In December of 1893, the Elgin Daily News put out its annual report on building permits issued during the year. One was issued to Mrs. Rosalia Thiel, for 639 Lillie Street for $2,200. By the 1894-95 Elgin City Directory, both Rosalia and her husband John are listed at the 639 address. 

John was a German immigrant who came to Elgin in 1853. An expert shoemaker according to his 1902 Elgin Weekly Courier, he had his own shoe shop on the north side of E. Highland Avenue between Spring Street and Douglas Avenue. He worked at a few other shoe shops around town, notably Ettner’s, before retiring in 1900. 

Rosalia and John also had nine children together, all born before 1900. Many of their children spent their careers working at the Elgin National Watch Factory. Their eldest daughter, Barbara, worked there for over 40 years. Similarly, their son John Jr. worked at the Watch Factory for almost 50, clocking in at 48 years with the company.

John Thiel Sr. passed away in 1902 at the age of 80, with Rosalia passing away four years later in 1906. Her will appointed her son, John Jr. as executor of the estate. John Jr. and his wife Florence lived together in the home until his own death in 1937. Florence continued living in 639 Lillie as a widow until 1950, thus ending 57 years of continued ownership. 


639 Lillie Street is listed in The Lord’s Park Neighborhood Historic Resources Survey as contributing to the historical significance in the area.  The home is an example of both the Italianate and Queen Anne styles, exhibiting characteristics from each. Features indicative of the Queen Anne style include the multiple roof lines and the spindle work on the front and the back porches, those latter elements brought back to life when the home was restored in the 1990s/early 2000s. Pronounced Italianate features include the brackets along the cornice of the front porch, the two story bay window and the tall, narrow windows throughout. 



Sources: 2002 Heritage Plaque Application; Audio: TextAloud