Couple finds house's charm irresistible

Hinsdale native and family settle in historic home not too far from where she grew up

Series: Hinsdale legacies | Story 13

Sarah and Jack London weren't planning to move to Hinsdale, even though Sarah (then Swanson) grew up here.

"We were going to move somewhere trendy and cool, like California or Georgia," Jack said.

They left New York in November 2019 and were living temporarily at Sarah's parents' house at First Street and Orchard Avenue. While taking walks in the neighborhood, they noticed the home at 518 S. Garfield Ave.

"This is the only house that would get me to stay here," Jack said.

Then the pandemic hit. The home on Garfield wasn't for sale, so they bought one in Clarendon Hills. After completely renovating it, they got the call that their favorite Hinsdale house was listed on the private market - and they were booked for the first showing.

"We were in here 10 minutes, five minutes. We were like, 'Cancel your other showings,' " Jack recalled.

They moved in in October 2021.

"We knew when we saw this house," Jack said. "It's got so much character - and the windows are paper thin and its colder inside than it is outside in the winter, but it's so perfect and charming and we love having people over. Everything about this house we're obsessed with, even its little flaws."

"There's so much character," Sarah chimed in. "I don't ever see us in a new house."

After living in small apartment in Chelsea for five years, the couple doesn't mind being in a smaller home, at least by Hinsdale standards.

"Every square inch is used," Sarah said, pointing to the area off the galley kitchen that serves as a coffee bar in the morning and a cocktail bar at night.

With three bedrooms, there's enough room for their two kids - James, who will be 4 in July, and Ellie, who will be 2 in June. Jack, who works in advertising, and Sarah, who's in corporate event planning, both work from home. He enjoys the back office/sunroom area, while she tends to occupy the living room. The renovated downstairs is home to a family room, laundry and storage area.

And when the weather cooperates, the courtyard off Sixth Street offers added space for recreation and relaxation.

"When it's nice enough, that's an extension of our house. Neighbors come by and come in the fence. Everything is safe for kids," Sarah said.

"The fountain and ambiance back there is pretty hard to beat," Jack said.

Former owner Mimi Collins completed many renovations to the home, which won a Hinsdale Historic Preservation Award in 2002.

"She brought it to its full potential. All the owners since have done a meticulous job caring for it," Sarah said.

While the Londons appreciate the work that has been done to preserve the house, they also hope to find a way to make it their own.

"Everyone considers this Mimi's house," Jack said. "We've lived here almost two years now. Everyone's like, 'You live in Mimi's house.' We're trying to figure out how do we become 'The Londons' house?' "

One idea is to rebuild the garage, which doesn't fit with the character of the house, with a bonus space above. A second full bathroom on the second floor (the house has only one) also is a project planned for the future.

"I would love to find a way to add a bathroom upstairs, but that's a bit tricky," Sarah said.

Since they moved in, the couple's biggest projects have been rebuilding the chimney and completing some needed sewer work.

"You know, all the sexy stuff that you want to spend your money on," Jack said with a laugh.

They've also painted the interior and replaced the kitchen countertops.

They love the landscaping (installed by Collins) and think it makes the house shine.

"We're going to hopefully become gardeners," Jack said.

They're looking forward to being on the Independence Day parade route July 4, just two days after James' birthday. They also enjoyed front-row seats to the Hinsdale Central Homecoming parade in the fall.

The Londons receive plenty of compliments on their house, including one from a teen who was in that homecoming parade.

"It really is such a pleasure to hear how well received the house is," Jack said. "People are like, 'We love your house.' We love it, too."

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean