March 2016 Minutes

Gifford Park Association General Meeting

Thursday, March 17, 2016
Historical Society Museum


April 4th – Citizen’s Police Academy

Friday April 22nd – Annual Membership Pot luck Dinner at the Lord’s Park Pavilion – a slide show of before and after renovation of homes in the Historic District will be shown

Sat. & Sun., Sept. 10 & 11: 35th Historic Elgin House Tour featuring the Elgin Historic District

Sara and Sidney Boline, Bill Briska, Bill Decker, Paul Kuester, Warren Tejes, Tom & Moe Lee, Dan & Pat Miller, Officers Bob Engleke & Dave Cox, John and Carol Anderson, Cece Page, Officers Echevaria, Engelke and Lesko

Nance Kimball cobblestone at 302 W. Chicago

Bill Briska started his presentation by reminding the group that he is careful to be aware of any conflicts he has as he is active in GPA and the Historical Society. Bill added that the Museum just finished the largest project it has ever undertaken in the $90,000, 2-3-1 Project which it just won an Image Award for. It has been shown at five High Schools and has been seen by a total of over 12,000 people. It has met and exceeded the expectations for long term impact on the community. The Nancy Kimball House project has the potential to exceed the success of Project 2-3-1 on almost every measure. It speaks to GPA’s values of historic preservation, community and neighborhood improvement, by being an educational and demonstration project. The finished building and its community use mission should bolster the identity of the neighborhood. GPA support would be great PR move for the organization and once again demonstrate its leadership as a neighborhood group not just for its home area but all the older neighborhoods in Elgin.

Bill introduced the Nancy Kimball cobblestone project with slides of the home. He informed the group that the home was an important part of the west side of Elgin. It is significant because it was the home of the wife of Joseph Kimball the co-founder of Elgin. His two sons were Mayors of Elgin and they had the house built for her in 1846 and she lived until she was 101. There are only six cobblestones left in the city. The home was single family until the 1950s at which time it was turned in four units and in the 70’s it was converted into six units. The city purchased the home in 2009 to get rid of a problem property that had constant police and code calls. Their original intent was to turn it into a ROPE Officer house. The home was gutted and the cost estimates to rehab were too high so the building was moth balled. In the summer of 2014 the Historical Society, the city and Near West Neighborhood Association started discussions on the project. The city was convinced to clean up the site and exploration of another use began.

It is ideally situated as a gateway into the neighborhood.

Bill showed slides of the home even giving little architectural lessons like the definition of a quoin and split lathe. He added that the walls are 16 inch thick rubble stone behind the cobblestone surface.

Bill informed the group that the Historical Society has taken the lead in the rehab of the building. He does feel that keeping the addition is important as it would be too small without it. A handicapped restroom has to be added if it is to be used by the public. He does not feel the building should become a single family residence, or a house museum. The home will be rehabbed in stages, digestible pieces, as the money comes in with over $60,000 raised so far. A structural analysis has been done, architectural drawings are being created and site survey has taken place.

The building will be a boost for the neighborhood. Bill envisions a portion of the home to be museum like with gallery space with changing historic panels and exhibits. It will also have a small group meeting space, and storage space for the neighborhood.

It could have ground level permanent work space for hands on demonstrations like GPA has done in the past.

Bill mentioned that the $500 we gave to NENA for their playground fundraising was an enormous PR move on our part by giving back to the neighborhood. If GPA makes a donation to the Kimball house we could encourage NWNA to fundraise by making it a matching gift to their efforts. It would be a springboard to get donations from others.

$46,110 was donated by the County. The Historical Society is currently obtaining precise estimates for the work. When it went out to bid before, the estimates came in at $300,000 which included making the building LEED certified. That will not be done this time.

Pat Miller suggested the building be used as a resource center for preservation and old house restoration. Bill added that he and Liz have discussed that and added that Portland Oregon has a center including a reference library, exhibition space and samples with the purpose of being a preservation resource center. The Portland building is much larger in size but could serve as a model for something at the Nancy Kimball House.

Bill added that he and Liz Marston have written thousands of words on grant applications. Landmarks Illinois has donated. The city will maintain ownership and a signed agreement has been made with the city. The Historical Society will raise money and supervise the project then lease from the city just like they do with Old Main.

This project speaks to the values of the Gifford Park Association – preservation, history and neighborhood identity.

A suggestion was made to donate $10,000 from GPA to the project. Dan added that the $10,000 we donated to the depot on National St. gave the project legitimacy and began its revival into the wonderful asset it is today.

John Anderson added that he bid on the project when the city was looking to rehab it and that $10,000 would be a drop in the bucket for the project.

Pat Miller asked if the By Laws require us to notify the entire membership for such a large donation.

Paul Kuester added that this is a fantastic project. It will give us a chance to participate with sweat equity.

Bill added that the commitment for the funds is not urgent although it is good to know the commitments to get the momentum going.

