MOBILE, Alabama — Drury Lane in Country Club Estates has the look and feel of a country lane: secluded, narrow — less than two lanes wide — and heavily-wooded, with well-kept homes appearing as if by magic among the trees.
Yet some of its 17 homes, including corner lots at Wimbledon Drive to the south and Hillwood Road to the north, are within a short iron shot of the Country Club of Mobile north nine golf course and about two blocks from the main club buildings themselves.
Residents of Drury Lane, from near and far, had high praise for the Spring Hill area and their neighbors.
“We love it here. Absolutely love it. Drury Lane is a wonderful street. The best street in Mobile, I believe,” said resident Lee Robinson, a Mobile native, who grew up 300 yards away on Wimbledon Drive, where his parents, Lee and Helen Robinson, still live.
The Robinsons’ home is one of the through lots on the street, with a front entrance on Hillwood Road and a back entrance on Drury Lane. The family prefers the backyard for activities and neighboring, said Robinson.
“The neighbors have been fabulous and a huge blessing,” said his wife, Aimee, also a Mobile native. “The minute you have a storm, everyone here comes together.”
The Robinsons and their three daughters had just moved in shortly before Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, but were invited to stay the night with neighbors, who had 14 people in their home, to share their generator power, she said.
Robinson discovered both Mobile and family tradition in the vintage 1937 home on the lane when he thoroughly renovated it in 2007-08.
The home had original hardwood floors, a double coincidence, because Robinson is president of Overseas Hardwoods Co., and his grandfather was in the hardwood flooring business with the family-owned Mobile River Sawmill in Mount Vernon, Robinson said.
Mobile River Sawmill first made hardwood flooring in the early 1930s — the mill was sold to Scott Paper Co. in 1963. The flooring was used in homes all over Mobile and could be identified beginning in 1937 by “MRS” and the grade of the flooring indented on the back of every strip of flooring, Robinson said.
Every piece of flooring taken up during the 2007-08 renovation bore the “MRS” insignia. Robinson left some of the original flooring upstairs and replaced the 1937 flooring downstairs with fresh 2007-08 hardwood from his own hardwoods company.
“We have flooring from our family, commemorating a century in the lumber business, from past and present, in the home,” said Robinson, who is also a branch director on the board of the New Orleans branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
“I like this location better than where we were before. I am closer to my friends. The swimming pool is right up the street. I hope we stay here all the way through school,” said daughter Annah Robinson, 12, who attends St. Ignatius Catholic School.
‘Very nice folks’
West Coast natives Walt and Marcia Hayes, of Washington and California, respectively, found their way to Drury Lane through transfers during Walt’s career with Scott Paper Co. Their travels took them from Everett, Wash., through Philadelphia to Mobile 38 years ago.
After six months in Mobile, the family decided to stay, because people were receptive to the newcomers and the church-oriented community seemed a good place to raise a son and two daughters, said Hayes, a decorated combat Army infantry lieutenant from the Korean War.
The Hayeses have been active since that time at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Spring Hill. Their younger daughter, Donna Mackin, a St. Paul’s Episcopal School graduate as were her sister and brother, now teaches sixth grade at her alma mater.
The Hayeses became active in civic groups, the Country Club of Mobileand Mardi Gras societies over the years, said Walt Hayes, who retired in 1989 as Southern regional logistics manager at the paper company.
They lived in the Llanfair subdivision until 1997, when Marcia Hayes discovered Drury Lane while walking near the Country Club. The couple bought an old house built in 1946. After renting out the house for a time, they tore it down and built a new one.
“One of my accomplishments in life was being the contractor/builder for our present 3,200-square-foot home, with four bedrooms and an enclosed patio pool,” Hayes said.
“Drury Lane is a pleasant neighborhood with very nice folks from a variety of backgrounds,” he said. The wide range of professions include academic, medical, real estate, investment, banking, law, international sales and, a retired chief executive officer. A few still have children below college age.
The Hayeses enjoy “a nice extended backyard” with the venerable oak trees just beyond their property on the Country Club of Mobile golf course. Hayes, an avid golfer, can step out his back door and be on the North Nine short golf course at the club’s 27-hole layout.
The trend on Drury Lane over the years has been for residents to improve their properties dramatically. “The houses on this street have changed since we have been here. Most have been torn down, refurbished or rebuilt. The new houses built are nicer and nicer,” Hayes said. In some cases, large lots have been subdivided when original homes were razed, Marcia Hayes said.
She is an 11-year member of the Wimbledon Garden Club, in existence for 53 years, which includes members from around Country Club Estates. “Most of our projects are within the neighborhood, but we are a philanthropic organization and do outreach programs,” she said.
The club maintains landscaped entrances to Country Club Estates, upgrades street signs and encourages home beautification. Drury Lane neighbor Aimee Robinson is the garden club president.
Some residents are also active in the Country Club Estates Neighborhood Association, said Susan Carley, from another section of CCE and founder of the association five years ago.
The neighborhood maps shows the boundaries of the neighborhood as Old Shell and Bit & Spur roads on the north; Airport Boulevard on the south; part of McGregor Avenue on the east; and approximately the northern boundary of E.R. Dickson Elementary school on the west, according to association website http://ccena.org/.
‘Location, location, location’
“Drury Lane is one of the favorite streets in Country Club Estates. Unless you knew to look for the street you’d never know it was there. Pretty, well-kept homes full of nice people. It’s a wonderful stretch of homes,” said Cam Marston, current president of the Country Club Estates Neighborhood Association and a resident of the larger neighborhood.
Dr. Alan Franklin, a retina specialist, bought a home on Drury Lane 61/2 years ago when he moved his practice and his family from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Mobile. He is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio
“I really enjoy living down here. Being from the Midwest, I don’t miss winters. The people are friendly and the cost of living is good,” Franklin said. “We love being in the Country Club setting and yet off on a side street.” “Location, location, location brought us to Drury Lane,” said his wife, Susan, who deals in real estate part time. It is a central location with close proximity to schools and activities for their four children, ranging in age from 12 to 4.
The Franklins also have a backyard bordering the golf course with its two small lakes in the center of the course.
“It’s like having your own private park right out behind your house,” Susan Franklin said. “Fortunately, the Country Club is flexible and doesn’t mind having the kids catch bass and tadpoles on the lakes.”
“I love living on the golf course so I can go out and play with my dogs. Also, I like to walk with my friends,” said their daughter, Isabel, a seventh-grader at St. Paul’s Episcopal.
Typical of the upgrading trend on Drury Lane, the Franklins, who are outgrowing their present home, hope to tear it down one day and rebuild, Susan Franklin said.
A special feature of Drury Lane from a real estate standpoint is that it “is one of the least-traveled streets in Country Club Estates and retains the feeling of a true lane,” said Melissa Morrissette, co-owner of LLB&B Inc. Real Estate, which lists properties in the area.