In 1903 the Seybold-Reed Pipe Organ Company moved to Elgin and offered parlor, chapel, and cathedral sized organs for sale. John A. Waterman was among many well-known Elginites who invested into the business. By 1908, John and his wife, Cora, purchased property at the corner of Douglas and Slade that boasts their recent successes.

Architects Postle and Maher, who are known for a number of homes throughout town, submitted architectural plans for the Watermans new home at 900 Douglas Avenue. Moving from 800 N. Spring, this home was as much an act of wealth as it was of desire for a new home.

The first decade of the new century proved steadily successful for the pipe organ industry. By 1913, however, interest had waned enough that Waterman merged his business with a player piano company. The increasing demand and popularity of radios and phonographs added to the falling sales of Waterman’s business and by 1915, the company filed for bankruptcy. The E. P. John Piano Company continued manufacturing pianos under the Seybold name, but Waterman shifted his career to new endeavors, working as a Vice President for Home National Bank.

Other notable residents of 900 Douglas include O. Dana Richardson, Agency Supervisor for the Berkshire Life Insurance Company and Edward Eckwald, President of Howell Manufacturing of St. Charles.


This large, two-story, Prairie style home took two years to build. Designed by the firm of Postle and Mahler, the exterior elevations consist of a primarily brick exterior. 

Postle is known for a number of buildings in the Chicagoland area including the 1902 design of Pattington Apartments on Irving Park Road, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In Elgin, his work is seen at 608 Linden Avenue; the Dutch Colonials at 826 and 832 Douglas; the Mission style at 838 and another Prairie style at 850 Douglas Avenue.

Prairie style homes are dominated by horizontal lines, low-pitched, hipped roofs and wide overhanging eaves. Long, narrow, brickwork and banding accentuate the horizontality. Of particularly note are stained glass windows reaching the full two stories on the north façade of the house.

Included as a contributing structure to the Spring-Douglas Historic District, 900 Douglas plays an important role not only in the history of the neighborhood but additionally marks the popularity of this style during the time in which it was built.



Sources: 1999 Heritage Plaque Application; Audio: TextAloud