The front entrances of Argyle station, looking northwest on October 6, 2012, the first full day the station was open after renovation. The pilasters framing the main entrance doors and the ornamentation around the light fixtures convey the station's Prairie School influences. The windows and door in the foreground were previously a separate retail space adjacent to the station, now integrated into the expanded station house footprint. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Argyle (5000N/1200W)
Argyle Street and Broadway, Uptown

Service Notes:

Red Line: Howard

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address: 1118 W. Argyle Street
Established: May 16, 1908
Original Line: Northwestern Elevated Railroad
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station

Rebuilt: 1921, 2012
Status: In Use

History:

This circa 1910 view shows the simple wood-frame construction of the original ground-level Argyle station, looking north across Argyle Street. Note the overhead wires for powering the "L" trains, and the third track on the left used for St. Paul freight trains. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

"L" service first entered north Chicago and Evanston by way of an agreement to use the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway's tracks, replacing the steam service that the St. Paul had previously provided. The Chicago City Council authorized the electrification of the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad's tracks from Graceland Avenue (Irving Park Road) to the city limits on July 1, 1907. Unlike Evanston (as per the 1907 franchise agreement from the city), the Chicago City Council did not require that the grade-level tracks be elevated, but they did prohibit the use of a third rail for safety's sake, necessitating the use of overhead trolley wire. "L" service north of Wilson to Central Avenue in Evanston began on May 16, 1908.

The St. Paul had a station named Argyle Park at Argyle Street near Evanston Avenue (now Broadway). The station, of a style typical of railroad depots, was located on the west side of the tracks on the north side of Argyle. As they did at the other stations on the newly electrified line, the Northwestern Elevated Railroad chose not to use the station facilities of the St. Paul steam railroad, which were situated and designed for the needs of a main line commuter railroad rather than a rapid transit service. Instead, the Northwestern built a new station at the same location as the St. Paul's station. The "L" station facility at Argyle Street was a simple ground-level station and modest platform on the north side of the street. The station house was a small, wood frame building set between the two tracks at ground level with a wooden walkway and stairs leading up to it from the street. The exterior used clapboard siding and a hipped roof with eaves. The rear opened out onto an island platform. The platform had a short canopy with a hipped roof (which was actually a continuation of the station house's roof) and center wooden columns with angled brackets, and wood decking.

The Northwestern Elevated shortened the name of the station from Argyle Park to Argyle with the inauguration of "L" service.

 

Track Elevation and a New Station

The Argyle station entrance is seen looking northeast in 1985. Although it had been over 60 years since the station had been built, it still looked largely as it did wen it opened, including its original light fixtures. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Olga Stefanos)

In the mid-1910s, the Northwestern Elevated began to elevate the tracks north from Wilson to Howard, but work was slow due to the city's refusal to close intersecting streets and the narrow right-of-way. The elevation work involved complex staging and the temporary relocation of tracks to maintain service while building the new elevated embankment in the same right-of-way. In early 1916, trains were moved onto a temporary trestle, allowing demolition of the original tracks and stations, but construction of a permanent embankment had to wait until the end of World War I due to a materials shortage.

With the track elevation came a completely new station. The entrance to the "L" station was located on the north side of Argyle Street. The station had a design typical of the facilities built as part of the Wilson-Howard elevation project. Designed by architect Charles P. Rawson and engineered by C.F Loweth, the architectural design was a Prairie School-influenced vernacular form, with the Prairie influence seen most acutely in the ornamental cement pilasters on the front facade and in the details of the wooden doors, windows, and ticket agents' booths. The exterior was brick and cast concrete with a bedford stone base, wooden doors and large plate glass windows and transoms. Ornamental globed light fixtures decorated the pilaster capitals. The station house was centered within the solid-fill embankment, with retail spaces flanking it on both sides filling in the remaining width of the embankment.

