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Quintessential Barrington

Tea in the Country

My Country Cousin was a Barrington Destination from 1937 to 1943


story by Barbara L. Benson

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Reading throughthe Barrington newspapers of the 1920s and 1930s is to learn that there was the equivalent of a land rush in the surrounding countryside in those years.

Among the early buyers of the old farm properties were Sybil and Frank Payne of Glencoe. They purchased about 100 acres on both sides of Sutton Road, at the curve, just north of where Horizon Farm is now. Their intention was to use the property as a summer family vacation home. The farm comprised the original farmhouse, at #334, a barn just north of the farmhouse, a small farm employee’s cottage, and several outbuildings. It had been an important peat farm for many years, as the ponds in the area were peat bogs.

Evidently the Paynes farmed, as well. The Barrington telephone directories of the era listed two numbers, one for the residence and one for the farm. The farm cottage was renovated as a guest cottage. But Sybil Payne had other plans. She was an active and efficient person, and she wanted to open a tearoom for North Shore people to come for a day’s outing in the country.

Plans were drawn up for a structure to include two chicken coops down the hill in back of the farmhouse. Off the kitchen, which was on the north end of the structure, was the dining room on a slightly lower level. Two rooms on a higher level on the west side were completed with one long room as a sitting room, and the other an antique shop. The result was a uniquely charming tearoom called “My Country Cousin Tea Room” which opened in 1937.

In the summertime, guests could eat out on a terrace on the east side off of the dining room, and beside a gazebo. A rose garden was planted on an upper terrace on the south side of the restaurant. The kitchen could be supplied with fresh eggs from their chickens, and dairy products from the surrounding farms. Jams and jellies were homemade, and there was an un-homogenized freshness about everything that was served. Sybil was in charge of the business, which operated from 1937 to 1943. Then, as now, the only transportation was by automobile, and World War II gas rationing curtailed pleasure trips into the countryside and the tearoom was closed.

The Paynes sold the property in 1947 to Mr. and Mrs. William Renshaw, who kept the tearoom structure and the barn. They converted the tearoom building for their residence, and maintained much of its charm, including the outside terraces and gardens. The other buildings were eventually sold to also become very quaint residences.

Four signs for “My Country Cousin” have been passed along to successive owners, as mementoes of yet another chapter in the history of Barrington’s countryside.

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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.