taxes for the mansion since 2014, Kane County records show. There are two tax liens on the property, one for $75,672 due for redemption Nov. 1 and one for $17,402 due later.

Jones declined to say whether the bank will pay any outstanding taxes as part of the sale. Bank officials didn't respond to requests to comment Monday. John Emerson, supervisor of tax extension/redemption department for the Kane County clerk, said no payments had been made as of Monday.

Jones said she and her husband started doing a few repairs last weekend and are mulling renting a place in Elgin.

She envisions a home filled with warmth and large family dinners, she said.

“Everything has been boarded up for so long,” she said. “I'm excited to get there and start working and unveiling and see what's what.”

Elgin group needs help saving 1885 David C. Cook mansion

Sam and Ramona Jones of Lithonia, Georgia. Courtesy Ramona Jones
This photo shows the original David C. Cook Mansion that was built in 1885 in Elgin. Courtesy Dan miller
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