The interior of Argyle station is largely unchanged in this view looking north in 1971 -- the original glazed brick and plaster walls, flooring, incandescent lights, and wooden ticket agent's booth are still original -- but the details have begun to change with the times, such the agent's booth painted white, to present a brighter, more "modern" appearance. Note the fare registers on the booth. For a larger view, click here. (CTA photo, from the Graham Garfield Collection)

The interior was rendered in plaster, wood, glazed brick, and brick with terrazzo floors. There were arches stretching across the interior between the support columns. In the center of the interior, passengers found a decorative wooden ticket agent's booth with ornamental woodwork and a metal grille over the ticket agent's window. The station also had public restrooms.

There were four tracks through Argyle station, but the outer two tracks were for express trains and were not served by the station. A single island platform between the two center tracks served local trains. The platform had wood decking and a canopy with metal columns down the center line which split into gently-curving gull wing-shaped roof supports, supporting a wooden canopy roof. The stairs were sheltered by wooden enclosures with wooden bottoms and windows on top, divided into rows of square panes, with swinging doors at the front of each enclosure. Like most of the stations north of Lawrence, there was originally an auxiliary exit, located on the south side of the street, descending down in the middle of retail spaces built under the elevated. The auxiliary exit was closed and removed some time in the CTA era.

In December 1920, it was reported that the Argyle station, along with Edgewater Beach, Bryn Mawr, Thorndale, Granville, and Jarvis, would be completed by late Spring 1921.1 By early 1922, the new four track mainline was completed, allowing full express service to the city limits.

 

Recent Developments

Today, the neighborhood around Argyle station has one of the largest Asian populations in Chicago (after Chinatown, of course), with many Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian residents, among others. Starting in the 1980s, Charlie Soo and other neighborhood leaders set out to rehabilitate the aging community. Soo talked Chicago Transit Authority officials into a tour of the "filthy, graffiti-covered [Argyle] rapid transit station. He showed the transit bosses how the station was holding the neighborhood back; how the newly arrived Vietnamese and Cambodians were trying to set up restaurants and gift shops on a tired commercial strip known for its raunchy taverns."2

The Argyle station, looking east on September 29, 2005. The pagoda added to the platform canopy in 1991 is evident in this view, making it at home in the surrounding pan-Asian neighborhood. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The CTA was impressed and approved a $250,000 renovation of the station, including a red and green color scheme for the station and platform (the Chinese colors for prosperity and longevity) and a station fare collection booth trimmed like a tea house. In 1991, a Chinese pagoda was added onto the platform canopy through a partnership between the neighborhood and Aon Corporation, a local company whose issuance offices at at 5050 N. Broadway (at Argyle). Soo and Aon officially sponsored the station through the CTA's Adopt-A-Station program.3

In 2006, the station name signs and column signs on the Green Line Graphic Standard signs replacing the KDR Standard graphics, and new entrance signs installed as part of a signage upgrade project on the Red Line. As part of this effort, the station also received granite compass roses inset into the sidewalk in front of the station entrance to assist customers leaving the station to navigate their way, and three-sided galvanized steel pylons in the station house and on the platform to display maps and station timetables.

In 2008, the canopy at Argyle was refurbished. The roof was removed and replaced with a new corrugated metal top. The metal canopy supports were stripped and repainted. New lighting was also installed as part of the renovation. Around the same time, the center arches in the front and rear colonnades inside the station house, which had become deteriorated, where removed and the resulting sides of the columns were they were removed extended up to the ceiling. A white, perforated drop ceiling and new lighting were installed inside the station as well.

 

North Red Line Life-Extension Renovations

By the early 21st century, the stations, track, and elevated infrastructure on the north Red Line, between Wilson and Howard, were in severe need of rehabilitation, both to maintain a good state of repair as well as to modernize certain systems and amenities. The scale of the work and the funding necessary to undertake it were large enough that a broad study and planning effort were needed to properly scope the work and apply for sufficient funding. While this study was undertaken, and due to the presumed amount of time it would take to complete the study, secure funding, and complete design engineering, the CTA felt it was necessary to undertake modest-scale renovations in the meantime to extend the life of the existing infrastructure.

