Gifford Park Association, Elgin, IL
Award Type: Trustees Award for Organizational Excellence
With this year’s Trustees’ Award for Organizational Excellence, we honor the commitment, persistence, vision and hard work that have shaped an outstanding neighborhood preservation effort. Thanks to this all-volunteer association, Gifford Park is well on the way to becoming not only Elgin’s oldest neighborhood but also its best.
The Gifford Park Association, founded in 1979, is a model for what vision and hard work can do in the face of long odds. Like many places nationally, the 1960s and '70s were hard on Gifford Park—the oldest neighborhood in Elgin. Historic late 19th and early 20th century houses were torn down or subdivided, the neighborhood's history and character vanished as crime rates soared. Faced with these challenges, the Gifford Park Association worked tirelessly to change the values of the entire community, and today their legacy is evident.
The Association employed a multi-pronged strategy. It lobbied City Hall to enact a preservation ordinance and to have the neighborhood named a local historic district. Then, to promote architectural appreciation through public education, the Association launched its first Historic House Tour—financed on a single member's credit card. Today, the program attracts 2,000 visitors every year from all over the Chicagoland region. The group has also purchased, rehabilitated and resold seven "problem properties," while initiating the "Great Unveiling" program, which provides modest grants and volunteer labor to help homeowners remove inappropriate siding and restore historic facades.