With my degree in Architectural History and my general history nerdiness, I find a great interest in west Wilmette’s past. Some might now consider the 1950’s development of the area as architecturally significant but I do. I have done quite a bit of research in this area and love to share what I have found. This community has solid, well-made homes that give you an incredibly good value for your dollar.
Have you gone to Northfield's Mariano's or their post office? Right in between them there is a wide grass path and remnants of train tracks. This also is the same path of grass that people use for walks that runs behind all those car dealerships on the west side of the Edens between Willow and Dundee. (An amazing walk by the way.) If you drive west on Glenview Road west of the Edens you drive past a wide gap between homes just after Laramie. Connected? You bet.
Anyway, those grass paths were once the Skokie Valley Route. This interurban train line connected downtown Chicago with Milwaukee. Some of the north shore stations were at Glenview Road (the Glenayre Station), Willow Road, Briargeate, aka Deerfield Road. (You know that sneaky way to get on the Edens behind Toys R Us? That is the old station just before you get on the highway.)
Glenayre Station (approx) today
Briergate Station Today
Huge thank you to JJ Sedelmaier and his amazing www.northshoreline.com
In the past, I have written here why currently the residents of Wilmette have great transportation options. Want to go back in a time machine with me to see what past north shore residents' options were? I sure do. Buckle up...here we go! (and thank you JJ Sedelmaier and www.northshoreline.com)
The North Shore Line, concrete chunks & Frank Lloyd Wright
See in these photos the old concrete bases of a long-gone train platform? Those are just north of the Elm Street Metra train station off to the side of the Metra tracks. These used to be for the North Shore Line.
This interurban railroad line operated between Chicago and Milwaukee from 1916 to 1963. Basically it ran along where the Metra Kenosha line is today.
From Wikipedia (sorry but in a rush today): "The North Shore Line of 1916 consisted of a main line whose southern terminus was at Church Street in Evanston, Illinois, somewhat north of the Chicago city limits. The line continued north through Chicago's wealthy north shore communities along Lake Michigan — Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Highland Park. The line continued through Highwood, home of the railroad's headquarters and main shops, and continued through Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, North Chicago, and Waukegan. From Waukegan, the line traversed Zion before entering Wisconsin and tapping Kenosha and Racine, before reaching its northern terminus in Milwaukee. The entire main line in Illinois was double track, but pockets of single track remained in Wisconsin. While some of the line was street trackage, most was on private right-of-way which, along with the paralleling line of the Chicago and North Western Railway bisected the business districts of the north shore communities as far north as Lake Bluff.
At Lake Bluff, a branch diverged to the west to serve Libertyville and Area, now Mundelein. At North Chicago Junction, a branch led to downtown Waukegan via city streets."
100 years ago Frank Lloyd Wright began building homes, a bridge and the North Shore Line's train station in Glencoe. The station was at Maple Hill and Old Green Bay Road. The village this year has many wonderful events to mark this anniversary. Go see more at http://glencoe.chicagotribune.com/2014/09/29/glencoe-historians-seek-celebrate-frank-lloyd-wright/.
In Wilmette this railroad ran down Greenleaf connecting the 4th & Linden area to downtown Wilmette. Today you can see Greenleaf is a wider street than many of the others nearby.
The ultimate source of great information about this line is: www.northshoreline.com
Next post....The Skokie Valley Route
Wilmette is unique from the other North Shore suburbs in its number of transportation choices. Wilmette offers the most variety of ways for people to get around. With Chicago’s fun weather and construction projects, this variety is meaningful as you always have an alternative way to get where you are going.
Wilmette offers you three public bus routes, two train systems and the expressway as options to get you to work each day. My teen takes the Pace bus at our corner to New Trier high school. My pre-teen can take either of the Pace buses near her school to downtown Wilmette to go to the library. Finally, if you run out of milk, you can easily run out to many local stores less than 5 minutes away to get some. Errands here do not mean a 20 minute ride in the car battling traffic. There are no multi-lane wide roads here. Pedestrians, joggers and bike riders can safely travel in the community.
This community has solid, well-made homes that give you an incredibly good value for your dollar.
The parks, transportation and civic activities cater to all ages and thus we see many multi-generational families able to live wonderful lives in the area.
While you may be able to buy more house in communities 45 minutes northwest of here, Wilmette gives you what you put in to it.
Your kids can safely take a bus with their friends to see a movie at the charming Wilmette Theater followed by yogurt or cupcakes around the corner.
If you work full-time you have coverage from 7am to 6pm nearly every weekday of the year in our award-winning schools and community center.
As opposed to those further out communities, Wilmette offers you three public bus routes, two train systems and the expressway as options to get you to work each day.
If you run out of milk, you can easily run out to many local stores less than 5 minutes away to get some. Errands here do not mean a 20 minute ride in the car battling traffic.
There are no multi-lane wide roads here. Pedestrians, joggers and bike riders can safely travel in the community.
Years ago a fellow member of an architectural history group I was in told me he was doing his doctorate thesis on the architectural history of....Morton Grove.
Mmmm....this got me thinking. I grew up just east of there in Skokie and it never crossed my mind until then to consider the homes I knew and loved as anything architecturally significant. Skokie and Morton Grove in the 1970's gave many many people a good life and their first taste of suburban living. We had safe, fun times there, received great educations, went away to college vowing never to live in a place like that again...and eventually bought our first homes in Buffalo Grove, the Skokie/Morton Grove of the '90's.
(For the record, my home where I raised my kids was all of a mile from Skokie, in Wilmette, in a home almost identical to my childhood home.)
Sarah Rothschild, Realtor & Architectural History Nerd.