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Robert Parker Coffin Recalls Fighting for Open Space

Living local legend Robert Parker Coffin, 95, returned to Long Grove this week to reminisce about the history of the village, fighting for open space and witnessing the growth of surrounding suburbs.

Robert Parker Coffin served as village president of Long Grove for 20 years, plus two years as a trustee, starting in 1946. Then, he spent another 20 years on the village's Plan Commision. Today, he and his wife of 68 years, Betty, live in Lake Forest. They are filled with living history.

Coffin, an architect and engineer, helped develop Long Grove's Master Plan. He designed the original covered bridge in Long Grove, and has a main thoroughfare that runs through town named for him. Locals still ask about him.

"People always ask about the legend behind Robert Parker Coffin Road in Long Grove," said Mara Sabath, co-owner of Peppermint Stick at 410 Robert Parker Coffin Road, Long Grove. "I always wanted to meet him."

Sabath invited the Coffins to stop by the ice cream shop this week to chat. They were joined by members of the Long Grove Historical Society and a few local residents and business owners.

"We were all dairy farmers back then," Coffin said of when they first moved into the area. "I was on the founding village board when we fought to incorporate. But even then we knew we wanted to fight for open space."

He said that development started to occur all around Long Grove. He recalled how developer Joseph Brickman proposed to create a major municipality.

"Basically, he wanted the triangle of Barrington, Lake Zurich and Long Grove to be one big town," Coffin said. "He started getting options from farmers to connect land parcels. He wanted to create a very large housing development between Barrington and Long Grove."

Betty Coffin said, "That would have wrecked the whole area."

Instead, the Long Grove Village Board fought against rampant development. The village still retains much of the small town charm it had back when Coffin was president.

John Kopecky of Lake Villa, owner of the Country House of Long Grove and president of the Long Grove Lions Club, stopped by to chat with Coffin. "It is fabulous to meet him," Kopecky said. "I love history and meeting someone like him. It gives you hope for the future."

Coffin had owned his own architecture firm in Long Grove and then moved it to Barrington, so his ties throughout the whole area remain strong.

The Coffins had four kids of their own, and now have 11 grandkids and 10 great-grandkids.

"Long Grove has maintained its character, and has stuck to the original ideas we had," Coffin said.

Tradition continues today, as brides and grooms still walk across the covered bridge on Robert Parker Coffin Road, the bridge the Coffin himself designed, and walk to the Peppermint Stick for ice cream.

"We are very blessed," said Betty Coffin.

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