The Conservatory -- Central Park Drive inbound station house, looking north on opening day, Saturday, June 30, 2001. Note the balloons on the stairs celebrating the station inauguration. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Conservatory -
Central Park Dr
Lake Street and Central Park Drive, East Garfield Park

Service Notes:

Green Line: Lake

Accessible Station

Quick Facts:

Address: 3630 W. Lake Street
Established: June 30, 2001
Original Line: n/a
Skip-Stop Type: n/a
Rebuilt: n/a
Status: In Use


A view of the construction of the Conservatory station, looking north on Central Park Avenue on August 9, 2000. Footings for additional station structure can been seen in the left side foreground. Click here for a larger view. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The Conservatory-Central Park Drive station has a very unusual history. It was a brand new station built by the CTA in 2000-01... from the architectural components of another, historic station. The $7 million facility was built in short order adjacent to the Garfield Park Conservatory to, in part, serve the desire of the City of Chicago to revitalize the East Garfield Park neighborhood and draw tourists to the park and renovated conservatory. One of the few new stations built on an existing line in recent years, the construction of Conservatory allows us an interesting step-by-step insight into the development of a new rapid transit facility.


In 1997, the CTA unveiled a plan to deconstruct the historic Homan station -- one of the original stops on the Lake Street Elevated Railroad that was opened for service in 1893, when trains were pulled by steam locomotives -- and reassemble its outer shell two blocks west at Central Park Drive, which would give the line's stations equal spacing, but which lacks a bus route (but which Homan has, the #82 Kimball-Homan). (Ed.: Read all about it in articles in either the Chicago Tribune or the Chicago Sun-Times.)

The structure for the platform and canopy on the westbound side are nearly complete in this view looking southeast from the corner of Lake Street and Central Park Avenue on January 5, 2001. Click here for a larger view. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

On September 15, 1999, the CTA announced a timeline to relocate the historic Homan station house to Conservatory Drive to serve visitors to the Garfield Park Conservatory. The structure was to be restored and rebuilt with all the modern amenities and in the same architectural style as the Ashland Green Line station. These amenities include elevators, tactile edging, an ADA graphics package and audiovisual signs that alert customers when trains are approaching.

The construction of the new Conservatory-Central Park station (or rather "reconstruction") advanced relatively quickly. Twenty-one concrete piers were in place as of June 2000, as were all four stair foundations. Steel fabrication began then and the first delivery of structural steel began in July.

The project was delayed 114 days, however, and the projected opening date for the station has been moved from February 6 to May 31, 2001. It seems that while digging for the elevator shafts, CTA crews encountered high-voltage cable belonging to the Chicago Park District. The CTA did a redesign and moved some pylons away so that work could continue, but moving the elevators proved to be cost-prohibitive. Therefore, crews had to wait until the cables could be relocated before that part of the construction could continue.

The decking for the former Homan station is in place, as are the platform and transfer bridge structures and elevator towers, looking north on January 5, 2001. Click here for a larger view. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

As of January 2001, the basic structure for the station was in place. The steel structural skeleton of the platforms and canopies were constructed. The platform began at the intersection of Lake and Central Park and extended eastward for just over a block. Auxiliary entrance/exit stairs were built at the east end of the platforms and were complete by this date. The elevator towers were nearing completion at this point and work on the overhead transfer bridge connecting them was underway. The supports and decking over the Central Park Drive that would hold the old Homan station structure was also in place, indicating that reassembly of the old 1893 metal Queen Anne station could begin shortly.

By March, the steel structure and wooden decking of the new platforms was completed, as were the steel canopies that approximate the design of the old Lake Street "L"'s peaked canopies. Reassembly of the historic Homan station house structure began and the basic form of the historic inbound and outbound station houses were completed by the end of the month, at which time the roof purlins and sheathing on the station houses began to be added. Refurbished canopy columns from the old Homan station and the station roof dormers were then installed. During April, light channels and hand railings were installed on the platforms and the construction of the inbound and outbound station houses, stairs, canopy steel, electrical work, and elevators continued. Also completed were the elevator towers, pedestrian crossover bridge, and the open web platform sections of the old Homan station house. The auxiliary stairs at the east end of the station were also complete.

