In The News

Video project focuses on Elgin bungalows

This article appeared in The Courier-News on May 25, 2017. This article mentions the work of our one of our grantees, Landmarks Illinois. You can find the original article here.

Four Chicago college students recently learned a bit about Elgin’s historic housing stock and had a chance to practice their videomaking skills as part of a project for Landmarks Illinois, a historic preservation non-profit.

The Kennedy-King College Media Communications Program students focused on the Bungalow Thematic Historic District. It is one of eight productions in the project, called “People Saving Places: Stories About the Importance of Place,” showing how people are leveraging historic preservation to boost economic development, attract cultural heritage tourism, and increase pride of place, said Kaitlyn McAvoy, Landmarks Illinois communications manager.

Four student interns — Monique Harvey, Cedric Barksdale, Ennis Young and Jesse Ledbetter — along with Kennedy-King College teaching assistant Laveta Moore and Landmarks Illinois staff traveled to Elgin on March 10.

“I didn’t get to make the trip, but from working on this project, my impression of Elgin is the people involved pay amazing attention to detail and are committed to saving and preserving a piece of history,” instructor Enid Wells said.

Barksdale, who had been to Elgin before, said the project confirmed that the city is a warm place where people involved with preservation are passionate, trying to find resources and working to make such work inclusive.

Harvey worked as a camera operator, which gave her the opportunity to hone skills such as keeping still for at least 10 seconds while setting a shot and getting enough footage for illustrating points made in the piece.

Young said he enjoyed how the Elgin streets allowed for creating nice panning shots of the bungalows. Ledbetter oversaw interviews with those involved in the creating the historic district. Among the interviewees were Elgin History Museum Director Liz Marston, Elgin Historic Preservation Planner Christen Sundquist, Steve Stroud, who created, an online database of historic bungalows, and bungalow owners Rebecca Hunter and Len Govednik.

“The students were good interviewers and made me feel comfortable in front of the camera,” Marston said.

“The whole process was really exciting,” Sundquist said. “The Kennedy-King College students were very professional and were so easy-going, which helped calm some nerves.”

The video was ready in time for an April 21 screening in Ottawa, where it placed second among audience favorites, McAvoy said. Wells noted that each intern spent about 200 hours on the project.

“The logistics of bringing all those people together on one day so the students could travel to Elgin and capture all the footage they needed for the video took some serious planning. I will say, too, that it was windy and cold the day we were shooting in Elgin, and the students had to be outside for long periods of time to capture footage of the exteriors of the many bungalows in Elgin we wanted to showcase,” McAvoy said.

Landmarks Illinois provided background information and research, helped formulate interview questions and planned all the behind-the-scenes logistics, but ultimately gave the students creative control on how to put the story together, she said.

Other videos include a look at the restoration of Turner Hall, a former YMCA in Belleville; the preservation of the R. Buckminster Fuller Dome Home in Carbondale; the creation of a neighborhood conservation district in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood; the creation of cultural heritage tourism in the Starved Rock region around LaSalle and Ottawa; the rehabilitation of the Cornerstone Building in Peoria; Quincy residents Clare and Ken Goerlich preserving historic homes in their town; and the restoration of the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

“We ultimately chose projects that we believe demonstrate the wide variety of historic preservation efforts happening throughout Illinois and that tell the creative and inspiring stories of people saving places that add value to their lives,” McAvoy said. “Not only were we able to capture different historic preservation stories this way, we gave the student interns an opportunity to see and experience new places in their state.”

The interns were paid, with funding from Illinois Humanities and The Richard and Julia Moe Fund for Statewide and Local Partners, a fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, McAvoy said. Landmarks Illinois staff donated time to the effort, she said.

“The cost to Landmarks Illinois to produce the eight videos was about $27,000, or $3,400 each,” McAvoy said, adding it plans to use them to advocate for historic preservation in Illinois and is encouraging local organizations to use them as a fundraising tool. They also are up on the group’s YouTube channel.

The Elgin History Museum is using the movie segments on Facebook with a surprising number of views — over 1,000, Marston said.

Landmarks also plans to using the videos to create adventures via the Vamonde app.

“This is an urban storytelling app that uses videos, audio and text to tell stories and allow people to experience a place in a unique way,” McAvoy said.

“In Elgin, we hope our video can help spread the word about the Thematic Historic Bungalow District and inform Elgin bungalow homeowners that they could apply to be included in the district and therefore be eligible for certain grants available through the city to help restore and maintain the historic character of their homes,” she said.

Sundquist explained that a thematic historic district is not limited to a specific boundary as the more common historic district. It can be based on a type or style of architecture, such as a bungalow, or a function, such as firehouses or banks, she said.

Elgin’s bungalow district was adopted by the city council in August 2015 and includes seven homes.

“The district brings awareness to Elgin’s rich inventory of well preserved, turn-of-the-century bungalows,” Sundquist said.