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Honoring the charm of Elgin's historic homes
By Sue Moylan | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 2/10/2008 12:06 AM

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This column is dedicated to old homes, which has always been a major source of Elgin's charm.

Lincoln celebrations

On Tuesday, a replica log cabin will be constructed in the rotunda of the Gail Borden Public Library. Starting at 10 a.m. and finishing about 3:30 p.m., Timbercut Log Homes of Stockton in the Galena Territory will build an 8-foot by 10-foot by 8-foot structure that is roughly the size of the cabin Abraham Lincoln lived in as a boy. It will be part of the Tapestry of Freedom exhibit all this spring at the library and lead into an April and May exhibit called "Forever Free: Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation."

Mike Schlichting of Timbercut Homes says this is a first-time project for the company that builds 20 to 25 regular log homes a year. They were contacted by the library staff and have built the model in Stockton. They'll bring it by trailer and re-assemble it that day.

Schlichting says Timbercut has used an adz finish to give the logs an authentic frontier rough-hewn look. The cabin will have a fastener system, actually used in Lincoln's day, called a dove-tailed notch corner, which is very sturdy and needs no nails. The little building will have two windows, a door, a plank floor and cedar shake roof.

There will be a ceremony about 3:30 p.m. when officials "chop" the red ribbon to allow visitors in the structure. Little guests will be able to play with a smaller version (Lincoln Logs) while they are waiting. The library's Civil War exhibit will go on display. There are pictures, word panels, and local historians' collections. State Rep. Ruth Munson will be there to kick off a yearlong Lincoln's 200th birthday celebration. For details, call Denise Raleigh at (847) 429-5981 or visit

Heritage awards

Time to start looking around for individuals and sites in Elgin that can be nominated for the Mayor's Award, winners of which will be honored May l.

There are four categories given each year honoring buildings, sites, events and people or groups that have contributed to the knowledge of the importance of older architecture, neighborhoods and the history of the community.

There also are three special awards that can be given if an appropriate recipient is nominated: The George Van De Voorde Service Award for big-picture, long-term work in Elgin's heritage; the William Stickling Award for adaptive reuse; and the Artisan Award for notable work by a professional in preservation or restoration.

Nomination forms can be found at Completed forms need to be returned by Feb. 25 to Sophia Morales with the city's community development department.

Home plaques

Also at the award ceremony May 1, individuals will receive their home plaques from the Heritage Commission. Research to get the actual plaque requires looking into the Kane County recorder of deeds records, the city directory and various documents at the Gail Borden Library.

The home must be at least 50 years old, and that now includes the homes at Sunset Park, built right after World War II. Since the inception of this program in 1985, more than 375 homes have received the award. Forms and information can be found at Select Departments, then Community Development, and then Historic Preservation.

New brochures

Elgin has six new brochures that can be seen on line at These cover rules for upgrading homes by deconversion or rehabilitation, removing siding and chain link fences and a general owner's guide.

In 2007, the city council doubled the money available for rehabilitation grants. To determine the amount available there is a sliding scale on a point system. Call Jennifer Fritz-Williams, historic preservation specialist, at (847) 931-6004 for details.

Deconversion is funded from taxes from the Grand Victoria Casino. City staff tells me that since 1995, more than 200 properties have been converted.

Even before larger sums of money were available, urban pioneers Jim and Terry Koko, were finding "Aha!" moments as they removed an upstairs unit in their Prairie Street home in the mid-1980s.

If you would like more information about the program and availability of assistance, call Mike Millikan at (847) 931-5924.

Future homes

From 8 to 10 a.m. Feb. 25, before the stores open at Spring Hill Mall, about 220 high school students are doing the one-mile lap of the mall for pledges they received for Habitat for Humanity.

Students from Elgin, Streamwood, Dundee-Crown, St. Charles East and West high schools and the First Congregations Church of Algonquin and St. Mary's Church of Huntley are getting pledges per lap. The school that does the most laps, and thus gets the largest donation, gets a trophy, says Bill Klaaves, spokesman for Habitat. Each participant gets a T-shirt for his efforts.

Money raised goes directly into the 2008 building program for Habitat. The goal for this year is: two duplexes in Elgin, two homes in Carpentersville and two homes in unincorporated St. Charles. For signup for teams and more information, call Lisa Uidl at (847) 836-1432 or go to .

Short take

For a Valentine's Day weekend treat, check out the Janus Theatre's comedy, "Triumph of Love," at the Elgin Art Showcase. More information is at