LAKE FOREST – The Lake Forest Library, in conjunction with the North Shore Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation, is hosting an historical slide show and talk by Arthur Miller, former president of LFPF and emeritus archivist at Lake Forest College, at the library on Monday, September 25, at 7 p.m. Please register by calling the library at 847-810-4610.
Miller’s talk will focus on the fascinating tale of the two train lines, almost side-by-side, that led to the development of downtown Lake Forest. The Lake Forest Library is also hosting a lobby display about the historic train station.
In the late 1890s when the now defunct North Shore Line wanted to connect its interurban, light rail from Chicago to Waukegan through Lake Forest, the City of Lake Forest used its bargaining power to garner a $10,000 fee (about $260,000 in today’s dollars) for putting the light rail line through its downtown. Coincidentally, the current City Hall, then library, was built in 1899 for a cost of $10,000.
So from 1899-1955, there were two train lines running within 50 yards of each other in downtown Lake Forest – one on each side of the current train station, built in 1900. The first, and still operable, line was built by the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad in 1855. The second light rail line served Lake Forest with 7-8 neighborhood stops in town and then continued on to Waukegan. The light rail line, or “ghost train line,” lasted only 56 years and is now the McClory bike path.
Because downtown Lake Forest developed around these two train lines, the impact of the long-forgotten light rail or “ghost train line” can still be felt today. Downtown Lake Forest is now a historic district, so the City and other private groups, such as the Preservation Foundation, work unceasingly to preserve and rehabilitate the buildings, such as City Hall and the train station.
The City recently completed exterior renovation of the train station. Work is underway now to restore the station’s interior through a public/private partnership between the City and the Preservation Foundation. New flooring in the waiting room, ticket area and east entry has been partially funded by the efforts of the North Shore Chapter of the DAR who secured a national, DAR grant. The new flooring will be in the same terra cotta color and octagonal shape of the 1900 floor and promises to be just as durable, which was not the case with the current, deteriorating tile installed in the 1980s.
Last November, the Preservation Foundation kicked off a special fundraising drive for the train station’s interior renovations. To date, many local individuals and some groups have contributed or pledged their support, and much of the money has been raised. Donors, Linda and Larry Remensnyder, said that they donated to keep the train station in harmony with the beauty of its surroundings and because “it is a joy to rest there with a newspaper or good book, wait for a train, and return that evening and be reminded immediately as we disembark that we are again surrounded by the spirit of what makes Lake Forest, Lake Forest.”
The Foundation will keep this fund drive open through 2017 in the hopes that all renovations can be funded to restore the interior to its former glory with historic accuracy. Tax-deductible contributions to this important project can be made on the Foundation’s website, www.LFPF.org or by contacting the LFPF office at 847-234-1230.
Submitted by the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation