The Elgin Historic Districts

Restored homes have always held a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s the intricate designs, all the work and dedication of the owners to bring it back to its glory, or just the fact that they remind me of my home which has been in my family for five generations and is close to 120 years old.

Elgin is rich with history, and the houses are a reflection of that. So much so that there are historic districts throughout the city. Elgin’s Historic Districts contain an excellent collection of late 19th and early 20th-century residential architecture starting in 1840, east of the downtown area. From that small section of the city, Elgin grew to not just have Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, Italianate, and Greek Revival houses but also has the largest amount of Sear’s Houses in the country, 210 to be exact! The construction did not happen overnight, though. Most of the building of the old houses were sparsely built after the Civil War. However, that changed once the Elgin National Watch Company grew in popularity in the 1880’s and 1890’s; making the company grow from 840 employees to more than 3,000!

During this time many of the two-story frame houses sprang up along the streets in the neighborhood to accommodate the company’s supervisors and managers.  More than 400 buildings by 1892 covered the present boundaries of the historic district of Downtown Elgin. Along with the homes for the city’s middle and upper-class residents, the area also housed many workers and their families. Most of these can be found on East Chicago Street and other streets in the western section of the area. The apartments and flats are a great example of the Urbanization that was going on in Elgin at that time. We can still see that to this day.

The Gifford Park Association has made sure of that! The Gifford Park Association, (GPA) is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1979. The goal of GPA is the revitalization, enhancement, and preservation of Elgin’s Historic homes and public buildings with a focus in the Elgin Historic District. The GPA has made great strides in preserving Elgin’s historic past and actively works to continue that effort. Our members are enthusiastic and proud to show off both their homes and those of others which led to Elgin’s Historic House TourIf you are unfamiliar with the Elgin Historical House Tour, the tour features a different historic neighborhood of Elgin. The Annual Historic Elgin House Tour is an educational event that offers something for everyone. There’s architecture, history, home remodeling, interior decorating, gardening and more. The interior tours of the homes are guided and interpreted (information provided by the GPA). 

Hey there! My name is Sarah, and I am the Tourism Promoter and Events Coordinator for the Elgin Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (it’s a mouthful, I know). I’m a newbie to the Elgin area so I will be telling you first-hand accounts of events and attractions found in Elgin, through my eyes! I’ll share my adventures through videos, my own photography, and words. 

(photos taken by Sarah Sill)