One of the fastest-growing cities in Illinois, Elgin lies 40 miles northwest of Chicago on the Fox River. Established in 1835 and named for the Scottish hymn "The Song of Elgin," the city earned recognition in its own right as a transportation hub linking several urban centers. Today, with a young and diverse population, a vibrant cultural scene, and a scenic riverside setting, Elgin is a progressive community poised for development. In 2006, Money magazine named Elgin one of the best towns to live in.
Elgin's population is nearly 105,000, with a median age of 31 and 19 percent of the city's adults hold a bachelor's or advanced degree. Minorities comprise about 30 percent of the population, with a significant Laotian American presence.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Recognized in particular for its Victorian architecture, Elgin is also the site of many vintage Sears catalog homes, which were built from kits between 1908 and 1940. The historic downtown area also features several native cobblestone homes constructed by Elgin's earliest settlers.
In the 1990s, downtown Elgin experienced a rebirth with the completion of the Grand Victoria riverboat casino, and many old or rundown buildings were redeveloped into nightclubs and restaurants. As the fifth most popular tourist attraction in the state, the casino draws nearly four million people per year. Another main draw is the well-visited Randall Road corridor just outside central Elgin, which is a major shopping destination for residents of the entire Fox Valley.
In general, Elgin's neighborhoods tend to reflect the population: educated, upper middle class, and very diverse:
- Gilberts/Pingree Grove: This is an established, quiet suburban family neighborhood.
- Udina: This area is artsy and suburban with older homes.
- Almora: This newer, suburban neighborhood is made up of families.
- Youngsdale: In this area, homes are a suburban mix of single-family houses, rowhouses, and apartments; residents are mostly families and young professionals.
- Route 58/Waverly Drive: This is a newer suburban area with a diverse array of residents, including young professionals and seniors, in multiple ethnic groups.
- Aldine Avenue/Highland Avenue: This pedestrian-friendly, urban area has older homes and apartment complexes, including some high-rises.
- Dundee Avenue/Slade Avenue: This historic, urban neighborhood is a mix of single-family homes and rowhouses; residents are from many ethnic groups.
- City Center: This is the downtown area, with a historic flair and artsy vibe; residents are students and families with lower incomes and with a great mix of diversity.
- U.S. Route 20/State Street: This pedestrian-friendly, urban neighborhood is made up of smaller homes and apartment complexes; residents are middle class, with a wide range of ages and ethnic backgrounds.
- Route 19/Willard Avenue: This suburban area has mostly newer, small single-family homes and rowhouses; residents are mostly middle-class families.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Elgin first became known for the butter and dairy products it shipped to Chicago; the Borden's condensed milk factory was established here in 1866. Today, the major employers are the Northern Illinois State Mental Hospital and a Veterans Administration Hospital, both of which employ many city health-care professionals and social workers. Other popular industries include manufacturing, education, and retail.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Residents have a multitude of fine entertainment options. Opportunities particularly abound for children interested in music and theater.
- Children's Theatre of Elgin/Fox Valley Youth Theatre: These two live theater groups offer performance opportunities for children and young adults.
- Elgin Children's Chorus: This musical troupe focuses on "teaching life through song," inspiring children to grow emotionally and artistically.
- Elgin Choral Union: This is an ensemble at the Elgin Community College Institute for the Performing Arts.
- Elgin Opera: This opera company produces professional, full operas, while engaging in community outreach and education.
- Elgin Symphony Orchestra: This performing group is one of the largest orchestras in the state.
- Elgin Theatre Company: This community theater group puts on a broad range of productions.
- Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra: This highly regarded youth orchestra has played all over Illinois.
- Janus Theatre Company: This local arts group hosts exhibitions and performances in downtown Elgin.
Fans of sports and the outdoors will find many recreational attractions in Elgin:
- Bluff Spring Fen and Trout Park: These Illinois state nature preserves are home to a wide variety of vegetation, including rare orchids.
- Elgin Sports Complex: Visitors can enjoy an array of sports on 10 lighted ball fields, 10 soccer fields, and a BMX bike track.
- Fox River Trail bike path: This path connects Elgin to five neighboring communities.
- Lords Park: Lords Park boasts a petting zoo, an exhibit of American bison, and a golf course.
- Poplar Creek Preserve: This site features trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
- Shoe Factory Road Prairie: This is a living example of the hill prairies that once covered the city.
- The Centre of Elgin: At this municipal recreation center, Elgin residents enjoy an aquatic park and a climbing wall.
- Elgin Community College is the fastest-growing community college in Illinois.
- Judson University is a liberal arts American Baptist college with graduate programs in architecture and education.
- Providence Baptist College is a four-year Independent Baptist vocational college.