Silvanus Wilcox’s 2nd Addition to Elgin extended the city to the west and south along W. Chicago Street. The corner of Wilcox Avenue and W. Chicago Street contained lots 2 and 3 of block 2 of Wilcox’s 2nd Addition. In 1890, Wilcox warranted lots 2 and 3 to Maria Ames who was subsequently found insane and passed away in 1902.

In 1899, these 2 lots comprised of 1 acre with small outbuildings and a house. In 1911, Maria Ames’ son, Alston Ames sold both lots 2 and 4 to William Kofmehl, the Division's Roadmaster of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad. He lived at 18 S. Union Street and in 1915, started building himself a house on lot 2 which would become 781 W. Chicago Street.

In July of that year, however, Kofmehl warranted the house, while under construction, to Fred Koss. Koss was the secretary and treasurer of the Western Casket Hardware Company in Elgin. By buying the house while under construction, Koss was then in charge of finishing the job. 

Koss did just that and completed the home in 1915. 781 stayed in the Koss family for the next 70 years.


781 W. Chicago is of the American foursquare typology, with a number of Prairie style elements. The Prairie style was largely dominated by Frank Lloyd Wright and featured architectural elements acknowledging the horizontality of the Midwestern landscape. Some common features of the Prairie style seen here include the low pitched, pyramidal roof; a hipped dormer; the horizontal banding and the off-center door entrance.



Sources: 1998 Heritage Plaque Application; Audio: TextAloud