Slice of Life: Ravinia’s Historic Railroad Station

Metra Ravinia Station

The Ravinia station on Metra’s Union Pacific-North line from Chicago to Kenosha, Wisconsin stands as a stately steward of the rails and trains that pass before it.

While there are plenty of recently built and rebuilt Metra stations that look similar, this one is the real deal.  Built in 1889 and designed by Frost and Granger, it is the oldest surviving station on Metra’s northern and northwestern corridors.

Today Ravinia (510 Roger Williams Avenue, Highland Park) is one of the smallest stations on the Metra UP-N line; only North Chicago, Zion, and Winthrop Harbor have fewer users.  But remarkably, at one time there was enough traffic in the sleepy neighborhood of Highland Park to warrant a second station.  It served passengers on the Bluff City Electric Railway, which carried people from their homes along the North Shore to factory jobs in the city.  It was eventually eaten by the Chicago, North Shore, and Milwaukee Railroad, which died in 1963.

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Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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5 Comments

  1. Well, the Bluff City Electric Street Railway wasn’t exactly “eaten” by the CNS&M; say rather that it grew up to be the CNS&M. The Bluff City began with a few miles of operation around Highland Park in 1894, and gradually expanded southward to Evanston (1899) and northward to Waukegan (1898). In 1898, the company changed its name to Chicago & Milwaukee Electric, reflecting its growing ambitions (though it did not actually reach Milwaukee unti 1908). In 1916 the bankrupt company came under control of Insull interests, which changed the name to Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee (no comma, for some reason). It continued under that name until the end of service on a frigid January 21, 1963.

    Good heavens, as I typed that, it just struck home that we’re approaching the 50th anniversary of the abandonment of a line that I remember riding. Excuse me, I must go swig some Geritol.

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    • Editor

      Interesting. The research I did turned up different information.

      What I found indicated that it wasn’t simply a name change that turned Bluff City Electric Railway into the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, but that the two railroads existed at the same time and CNS&M took over Bluff City because of its financial problems.

      There’s some indication that Bluff City’s money woes are the reason that Ravinia is no longer its own town. According to a document prepared by Historic Certification Consultants for the Highland Park Historic Preservation Commission, the people of Ravinia needed infrastructure improvements so badly that they asked the Bluff City railroad to make them. When the railroad refused, the town was left with no choice but to become part of the larger (and presumably better off) town of Highland Park.

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  2. There’s a great deal of North Shore Line history on this site:

    http://www.northshoreline.com/wabash.html

    Note the Stations and Stops section, which includes a number of photos which may be of architectural interest, though many of these concentrate more on the trains than on the buildings. In particular, the Adams and Wabash page has a shot of the street frontage of the North Shore’s own little station building at 223 South Wabash.

    http://www.northshoreline.com/wabash.html

    This fed passengers onto the Adams and Wabash “L” platform, but was separate from the Chicago Rapid Transit/CTA station building, which already has a page on CAI.

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    • Editor

      Love the picture of the North Shore Wabash Station. I’ve seen pictures of it from the Loop side, taken from above, but this was the first time I’ve seen the street-level station.

      What I’ve wondered about for the last couple of years is the building at 809 West 35th Street in Bridgeport. It sooooo looks like it used to be an elevated station, and the pattern of construction for surrounding buildings seems to support that notion, but I haven’t been able to find anything on it.

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  3. First, to correct a blunder in my previous post, the correct URL for the home page of the North Shore site is: http://www.northshoreline.com/

    That building at 809 West 35th does resemble some of Arthur Gerber’s terra cotta “L” station houses (example: http://www.chicago-l.org/stations/south_blvd.html), but there was never an elevated line at that location. The Stock Yards Branch of the “L” ran east-west through the general area, but at about 4000-4200 South. There were surface streetcars on both 35th and Halsted, but the intersection was not the end of either line, and there would have been no apparent reason for Chicago Surface Lines to have had an off-street terminal building there. In general, Chicago streetcar stops involved nothing more elaborate than a white stripe painted on the line pole.

    Here’s a link to a 1937 map of the street railway and “L” system: http://chicagoinmaps.com/chicagostreetcars.html

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