618-644 CONGDON AVENUE
In 1891, W.W. Wright, famous in Elgin for his designs at the McClure Mansion and the Teeple Barn, was contracted to build a factory. At the time of construction, the building cost $32,000 to complete, with much of that going towards masonry costs.
The first owners of the Congdon Avenue Shoe Factory were George Ludlow and George Keep, who took their shoe factory out of Chicago and brought it to Elgin. Initially a success, when the country hit hard times in the 1893 recession, so too did this shoe factory. Due to a previous agreement, when the factory began under-performing the building defaulted to William Grote and A.B. Church, two real estate investors from the area.
By 1897, another shoe factory took over and the Selz-Schwab Company marked profits for the following 32 years. The company even remained un-phased as the Palm Sunday tornado of 1920 tore the roof from the building.
After the Crash of 1929 Selz-Schwab, like many other companies across America, could not stay in business and were forced to close shop. In the years following, many other business came through the Shoe Factory doors, including a chair manufacturer, a metal working business and even a sign shop for the Illinois State Highway Department.
In 1999, the building was rehabilitated and made into residential lofts.
This factory exhibits some Early Classical Revival elements, particularly in historic photographs. A dominating front façade with two symmetrical wings extending from the center gable, though in this case the center roof is hipped with four dormers, once also included a prominent stairway leading to the front entrance. The exterior consists of masonry throughout with a number of double-hung sash windows often in groups of two or more seen, with many showcasing soldier course lintel, seen throughout each elevation.
Sources: 2002 Heritage Plaque Application; Audio: TextAloud