South Side Rapid Transit Forney Engine #2 leads a multi-car train of wooden trailers as its passes 39th Street is 1893. The station house is seen below the tracks. The humped-roof canopy was typical of the S.S.R.T.'s first stations. (Photo from the Chicago Historical Society Collection)
Pershing Road and State Street, Douglas
South Side Division
Established: June 6, 1892
Original Line: South Side Rapid Transit
Previous Names: 39th Street
Skip-Stop Type: n/a
39th Street was one of the original ten stations of Chicago's first "L" line, the South Side Rapid Transit. The original station building was a brick grade-level structure built in 1892. The platform canopy featured an arched roof, similar to that at the Congress Terminal, a design typical of the first ten "L" stations. The first train run on the line was one of six operated Friday, May 28, 1892. It was said to make the four mile run in 10 minutes with 300 VIP guests. At 39th Street, they examined the structure while a lunch car was taken on from which a snack was served on the return to trip to Congress. On the way, the train stopped at all stations, allowing the guests to examine them as well. Revenue service began June 6.
In 1907, as part of an ordinance to allow the South Side Line to install a third track for express service, all stations north of 43rd Street, including this one, were required to replace their grade-level facilities with mezzanine-level stations, clearing the alley way beneath the tracks. Because the tracks' original elevation was not built with the height clearance of mezzanine-level stations in mind, the portions of the trestle at station locations had to be slightly raised, creating roller coaster-like humps in the structure. The occasional rise and descend can still be seen in the South Side Green Line's tracks.
Adjacent to the 39th Street station was a small facility where the South Side's steam engines were serviced. Included in the S.S.R.T.'s original construction, the 39th Street facility was later augmented by a large engine house built at the 61st Street Yard. Coal for the locomotives was received from the Chicago Junction Railway, which ran parallel to 40th Street, making 39th an ideal location for such a function.
By 1898, the South Side Elevated Railroad had fully converted from steam locomotives to electric traction. A power house was needed (the "L" didn't start purchasing power from ComEd until Sam Insull's time) and 39th Street was again chosen as a suitable location. The engineering firm of Sargent & Lundy was hired to supervise the electrification, which provided 600 volts d.c. to cars via an uncovered third rail. The power house measured 200 feet in length by 100 feet wide, divided lengthwise into two long rooms. The engine room house four cross-compound condensing Allis-Corliss engines rated at 1200 h.p. each. These drove four Westinghouse 850 k.w. generators. In 1900, an adjacent Chicago City Railway barn was demolished and the engine house was enlarged, adding two more Corliss engines and two 1600 k.w. Westinghouse generators. Coal was still received from a connection with the Chicago Junction Railway at 40th Street. The facility stayed in service until 1914, when the elevated companies began purchasing power from Commonwealth Edison.
This station was one of 23 Howard, Jackson Park, Englewood and Ravenswood stations closed (including 18th, 26th, 29th, and 31st to the north) August 1, 1949 as part of the CTA's institution of A/B skip stop service on the North-South Route. It was eventually demolished.