Robbins key figure in village's history

Series: Hinsdale 150 | Story 2

Last updated 1/12/2023 at 10am | View PDF

From street names to park names, clues to the village’s history are everywhere in town.

Ayres Street is named after Anson Ayers (who later changed the spelling of his last name), who purchased 80 acres in Hinsdale that he knew would become residential property.

Katherine Legge Memorial Park was a gift from Alexander Legge to memorialize his wife, who died unexpectedly before they had a chance to build their dream home on the 52 acres on County Line.

Robbins Park pays homage to William Robbins, an early settler who is known as the village’s founding father.

Those who have been around a long time recognize other names from the village’s early days as well, such as William Whitney, John Bohlander, Arthur Mann, Robert Slocum and Joel Tiffany. The men were among the 37 signers of the petition to incorporate.

That petition led to a vote on whether the area should incorporate. Sixty-two ballots were cast on March 29, 1873, with only two voters objecting to the plan.

Tiffany became the first village president in 1873, followed by Robbins as the second in 1874.

The village’s population at the time was estimated at 300 to 500 people, according to Hugh Dugan, author of “Village on the County Line: A History of Hinsdale, Illinois.”

As The Hinsdalean begins a year’s worth of coverage on village history, it seems appropriate to focus this first article on Robbins.

A native New Yorker, he moved to McHenry County in 1824 at the age of 20, according to Timothy Bakken’s “Hinsdale,” published in 1976. After spending time in California searching for gold, he became a businessman and arrived in Illinois a wealthy young man.

Robbins paid almost $9,000 for his 640 acres, which stretched from Chicago Avenue to 55th Street and Madison Street to County Line Road. Construction began on his mansion, which he called “Woodside,” in 1863. The house still stands, altered by additions, at 425 E. Sixth St.

Robbins’ home has achieved some notoriety of its own. Among its former residents were Orland Bassett, known for developing American Beauty roses for the commercial market; and former U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert and her husband, Rody.

Robbins eventually abandoned the idea of farming and focused his energy on establishing a town. The plat of the Village of Hinsdale was drawn on Sept. 22, 1865.

“Robbins’ purpose in platting the village was two-fold: streets and lots, even on paper, gave confidence to buyers, and seemed some sort of assurance that a town was eventually going to evolve on the scattered hills by the railroad tracks; and it also made conveyances of land vastly easier, cheaper and quicker for all concerned,” Bakken wrote.

Many buyers found the area appealing and land was selling so well that Robbins made his first and second additions to the town in 1866 and 1871.

He continued to sell land for many years. In addition to serving as village president, he donated property to three churches and built a school.

Although the time he spent in Hinsdale diminished over the years (he had a home in Chicago and traveled extensively), he did spend his final days in Hinsdale. He died June 20, 1889, and is buried at Bronswood Cemetery.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean


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