Linwood,” the residence of Barbara and David Linville on Rosemary Road in Lake Forest, was built in 1890 as the barn of the Levi Yaggy estate, which was designed by architect Lawrence Gustav Hallberg, recognized as Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and designer of many significant structures in Chicago and Lake Forest. William H. Mitchell bought the property in the early 1900s and lived there with his family for 63 years. During that time, the barn became the garage (and also home to the chauffeur who assisted the police in solving the infamous armed robbery of the Mitchells’ dinner guests in 1931 described in Edward Arpee’s history book about Lake Forest). The Linvilles acquired this garage structure in 1986 and converted it into a single family home the following year.
“When we initially shared the vision of this project with friends, they couldn’t imagine that it would be possible,” says Barbara with a laugh. “Let’s just say there was no interior staircase.” It’s hard to believe that such a fact was ever true as we stand in her elegantly appointed entry hall.
After years of living in the new house, the Linvilles decided to replace the dilapidated little green shed perched on the edge of the ravine with a proper garage on the east side of the property. Designed by classical architect Thomas Norman Rajkovich, the new coach house/garage was built in 2001 and established a cottage ensemble with the original structure and a new arrival court. The coach house/garage is at a right angle to the house and in perfect tenor with the original structure. Great care was taken to use materials and details to complement the original 1890 building. Both structures are masonry buildings with verdigris trim and slate roofing in keeping with the style of the original Romanesque arch and turret on the house. There is an office for David upstairs and a potting shed in the back for Barbara. Behind the garage is a cutting garden surrounded by lilacs and forsythia, espalier pear trees, and climbing William Baffin roses, all which Barbara tends. The reshaped shrub border along the south lawn includes bottlebrush buckeye, azaleas, rhododendrons, and hydrangeas.
Immediately following completion of the new coach house/garage, work began on the execution of a master plan for the property by Lake Forest landscape architect Craig Bergmann. “I had known Craig for years,” explains Barbara, who is a past president and longtime member of the Junior Garden Club of Lake Forest. “When we first met with him about this project, I didn’t really know what we were signing on for. But Craig had such a sense about what he thought this property needed and I trusted him implicitly.”
Craig is well known on the North Shore for incorporating modern day twists on the romantic and classical garden designs of the past. His vast experience as a plantsman, coupled with his unique design sense, creates extraordinary gardens of depth and artful detail. First, Craig installed a new motor court of red flint pea stone laid directly up to the foundation of both buildings. He then placed two planter boxes with boxwood to frame the front door.
From the entry courtyard, one enters the large expanse of lawn that was once an orchard. In early spring, this area is abundant with naturalized narcissus. An old oak has been replaced with a young burr oak in homage to the original.
From the sweeping lawn, one is drawn into the intimate, sunken perennial and rose garden. “When Craig first took on this project, I thought he’d devote his energies to the great yard,” Barbara says. “But instead, he created this beautiful landscape just outside rooms where we spend most of our time. It was genius.”
The path of crushed bluestone leads through hybrid tea roses. Steps lead up to the bluestone terrace that was once the original slab of a greenhouse. A fountain spills into a pool filled with papyrus. A boxwood parterre with an armillary overlooks the sunken garden. A traditional parterre would have a perimeter of boxwood hedging with an infill of plantings or gravel. In this parterre, the edging is done in bluestone and the infill in boxwood—a witty alternative.
Next to the house is a bed of peonies, lilacs, daisies, asters, and climbing roses. Stacked hedges create visual interest and a contrast to the ravine foliage on the west side. Originally, the south side of the house was David’s rose garden. While the new garden was being constructed, the roses were dug up, housed at Craig’s plant nursery for six months, and replanted in the sunken garden. The garden has a thyme-seated bench, four matching lilac standards, and a Kentucky wisteria on the arbor.
From the patio looking due east, into the orchard, the real expanse of this property can be seen. The flagstone path, behind the trellis, winding underneath a grove of Chinese fringe trees, goes along the bluff of the ravine to return to the motor court. Natural perennials lining the path include columbine, astilbe, lilies of the valley, dogwood, sumac, and forget-me-nots as well as phlox, Virginia bluebells, ferns, and unusual hydrangeas.
“When people visit our garden, they routinely ask me, ‘Was this plant here or is this plant new?’ It’s hard to tell because the old and new blend so beautifully,” Barbara says. “We’re so happily surprised by everything,” she adds, pointing to some oversized white clematis that have climbed into the branches of a magnolia tree, looking as if that’s where they were intended to be from the start.
—Kathy Cottong and Ann Marie Scheidler