Friday, August 31, 2012

Historic Souster Residence in Elgin, IL

The story begins...

in 1913.  This Crafstman-style house was the final residence of Mr. and Mrs.George Souster.  Mr. Souster was first the baker and then the grounds-keeper for the Elgin Hospital for the Insane (Elgin Mental Hospital.)  His gift for gardening led him to build a large nursery and florist business in Elgin.  He was well-known in Elgin as he was a very successful entrepeneur and kind to those less-fortunate.  The home was moved in August of 1950, from the north gate of Elgin State Hospital to its present location to make way for the Route 20 by-pass.  At that time it was occupied by their son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. George H. Hamilton, and their daughter, Miss Elizabeth K. Souster.

In the history of St. Mary's Parish can be found evidence of the Souster's kindness to those less-fortunate.  Mrs. Margaret Souster was the Vice President of St. Mary's Social and Benevolent Society which was organized on March 11, 1894.  This excerpt from the booklet St. Mary's Golden Jubilee 1851-1901 written in 1902 explains what the society did:  "Its motto has been 'Each for all and all for each.'  The 150 members have made an honest effort to live up to the high standard of its motto.  Many needy families can testify to the kind acts performed in an unostentatious manner by the ladies of the society.  The first officers of the society were:  Mrs.E. Lynch, president; Mrs. Geo. Souster, vice president; Miss S. A.Guilford, secretary, and Mrs. Jas. Meehan, treasurer...The money disbursed by the benevolent committee since 1894 has been $1,500.  Socially the society is a success.  it is grateful to the general public for the liberal patronage that has always been bestowed upon it.  The society appreciates the favors of philanthropic friends."

Evidence of George Souster's gift at gardening can be found in a description of the grounds also found in the booklet St. Mary's Golden Jubilee 1851-1901:  "The Elgin State Hospital for the Insane was opened for the admission of patients being from Cook County.  The Elgin instiution is for the northern district of the State, each county being allowed a quota in proportion to the population.  The tendencey in the present treatment of the insane is to give to the patient the greatest liberty possible, commensurate with the proper discipline and to divert his attention by placing before hiimthe more attractive in life,and to this end this institution has a wide reputation.  The grounds of the hospital are a revelation, beautiful lakes, and drives, boulevards, cement walks, knolls, rustic bridges arching over numerous rivulets, acres of flower-beds, rose bushes and shade-trees is the scene which greets the eyes of one strolling through the grounds."

American crafstman style also referred to as the American Arts and Crafts Movement was an American lifestyle philosophy that began in the late 19th century and continued into the 1930s.  The American movement was influenced by the British movement which was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution as an effort to promote handmade and crafstmen work over machine-made products.  Elements of the Crafstman-style that are evident in this home are the low-pitched gabled roof; front porch with columns; partially-paned front door; decorative shingles; large over-hang; and planked siding.  The following link has some great information about elements of the Craftsman-style home:

This home is currently on the market as a bank-owned property and in need of restoration.

This Looks Like Home!

For more information about this home contact:

Marian Boveri, Historic Homes Specialist
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty, 847-308-2424, Cell or visit

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His Hand.  
(An old Irish blessing)