The " Harley-Davidson" coffee mug belongs to Ted. The "Su Do Ko" one is Bill's. The mug with the picture of the yellow Labrador is Noel's. Mudgeon Quinn can name the owners of the rest of the dozens of mugs on the wall at her family's Quinn's Coffee Shop, too.
As the regulars stream in and out of this Clarendon Hills shop, Quinn's coffee flows and her hand-dipped chocolate doughnuts fly off the rack faster than Frisbees at a dog park. "Fridays and Saturdays, we have the garage sale ladies," says Quinn. "Friday mornings, we have the retired teachers — all men and a lady named Kay. Mornings, we have the walkers. The men walk that way, the women walk this way, then they meet here for coffee and doughnuts."
Locals insist that Quinn's, with its pressed-tin ceiling and tree-trunk support posts, is the heart of Clarendon Hills' tiny, but throbbing, downtown. But it represents one side of this 19th century village.
Tucked between Hinsdale and Westmont in DuPage County, Clarendon Hills is at once folksy and gentrified. Quinn's competes with Starbucks. The hamburgers at the 1922 Country House (which has a resident ghost) contrast with the coq au vin at Maijean. The village's housing includes originals and teardowns. Its residents are folks who have been here for generations and families who arrived last week.
The same rail line that put Clarendon Hills on the map still defines it as a stop on Metra's Chicago-to-Aurora line. That, combined with the nearby highways, makes Clarendon Hills a centrally located suburb. "Show me a place that's better situated," says village president Tom Karaba. "I can get to my Loop office or either airport in 25 minutes."
Like Karaba, most Clarendon Hills residents live here, but work elsewhere. In town, the only employers with more than 100 employees are the schools, Jewel Food Store and Hinsdale Golf Club.
The first thing you notice about Clarendon Hills is its streets do not follow the grid pattern that's typical of other towns its age. Curvy roads twist up and down hills, creating what a 1976 newspaper dubbed a "crooked village." An 1874 atlas said, ". . . only men of steady habits must settle in this place, for the serpentine appearance of the streets might prove too much for a head not evenly balanced." The result, notes Karaba, is "a lot of funny-shaped lots."
Although some claim the village was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, he of Riverside fame, Clarendon Hills Historical Society archivist Judy Van Zanten says more likely it was influenced by him. Although it wasn't incorporated until 1924, it was platted in 1873 by the mystery designer. The village's name is equally enigmatic; some say it is named for an area in Massachusetts, while others suspect settlers borrowed the name from across the pond.
One thing for sure: Clarendon Hills is an architectural medley of housing styles, from a storybook-style R. Harold Zook house, to 1930s Cape Cods, to 1960s tri-levels. One by one, though, they are yielding to the wrecking ball. About one-fourth of Clarendon Hills' original houses were replaced by newer ones over the last 20 years.
Mostly landlocked for years, Clarendon Hills has seen a population increase, from 7,610 in 2000 to 8,500 in 2010, because of young families replacing retiring empty nesters.
At least until an improved economy restarts the stalled teardown trend here, the old-new housing mix remains. "We've lived in communities where every house is the same and everyone is the same age," says Jim Cook, who built a house here in 2005 with his wife, Marty. "This is a great mix of modest and beautiful houses and people of different ages."
The Cooks considered adding a second floor to the 1957 ranch they bought, as some homeowners in town have done, but instead hired local builder Molidor Custom Builders Inc. to start anew. "It would have cost almost as much to remodel and we wouldn't have been able to finish the basement," says Cook.
An "Army brat" who moved often, Cook says he appreciates the roots Clarendon Hills gives his sons. "My wife grew up here, and our kids go to the same grade school as she did," he says. "We can walk to the pool, downtown, the train, to the Daily Scoop for hot dogs. We go right out the back door to Hosek Park."
Homebuyers can still find an older house here for $200,000, reports real estate agent Mary Williams of Coldwell Banker in Clarendon Hills. Typical of the newer ones is a 2004 traditional five-bedroom house that recently sold for $1.225 million.
Schools are the top draw for buyers, says Williams. "Most kids walk to grade school and the middle school in town, then go to Hinsdale Central High School," she says. "The exception is the Blackhawk Heights neighborhood, where most kids go to school in Westmont." Hinsdale Central consistently ranks among the top-20 Chicago-area high schools in terms of average ACT scores.
Many Clarendon Hills children attend pre-K-to-8 Notre Dame School, then local Catholic high schools or take the train to private schools in the city, adds Williams.
While most of Clarendon Hills' housing is single-family (72.4 percent), it does have some new town houses and condos, especially near downtown. The village's long-range plan includes adding more mixed-use buildings with condos upstairs and stores downstairs.
This is a town where residents turn out for community get-togethers. Each June, residents celebrate Daisy Days in downtown Clarendon Hills, a tribute to early settler Henry Middaugh's mistaken order of daisy seeds instead of grass seeds and the resulting fields of daisies. The annual festival features live bands, rides, games and a Daisy Dash 5K race. This year will mark the 11th year for the summer concert series in downtown Clarendon Hills, which will run Wednesday evenings for six weeks, beginning June 23 through July 28. Other community events include Family Fall Fest, Oktoberfest, Christmas Walk and Holiday Tree Lighting.
"The really crazy day is the once-a-year Amnesty Day, when everyone puts out stuff they don't want anymore," says Karaba.
Well-heeled residents join the private Hinsdale Golf Club, which has had a Clarendon Hills address since 1924. The picture of gentility with its 1923 Tudor clubhouse, the club upset area ministers in 1899 when it dared to allow golf on Sundays.
Clarendon Hills' public parks include tennis courts, sledding hills and ball fields. The village's public pool is owned by the Lions Club, but operated by the park district.
Once or twice a year, reports village manager Rob Bahan, village officials host community dialogues, where residents tell them what changes they want their village to make. "Because we're so small, we can react quickly," he says. For the same reason, he says, the village can keep crime in check. A recent police blotter included several moving vehicle violations, a stolen bicycle and a swiped DVD player.
Like many suburbs, Clarendon Hills chose to revitalize its downtown in the late1990s, when it got new sidewalks, benches and wrought-iron fences. Still on the village's to-do list is a new Metra station and expanded parking lots.
"Living here is wonderful," gushes Cook. "It's affluent, but down-to-earth and unpretentious. We're glad to have our kids here."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times