628 W. Highland Avenue was built in 1892 by Elgin builder, Henry Jensen, for George P. Lee for the sum of $4,480. George was born in the Plato township in 1843 and attended Elgin Academy. He is considered as one of Elgin's oldest settlers and was widely known as one of the most successful farmers in this section of the state. He was active in social, business, and rural affairs of the community. He married Sarah A. Sherwood on Christmas Day in 1871 and enjoyed 48 years together until she passed away on October 6, 1919. He passed away three years later on June 15, 1922. They had one daughter, Letitia M. Lee.

Letitia was born in Plato Center on March 6, 1876. She moved to Elgin at age 13 to attend Elgin Academy. She went on to study at Northwestern University. Letitia married John C. Barclay on August 27, 1896. John was the youngest of David P. Barclay who was a pioneer businessman, former Elgin Mayor and President of the First National Bank. After their marriage, they lived with George and Sarah at 628 W. Highland Avenue. Following Sarah's and George's death, Letitia inherited the home.

Letitia and John remained in the home until her death on May 30, 1924. She was known to be active socially and was a member of the Elgin Woman's Club.

Letitia's husband, John, was born in Elgin on December 19, 1875. He attended Elgin schools and furthered his studies at the Chicago Art Institute. John and his brother, David, founded the Barclay Brothers' which became the Elgin Lithotype Company at the site of the old Elgin Butter Market on North Street, remaining there for 35 years until John's death in 1948. John also served as a member of the Gail Borden Library's Board of Directors where he was instrumental in the founding of the juvenile section of the library. On January 26, 1951, two bronze plaques were dedicated at the library, one to Gail Borden and his two stepsons and the other to Alexander L. Metzel and John C. Barclay for their combined service of 70 years on the board. 

Shortly before Letitia's death, she made John the sole owner of their home, and at his death, the property was transferred to his second wife, Nina.


628 W. Highland Avenue is an impressive home designed in the Shingle style. This style was common at this time and exhibits identifying features such as varied roof forms, the decorative shingled patterns found at the wall surface, which are emphasized by the imaginative color scheme, and a prominent tower complete with what is called a witch's cap. The full width front-facing gable centered with a key-stone crowned Palladian window is also one of its unique characteristics. The flush eaves and the details at the windows are of the Shingle style, however, some elements such as the bay windows, asymmetrical front facade and cylindrical columns with simplistic Doric capitals suggest the Free Classic sub-type of the Queen Anne style. Another unique feature of this home includes the full-width front porch that includes an off-center front entrance.  



Sources: 1996 Heritage Plaque Application; Gifford Park Association, Audio: TextAloud