Architectural Studies by Rebecca Hunter

Local author and historian Rebecca Hunter has extensively researched structures and compiled studies on the unique architecture of Elgin. These studies cover Sears and other kit homes, the use of ornamental concrete blocks in Elgin architecture, and the current uses for neighborhood grocery stores and rural outbuildings.

Ornamental Concrete Block Architecture

Ornamental Concrete Block ArchitectureOrnamental concrete blocks became a popular building material in residential and commercial use in the post-Victorian era. Offered as an option for Sears Mail Order Homes, the mail order catalog eventually sold concrete block machinery through their catalog.

Information about the history and use of ornamental concrete blocks can be found in articles from Old-House Online and in selected pages from the Sears Roebuck and Co Catalog.

View on Illinois Digital Archives.

Print edition available at the Gail Borden Public Library.



Historic Elgin House Tour

Historic_house_tour.jpg The first Elgin Historic House Walk occurred in 1981 and is now occurring annually. The house walk was created by the Gifford Park Association both as a fundraiser, and a way to showcase the beauty and history of Elgin's architecture.

The library has print copies of the annual tour booklets which display the homes featured in a particular year.

Elgin's Art Deco Heritage

Elgin Tower Building Postcard

Originating in France, the Art Deco movement became popular across the United States throughout the 20's and 30's. Here in Elgin, this enduring style can still be enjoyed today.  A collaboration between the Elgin Area Historical Society and the Chicago Art Deco Society results in a fascinating video production Exploring the Art Deco Movement in Elgin and Beyond.

Remnants of our Rural Past

remnants of our rural pastElgin, Illinois was founded before the advent of motorized vehicles. For transportation, people primarily used horse drawn carriages, coaches, and wagons. There was a need for structures to protect the vehicles, and to house the animals who pulled them. Stables, coach houses, barns, and other outbuildings were common in the city in Elgin's early days. By 2005 many of these structures had already been razed. Others had been altered to serve different functions, most for use as garages. This study focuses on buildings used for accommodation of horses, carriages, and their grooms and drivers which are still standing in Elgin today.


View on Illinois Digital Archives.

Print edition available at the Gail Borden Public Library.


Sears Homes

Sears HomesBy 1915 Sears was offering "Ready cut" homes as well as plans and materials for other homes. Ready-cut, also known as kit or precut homes, were welcomed by home buyers who realized savings of up to 30% over the cost of standard construction. The primary savings was because they did not have to pay a carpenter to measure and cut each board, nor did the buyer have to pay for design and blueprint services, shop for hardware, windows, doors or roofing materials. Over 400 models were sold by Sears from 1908 to 1940. Over 200 Sears homes would eventually be identified in Elgin.

View on Illinois Digital Archives.

Print Edition available at the Gail Borden Public Library.

Additional books about Sears Homes:

Tornado of 1920

Tornado_damage_1920.jpg On March 28, 1920, Palm Sunday, a tornado ripped through Elgin just as many people were leaving church.

In an era where a radio was still extremely rare and only one house in a block had a telephone, there was no way to warn the community of what was coming their way. After a devastating three minutes, businesses and homes were destroyed, churches were half gone, and buildings had been leveled.

In the end the tornado claimed 8 lives and injured 100 as it made its way from St. Charles to Elgin and then on to Wauconda.

View a collection of photos from the 1920 tornado on Illinois Digital Archives.

Artwork of Kane County

artwork_of_kanecounty.jpgStep back into Victorian era Elgin when street cars crisscrossed Fountain Square and manufacturing was bustling at the Elgin National Watch Company. Photographs of the buildings, streets, and parks of Elgin are included in this study of Kane County, dating from 1898 onward. Originally published in 9 parts, a bound version can be viewed at the Gail Borden Public Library that includes a history of Kane County written at time of publication.