ABOUT OUR LOCATION
I suggest you look at the original formatting there:
In 1885 Elgin saw a new building erected at 107 E. Highland Avenue in 1885.
Today, this building sits within the Elgin Downtown Commercial District that is on the National Register. Bounded roughly by Division, Villa Center, Fulton and Grove, the district is the newest established in Elgin.
107 E. Highland, also known as the Klinger Saloon because of the first business housed in the building, is one of those historic commercial structures contributing to the district.
107 E. Highland is of the Italianate style, specifically Commercial Italianate. Main Street blocks across America are home to Italianate structures, and the Fox Valley area is no different. This building being of the Italianate style and situated near the main street epicenter of Elgin marks a synthesis of two architectural points. First, about when 107 E. Highland was built and second, when the city of Elgin began growing as Italianate styled blocks were popular between roughly 1860 and 1880.
Some of the main architectural characteristics of the Italianate style are as follows:
Low pitched roof
Tall narrow windows
Cornice with decorative brackets
Throughout the years it has been listed in city directories as a number of addresses including:
25 N. Grove
25 1/2 N Grove
27 N. Grove
107 E. Highland
107 Milwaukee St
109 E. Highland
The first city directory in which 107 E. Highland is listed – 1885 – it is listed as a saloon with Morris Klinger as the proprietor. By 1887-88, the city directory lists Bernhardt Hagelow and Moritz Klinger as “beer bottlers” at 25 and 27 River.
Similar to just about any American town at the turn of the century where saloons and bars lined many a city street, the denotation of “beer bottler” is a relatively uncommon occupation, particularly in a smaller town like Elgin. For instance, the rest of the same page from 1887-88 shows everyone else on that list with jobs such as “watch factory worker,’ “laborer,” “grocer,” “barber,” or “blacksmith.”
While the occupation may have been slightly different than many other Elginites’ the men at 107 E. Highland were quite popular (another likely explanation for why there are so many connected addresses: expansion). By around 1903 107 E. Highland was clearly labeled as Pabst Brewing Co., seemingly switching over from saloon to full on bottling production. In 1913 it is listed as “vacant” and 109 E. Highland is listed as “Home Lunch Restaurant.”
This shift most likely occurred because of Elgin’s change in liquor laws. In the early teens, Elgin saw a rise in anti-alcohol proponents speaking out and pushing for a change in the law. This matches a similar trend in the rest of America which culminated in the well-known Volstead Act, and the subsequent 13 years of Prohibition. I surmise, then– surmise since I have city directory information and little other direct evidence — that because of the proposition for Elgin to go dry, the aforementioned restaurant may have been a farce by the bottlers so they could keep bottling.
In “Elgin: Days Gone By,” E.C. Alft writes that ‘[d]espite several sensational raids on stills and speakeasies, Prohibition was never effectively enforced locally.” Alft continues on the failures of local measures by describing how “[t]he Elgin Ministerial Association warned that ‘any ordinance attempting to regulate or legalize the sale of beer in the city of Elgin is unwarranted, ’because the new federal and state laws did not repeal the local option decision favored by a majority of Elgin voters in 1914.” Per Alft in his book “A History of Elgin History,” 1914 also saw the close of 37 saloons in Elgin Township thanks to a local referendum with the famed Elgin Eagle Creek Brewery forced to follow suit a few years later boarding up its doors in 1919 with direct orders of the Volstead Act.
And that, folks, is my take on the history of 107 E Highland as it dealt with Elgin’s transition to a dry city.
WHAT IS IT TODAY?
Today it stands as a retail space in the heart of downtown.