Sometimes reading about one thing can bring back reminders of similar things. That is what happened for me when an article in the Tribune about an architecturally significant home that had been purchased with the prospect of being razed to construct new homes. The article told many stories of those for and those against, preservationists being the strongest. The outcome still hasn’t be decided.
And so it reminded me of the Babson Estate, which was located on Longcommon Road near Delaplaine and was razed in 1960.
Built in 1907 for Henry Babson by famed architect Louis Sullivan, the house was the pride of Riverside with its 25 rooms sitting on 25 acres. After the original owners left the home, it was even occupied by a group of nuns. Finally, an offer was made to the village to accept the house for a nominal fee.
Arguments were raised by those for and those against. Some of the “against” points bordered on fear-mongering as to what it could mean to the village.
Needless to say, I would have been in favor of keeping the building and I believe that if the situation were to occur now, a motion to demolish it would not pass and the building would have been preserved.
In today’s Riverside, I can only imagine the main house remaining and serving as a center for use by the residents. With sufficient land surrounding it to maintain the beauty of the house, the remaining land would be portioned off into sufficient size lots, similar to what was done to form the Gatesby-Uvedale circle, where a couple of service for the estate (now local landmarks) still stand.
Subdividing land can be a difficult thing. Apportioning land to make them buildable lots without destroying the character of the area can result in some strange lots. The land where our home is on Selborne Road was built on a portion of land owned by Edith McCormick. It was subdivided in 1935 to make four lots of unusual shape to accommodate the building code. Today it would not have happened and the question remains if it ever should have happened.
As I pass the site on Longcommon I can still see the Babson Estate, and when there is snow I can remember seeing the nuns outside playing in the snow, a nice memory.
So while I know there must be progress, I believe it wise to move cautiously, for once it is gone it can’t come back.
Hopefully, the house I read about will remain and be a part of the history of the area where it stands.