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Downtown Western Springs Through the Years

Each week, you drive through the downtown area or wait for a train. So, you think you're familiar with the buildings. But, years ago, the area looked quite different.

As you drive through our quaint downtown area, it’s hard to imagine any of the buildings not being here. But, in the 1930’s, you would have seen vacant lots between some of the commercial buildings, including where Starbucks and the FNBLG bank is now located. Also, note the old corner entrance to what is now the BMO Harris Bank.  See first photo.

Further east, the buildings were even more different in 1930. A Texaco gasoline station and garage occupied the southwest corner of Wolf and Burlington, while the now-vacant Odegaard’s  building had not even been built as yet. But, notice the size of the trees along Burlington!  See second photo.

By the 1940’s, the town was really starting to develop. As you can see in the third photo, all of the stores on Burlington between Lawn and Grand had been built by this time. That’s a “dry goods” store on the extreme left and a newsstand next door. Also, notice how part of the old train station jutted into Burlington Avenue. 

Another 1940’s view of Burlington Avenue, looking east, shows the shops at the west end of the block. See fourth photo. On the extreme right is the Wright Shop, a popular gift store. Next door is the Western Springs Fruit Store, which is still in that same location today. And, next door to that was a very small A&P Food Store. This would later move to the block where Village Hardware is now located. Also, note the 1940’s automobiles lining the streets.

By the 1950’s the town’s residential areas were growing, but the downtown still looked pretty much the same.  Look hard and you can see the Western Springs Fruit Store’s panel truck parked in front of the store. Meanwhile, the block west of Grand (site of today’s Starbucks) still had a row of residences occupying this site.  See fifth photo.  On the extreme right you’ll see a Railway Express hand truck for handling freight and passenger luggage. In this era, the railroads were still the most popular way to ship and travel. The carts were needed when the trains would stop and unload goods and passengers’ baggage. 

By the mid-1960’s, the downtown area was beginning to look a little more “modern”. See sixth photo. A Standard Oil station (complete with S&H Green Stamp signs out front) occupied the northwest corner of Hillgrove and Wolf. Unfortunately, you cannot see the Ekdahl building, which was recently relocated to a site behind the main fire station. In this photo, it was hidden between two 2-story buildings, the one in the foreground being subsequently demolished. Also, note Keil’s Drug Store where Competitive Foot is now located, the old-fashioned street lights in the foreground, and the parallel parking on the south side of Hillgrove.   

Another 1960’s view taken looking east shows a very different town.  See seventh photo.  Notice that the two-story building on the northeast corner of Hillgrove and Lawn has not had its mansard roof installed as yet. Also, directly across Wolf Road from Standard Oil was a Phillips 66 service station and a white building. Both of these would be razed in 1967 to make room for the new Village Hall. Note the low hedge planted along the north side of the railroad right of way. 

If you have a favorite memory of our downtown area, please post a comment so others can enjoy it as well.

Oscar Madison October 17, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Fascinating. All things considered, the Village has not changed that much over the years. I've been here since the early 60's, and for the life of me, I can't ever remember a gas station on the current Village Hall site. Great article, thank you.
John Devona October 18, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Yep. It was called Ray's 66 and we recently received an email from Ray's daughter asking us for a digital photo of the old station. There was also a much earlier PATCH story where this photo appeared. I think you can access this if you click on my name under contributors. Glad you enjoyed the story.
janet Dahl October 18, 2012 at 05:34 PM
John is an amazing resource for our Village. As always, thank you for sharing.

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