Historic Elgin House Tour

September 10 & 11, 2022

16 Rugby Pl.

Homeowner: Paul & Jean Bednar

Architectural Notes

16 Rugby Place is an excellent example of the Colonial Revival Style. This style was the leading design throughout the country in the first half of the 20th century as it provided resurgence in colonial traditions connected to English and Dutch settlers. Through the decades this style never went away in terms of housing design and continues to be popular in new construction today. Colonial Revival elements on this home include the symmetrical façade, pediments over the windows and dormers, Doric style columns and dentils along the frieze board at the front porch and roof cornice, large two-story pilasters at the corners of the home and the Palladian windows in the third floor dormer windows. The home is considered a significant structure to the Elgin Historic District.

The stately three-story home of Charles and A. Mabel Glover was designed by renowned Elgin architect David Postle and built by Henry Jensen in 1905 for $7,200.

Glover was a co-founder of the Western Casket Hardware Company, which years later became the Elgin Metal Casket Company. Though Glover died in 1912, Mabel remained at 16 Rugby through 1920.

The second owners were Emillie Ackemann and her husband Conrad, who in 1894 had merged his business with his oldest brother’s to establish the department store Ackemann Brothers. Emille died in 1926, but Conrad resided at their home until his death in 1938. The house was then sold to Elgin attorney Paul Funk and his wife Lila, who owned it until 1957.

For the next 12 years, William and Myra Hay called 16 Rugby home and opened it for a Ladies of the Elks’ holiday house tour. A West Point graduate who had been on Gen. Omar Bradley’s staff during WWII, Hay served in administrative positions at Elgin National Watch Company and Chicago Rawhide.

The house had several owners in the 1970s and 1980s, including School District U-46 employees Richard and Sandra Browning, who opened it for GPA’s 3rd Elgin Historic House Tour. They in turn sold it to Gary King, who after his marriage, sold it in 1988 to newlyweds Paul and Jean Bednar, who had been living in a Hoffman Estates’ townhouse. 

Paul, a landscape architect, designed the front yard of 16 Rugby to match the bilateral symmetry of the house; less formal was his design for the back yard. Later he installed the driveway with paver bricks reclaimed from National Street. The house itself was also transformed. Aluminum siding added by a previous owner came down, and missing exterior trim was replicated. A two-story addition from the rear of the house was removed and, with the aid of the original blueprints, the back porch and balcony were reconstructed. The Bednars also slowly restored most of the interior. Electrical and plumbing were updated. 

Since their home was featured on GPA’s 25th house tour, the Bednars have made more improvements, including converting the storage room of the garage into Jean’s she-shed. They also removed the bedroom that had been added to the originally open third floor, popularly known as the ballroom though it has never functioned as one. Most recently, they remodeled the kitchen and to add more space to it and straightened the back staircase.

After 117 years and nine owners, many of the original features of 16 Rugby still remain. They include the terrazzo tile of the front porch and Bombay hexagonal tile in the vestibule, the oak staircase, stained-glass windows,  pocket doors and fireplaces, the dining room’s oval-shaped ceiling ornamentation with Anaglypta wallpaper, an ornate radiator with built-in bun warmer, a spacious butler’s pantry and matching kitchen cabinetry, an exterior door for ice and milk deliveries, and the bead board on the walls and ceiling of the garage. 

For a number of years Paul Bednar Planning and Design, Ltd. was operated out of the house, allowing Jean to assist Paul part time with his business as they raised their family. Though she now works full time in her communications career, Jean is best known to Elginites for her 18 years on Gail Borden Public Library’s board, of which she is currently president. Now with Real People Realty, Paul specializes in selling historic homes. Active in GPA, he is  serving yet another term as its president.

With inheritance money from Jean’s dad, in 2013 the Bednars began to realize their dream of rehabilitating other old homes. First they acquired and repainted the exterior of 12 Rugby. Each of their other purchases—141 Hill, 18 N. Porter and 706 Douglas—required extensive work, including landscaping. That these were not “flips” is evidenced by the quality of the workmanship as well as by the fact that the Bednars did not profit from them.

Though their two children have now left the nest, Jean and Paul, who have lived in 16 Rugby far longer than any of its previous occupants, hope to have many more years there. And those of us in GPA wish the same for them

“Thus began the long relationship between the Bednars, GPA and their role as community activists in Elgin.”

~2006 Historic Elgin House Tour Book