The 1895-vintage California/Milwaukee station house, looking south on October 28, 2003, displays its Queen Anne styling with influences of the Arts and Crafts and Romanesque styles, typical of Metropolitan West Side Elevated stations like Damen and others. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

California (2800W/2300N)
California Avenue and Lyndale Street, Logan Square

Service Notes:

Blue Line: O'Hare

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address: 2211 N. California Avenue
Established: May 25, 1895
Original Line: Metropolitan West Side Elevated, Logan Square branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: 2014
Status: In Use


The interior of the California station house, looking northwest toward the bay on the front elevation on January 5, 2001. Note the moldings and tongue-in-groove paneling. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

California was built in 1895 as part of the original section of the Metropolitan "L"'s Northwest route. The last station before the original terminal, Logan Square, California, like most Met stations, consisted of a brick station house with simple amenities and a wooden platform with steel canopies, railings and shepherd's crook lights.

The station house is typical of Met designs on the Northwest and Garfield Park branches. Built by the Jonathan Clark & Sons Company for the general contractor, Alfred Walcott, the stations were designed by the engineering staff of the Metropolitan company. Constructed of red pressed brick with stone sills and foundations, their vernacular style might best be described as Queen Anne-influenced with some Romanesque features. The station's design is highlighted by the semicircular bay/portico, a lattice pattern in the brick cornice, extensive terra cotta work including the word "entrance" above one door in the portico and "exit" above the other (although there is nothing to force ingress from one and egress from the other), dentals above the doors' story lights, and carved wooden beads flush with the building between the wooden brackets which support a wooden canopy over the portico. The station has dual side platforms, with canopies and railings typical of all Met stations: Designed into the railings are larger cast iron square plates with a stylized diamond design. The stairs and platforms are constructed of wood on a steel structure. Each platform has a short canopy in the center of the platform, covering the stairs and a small waiting area. The canopy frame is iron, with arched latticed supports and bracketed rafters, and hipped roofs of corrugated tin. The building, with its plaster and wood interior, wooden floor and moldings and chair-rail tongue-in-groove paneling still stands.

Today, California retains most of these features. The interior still contains its original tongue-in-groove chair-rail paneling. In the early 1990s, the stairs at the station were replaced with those from another station. On both platforms, the dual stairs were replaced with a single set of stairs leading from the where the former south stairs reached the platform to ground-level. This left a noticeable gap where the north staircases formerly had been, easily identified by the newer railings where the removed staircases met the platform. On the southbound platform, the angled metal roofing that used to cover the now-removed north stairs even still remains. The station retained its inset concession stand, which may have been the original fare collection booth, until about 2002 when it was gutted and replaced with a new stainless steel concession stand standard for those built for Gateway Newsstands at other "L" stations. In both front doorsets, one door is of an older design while the other is a newer, plain, nondescript door. At some point, the iron canopy roofing was replaced with corrugated stainless steel of a near identical design.

During mid- and late October 2003, CTA crews renewed the metalwork on the historic platforms at Damen and California on the Milwaukee Elevated, including the canopies, canopy supports, railings, and stairs. At both stations, crews stripped old paint from the canopy roofs, posts, and supports and from railings, then sanded the ironwork down to remove additional paint, rust, and corrosion. Patching and repairs were made as necessary. The metalwork was then primed and given a fresh coat of white paint. Renewal and painting was also performed in the stringers that support the platform decking. By the end of the month, work on the platforms and stairs at California was largely complete.

In spring 2008, the CTA replaced the station's KDR-style signage with Green Line Graphic Standard station name signs and symbol signs. The work included removal of the old red (indicating its former status as a "A" station in skip-stop operation) column and station name signs on the platform.

In September 2008, the CTA replaced with flooring inside the California station house, filling in the building's basement, and made other modest improvements inside the building. To make these improvements, the station house was closed and a temporary fare control area was built immediately adjacent to the station house consisting of a chainlink enclosure with a metal roof. The temporary entrance was used beginning the evening of Thursday, September 18, 2008.


Your New Blue: Station Improvements

On December 5, 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn announced a comprehensive improvement plan for the Blue Line O'Hare Branch (including the northern portion of the Dearborn Subway), an overhaul that will provide faster travel times and updated stations while creating more than 1,300 jobs.

The $492 million plan, called Your New Blue, includes several track and station improvement projects along a 12.5-mile stretch of the Blue Line between the Grand and Cumberland stations, as well as upgrades to the signal system between the Jefferson Park and O'Hare stations. The overall Your New Blue program, beginning construction in 2014 and planned to last four years, is a package of several discrete projects ranging from station improvements to track renewal, signal replacement, traction power upgrades, and subway tunnel water mitigation efforts.

