Friday, February 09, 2007

Elgin Then & Now - The Henrietta Block

This article is courtesy of The Elginite.

Link to the location.

Henrietta Block

Henrietta Block today

The downtown Elgin Community College building-often referred to as the Sears building-was built in 1908. It first was called the Henrietta because of the name carved in stone on the pediment above the main entrance, in memory of Henrietta Hackerodt Burritt. She was the first wife of Peter Burritt, whose extensive real estate holdings in Elgin were inherited by Rebecca McBride Burritt Gilbert, his second wife. It was Rebecca who named the building for Henrietta.
The Henrietta was constructed for leasing to Swan's Department store, which occupied the building for 30 years. Theodore F. Swan began his Elgin mercantile career with- a grocery store on River Street (North Grove Avenue) in 1867. By 1880 he had added dry goods and shoes in larger quarters on South Grove. In 1893 he moved his growing business to the Spurling Block (now the Commerce Building) on the northwest corner of DuPage and Spring Streets.
Swan was the first Elgin merchant to introduce the "cash railway system" to send money from any part of the store to the cashier. He also was the first to abandon evening hours in the interest of his employees. Unlike many other stores of the time, Swan's terms were strictly cash. Carrie Jacobs Bond, the composer of "I Love You Truly","Just a Wearying for You", and "The End of a Perfect Day", plugged sheet music sales at Swan's in the early '90s.
Swan's move across the street to the Henrietta gave his operation a main floor of 25,000 square feet. The basement was initially used for storage. The second floor at one time housed the Elks Club. When Theodore F. Swan died in 1922, the business was carried on by his son, Theodore 1. Swan. The store closed in 1938.The Henrietta was then occupied by Sears, Roebuck & Company, which had arrived in Elgin ten years earlier. In 1941 the basement and second-floor selling areas were expanded, and a parking lot to accommodate 85 cars was developed. This compelled the removal of six small houses owned by Gilbert along the Fulton Street frontage. The Sears automotive wing was added in 1948.
The Henrietta block, was erected for $60,000. Its renovations for college use cost more than $2 million. (source:

Elgin Then & Now - The Hubbard Block

This article is courtesy of The Elginite.

Link to the location.



While many of Elgin's pioneers made their money through farming or the dairy industry, William G. Hubbard made his fortune through the dry goods business. Hubbard, a pioneer merchant, opened his building on the corner of Chicago and Douglas in 1851. It was there that he kept company with the best of the movers and shakers that Elgin had to offer. One of HubbardÂ’s original tenets was John Newman, owner and operator of Springbrook Creameries, as well as the owner of over 500 dairies. His other tenets were many of the German enterprises of the day, including SiedelÂ’s Bakery, AdlerÂ’s clothing store and Pabst Chicago House.
The original wooden building was destroyed in one of ElginÂ’s worst fires ever, on March 23, 1974. The fire shattered the glass windows across the street and seared buildings blocks away. It would be replaced with a white brick building that connected many other building on the block via the second and third floors. The second building would come to be known as The Lawyers Building, which was gutted by fire in 1979. It was torn down in 1980. (

The present building, was built in 1999 by Kurt Kresmery.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Rural Neighbors Visit Downtown Elgin

Today's Daily Herald had a photo of a coyote roaming Douglas Ave just north of downtown. This is not the first sighting of our animal friends in the urban landscape of downtown. In the past, I have seen a pheasant strolling across Highland Ave., ducks making nests in the sidewalk planters or on roof top patios. Of course there are the ever present geese, not so unusual. Once, while at Burger King on Dundee, I observed two deer making their rounds with the Elgin police in hot pursuit. I had to go back to the office and email my find. The replies varied from, "Were they pink?" to my wife's question, "Where did you go for lunch?".

Elgin Art Showcase

From the Daily Herald:

After years of running around in circles looking for places to perform, the Janus Theater Company can finally stand still. And this weekend, you can make a beeline to see them in its new home - at the new Elgin Art Showcase in downtown Elgin's Professional Building.

Read the article here.

The Elgin Art Showcase opens this weekend with "Life X 3," a play about a boss's dinner gone horribly wrong. The 90-minute play runs Saturday through March 4 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

What follows below is a list of the showcase's current lineup for this season.
-Art for All's "Uniting People through the Arts" will feature 30 artists in conjunction with Janus Theater performances. This runs Friday through March 4. For more information, call (847) 741-7375.

-The Independent Players will present Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest." It will be performed March 9 and 10, 16 and 17 and 23 and 24. For more information, call (847) 697-7374.

- The SoapBox Theater Company will put on "The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage" by David Ives and Emma Thompson. For more information, call (847) 697-7374. The show runs April 13 through the 29.

-The Janus Theater Company will perform "Murdering Marlowe," a play about the rivalry between William Shakespeare and playwright Christopher Marlowe. It runs May 18 through June 10.

-William Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" also will be performed by the Janus Theater Company. It runs Aug. 17 through Sept. 9. For all Janus productions, call (847) 931-0637.

If you're an arts group interested in renting space at the venue, call (847) 951-1515