History of Barrington Hills
The Barrington area was first settled in the 1830s as a farming community, with the Village of Barrington incorporating in 1865. With gently rolling hills, many covered in towering oak trees, natural kettle moraine lakes and ponds, open spaces, the Barrington area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries attracted affluent Chicago families looking for a summer retreat from the crowded and dirty city, yet within a day’s journey by horse and buggy, and later by automobile or train from Chicago.
These new residents purchased farms and built their estates, continuing to operate “gentlemen farms’ with farm managers to run them. With the completion of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway the travel time from Chicago enabled these residents to live in the Barrington Countryside and work in Chicago. In 1921 a group of these prominent Chicago businessmen purchased the 220 acres for the Barrington Hills Country Club and the nucleus of what was to become the Village of Barrington Hills was born.
Fox Hunt and gathering of people and horses at Spring Creek Farm.
As more families moved to the Barrington Countryside, the Country Club, the Riding Club of Barrington Hills, and the Fox River Valley Hunt became the social networks for their rural community with shopping close by in the Village of Barrington.
In the prosperous mid 1950’s, as post war economic development blossomed, and the new network of roads and commuter railroads made the suburbs accessible to many more Americans anxious to move from the cities, large scale housing developments began to sprout up on what had been rural farmland. When developers purchased several thousand acres south of the Barrington area in Bartlett, and then in nearby Carpentersville for hundreds of homes on quarter acre lots, farsighted Barrington Hills residents realized that if the Barrington Countryside was to remain a rural oasis in a sprawling urbanization movement, and retain its five (5) acre minimum zoning, that incorporating as a Village was the only way to preserve this “special way of life” that had been the core of the Countryside since its inception more than 50 years earlier.
Patty and Chuck Meroni's vintage barn - a historical piece of Barrington Hills.
Photo courtesy of Beth Mallen.
Andrew Dallstream, a prominent Chicago attorney, and president of the Cook County Zoning Board organized a group of Barrington residents to persuade their friends and neighbors to sign petitions to incorporate as the Village of Barrington Hills. After many months of effort, the Village of Barrington Hills was incorporated on July 5, 1957.
Throughout the Village’s existence there has been pressure to have access to our open spaces; however, a dedicated group of individuals have resisted all efforts to break our five (5) acre zoning, in large part because of our equestrian usage. The Village has 7,000 acres of Cook County Forest Preserve within its borders. The Riding Club of Barrington Hills, founded in 1937, has maintained a trail system throughout the Village with the generosity of landowners who allow members to ride horses across their property.
In today’s busy, often impersonal world, Barrington Hills is an oasis of another time, another way of life, where residents not only know each other, but join together to enjoy their interests and hobbies, participate in village wide events like the annual Polo Match in September, Riding Club parties, Forest Preserve work days and parties, school events, country club events and the many casual neighbor sponsored get together's.
The Village of Barrington Hills truly has maintained its “special way of life”.
“A Club in the Country” Chronicles History of Barrington Hills Country Club
In 2005, Patty Dowd Schmitz, local author and former editorial director of Quintessential Barrington magazine was approached by Bruce Frankenberg and leaders of the Barrington Hills Country Club (BHCC) to write a book capturing the club’s rich history and preserving the personal stories and members’ recollections spanning a period of over 80 years. Two years, sixty interviews, and hours and hours of research later, “A Club in the Country: The Story of the Barrington Hills Country Club” was published in 2007. The 164 page book is loaded with over 150 never-before published photographs and maps, and serves not just as a way of recording the oral history of the early members of the club, but evolved into a historical record of the transformation of the rural countryside into the special place Barrington Hills is today. The history of the club is, in many ways, the history of the Village of Barrington Hills itself.
The Barrington Hills Country Club was founded in 1921 by the original farm and estate owners of the area as a place for them to escape from the bustling streets of Chicago, where many of them worked and operated businesses. They aspired to create a top-notch golf club, nestled among the pastures and farmlands west of Barrington. This group of men – Harry Stillson Hart, George Van Hagen, Herbert Bell, Spencer Otis, W.J. Klingenberg, and J.R. Cardwell--- recognized the unique character of the region and wanted to have an impact on preserving the open spaces.
In the book, Schmitz describes the formation of the club, the construction of the clubhouse, golf course and the many social and recreational activities the membership has enjoyed for decades. From the Fourth of July festivities to the annual Christmas party, the book recounts the many club traditions of “family, fun and friends”. There is an entire chapter devoted to the course, describing each hole in detail, as well as notable events and club golf champions.
The real core of the book is the stories of the members. And, make no mistake, the club has had it share of many fun-loving and colorful characters. One of Schmitz’s favorite stories is of Robert “Uncle Bob” Buckley (great grandfather of current resident David Buckley) who was “the life of the party” in the 1930s and 40s. Uncle Bob was notorious for his highflying antics. He would end every summer pool party by climbing up to the high dive, saluting the crowd and performing a back flip into the pool, all while dressed in a sparkling white tuxedo.
BHCC was not just a place for fun and games, but it also served as the central location for many high-minded discussions and lofty visions. Schmitz sees many similarities between the reasons for the founding of the BHCC and the familiar issues facing Barrington Hills today. “The founders wanted to keep the rural areas pristine and to maintain the large estates and farms.”
This same objective spurred residents of the countryside into action again during the 1950s, as another group of club members recognized the growing threat of development in neighboring towns which was edging closer and closer to their beloved open spaces. It is said that the incorporation of the Village of Barrington Hills literally began in the men’s locker room of the Club. The members’ goal was to prevent parceling of the estates and farms into tract housing, by incorporating the neighboring area into a Village and mandating five-acre zoning to protect the unique character of the land, with its rolling hills, wetlands, country roads, and hidden estates. With the recent fight over the de-annexation of Alexander McArthur’s farm and the future of its development, Schmitz says, “this is the third generation in Barrington Hills to be confronted by the same issues.”
This one-of-a-kind book takes the reader back to a much earlier time when Chicago was the workplace of the area’s founders, and Barrington and its environs was their getaway place – to live, to play, and to enjoy the “good life”. Through many highs and lows, the Club has not just survived, it has flourished, and stands today as a monument to the vision of a group of men who early on recognized the importance of preserving a unique lifestyle in the pristine hills.
“A Club in the Country” was produced privately for the members of the BHCC; it can be checked out from the Barrington Area Library.