By Janet Miller
Last spring we received an inquiry from a gentleman from Metra, wondering if we knew the origin of the Highland Station name. Our research showed that the name was taken from the name of the “estate” of John Reed. The location of the home was said to be “contiguous to the line of Cook County”. There was an old home in what is now a park between Oak and County Line on the south side of the tracks, but it remains unclear whether Mr. Reed’s home* was there or across County Line Road. Either site has “the beautiful undulation of surface, producing natural drainage and consequent healthfulness of location” as described in the History of Du Page County.
Flash forward to January 2010. Another gentleman sent in an email with a question about the origin of the station. Was it true that Judge Beckwith had the station built for his convenience? And when was the station built? As with many things, the construction date proved elusive. One piece mentioned the Judge Beckwith story and the date of 1870. This date is probably too early since John Reed moved to Hinsdale in 1872, according to Hinsdale the Beautiful (1898), The Doings pegged the date at between 1875 and 1879, in an article written in 1986.
This same article mentions that the station was built by businessmen Alanson, John W. Reed, Alfred Walker, and William Robbins (village founder), but not Judge Beckwith. Further research uncovered the association with Reed, Beckwith, and Walker. Besides being neighbors, they were involved together in some early village real estate transactions. Judge Beckwith’s home is described as a summer estate and was located where the Hinsdale Hospital now stands. Alfred Walker had extensive holdings in the northeast part of town. It makes sense that some of the town’s early leaders would band together to build the station. Having built the station, it became a flag stop on the line. In 1904 it became a regular stop.
In a more recent search, a photo from a 1958 Suburban Life photo mentioned a purchase of the Highland Park property. The question of who sold it was elusive. A plat map of the village showed the property divided into 16 lots, but going into the 1950s showed no homes had ever been built.
The property was sold by Bellview Builders but required a referendum on the deal to be voted upon by the residents. The plan was to turn the area into a park and use 4 of the lots as space for station parking. The referendum passed by 7 votes, possibly due to an editorial published in The Doings that did not support spending the money.
This early postcard photo shows the approach to the Highlands Station from the southwest (pre-parking lot). In 1986, 200 people were using the station, with service from 10 trains a day.
The village took charge of the property maintenance at the sale. This early 1950s photo showed the state of the landscape before the sale. Poison ivy was discovered among the vegetation which postponed the development of the park by a year.
*Mr. Reed sold the home to the Blackman family before 1896.