Many Highland Parkers and people who work in Highland Park begin and end their day at a Highland Park train station.
This is precisely what the original developers envisioned:
"A suburb around a railroad station for the convenience of those doing business," wrote Marvyn Wittelle, in Pioneer to commuter: The story of Highland Park.
On Jan. 1, 1855, the inaugural Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad train to Waukegan steamed through the woods and ravines of the North Shore and arrived at a newly constructed station on land owned by the Port Clinton Land Company with a sign "Highland Park."
The locomotive next passed a fledgling and doomed town without a station — Port Clinton, where a United States Post Office opened on March 19, 1850. It was a port town located in northeast Deerfield Township.
By 1855, Port Clinton had a pier, a sawmill and a plank road to the west — Half-Day Road. But the owner of the undeveloped land to the south, railway executive Walter S. Gurnee, maneuvered to ensure Port Clinton did not have a train station when that first train came through in 1855.
President of the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad, Gurnee was an entrepreneur and speculator and former Chicago mayor. He had purchased all the stock of the Port Clinton Land Company and laid a town plat.
Gurnee envisioned "railroad suburbs." But Gurnee never began the development around the train station he named. Economic forces and the Civil War intervened.
Gurnee sold the land to the newly chartered Highland Park Building Company in 1867. Development and civic planning began immediately. Highland Park received its State of Illinois Charter two years later.
This article was written using resources in the Highland Park Historical Society's Archives and Research Collections. Visit highlandparkhistory.com for more information.