A Stable Time in Our History

Vol. IV No. 3 - FALL/WINTER 1992

By: Everett Stetson

Today, 5625 N. Broadway is the location of the Metro Toyota auto agency. In the 1920s and ’30s, however, it was the site of the Edgewater Coal Company, owned by Mr. Perry Quinlan who lived at 5545 N. Wayne and depended for his livelihood on horse-power of a different sort.

In those days, coal was delivered in horse-drawn wagons, so it was necessary for coal companies to maintain stables. In addition to the heavy work horses, Mr. Quinlan kept some riding horses so his kids could ride through the neighborhood. There were not many cars in those days.

Back then, by the way, coal destined for Edgewater was shipped on the ground via the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, past Cubs Park (as Wrigley Field was known at that time) and past Graceland Cemetery into a freight yard between Montrose and Wilson. Here the steam engines were replaced with small electric engines and the coal trains transferred onto the elevated tracks. I can recall sitting in the Bryn Mawr Theater at night and hearing the trains rumble by.

Besides the Edgewater Coal Company, “iron ponies” serviced the Lill Coal Company at Berwyn and the Jacob Best yard just north of Granville. Each company had its own freight siding.

Horses were also an integral part of the construction trade at that time. Foundations for the numerous three- and six-apartment buildings going up in Edgewater were dug out with scoops, drawn by work horses, and the earth carted away in heavy, horse-drawn wagons. On the east side of Broadway, either in the 5300 or 5400 block (I’m not sure), was a stable where the horses and wagons were kept.

After heavy snows, these horses would he used, to everyone’s delight, for sleigh rides through the quiet streets, down Wayne, Lakewood and Magnolia. Streets were not salted back then, so the snow soon packed down hard and lasted for many days. The sleigh bells made beautiful music.