Forest Glen CTA bus yard site once home to Elston Stables in the 1930s
by BRIAN NADIG
The Forest Glen CTA maintenance and storage yard at Elston and Armstrong avenues has been there for more than 60 years, but not many are familiar with the history and controversies related to the site, which once was a stable for horses.
Currently the storage yard is being expanded with the demolition of the adjoining former Hill Behan lumberyard at 5601 N. Elston Ave. and the former Pyramid Mouldings at 5353 W. Armstrong Ave.
Once the lumberyard and Pyramid factory are demolished, the space will be initially used for CTA employee parking, as many workers park on area streets.
Circa 1920, the Street Railway Company targeted a parcel near Milwaukee and Wilson avenues for a bus barn, but residents were not pleased and wanted a park built on the site due to the growing number of homes in the area, said Northwest Chicago Historical Society researcher Frank Suerth.
Residents formed the Wilson Avenue Community Association and fought the proposal, and former Cook County commissioner and 41st Ward committeeman Frank J. Wilson, helped them stop the plans, hence why the park is named Wilson Park.
Instead the bus barn opened at 5301 W. Lawrence Ave. in the Jefferson Park business district on the former site of a Ford dealership, Suerth said. The site later became home to Jefferson State Bank after the bus storage facility relocated to its current home along Elston in the late 1950s.
In the 1930s the site housed the Elston Stables, 5663 N. Elston Ave., according to the NW historical society. It is not clear when the stables stopped operating there, he said.
“In September of 1939, two buffaloes escaped from the stables, leading multiple horseback riders in pursuit. The bison madly trampled though backyards, knocking down fences and scaring the local community, until they were captured at 5628 N. Miltimore Ave.,” the society wrote in its newsletter.
There also was a nearby stable company at 5879 N. Central Ave., but it reportedly burned down in the early 1950s.
“Today, all the stables on the Northwest Side have closed due to rising land prices and the cost for the care of the horses,” the society said.
When the bus storage yard was proposed for Elston and Armstrong, it wasn’t without controversy.
Nearby residents were worried about buses on Central turning into their neighborhood and using a side street to reach the bus yard. The controversy led to the creation of the Indian Woods Community Association, according to resident Jim Oehler.
Nearly 40 years later a similar concern resurfaced when a residential subdivision was proposed for an adjacent factory site on Armstrong. Vehicular access to the subdivision is only allowed from Armstrong, as requested by the association.