Signs lead the way to Hinsdale history

Commission hopes to elevate profile of Robbins Park Historic District with gateway signs


Last updated 7/13/2022 at 3:10pm | View PDF

As Hinsdale officials structure ways to keep vintage residences from being torn down, they also want to install signage to draw attention to the village’s most heritage-rich neighborhood.

At their July 6 meeting, historic preservation commissioners discussed location preferences for new Robbins Park Historic District gateway signs.

“We are trying to put some general parameters together about the locations and general design ideas so that we can then put out a bid to request some proposals from sign contractors,” reported Bethany Salmon, village planner.

The southeast section of the village is on the National Register of Historic Places and features dozens of homes dating back to Hinsdale’s early days, brick-paved streets and distinctive streetscapes designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. To direct people into it, the village is planning to install stand-alone single-post signs at various locations.

Commissioners reached consensus that the busy intersection of Chicago and Garfield Avenue, while technically the northwest edge of the district, would not be a good choice.

“There’s too much going on,” said Commissioner Jim Prisby, who joined colleagues in favoring a location one block east, at Blaine and Chicago. “There’s plenty of room in the parkway there, on either corner.”

Other slated sign sites include County Line Road and Chicago Avenue, First Street and County Line and Eighth Street at both the County Line and Garfield crossings. Commissioners also want to underscore the entry to Robbins from the west side of First Street but acknowledged sign clutter at First and Garfield made that location less than ideal.

Commissioner Bill Haarlow favored a sign a block east along the parkway near the historic Grace Episcopal Church and its parsonage, the so-called “Hallmark House.”

“That (location) would note the importance of those two very old and significant structures,” Haarlow said.

But Prisby said he still wanted to consider putting the sign close to Garfield, even if the dentist’s office there isn’t historic.

“To me, it’s also an important consideration to have it at that important intersection,” he said.

Commissioner Frank Gonzales agreed, noting drivers at the four-way stop are more likely to see it.

“I see it more like gateway — you’re entering this historic district, not necessarily that every building you’re going to see is historical,” he said.

Commissioner Shannon Weinberger noted that the dentist’s building reflects the village’s colonial revival architectural period in the early 20th century.

Haarlow expressed hope that, as part of the Tri-State Tollway widening project, the Illinois Tollway can install a sign alerting Tri-State drivers to Hinsdale’s historic downtown. Motorists currently see a sign guiding them to La Grange’s downtown.

Underscoring the redevelopment challenges the village is facing, commissioners earlier in the meeting unanimously approved a demolition application for the 1938 home at 430 E. Seventh St. in the Robbins subdivision for new construction. Prior to the vote, commissioner Alexis Braden expressed some concern that the new home’s design did go far enough in reflecting the area’s heritage.

“I don’t see a ton of architectural elements from these more historic homes that your pointed out (in the application). It still looks very much new,” she said.

Commission Chairman John Bohnen also offered a word of caution about the stormwater impact that new builds can have on neighboring properties if drainage is not adequately addressed.

“Water runoff is a very significant concern,” he said.

As for the wayfinding signs, Salmon said the village will put them out to bid and expects the eventual sign contractor to provide additional guidance regarding sign placement.

“We’re just picking the general locations,” she said. “They’ll be able to figure out how signs can be oriented to be the best path of travel.”

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean


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