Quintessential Barrington

Conservation Minded Volunteers in Action

The Greater North Barrington Area Association (1933–2003)


story by Barbara L. Benson


Back in the day, in Cuba Township when many country roads were still unpaved, when country estates, hobby farms, and some pioneer farms painted the landscape, an ad hoc group was formed as the North Barrington Countryside Association. The Township and Lake County were the only jurisdictions for this sprawling area of residences, barns and silos, of fields, streams, lakes, and marshes. The most densely populated area surrounded the Biltmore Country Club and Honey Lake, and around the Tower Lakes. Housing included frame farmhouses dating back to the 19th century, summer cottages, and more substantial residences built by the country estate and hobby farmers who had begun buying substantial acreage in the 1920s. Children still attended the country one-room schoolhouses, like Flint Creek, White, and Kelsey.

There was concern in the north, just as there would be to the west of the Village of Barrington, at the prospect of unregulated development, especially after WWII, when larger parcels came up for sale. Even in those early years, the NBCA met regularly, and kept abreast of countryside trends. By 1959, the Villages of Lake and North Barrington had incorporated, but large tracts in Cuba Township remained under Lake County land use jurisdiction.

In 1963, the group formally incorporated as the North Barrington Association of Cuba Township. Early presidents of the association included two founding members of the Village of North Barrington: Richard Anderson, also a Lake County board member, and Nelson Forrest, who served on the Lake County Plan Commission. Arthur Rice, Jr., and later his son, Arthur Rice III, were also presidents during what were very active years for the group.

With a board of directors, and a membership numbering up to 400 residents, a dynamic volunteer group sought solutions to protecting northern area open space. The formation of Citizens for Conservation and the Barrington Area Council of Governments in the early 1970s, together with NBA, brought a powerhouse of expertise to assess environmental and infrastructure impacts of high density development proposals that now regularly sought to break the Township’s open space zoning.

Organized response to these proposals was extensive, evidenced in volumes of correspondence, petitions signed by residents, testimony to the County Board, in writing and in person, and letters to the editor. Coalitions of public and private agencies often sought alternatives to bricks and mortar. As a result, today we have the Cuba Marsh, the Fox River Preserve, and Grassy Lake Preserve, all acquisitions of the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Citizens for Conservation acquired their own preserves, as did the northern communities.

In the late 1990s, the name was changed to the Greater North Barrington Area Association to avoid confusion with the Village of North Barrington. The Association was a participant in one of the last great land battles in the north. The Taubman Company of Michigan proposed a “super regional mall” of upscale stores along Route 12 opposite the Wynstone Golf Club. Over 20 public hearings of testimony on the negative environmental, traffic, and density impacts of the proposal eventually produced intergovernmental agreements for the future use of the 40-acre site.

The decision in 2003, to dissolve the Association, was taken as the Villages now had municipal centers and professional staffs. Annexation had expanded their borders, and home owner’s associations were more vigilant on issues that concerned their neighborhoods. The files of 60 years of volunteer dedication to protect the precious resources of the northern countryside were placed in the keeping of Cuba Township, and the Greater North Barrington Area Association became another chapter of Township history.

Barbara L. Benson was the president of the NBAA from 1996 to 2003. This image is of the oak savanna at Cuba Marsh, taken in the fall. This cluster of oaks is one of the most significant in Illinois.

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Barbara L. Benson grew up in Kent, England, and later moved to New York. She settled in Barrington and has walked with our history ever since she first arrived here in 1980.