Your Ultimate Guide to Real Estate on Chicago's North Shore

Memories of Home: Robin Hill

Robin HillThis is not a post about the North Shore. It’s a post about Robin Hill, my childhood home in the Greenspring Valley outside of Baltimore.  My family lived there for over thirty years. My parents bought it when I was a year old and I spent my childhood freely roaming its ten acres and the surrounding woods and fields. I loved that house and everything it represented, and I cried all the way back to Chicago the last time I saw it before it was sold. Sometimes I think the reason I ended up in real estate was because of my love affair with my family home.

Later, after the people that bought it had spent months and a considerable amount of money remodeling the house, they invited all of us over to see what they had done. I just couldn’t make myself go. My sisters proclaimed that the new owners had done a marvelous job of keeping our home’s character while bringing it into the current century. But I didn’t want anything to dilute those precious memories of home.

Now that time has softened my sadness I am able to see my old home, savor my memories of it and appreciate how this family has made it their own. Now it’s time for them to move on and it’s on the market again.

Robin Hill view from the house

For me the best part about living at Robin Hill was the surrounding property. The house was perched on a hill with four terraces leading down to a wide sloping lawn and a stream where I spent countless hours catching salamanders and crayfish and building dams.  When I was a little girl my Dad built me a swing and a playhouse down by the stream (far left in the picture above) and my friends and I would sleep down there on summer nights, pretending that we were pioneers or frontiersman.

Robin Hill drying yard

We had something called a drying yard outside the kitchen. It was a walled area where my mother hung our clothes on the line to dry (we had a dryer but never used it because Mom preferred the smell on sun-dried clothes). The drying yard had trellises covered with wisteria vines, which were full of bees in the spring and early summer. But in late summer the wisteria produced zillions of seed pods, and we would climb up the trellises to collect them and then pelt each other from the top of the wall. The trellises are still there but the drying yard has been transformed from a utility area into an attractive patio.

grandfather clock

In our front hall we had a grandfather clock in exactly the same spot as the current owners have one. Ours was a gorgeous clock but never worked again after a mishap with our Welsh Corgis. One morning my father started down the stairs to feed them and, in their excitement to get there first, they lost traction rounding the corner on the landing and tumbled all the way down the stairs, hitting the clock with a thud. My father watched in horror as the antique clock swayed back and forth, finally toppling over and crashing into a million pieces. A clockmaker was able to put it back together, but it never chimed again.

stairwell at Robin HillI was the baby of the family and all of my siblings were ten or more years older than me. Like most older brothers, mine took great pleasure in teasing and torturing me. One of his favorite pastimes was to hold me over the railing on the third floor and tell me he was going to drop me at the count of three. Then he would start counting: one, two, two and a half, two and three quarters… I would scream my head off and my mother would yell at me to be quiet. It still seems like a long way down.

Robin Hill ThirdfloorBR

After my oldest sister got married and my brother went off to the army, I got the third floor to myself. That painted scene of Swiss mountains and figures in traditional costume were on the fireplace when I slept there so many years ago. It made me smile to see that they are still there.

The one part of the house that bears absolutely no resemblance to its past is the kitchen. Our kitchen was stuck in another time, with insufficient counter space and storage, hopelessly dated appliances (we still needed a match to light the pilot light in the oven). But my mother was never much of a cook and it just didn’t bother her. It looks a whole lot better now.

They say home is where the heart is. In my case, it’s true.

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  1. jimmy settecase

    Anne, I deeply enjoyed reading about your memories of Robin Hill. If i could I’d buy it back for you. I loved your paragraph about the drying yard. I remember my mom hanging out clothes in our back yard. I too had older siblings. Pickle breath Steve used to lie to me about everything and torture me often. Some how i still loved and looked up to him. Funny how that works huh?

    i also liked the sad story about the corgi’s destroying the grandfather clock. we have two lakeland terriers and they are always into something.

    Though life goes on and we can’t go back I think God puts a special burnish on our childhood memories so we remember them with gilt edges.

    all the best,

    Jimmy

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