Located 40 miles from downtown Chicago, the city of Elgin is one of the most populated municipalities in the state. As an old house nerd, I have always loved exploring its six historic districts where history comes alive and preservation rules the day. Tear downs aren’t really a thing here. Instead, beautiful old Victorians and other residential styles are restored through city grants and commemorated with special plaques and awards. Owners take pride in their historical buildings. While Elgin has plenty of new single-family homes — especially west of the Fox River — the city has worked hard over the last few decades to bring back its once-booming commercial district. The best part is that Elgin is completely affordable for anyone interested in living here. Maybe we’ve been ruined by an overweight housing market, but you will see a good value in the following properties for sale.

705 W Highland Ave, Elgin, $619,500

In late 1893, the Elgin Daily Courier reported that local architect Smith Hoag was paid $10,000 to design “a model modern residence” for original owner, prominent banker Alfred Bosworth, whose family continued to live in the Queen Anne-style mansion for 50 years. A board member of the World’s Columbian Exposition, Bosworth reclaimed many items from the fair, including flaming birch wood from South America. (The home’s woodwork also includes oak, walnut, bird’s eye maple, and sycamore.) There are other gorgeous interior elements like six fireplaces, pocket doors, and stained glass windows. One of the most notable landmarks around town, this seven-bedroom, four-bathroom property hit the market for the first time in 25 years. It’s a great opportunity  to convert it back to a single-family home (the third floor is a three-bedroom legal apartment). 

900 W Highland Ave, Elgin, $449,900

This handsome home just hit the market in early May — the first time in more than 20 years. Designed by local architect George E. Morris for original owners Clarence and Emma Chapell in 1909, the interior of this brick American Foursquare has many vintage details associated with the popular Prairie style. The four-bedroom, four-bathroom home has been carefully preserved from the art glass and wood trim to the ornate light fixtures and built-in cabinetry. While the kitchen and bathrooms have been updated, they fit in perfectly with the rest of the historic house’s design.

618 Congdon Ave #618, Elgin, $239,900

For over a century, Elgin was best known as the world’s largest manufacturer of watches. But other factories existed in the city, including those once housed in this former 1891 Classical Revival design by local architect W.W. Wright. It was originally the Congdon Avenue Shoe Factory, followed by the Selz-Schwab Shoe Company, and other businesses. But in 1999 it was converted into residential lofts. This three-bedroom, three-bathroom corner unit has south and west exposures, helping bring light into the charming space. Like a typical loft, there are exposed brick walls and ductwork, hardwood floors, and 16-foot-high ceilings.

664 Oak St, Elgin, $214,900

Elgin has one of the largest collections of Sears kit homes in the state, with more than 200 fully documented by architectural historian Rebecca Hunter. One of her discoveries includes this 1927 Elsmore model built for its first owner, shoe salesman Herman F. Wynhoff. This particular design was quite popular with home buyers for its low cost, large porch, and simple floor plan. On the market for $214,900, the adorable two-bedroom, two-bathroom single-family residence is full of character and charm.

144 River Walk Ct, Elgin, $325,000

While the center of Elgin might seem like a time capsule, you can still find some properties that were actually built in the 21st century. River Park Place, a group of 116 three-story brick townhouses, was added in 2005 to the revitalized downtown area. They’re located right next to the Fox River Trail and near the Festival Park and Grand Victoria Casino — once-vacant land until the 1990s. Nearly 2,000 square feet, the Brookstone model has one of the largest floorplans in the subdivision. It comes with two bedrooms (you can easily convert the lower level into another bedroom) and three bathrooms, along with a two-tiered rooftop deck.