On February 8, 2012, the Chicago Transit Board approved the awarding of a design/build contract to Kiewit Infrastructure Co. to rehabilitate seven rail stations on the North Main Line section of the Red Line: Jarvis, Morse, Granville, Thorndale, Berwyn, Argyle and Lawrence. The work would provide a life-extension for the seven stations until a long-term capital improvement plan is determined for this portion of the Red Line as part of the Red-Purple Modernization Project (see below). "These interim improvements are important because we cannot postpone repairs which need our immediate attention. The CTA wants to be good stewards of the infrastructure we have now, as we continue to plan for the future and pursue additional funding," said CTA President Forrest Claypool. "This contract will allow us to quickly address some much needed capital maintenance work, while also improving the quality and experience for our riders and neighbors."

Kiewit Infrastructure Co. was awarded the contract to through a competitive bid process. Design work began in Spring 2012. Per the terms of the contract, construction was to conclude in early 2013 (though most work was actually completed by the end of 2012) and was not to exceed $57.4 million for services, labor and materials.

Construction plans included temporary station closures for no more than six weeks. Adjacent stations were not closed simultaneously. To minimize impact to customers, service reroutes were scheduled for overnight and weekends only.

Improvement work at each location included renovations to the station facilities, the viaduct, and the tracks. The station houses received new windows, doors and exterior lighting; exterior tuck pointing; improved station layouts; new turnstiles; new interior finishes, including new wall tiling, floors, walls and ceilings; new signage and interior lighting; and site improvements including sidewalk repairs and new bike racks. The platform deck structure and foundation was replaced, the platform fixtures, furnishings and canopy improved, and a new customer communication system installed. Concrete repairs to the viaducts and to the track-level walls were made at each station, and a new waterproofing and drainage system was installed. In addition, the viaducts received painting/coating and new, brighter lighting under the viaducts. New track, ties, and ballast was laid through the station area.4

The renovated interior of the Argyle station house is seen looking west in the unpaid area on October 6, 2012. This view looks from the expanded area of the station interior, which was formerly a separate retail space, toward the footprint of the original station. The interior features new terrazzo floors, tile and plaster walls, plaster ceilings, a new Customer Assistant kiosk, security cameras, and new signage and other fixtures. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The exterior masonry, including the brick walls and concrete trim, was cleaned and the brickwork re-tuckpointed. The wooden door and window frames were removed and a new dark brown aluminum storefront installed. New globed lights were installed on the piers.

Inside, the station house was gutted down to the structural shell. The retail space that originally flanked the station house on the east side was demolished and the common wall removed so that the station interior could be expanded into the former rental space. The concession stand added inside the station house opposite the agent's booth at an earlier date was removed as well. The enlarged station interior allowed for a more open space and improved passenger circulation. Farecard vending machines were installed in the former east retail space, while the northeast corner of the newly-expanded interior was enclosed with new walls to create storage space and a new employee restroom.

The interior walls were clad in new white modular glazed brick similar to the original material, though with some difference -- while the walls were originally clad only to a height just over 6 feet from the floor with plaster walls and ornamental trim above, nearly all of the renovated station interior's walls were clad in glazed brick up to the new suspended plaster ceiling. In addition, the free-standing columns, which originally were also tiled up to a height of about 6 feet and topped with a bullnose trim course, had their tiling removed and were refinished with a smooth plaster-cement skim coat. The original ornamental trim on the plaster walls was not replicated in the renovated station. However, the decorative tan art marble piers with ornamental Prairie School capitals that flank the front doors inside the station were retained and refurbished. A new light gray terrazzo floor with dark gray edges along the walls was installed on top of a sand cushion, and a new plaster ceiling installed with recessed lighting. A new Customer Assistant kiosk was also installed, typical of those installed by the CTA at new Brown Line stations and other recent projects like the renovations at North/Clybourn and Cermak-Chinatown, with stainless steel lower walls and roof and glass panels on all side for maximum visibility.

The wooden platform deck was completely removed and new foundations and supports installed to supplement the original structure. A new precast concrete deck was installed, edged with blue tactile panels. The original 1921 platform canopy was retained, stripped, rehabilitated, and repainted. The canopy roof installed in 2008 was retained. New fixtures including galvanized steel windbreaks and stairway enclosures, new benches, lighting, sandboxes, speakers, and signage were installed.

