272 Division

According to Steve Stroud’s book There Used To Be  272 Division was built in ca 1875 for H. D. and Ida Barnes.  H.D. was an assistant manager of the Elgin Packing Company.  He owned the home until 1901 when it was sold to St. Joseph’s German Catholic Church for their rectory which it is still used as.

Here it is as it looked for many years with substitute siding, and inappropriate porch and additions.

This house was next door to the east and  was torn down for parking and a playground for the school.

Two houses to the west were used for Nuns to live in for many years.  They fell into disrepair and were torn down for a possible addition to the church.  The Heritage Commission encouraged them to keep the houses and even suggested moving but had to give in in the end. The Gifford Park Association administered a salvage on the three houses being torn down by St. Joe’s.  The entire bay and porch was taken off of this house and reused on a house on Michigan St.  The guy that did it got a Mayor’s award for his efforts.

Over the years St. Joe’s came to the Design Review Committee asking to make changes to the rectory.  They seldom got what they were requesting.  They came asking for new siding and were told that it they took the aluminum off it could be determined if original siding is there and if it could be restored.  They took the aluminum off and assumed they could put new on if it were wood.  They used a wide exposure, knotty, rough sawn cedar which looked terrible  They were stopped about half way thru.  They were told that the siding was inappropriate and it had to come off.  Needless to say, they were not happy.

While the controversy expanded the city council knew that if the Heritage Commission stuck to their guns the church could appeal to the city council where they would have to decide the matter.    Mayor Ed Schock did not want to have to do that.  Arguing against a church is not very popular.  The city and preservation would look bad when it hit the papers.

Toll Brothers, a nationally known developer was in the middle of a huge development on Elgin’s west side.  They Mayor had worked closely with them on their development and had a rapport with them.  He assed for a favor -would Toll Brothers donate the time and materials to do right by the  rectory? I wrote seventeen pages of specifications and drawings  for rehabbing the house and porch so they could decide if they wanted to participate.  They bought into all of it!!!  They agreed to execute my plans exactly. Wow!

The Gifford Park Association held a Great Unveiling there where we took the appropriate wood siding off for them.

Much of the wood was salvaged and used to build the new porch.  The corner boards were 5/4 X 6 so they were especially useful.

I made all of the parts for the porch including, posts, newels, rails, brackets, balusters and lattice skirting.  I put in 14 hour days to stay ahead of them.

They brought in 7 union carpenters and were done in a week and a half. An apprentice caulked joints all day, every day.   A professional painting crew of 4 had it painted in a few days.

I wanted to rebuild the bay myself so I did that while the others did everything else.


That allowed me to be on site every day so if they had any questions they could ask.  They asked a lot and always took my advice.  That was refreshing.  Toll Bros. had bought into my specs so they were told to take direction from me.  Wow!!! They had no old house experience as all of their work was new housing.  Many of the guys found it refreshing.  They would ask how to do a specific things  like  install the porch flooring.  I would say, you can do X or Y.  They would ask which is better and do it that way.

Toll brothers donated $70,000 in labor and materials.  They received a Mayor’s award for their efforts.  They actually had a little breakfast at the Centre where they congratulated and thanked everybody.

Here is the finished porch: