Here’s a little-known fact about Baird & Warner: the firm helped the city expand its railway system in the 19th century.
Chicago’s first elevated train line — or “L” — debuted in 1892. It was constructed to take visitors from downtown to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park. Two years later, when the city wanted to expand the railway north, Baird & Warner was asked to obtain the right-of-way for the Northwestern Elevated Railroad to Wilson Avenue. Wyllys W. Baird, the second Baird to lead the firm, personally acted on behalf of the railroad.
Originally known as the Northwestern Line, it included sections of today’s CTA Red, Brown, and Purple lines. The track ran from the Loop to the Wilson Avenue station in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, where Baird & Warner built its first branch office under the L tracks.
After this success, Baird & Warner was asked to obtain the right-of-way for the Ravenswood Branch Line — what we now know as the Brown Line — from Southport to Kimball, and later, in 1906 and 1907, to acquire land for today’s Ogilvie Transportation Center and Union Station.