508 N. GROVE AVENUE
508 N. Grove Avenue was built for Patrick and Eliza (nee Mann) O'Flaharty. Eliza was born in Tyrrell's Pass, West Meath, Ireland on August 11, 1829. She came to American in 1836 and became one of Elgin's earliest residents in 1850. Patrick was a resident of Elgin since 1849 and in business since 1868 as a manufacturer of fine boots and shoes. Patrick was also a Civil War Veteran and one of the original letter carriers for the City of Elgin. The Mann and O'Flaherty families came to America due to the "Great Potato Famine" in Ireland. Elgin was ripe for development due to its strategic location between Chicago and Galena, and many Irish immigrants settled here.
It is likely the land that they built upon for their home was given to them through her Father, who was thought to be an early contractor in the City of Elgin. This area north of the center city of Elgin, in the mid-1800s, next to the Fox River, was one of the first sites to be settled. The residents of this house were laborers. Patrick and Eliza's sons, Edward and Frank, became gas fitters with the Elgin Gas Light Company and their son, Thomas, was a box maker.
Eliza passed away on Tuesday, January 24, 1905 in her house at 508 N. Grove Avenue of Typhoid Fever. The obituary states she left behind "a bereaved husband, Patrick, four sons and three daughters: Edward J., Frank M., Thomas and Leo, Kathryn and Sarah, and Mrs. John Cummings; three brothers, Patrick, Thomas and John Mann, and one sister, Martha Colford."
The O'Flaherty brothers gas fitting business became Platt and O'Flaharty Plumbing, which continued to be located in the center city of Elgin, and of which Platt Plumbing still exists today.
The house and adjacent property was sold soon after Eliza's death.
Originally 508 N. Grove Avenue was built as a simplistic side gabled home displaying characteristics under the National Folk - I-House family. I-Houses consisted of a two rooms wide and one room deep configuration and were popular among people of modest means in the mid-western states. When 508 N. Grove Avenue was built, it consisted of two rooms downstairs, two rooms upstairs and a cellar.
The detailing found on these homes would typically be highlighted at the porch and front entry. Around the turn of the century, an addition was added onto 508 N. Grove Avenue creating the cross gabled configuration we see today. During a renovation in the early 1990s, two pairs of turn-of-the-century, hand-sewn shoes were found in the attic. One pair is a woman's high-top shoe, the other a black leather pair made for a small boy.
Sources: 1996 Heritage Plaque Application; Audio: TextAloud