Although the red-and-green paint scheme given to many parts of the station in the early 1990s such as the station house window and door frames, walls, and booth and platform lights, windscreens, and canopy supports was not carried through in the renovated station, the pagoda installed on the platform canopy roof was retained and refurbished in the finished station.

Installing elevators to make all the stations wheelchair-accessible is not part of the short-term project.5 Work was also planned for the roofs of adjacent station buildings, so that inside concession spaces can be leased and begin to generate revenue for the Authority.6

Argyle temporarily closed for renovation at the end of the day August 24, 2012. The station reopened following renovation at 10pm, Friday, October 5, 2012.

On October 8, 2012, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool officially welcomed community members to the newly rehabilitated Argyle Red Line station at a dedication event held at a storefront adjacent to the station. The Argyle station was the fourth of seven stations to reopen as part of the Red North Interim Improvement Project, which was 60 percent complete at the time of the station's reopening. The work at Argyle cost approximately $10.1 million.7

Funding for the station rehabilitation project is from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) and is part of the $1 billion Red Line investment project. The $1 billion capital investment is a combination of state, local and federal funds, which will support other Red Line projects including track and station renewal along the Dan Ryan branch; the renovation of the Clark/Division and Wilson stations; and several other track, substation and station renewal projects along the North Side Main Line.

 

Red-Purple Lines Modernization (RPM) Project

Due to the deteriorating condition of the infrastructure on the Red Line north of Belmont and on the Purple Line, the CTA initiated the Red-Purple Modernization Project (RPM) to bring the existing transit stations, track systems, and structures into a state of good repair. The project, which stretches along the existing Red and Purple lines from north of Belmont station to Linden terminal, would help bring the existing transit line into a state of good repair, reduce travel times, improve access to job markets and destinations, and provide improved access to people with disabilities.

The project began in 2009 with a vision study to assess the scope of needs and develop a set of alternatives for study. In 2010, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), CTA and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) initiated the environmental review process for the project and undertook work to develop an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The process included numerous public meetings and input opportunities, and study of various alternatives for achieving a good state of repair for the infrastructure in the project area.

A number of alternatives are under consideration for the RPM project, including the comprehensive reconstruction of track, stations, and structures along the line. The four options currently under consideration and study, not including an FTA-required "no action" baseline scenario, include:

The Modernization with Station Consolidation option includes the consolidation of Lawrence and Argyle stations by closing the existing Lawrence station and adding a new entrance to Argyle at Ainslie Street, one block north of Lawrence station and one block south of Argyle station.

Other alternatives considered earlier in the study but subsequently eliminated due to public comment and further study included basic rehabilitation without adding a transfer station at Loyola, a modernization option with only three tracks between Lawrence and Howard, and a modernization option with a 2-track subway under Broadway.

The full-scale modernization envisioned on the Red-Purple Modernization Project could cost anywhere from $2.5 to $5 billion. On February 8, 2012, the CTA board retained Goldman Sachs & Co. to lead the search for public-private partnerships to help finance the reconstruction, which has no firm date. Goldman Sachs will work with Chicago-based Loop Capital Markets LLC and Estrada Hinojosa & Co., but will accept no fee for the first year as it determines the ability to raise private capital.

See CTA's Red & Purple Modernization page for more information about the scoping and planning process, and the various alternatives being considered.

The Argyle island platform, looking south on October 6, 2012, following renovation. The gullwing canopy is original to the 1921 station, but the recent rehabilitation replaced the wood platform deck with precast concrete, refurbished the canopy structure, and provided new platform signage and furniture. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


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Argyle station is seen looking east on Argyle Street circa the 1940s. Although the details have changed -- the partitions, furniture, and stairway enclosures on the platform; the catenary pole on the viaduct and wire over Track 1; the cars and street lights on the street -- the structure is the same today. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

