Preservationists Seek To Save Historic Train Station In Highland Park

CHICAGO (CBS) — Preservationists are making a last-ditch effort to raise the money needed to save a historic train station from the wrecker’s ball by moving it, and the Highland Park City Council is giving the group four to six months.

A train last stopped at the 91-year-old Briergate station in 1963, when the North Shore Line shut down. Since then it has been home to several businesses. Its new owner wants to erect storage lockers in its place. Kyle Verbeke, of the North Shore Line Preservation Association, called it a “one of a kind structure.”

He feared before the meeting that Simply Self Storage would be given immediate permission to tear down the Spanish Revival-style stucco station. The redevelopment ordinance package passed 7-0 by the council Monday night does not allow demolition to begin until plans are complete and have city approval.

It’s not a big window, but Verbeke said he’ll take it.

“It’s now or never,” he said.

Verbeke said he is in touch with Landmarks Illinois, and hopes to tap the preservation group’s expertise. Fundraising is underway to help pay for the move through a Briergate crowdfunding page on Facebook.

The stucco Spanish Revival-style structure was both ticket office and the agent’s home when the North Shore linked Chicago and Milwaukee on a route that took it over the CTA ‘L’ structure into the Loop on its south end and over the streets of Milwaukee at its north end.

Eight identical stations, designed by transit architect Arthur U. Gerber, were bulldozed in the mid 1960s, following the North Shore’s abandonment. Briergate survived because, unlike the other stations, it did not sit directly below Commonwealth Edison high-tension wires.

The utility and the railroad were under common management when the line was built.

Simply Self Storage Vice President Brandon Dickens said the business was not aware of the building’s history until Monday and said the business would try to work with the preservation group but hopes to move forward with the new storage facility later this year.

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