When the “L” came to Wilmette, 100 years ago, it arrived in a way that nobody in town had anticipated.
In 1908, a north side train line from downtown Chicago to Evanston was created, with plans to extend it to Wilmette a few years later. The proposed extension was opposed by Wilmette Village Board of Trustees, who believed a cheap train from Chicago would bring in Sunday picnickers and other disreputable sorts of people.
In response, “L” service to Wilmette stole into town in the dead of night on April Fool’s Day, 1912.
After many months of unproductive wrangling with the Village of Wilmette, “L” officials decided that they were through with negotiations.
Without permission, workmen extended the track and built a 40-foot platform and ticket-seller’s booth while Wilmette residents slept.
Villagers awoke the next morning to find train cars at 4th and Linden, ready to take them to Chicago.
The entire community is invited to help celebrate this 100th anniversary on Saturday, April 28th, from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the corner of 4th Street and Linden Avenue. The event is free.
Forest Claypool, President of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and Christopher S. Canning, Wilmette Village President, will kick-off the celebration at 11:00 a.m.
Following their brief comments, guests will have the rare opportunity to tour two historic 1923 “L” cars. These "plushies", as they are called, have canvas-covered wooden roofs, luxurious interiors with green plush seats, circulating fans and opal shades on the lights. The leather "straphangers" overhead have porcelain enamel handholds.
In addition to the historic train, activities include the Dixieland Band of the Wilmette Community Band, information tables featuring historic photographs of the Linden Avenue station from the Wilmette Historical Museum’s collection, and material from the CTA and participating Linden Square merchants. A docent will be available to answer questions about the history of the 1913 “L” station, now a branch bank. Light refreshments will be provided by the North Shore Community Bank.
This celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Linden “L” is sponsored by the CTA, Wilmette Historical Museum, Wilmette / Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce, North Shore Community Bank, and the Village of Wilmette.
For more information, visit the Historical Museum’s website at www.WilmetteHistory.org or call the Museum at (847) 853-7666.