Edgewater Teaser

Vol. XX No. 1 - SPRING 2009

Edgewater’s first car barn at 5837-45 N. Broadway, though truncated and disfigured, still leaves little doubt as to it original use. Its façade still impresses. Constructed in 1893 and then reconstructed in 1895 after a fire, in both instances according to plans by architect George W. Maher, it was built for the first trolley line on the north side – the Chicago and North Shore Street Railway Company.

This line ran from central Evanston south through Rogers Park on Clark street, east on Devon, then south on Evanston avenue (now Broadway) to Graceland avenue (now Irving Park), where it initially connected with the horse car line of the North Chicago Street Ry., which in turn connected to this company’s cable line at Dewey Court, just south of Diversey on Clark, for the final leg downtown. The line began operations June 2, 1893 and, sometime in 1894, it began to run directly to the cable line’s northern terminus at Dewey Court via Halsted, eliminating the awkward and inconvenient horse car connection at Irving Park.

That the car barn was built in Edgewater was no accident, as Edgewater’s founder John Lewis Cochran was one of its chief promoters and served as its first president. It was part of his efforts to improve public transportation to his subdivision.

It was more than a car barn; it also initially served as the power house for the new line, as well as for the Clark Street line, when it was electrified in October 1894. At a later time, when Chicago’s streetcar companies decided to purchase their electricity from the Edison company, the “Ardmore” barn ceased its power generation function. Its importance as a car barn diminished when a new, much larger car barn was erected at Clark and Schreiber in Rogers Park in 1900.

When it was rebuilt in 1895, it was arguably Edgewater’s largest building, and it retained that title probably until the construction of Trumbull school (1908-09). As one can see from the adjacent photo by Fred Borchert (figure 1), which shows the building in better days, it was larger than it is today, having two more bays. The copper cornice, with the name of the Chicago North Shore Street Railway Company on it, remained until sometime in the 1980s, when it was removed.

The second car barn to be built in Edgewater sits today at 6330 N. Clark and gives no indication of its original use – at least from the front. It is today an auto body shop and it appears that its façade has been changed from the original (See figure 2). It is only from the alley that the brick work indicates that it is older than it looks from the front.

Actually, the building is quite old for an Edgewater commercial structure. A permit was issued on September 15, 1894, to the North Chicago Street Railway Co. for a one-story car barn at this location. We can only speculate as to the reason for its construction. The Clark Street horse car line from Dewey Ct (near Diversey) to Lawrence Ave was electrified in October 1894. However, the High Ridge extension (from Lawrence to Devon) remained a horse car operation until sometime in 1896. A car barn was need for the horse cars and horses for this limited service at the north end of the line and, presumably, this was the reason for its construction.

Whatever the reason, its use as a car barn did not last very long. As was mentioned above, in 1900 the Chicago Union Traction Company, the successor to the North Chicago and West Chicago street railway companies, built a much larger barn just two blocks north on Clark at Schreiber and, as a result, this property was no longer needed. Cook County Recorder of Deeds records show that it was sold to a private party in 1914.

Most of Chicago’s streetcar barns have been demolished. On the north side the barns at Devon & Schreiber were demolished for the construction of a new police station; the barns at Wrightwood and Sheffield were demolished for a park, and the “Limits” barns at Dewey Ct and Clark south of Diversey were demolished for the construction of senior apartments.