Chicago Motor Bus/Coach Company

Edgewater’s First Bus Line

by LeRoy Blommaert

Edgewater’s first bus line was also Chicago’ first and it was launched not by the streetcar monopoly, the Chicago Surface Lines, but by a small independent firm called the Chicago Motor Bus Company. The company was incorporated in December 1913, secured a franchise on June 19, 1916 from the Lincoln Park Board to have exclusive rights to operate buses through Lincoln Park, and began operations on its first route March 25, 1917. That first route was from the Loop along Sheridan Road to Devon Ave.
The first bus to make the run was for VIPs only. It carried Mayor Thompson and his wife as well as former Governor Dunn and his wife and ran from Devon and Sheridan to the Loop; on its return trip the VIP party stopped for a luncheon at (surprise,  surprise) the Edgewater Beach Hotel, then open for less than a year. Regular revenue service started the same day after the innaugeral run.
With regular revenue service, Edgewater had six parallel public transportation routes into the downtown business area. From east to west they were: the Sheridan Road bus, the “L,” the Broadway streetcar, the Clark streetcar, the Rosehill-Ravenswood-Damen-Lincoln Ave street car, and the Chicago and North Western train commuter service with three stops in Edgewater.
The Chicago Motor Bus Company had two buildings in Edgewater, both at the north east corner of Broadway and Rosemont. The front building (6307-13 Broadway) was a 1-story garage and was torn down and is now a parking lot for the Ismalie Center; the rear building (1124-30 Rosemont), was a 2-story office building and is now used for some of the functions of the Ismaile Center. In the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, this later building was a Jewel Foods store. Both buildings were designed by noted architect Jarvis Hunt.
Between 1920 and 1922 the company merged with two other independent bus companies (the Chicago Stage Company and the Depot Motor Bus Lines) into the Chicago Motor Coach company. At its peak the new company operated several routes on the north, west and south sides, all along the boulevards, where streetcar tracks were prohibited. It was an independent company that competed with the Chicago Surface Lines for patrons. The buses cost more—10 cents versus the Chicago Surface Lines 5 cent fare– but they offered a more pleasant ride to the Loop, especially in the summer. The company operated double deck buses (similar to those that operated in New York and London), and in the early days of operation the upper level was open. For some, the upper deck served not only destination travel but leisure travel as well.
While the company competed with the Chicago Surface Lines Company, for a time it cooperated with the Chicago Rapid Transit Company; the two companies offered transfers where the lines of the buses crossed near the “L” stations outside of the Loop.
The Chicago Motor Coach Company held out even after the Chicago Transit Authority in October 1947 assumed control of the Chicago Surface Lines and the Chicago Rapid Transit Company. The CTA did not obtain control of the Chicago Motor Coach Company until 1952. When it did , it renumbered some of the bus routes by placing the digit “1” in front of the original Chicago Motor Coach Company route number; thus the 51 Chicago Motor Coach Company Sheridan Road route became CTA route 151, which it still is today.
The company’s first buses were rudimentary devices seating 51 passengers but over time they were replaced by more modern and reliable models. Several photo postcards show the Chicago Motor bus Company’s earlier models in front of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Two are shown here.
Sources: Chicago Tribune
Code 1; code one