Longtime Elginites who may remember star gazing at the U46 Observatory as school children can revisit the site during Open Elgin — the ultimate city-wide open house that is giving residents and visitors a look inside many historic and architecturally significant places.
Elgin Development Group’s Enhancing Elgin Committee decided to adapt Open House Chicago, where over 200 buildings were open to the public last fall, to showcase its history and architecture, said Jason Pawlowski, director of special events for the Elgin Chamber of Commerce. Elgin Development Group is a division of the chamber.
Twenty-seven spots are featured on a self-guided tour, from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Some stops are buildings where visitors can go inside, others are sites to look at, such as Advocate Sherman Hospital’s geothermal lake, Pawlowski said.
“The purpose of our committee is to promote the positives of the Elgin area to show people what a great place it is to live, work and enjoy,” Pawlowski said.
Highlights along the tour include the U46 Planetarium and Observatory, the Elgin Professional building and the Kresmery building, Pawlowski said.
“A lot of people probably don’t know there is a planetarium here,” Pawlowski said. The Planetarium was part of the Elgin Watch Factory campus and the company gave it to the school district in 1960, according to Open Elgin’s website. “I have never been inside the Planetarium but, I am very excited to see it for the first time.”
The Kresmery loft is about 20 years old and the loft “is something out of Mad Men, it’s just sleek,” he said.
“The Professional building is one of the oldest skyscrapers in Elgin and when you go in the lobby, you are in for a treat. It is literally like stepping back in time,” Pawlowski said.
The Elgin Development Group also hopes to showcase the city to businesses and business owners to help spur economic development and show off Elgin’s quality of life, Pawlowski said.
The tour features the Peter Burritt Memorial Building at 25 S. Grove Ave. The building was designed by Gilbert Turnbull and built in 1908, considered one of Elgin’s first skyscrapers, according to Open Elgin’s website. Another spot on the tour is the Henrietta Building, 51 S. Spring St., now home to the Elgin ArtSpace.
The Romanesque Revival style, building in 1908, was once home of Swan’s Department Store and Sears then became a downtown campus for Elgin Community College, according to the website. It was renovated into apartments with studios and opened as an artists’ colony in October 2012.
Visitors will be able to tour the gallery and a two bedroom apartment, said Kathy Apmann, property manager for the Elgin ArtSpace.
“I want them to get more of an understanding of what and who we are and what we do,” Apmann said. “I think there is a lot of misconception of what we do and what the community is all about. (People) think only painters can live here, but it is…