Karen Bach added that she did not see the need to make it a matching grant.

Tom Lee moved and John Anderson seconded a motion to donate $10,000 to the Nancy Kimball Cobblestone project. It passed unanimously with Bill abstaining.

R.O.P.E. REPORT: Officer Robert Engleke ( [email protected] 847-354-3388)

Officer Englelke stated that January in our neighborhood was busy but the last two months have not been. There was a problem on North St that has been solved as all of the tenants have even evicted. Officer Engleke added that the next Citizen Police Academy is April 4th. Click here for more info. Officer Engelke was very complimentary of our neighborhoods night shift supervisor. He said that if things are slow he getsvery proactive even doing foot patrols. Office Echevaria added that Elgin has a group called the Crime Free Housing patrol. They are officers that work the apartment buildings. They are aggressive in the right way. If anyone has an issue with an apartment building please inform the city and they will work on it. John Boline added that he has used the Crime Free housing unit very successfully to solve a problem in his neighborhood. Officer Engleke announced that he will be leaving the ROPE Officer program and a replacement has not yet been announced. Dan encouraged Officer Engleke to bring the new officer to our pot luck as it would be a great place to get to know neighbors.

Secretary’s Report

Tom Lee moved and Karen Bach seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the February meeting. The motion passed unanimously. Dan thanked Barbara for the great minutes.

Treasurer’s report

Pat Miller reported that we have four CD’s totaling $81,284.77 and a checking account balance of$19,346.70.


Historic District (Paul Bednar [email protected])
Dan reported that Paul Bednar and Pat Miler have both been encouraging us to reactivate the Dream Team. Dan said that the name came when 28 N. Gifford came up for sale. Arthur Allan mentioned at a meeting that he had a dream for what that block could look like and that he wanted GPA to buy 28 N. Gifford to begin to realize the dream.

D.C. Cook Mansion (more recently Bowes Retirement Center at 105 N. Gifford St.)
Pat Miller reported that a mention of demolition and use as a park were found in the Parks Commission minutes. It was foreclosed upon and the bank has possession. They had it for sale for a time at around $600,000 but it is currently off the market. Dan has been in contact with the bank and they have mentioned that they would be willing to give it to a not for profit organization. Pat added that we are not a 501c3 organization but ECN can be used as a conduit for groups as they are a 501c3. Pat feels the new additions on the building are an eyesore and have no value so they should be taken off. GPA could possibly take possession then have an attorney put covenants on the building to make sure it is used as a single family home.

John Anderson added that he felt no one would buy it if it had covenants on it. He feels it would take a million dollars to rehab the house and would be a tremendous liability if GPA owned it. John suggest it be turned into upscale apartments and he mentioned that he knew an investor that might be interested in doing it. .

Pat added that the building is currently zoned for special use, neighborhood business or community facility, not RC3 like the rest of the surrounding neighborhood. Pat said that she strongly supports best and original use for the building. It is a trophy house. Several said that it is too big for a single family and Pat reminded the group that it is not bigger than the Butterman’s or Donna Leetz’s home or the Wing Mansion. She feels we need to think about it and plan ahead. She added that she is strongly against making it into rental units.

Warren Tejes added that getting zoning for apartments is difficult.

Dan suggested that GPA hire a firm to do a feasibility study on the home. Dan added that his dream for the building would be for GPA to take control of it then put out a RFP for people to give us a plan for what they would do with the building. We could then give it or sell it to the person with the best plan.

Paul Kuester said that we should definitely reconvene the Dream Committee. We need to control our destiny.

Carol Anderson agreed that no one would buy the building with covenants.

Housewalk (Pat Miller [email protected])

Pat Miller informed the group that the House Tour Committee has been meeting regularly and that all of the key committee heads have been filled. This year the House Tour will be a two day event on Sept. 10th and 11th. The featured neighborhood will be the Elgin Historic District. Dan added that forty-three neighbors have been contacted about featuring their homes on our walk. Thirteen have said no, five have said yes and three maybes with the rest not having gotten back to Dan.

Membership (Moe Lee [email protected])
Moe Lee reported that we currently have 161 individual members of the Gifford Park Association.

Our annual Pot Luck Dinner is scheduled for Friday April 22nd at 6:30 pm at the Lord’s Park Pavilion. A fascinating slide show will be shown of before and after rehabilitation of homes in the Historic District. Viewers will be amazed at the changes that have occurred.
Great food, interesting conversation and slides of fascinating homes. It does not get any better!

The meeting was adjourned at 8:45 pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Dan Miller

More on Bowes not discussed at the meeting:

We found out the annual taxes on the building are $33,000.
If you have not seen them already, click here for a a slide show of the interior details before they were sold to a salvage yard.

Click here for a slide show of the interior after it was desecrated.

Click here to see the booklet page from when it was featured on our Housewalk.

Here is an old picture of the home.

Here is how it looks today.