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The interior of the Argyle station is seen looking south from the paid area on July 21, 1971 at a newsstand concession that has been built on the open floor space east of the turnstiles. The counter is accessible from the unpaid and paid areas. The original interior finishes, including the glazed brick and plaster with ornamental trim the walls, terrazzo floors, and incandescent lights with porcelain-enameled "pie pan" shades are all still present. (CTA photo, from the Graham Garfield Collection)

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A view down the Argyle platform, looking south on December 8, 2001. The station was repainted in green and red -- the Chinese colors for longevity and prosperity -- to represent the sizable Asian population that lives nearby. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The Argyle station entrance is seen looking northwest on September 29, 2005. The original lights are gone and the station (and platform) are painted red and green, signifying its place in a largely pan-Asian neighborhood. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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As part of an overhaul championed by the local community in the late 1980s, the interior of the station was repainted in a red and green color scheme (the Chinese colors for prosperity and longevity) and the station's agent collection booth was trimmed like a Chinese tea house. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The Argyle station platform is seen looking north on September 29, 2005, from the south end of the platform. The separation of the center canopy supports into a set of two posts indicates where the auxiliary exit stairs once were, with the stairs formerly descending between those posts. The canopy posts, trim, and partitions were painted red and green, the Chinese colors for prosperity and longevity, in the early 1990s. The KDR Standard signage dates from the 1980s. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The canopy roof has been removed in this March 30, 2008 view of the Argyle station platform, seen looking south. Repairs are being made to the structure in advance of a new corrugated metal roof being installed. The original canopy roof had a "return" on the ends, which ended out from the last set of gullwing supports and provided a finished, squared-off end to the canopy. This end was removed and the new canopy roof would just end abruptly at the last canopy support. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The Argyle platform is seen looking north on August 12, 2012, shortly before closure for renovation. This view shows improvement work performed at the station during the previous few years, including new signage installed in 2006 and the new canopy roofing and lighting installed in 2008. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The interior of the renovated Argyle station is seen looking east in the unpaid area on October 6, 2012. The rehabilitation gutted the interior and installed new terrazzo flooring, wall tiles, cement plaster walls and ceiling, lighting, and fixtures. The floor space was also expanded into adjacent former retail space -- the farecard vending machines are in what was formerly a separate storefront. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The interior of the Argyle station is seen looking south through the turnstiles from the paid area on October 6, 2012. The area on the right and center were part of the station interior when it closed six week earlier, but the area by the left arch was taken up by an enclosed concession space that was previously added to the old station interior. The area beyond, in the background, was part of a sperate retail space. The addition of these spaces to the station footprint provides a more open, spacious interior. The center arch between the columns was removed in 2008 due to deterioration. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The renovated Argyle station platform is seen looking north from the far south end on October 6, 2012. The refurbished platform includes new precast concrete decking with tactile edging tiles, new free-standing light standards and luminaires outside of the canopy, and new signage. The large angled concrete bases where the light poles and canopy columns meet the new platform result from work to shore up the platform structure and create new support footings. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The renovated Argyle station platform, seen looking south on October 6, 2012, retained the original 1921 gullwing canopy structure, rehabilitating and repainting the steel structure and retaining the new lights and canopy roofing installed in 2008. The refurbished platform includes new signage, new tactile edge tiles, and new furniture such as windbreaks, garage cans, and benches. The two bays where the center canopy supports give way to a pair of split supports shows where an auxiliary exit stairway originally descended to the street. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

 

Notes:

1. "3 NEW STATIONS ON NORTH SIDE "L" READY JAN. 1." Chicago Daily Tribune, 1 Dec. 1920, pg. 21.
2. "'Mayor' brings life to Argyle Street." Chicago Tribune, 6 Feb. 1991
3. Ibid.
4. Red North Station Interim Improvements webpage. Chicago Transit Authority, retrieved 25 March 2012.

5. Hilkevitch, Jon. "$57.4 million facelift program OK'd for 7 North Side stops on CTA's Red Line." Chicago Tribune. 8 February 2012.
6. Roberts, Bob. "Major Renovations Coming To Multiple Red Line Stations." CBS Chicago. 9 February 2012.
7. "Mayor Emanuel Hails North Red Line Station Renewal Work Progress." CTA press release, 10 October 2012.