Walking the grounds of Al Bowman’s Hillside Orchard in Hinckley, it’s easy to imagine you’re back in a time of family farms and simple living.
“Hinckley is a beautiful place, topographically and geographically, and that draws people,” Bowman says. “Plus, you can’t put large developments in Hinckley, the lay of the land just doesn’t allow it.”
At just 5 square miles, Hinckley’s wooded hills, valleys and 35-year-old zoning requirement that lots be 2 acres or larger make it an attractive suburb for solitude seekers. “[The zoning change] brought the people out who wanted space, who wanted rural-type living,” says Bowman, 71.
Much has changed. This proverbial one-stoplight town now has five, and the farmland that once surrounded the original 108-acre Bowman family farm has been replaced by a neighborhood of 50 homes with half-million and up price tags. Even as Hinckley has grown up, the Bowmans’ 62-year-old roadside market and 12-acre orchard endures as a landmark of the community’s rural roots. The enclosed market sits on almost the same Route 303 spot where a 9-year-old Bowman once kept watch over his dad’s display of apples on a board supported by two cement blocks. Today, Hillside still does brisk business in locally grown and handmade foods. Bowman is known locally as Papa Bear, and now the third generation of Bowmans — Scott “Baby Bear” Bowman — is working alongside his father.
With a small light-industry zone and a sprinkling of local businesses, such as Foster’s Tavern and bait-and-tackle shop Hinckley Outfitters, at the town’s center, Hinckley is largely home to commuters — and, of course, its famed buzzards, which are actually turkey vultures. The birds return every March to the Hinckley Reservation, one of the few Cleveland Metroparks properties outside of Cuyahoga County and home to the 90-acre Hinckley Lake.
If spacious living and a small-town feel are what brought so many of Hinckley’s residents here, that’s what also keeps the community resolute against traditional development, according to Bowman. “Most of the people who are here want it the way it is.”
■ Bainbridge Township
The huge red barn visible from US-422 lets you know you’re in the country. It’s part of the exclusive Canyon Lakes development — the perfect symbol for today’s Bainbridge Township, with lily-white farmhouses and million-dollar mega-homes on sprawling green lots.
<< Concord Township
Even as high-end homes sprout in new subdivisions, this suburb is working to preserve its history, renovating its former town hall from 1870 and approving smaller lot sizes if developers set aside preserved land. Two golf course communities share the township with horse farms and Lake Metroparks.
■ Olmsted Township
Cuyahoga County’s quiet southeast corner abounds with 5- to 10-acre lots perfect for small farms. New subdivisions are packed with romping kids, thanks to a building boom that peaked in 2004, while longtime residents live in older homes clustered along the main drags.
■ Richfield Village
The verdant village of about 3,500 holds a charming symmetry between past and present, as evidenced by the restored century-old red barns recalling American Gothic not far from secluded mansions more akin to MTV Cribs. // John Hitch
rating the suburbs
12:00 AM EST
May 27, 2010