California is one of the stations planned to receive improvements under the program. The scope of these improvements includes work in front of the station at street level, to the station house, and to the platforms. Outside the station, planned improvements include repainting of the elevated track structure, installation of new lighting on the elevated structure to light the historic station house, replacement of sidewalk and plaza paving, and the installation of new bike racks. The historic station house is planned to be tuckpointed, have its flooring replaced with new terrazzo, replacement of windows and doors, replacement of the plaster ceiling and lighting, a new stainless steel Customer Assistant's booth, and the installation of public art. The platforms are programmed to have the historic canopies and railings repainted, replacement of the decking, new lighting, and new furnatire.1 2 Historic features of the station will be preserved and restored.3

On February 5, 2014, the Chicago Transit Board approved the award of a $25.6 million design/build contract for the rehabilitation of the Damen, Western and California stations. F. H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen and Associates, LLC was awarded the station rehabilitation contract following a competitive procurement process.4

At the same meeting, the Board also approved contracts for artists to develop unique artwork for each station that reflects the neighboring community and will beautify the stations for customers' enjoyment. After reviewing 100 responses to a Call for Artists issued in December 2013 for artistic merit and related qualifications, the CTA awarded the contract to create public art for California station to Patrick McGee of Chicago.5

The California station closed at 1am, Thursday, September 4 to allow construction to take place. The CTA provided additional #56 Milwaukee bus service during the closure on weekday morning and evening rush periods. In addition, "owl'' bus service, the #N56 California Station Owl route, was added along Milwaukee Avenue during overnight hours to link California to the closest stations in either direction in place of overnight Blue Line service. California reopened on Thursday, October 16, 2014. The Damen station, receiving a similar rehab, will close between October 20 and December 22, 2014.6


The back of a Congress-Milwaukee "A" train consists of car 6540 in its old 1950s green, cream, and orange paint scheme, stopped at California on August 21, 1970. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Joe Testagrose)

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On a cold winter day, the California/Milwaukee station house is seen looking south on January 5, 2001. The kiosk on the left has a bulletin board for community notices and flyers. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The interior of the California station house, looking south from the entrance toward the agent's booth and stairs to the platforms. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Even the rear of the station house has some architectural details, including rusticated brick, tongue-in-groove paneling, and an interesting wooden partition separating the two doors. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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A 6000-series Milwaukee-Congress A train stops at California on August 16, 1970. Note the old-style platform sign on the far left (the white background with the big "C"). For more on this, see the signage section. (Photo by Joe Testagrose)

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This view of California's northbound platform, looking north on a rainy October 28, 2003, shows the design features typical of standard Metropolitan Elevated platforms: decorative railings with cast iron square plates with a stylized diamond design and a short iron-frame canopy, with arched latticed supports, bracketed rafters, and hipped roofs originally of corrugated tin. California's canopy roofing has been subsequently replaced with corrugated stainless steel. The staircase is a replacement from the 1990s. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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After dropping off the tour group at California station for the 5th Annual Historic "L" Station Tour, Operator Larry Regalado checks the side of the train as he departs to make sure the doors and platform are clear on October 26, 2003. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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At California station, tour guide John Craib-Cox discusses the design and architecture of the 1895 station house while the tour group is surrounded by the Victorian engineering of the old Metropolitan Elevated during the 5th Annual Historic "L" Station Tour on October 26, 2003. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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The tour group stands in front of California station and listens to a lecture on the history and design from the tour guides while a few members take photos of the historic building during the 5th Annual Historic "L" Station Tour on October 26, 2003. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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With the tour group assembled on the inbound platform, tour guide Graham Garfield describes the design of the California station canopies, which are typical of those used by the Metropolitan Elevated, during the 5th Annual Historic "L" Station Tour on October 26, 2003. The canopies have recently had their corrugated roof cladded replaced. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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Car 6511 trails on this four-car Congress-Milwaukee "A" train, leaving California/Milwaukee station on October 5, 1972. 6511-6512 have the newer Mint Green and Alpine White paint scheme (introduced in 1965 to the 6000s), but the lead cars are still painted in the 1950s-era green, cream, and orange scheme. Note the early A/B symbol sign on the railing on the right. (Photo by Steve Zabel, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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Car 2276 takes the lead on a two-car Douglas-Milwaukee All-Stop train picking up and dropping off passengers at California on August 16, 1970. (Photo by Joe Testagrose)

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A Douglas-Milwaukee All-Stop is led by car 2303 at California on August 16, 1970. (Photo by Joe Testagrose)

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Car 3090 trails an O'Hare-bound Blue Line train pulling into California/Milwaukee in June 1999. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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A four-car Forest Park-bound Blue Line train led by unrehabbed 2600-series car 3170 loads passengers at California/Milwaukee, looking northwest on the 1890s-vintage southbound platform in June 1999. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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Rehabbed 2600-series car 3018 bring up the rear on an O'Hare-bound Blue Line train stopping at California/Milwaukee on September 3, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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Car 3073, in its original Spirit of Chicago paint scheme, trails a northbound Blue Line train stopping at California station, while a southbound train led by a car with the CTA's new standard gray/plain metal scheme pulls in on the opposite track on September 3, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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Car 3177 leads a short 4-car Blue Line train of unrehabbed 2600s heading to O'Hare, first stopping here at California/Milwaukee on September 3, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)


1. "Your New Blue." CTA website, accessed January 11, 2014.
2. "CTA Selects Your New Blue Contractor for Damen, Western and California station renovations" CTA press release. February 5, 2014.
3. Hilkevitch, Jon. "Blue Line work means Damen, California stations to close for weeks in September and October," Chicago Tribune. August 11, 2014.
4. CTA (Feb 5, 2014), ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Hilkevitch, ibid.