History

A HISTORY OF SWAINWOOD AND THE ASSOCIATION

This history was written in May, 1982, by Don Griffin, Past President and Board member of the Swainwood Homeowners Association.

Elm Street south of Spruce

SWAINWOOD was named for the owner and developer of the property, Swain Nelson, who had operated a nursery on the property for many years before he decided to plot and sub-divide the property into a “different” type of development.

Admittedly he was influenced by the almost communal nature of Swedenborgia, developed by the members of the Church of The New Jerusalem for their own use, just west of Shermer Road, where he himself lived, and which continues to flourish.

He envisioned a similar park-like setting for Swainwood, with refinements such as underground utilities (one of the first in the country to do this) and with irregular shaped lots, far different from the normal grid-pattern. Originally started in the early forties, with the erection of the first few homes inside the Lehigh entrance; the project languished during World War II, because of the shortage of building materials, labor, etc.

In the late “forties” and early “fifties”, many of the lots were sold to builders and individuals and an “Owners Committee” was established to approve or disapprove the design and placement of proposed residences, and the “Committee” eventually evolved into our present Swainwood Homeowners Association about 1953.

Several of the original homes were named. “Home Of The Week” by the Chicago Tribune, and this publicity in turn attracted additional buyers anxious to be a part of this different type of subdivision, with its lush vegetation, arboretum-like collection of trees, quaint streets and absence of utility poles and paraphernalia.

One of the other distinctive features of the development was the old fashioned street lights. Nelson disdained the Village offer to install the normal poles and lights and in turn proposed. that the residents could maintain the system he wanted. (We still pay for the light bulbs and maintenance of the system today.) In 1981 the system had to be replaced and expanded, and this was done by creating a Special Assessment District.

Nelson also agreed that the residents would maintain the public areas and entrances, a commitment that the Association still honors. Until recent years, most of the maintenance was done by resident volunteers, but now it is done by professionals, employed by the Association. Volunteers, headed by Alice Phillips, still plant and maintain the floral beds of the area.

In 1979, $1,400 was expended to rebuild and refurbish the stone wall of the Lehigh entrance. All of the Swainwood signs are also painted and maintained by the Association.

One question most frequently asked is, “‘Why aren’t the three Swainwood Additions to Glenview contiguous to each other?” Early residents suggest that the Third Addition (Prairie Street) is not contiguous because between the completion of the Second Addition and the commencement of development in the Third, Nelson sold off the intervening area to other developers and individuals.

One of the first victories of the fledgling Association was an agreement reached with several of the publications distributed in the area. They agreed to cease and desist from stating that a property was “in Swainwood” unless it was actually located in one of the three Swainwood Additions to Glenview. (Prior to the agreement almost any property north of Glenview Road and west of Lehigh was advertised as “Swainwood”.)

Several times the Association was a peaceful and significant voice in public debate. Twice the debate concerned Lake Avenue.

The first occurred when the State of Illinois decided to “open” Lake Street west of Waukegan Road, in effect sealing the northern border of Swainwood. The Association and Village officials effected compromises that resulted in Swainwood being left intact as you see it today.

The second situation occurred in 1966 and 1967 when the State proposed improving Lake Street to “Expressway Status”. This compromise resulted in Golf Road being widened and improved rather than Lake Street. A significant figure in this decision was Russell Arrington, State Senator from Evanston, then President ProTem of the Illinois Senate. Mr. Arrington had been Swain Nelson’s attorney when the Nelson nursery was platted and put on record. Proof that the Homeowners Association had, and still is, a viable vehicle for the common good, can be best attested to by many facts such as Swainwood residences still command a premium in the housing market.

The Association has maintained to this day a continuing dialogue with Village officials regarding traffic problems, security, beautification, and many other matters to our mutual benefit.

The Association has been and continues to be a “sane” voice in our continuing relationship with the Glenview Naval Air Station personnel. (Parenthetically, and with no intention of engendering debate, it should be noted that a 1978 survey disclosed that 58 of the 105 homes in Swainwood were occupied by owners who had previously lived elsewhere in Glenview.)

For many years the annual dues for membership was $15.00. Recently the Board was forced to increase it to $20.00, primarily because of increased labor costs. In an average year about 70 of the 105 owners pay their dues voluntarily. In a truly democratic, if not magnanimous gesture, those who do not pay receive all of the mailings and all of the benefits of membership.

This, then, is a rather cursory history of the development of the Swainwood Homeowners Association, a thumbnail recollection of the past.

Quite obviously, that the Association still exists, over thirty years after its creation, best attests to the values of collective concern and mutuality of interests.

The Officers and Directors of the Association have been, and are, dedicated to maintaining and improving the overall appearance and quality of life in Swainwood.

All residents can help them by maintaining their homes and their yards, monitoring children, observing the traffic laws, and by evidencing a genuine concern for their neighbors’ and their property.