326 E. Chicago Street was constructed in 1897 for James and Sarah (Brasted) Palmer. James Palmer was born in Howard, New York in 1836. He was a well known veteran that was captured by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War in the battle at Shiloh in 1862.

After the war and around 1873, James settled in Elgin and became a partner in the firm of Palmer and Hinsdell, furniture dealers and undertakers. The firm's name changed several times and, by 1900, James Palmer was in the business of selling art goods and undertaking. It was noted that Palmer not only prepared the body but saw to funeral arrangements including procuring flowers, pallbearers, carriages as well as the music. He was quoted stating, "Perhaps in all the varied walks of life, there is none that requires in its follower a combination of gentleness, sympathy, feeling, and good taste more than in the business of an undertaker."

After 34 years in the business, Palmer retired in 1907 and past away in 1915. His then partner, Fred T. Norris, continued with developing innovations to the business. 


The building is of the Queen Anne style and its exterior has been entirely restored. Prior to restoration in 1984, the house was covered with asphalt siding, and the porches were nothing more than concrete slabs. Thanks to the Neighborhood Housing Services, Gifford Park Association, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and the City of Elgin, the former undertaker's home is once again an impressive element of the Elgin Historic District.

Since 1990, this home has been used to house the Resident Police Officer for the neighborhood.



Sources: 1989 Heritage Plaque Application; Audio: TextAloud