The Historic North Side in Elgin, IL

I measured the borders for the Historic North Side in this evaluation to include everything north of Park St to Trout Park and between the Fox River and a couple blocks east of Liberty Ave where a straight line is formed by the census tracts. This includes the DC Cook/Lovell Area Historic District and Spring-Douglas Historic District where most of my photos are concentrated. This large district was developed between the late 19th century to WW II. Thanks to its era of development the Historic North Side has gridded streets, good sidewalks on its residential streets, and several walkable schools. The Historic North Side also excels with quality park and recreational amenities, a high level of safety, solid tree canopy, good diversity of attractive for sale homes, and solid diversity indicators.

But I would not consider the Historic North Side a walkable neighborhood as its commercial corridors (Summit, Liberty, and Dundee) are auto centric and host limited retail amenities. Residents along the southern edges of the neighborhood do at least have good walkable access to the retail and cultural amenities of Dwtn. Along with densifying/urbanizing its commercial corridors, the Historic North Side also needs better public transit access, more apartment options, and better ADA and sidewalk infrastructure along its arterials.

Click here to view my Historic North Side Album on Flickr


* Excellent bike path along the Fox River that connects easily to Dwtn but no dedicated bike stations here.
* Attractive historic homes from all decades of the first half of the 20th century. Some older stock closer to Dwtn.
* Overall a very safe neighborhood.
* Solid diversity across all indicators but especially economic.
* Racially the make up is pretty split btwn White and Hispanic households. Lots of family households here as well.
* Decent walkable schools including 4 public grade schools mostly rated well.
* Great tree canopy especially on the northern and western edges along the Fox River.
* Solid park amenities with the Fox River recreational trail, the pretty large and multi-faceted Lord’s park, the Forest Fen Nature Preserve, and a couple other small and medium sized parks.
* For sale options are generally moderately price but some diversity. 1-bed homes selling btwn 75K-150K, 2-beds btwn 125K-250K, 3 & 4 beds btwn 150K-430K


* Density is so so for an urban area.
* Public transit access is so so. And due to this its access to Dwtn Chicago is pretty challenging. Access to Dwtn Elgin is pretty good but not a ton of jobs and opportunities here.
* Pedestrian traffic is rather limited.
* Cultural and retail amenities within the Historic North Side District are very limited although the southern half of the neighborhood is within a 15-20 walk to Dwtn.
* Cultural amenities are limited to a couple restaurants, the Elgin Public Museum, and Lord’s Park Zoo.
* Retail amenities are limited to a supermarket, drug store, a couple banks, the main public library, a family dollar, a couple salons.
* Rentals are limited. Generally moderately priced. Limited dedicated affordable housing.
* In-fill buildings are limited to auto centric crap.
* Good ADA infrastructure with solid sidewalk coverage in the residential areas. Hit or miss on the largely autocentric arterial roads.
* Urban massing along the arterial/biz districts streets of Summit, Liberty, and Dundee are generally pretty auto centric.

The East Side Historic District- Elgin’s, IL Oldest Neighborhood

For the Elgin East Side Historic District I used Geneva as the western border, Park as the northern border, Liberty as the eastern and Villa St as the southern.

The East Side Historic District is the oldest portion of the city, and contains mostly residences and churches. The historic district was created in 1983 and includes a set of 697 buildings, of which, 429 contribute to the district’s historical integrity. The East Side Historic District is for the most part a stable residential, walkable neighborhood. Few retail amenities exist within the district, but most residents are able to walk to Dwtn in 10-15 minutes, which has a good concentration of retail and cultural amenities. The district is generally safe with good walkable school options, plenty of parks, and comfortable tree lined streets. In order for the East Side Historic District to become a great urban district it needs better public transit and bike access, more retail and cultural amenities mixed in, more density and rental options. One sensible way to urbanize the neighborhood is use the western edge with Downtown to prioritize mixed-use dense in-fill. This area also has the least number of historically significant structures alleviating concerns of widespread demolition as the district densifies.

Click here to view my East Side Historic District album on Flickr


* Good ADA curbs and sidewalk infrastructure.
* Good density.
* Good diversity indicators especially economic. Racial make up is about 70% Hispanic.
* Good number of schools in and around Downtown with a nice mix of grades and private versus public school options.
* The East Side Historic District is overall pretty safe.
* Several nice small and medium sized parks.
* Solid tree canopy.
* Really nice historic homes from the turn of the 20th century.
* Urban massing is generally good with few parking lots and auto centric uses. But not much retail amenities here.


* So so public transit
* Bike infrastructure is very limited.
* Rentals options are pretty limited but generally moderately priced.
* Not too much for sale housing diversity but housing is generally affordable. 2-beds sell btwn 100K-215K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 100K-400K. A handful of condos options as well.
* Modern in-fill is really non-existent.
* Pedestrian traffic is pretty limited.
* Cultural amenities within the East Side Historic District are limited to the Elgin Historic Museum, some historic homes and a couple bars. But most of the neighborhood has walkable access to all the cultural and retail amenities of Dwtn.
* Retail amenities within the East Side Historic District are limited to a drug store, a couple boutiques, a couple gyms, and a couple of salons.

Downtown Elgin, IL- A Large Historic Chicagoland Suburb

Downtown Elgin is a pretty compact area. I generally followed the boundaries set by google using Geneva/Welling as the eastern boundary, Lake as the southern, and Kimball St. as the norther.

While development in Downtown Elgin began in the 1830s, the oldest standing buildings in the district were built in the 1870s. Most of the district’s buildings were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Early Elgin achieved fame for the butter and dairy goods it sold to the city of Chicago. The dairy industry became less important with the arrival of the Elgin Watch Company famous for producing some of America’s finest watches and survived well into the mid-20th century. Like most midsized American cities Elgin lost most of its landmark business by the 1980s. Fortunately the Downtown area quickly experienced a renaissance in the 1990s converting many historic buildings into lofts, opening many new food and beverage bizs and local businesses, and fostering its arts community. 

The City of Elgin as a whole is the seventh-largest city in Illinois sitting at 115K residents and has experienced consistant growth throughout its history. It hosted almost 3K residents in 1860 and steadily grew from there reaching 22K residents in 1900, 38K in 1940, 55K in 1970 and more than doubled since then, an indication that Elgin has annexed much of the surrounding suburban growth around it. For Downtown Elgin to truly become an premiere urban district it needs more population, which can help attractive important retail services like a full service grocery store, drug store and perhaps some larger clothing stores. There are plenty of underutilized parking lots and auto centric buildings that could be replaced with compact mixed-use buildings.

Click here to view my downtown Elgin Album on Flickr


* Good ADA curbs and sidewalk infrastructure.
* Very nice dedicated bike lane along the Fox River. Really no dedicated bike stations.
* Great diversity indicators all around.
* Good number of schools in and around Downtown but generally smaller private schools.
* Good park amenities including a bike trail along the fox river, a couple nice river front parks, and many small parkettes and plazas.
* Some issues with the homeless population but  Dwtn Elgin is overall pretty safe.
* A good amount of the Dwtn Elgin historic fabric remains and some more recent attractive urban in-fill including a large townhouse community.
* Decent tree canopy.
* Solid cultural amenities Dwtn including plenty of food & bev bizs, several art galleries and night clubs, a couple local theaters and local museums.
* Good retail amenities include a couple smaller grocerias, a hardware store, lots of boutiques & gift shops, a couple bookstores, several antiques & banks, plenty of gyms and dessert joints, a dwtn public library and post office, several churches


* So so density.
* 50 min drive and 1.5+ bus/train ride from Elgin to Dwtn Chicago. But dwtn Elgin has some jobs itself.
* For sale product is a bit limited but lots of for sale product in the townhouse development btwn Prairie and Lake Ave. few 1-bed condos but plenty of 2-bed townhomes selling btwn 200K-350K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 200K-350K but limited product.
* Rentals are also pretty limited. 1-beds lease in the high 1Ks and 2-beds around 2K, and 3-beds lease for around 3K.
* Some crummy autocentric development and surface parking lots along the edges of Downtown.
* Dwtn Elgin’s image was not the best in the 80s and 90s but has steadily been improving since the 2000s.
* Dwtn could really use a full service grocery store and drug store.