This item may be amended when it is published in the Society’s newsletter.
The Ravenswood Trolley
By LeRoy Blommaert
The trolley that ran on Ravenswood was Edgewater’s fifth rail line and its third streetcar line. It was by far Edgewater’s shortest and no doubt partially because of that it was the least known. It was also the least ridden.
It had different names at various times (Robey Street in 1906-1908; Wells St-Lincoln Ave between 1911 and 1922; and #55 Lincoln-Rosehill after 1929), but it was popularly known as the Lincoln-Rosehill line because it ran on Lincoln Aveune and terminated in front of the Rosehill station of the Chicago & Northwestern’s Milwaukee line. Trolleys that ran on Lincoln Ave branched at Irving Park. One branch continued north on Lincoln and terminated at “Bownmanville.” It was later extended a few blocks north and terminated at Berwyn (April 16, 1914) and then again to Peterson (July 26, 1931). The other branch went north on Robey (present day Damen) to Balmoral, then east on Balmoral to East Ravenswood Park (present day Ravenswood) and then north on Ravenswood for only four standard city blocks to the Rosehill station which was just south of Cemetery Drive (5400 to 5800 north).
According to Alan Lind (Chicago Surface Lines), the Robey (Damen) branch was opened by the North Chicago Electric Railway (another of Charles Yerkes properties) in 1897 (approximately 5 years after horse cars first ran on Clark between Lawrence and Devon and approximately 4 years after trolleys first ran on Broadway); however, the 1899 Rand McNally Guide does not show the line. The authorization to operate on Robey and the other streets was granted by the Chicago City Council in July 1896 (Chicago Tribune July 24, 1896).
On August 1, 1948, shortly after CTA took over from the Chicago Surface Lines, it discontinued the Damen-Rosehill branch. However, on the same date the North Damen bus route was extended north to Balmoral where it proceeded east on Balmoral to Ravenswood, north on Ravenswood to Bryn Mawr, and then east to Bryn Mawr to Ashland ,south on Ashland to Olive, east on Olive to Clark and the north on Clark to Bryn Mawr for the return trip.
Today’s Damen bus follows a similar route: north on Damen to Foster, east on Foster to Ashland, north on Ashland to Edgewater, east on Edgewater to Clark, south on Clark to Bryn Mawr, west on Bryn Mawr to Ashland, south on Ashland to Foster, and the west on Foster to Damen for the return.
Despite the short route in Edgewater and the line’s early termination, there are at least two photos of streetcars on the Edgewater portion of the line; both are at the Rosehill terminus. There is also a photo of an open car at Damen and Wilson and one showing several trolleys on Lincoln just south of Foster, which was the end of the line at the time the photo was taken.
Sources: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Surface Lines by Alan R. Lind, CTA website, Rand McNally Chicago Guides
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