Looking south on Conservatory Drive, the Queen Anne form of the old Homan station house is clearly taking shape at the outbound Conservatory station house in April 2000. (Photo from the CTA)

In May, fabrication of the stairs to the historic station houses began, with the Queen Anne Homan station houses truly taking form. Work continued on the installation of light channels, hand railings on the platforms, construction of the inbound and outbound station houses, stairs, canopy steel, electrical work, and elevators. By June, only the finishing work was left. The interiors of the station houses were completed and the Customer Assistant (CA) booths were outfitted. The interior lights and platform lights (a modernized, styled shepherd's crook dark green fixture, identical to those installed at Pulaski/Lake a couple months earlier) were installed. A small debate raged as to what to actually call the station. Some favored "Conservatory", believing names based on landmarks and communities are more helpful. Others preferred "Central Park Drive", in keeping with much of the system's reliance on Chicago's grid system. A compromise of combining the two was reached (station names like Library-State/Van Buren and 35-Bronzeville-IIT set a precedent for this). Signs reading "Garfield Park" were added at the insistence of the local alderman, making for a somewhat verbose nomenclature for the station. Ironically, we once again see history repeating itself: the station's original name (when it was still located .25 miles east at Homan) before the CTA took over was "Garfield Park"!


Opening Ceremony

Above: CTA President Kruesi speaks at the opening, with Chairman Jarrett and Mayor Daley behind, on June 30, 2001. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Below: Mayor Daley enjoys the new station with Chairman Jarrett on June 30, 2001. The CTA's Historic Train is behind. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The opening date for the new Conservatory-Central Park Green Line station was set for Saturday, June 30, 2001. The station was brought into public service at 0600 hours that morning. There was an opening ceremony and press conference at the station at 10am with CTA Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett and President Frank Kruesi, Mayor Richard M. Daley, the local alderman, and others. Traditional speeches were made in celebration of the opening.

"The opening of this historic station is further proof of the CTA's commitment to providing riders with on-time, clean, safe, and friendly service for all riders," said Mayor Daley. "Residents and visitors alike can see the continuing economic revitalization of the City's south and east sides."

"By carefully preserving elements of the station at Homan for reuse here, we've combined an important part of the past with the technological advances of the 21st Century "L" service," said CTA Chairman Valerie Jarrett. "This inviting facility will provide rail access to the community, academic activities at Lucy Flower Career Academy, cultural events at the Garfield Park Field House and flower shows at the Conservatory."

CTA President Kruesi added, "With the opening of this new station, we can look forward to another ridership boost for the Green Line, which has bounced back since it was closed for a two-year rehabilitation in 1994."

As a special treat, the CTA's Historic Cars, 4000-series unit 4271-4272, which the CTA only brings out on special occasions, were on hand for the opening ceremony. A ride was given to the dignitaries and members of the public, departing the outbound platform at the conclusion of the ceremony and returning to the inbound platform. After the train ride, Mayor Daley was given a tour of the station facility by CTA Executive Vice President Jack Hartman and other CTA officials, during which the mayor expressed his satisfaction with the job the CTA had done on both the historic facility and the opening ceremonies. These events were followed by a reception for invited guests and the public at the adjacent Garfield Park Conservatory.


A New Historic Station...

The Conservatory-Central Park Drive station is certainly an unusual one, with the integration of the 1893 Queen Anne metal station houses from the former Homan station. The station provides easy access to the East Garfield Park community, directly to the north, and to the Park District's Gold Dome Field House to the south and Garfield Park Conservatory to the north.

The station has twin station houses and side platforms for boarding eastbound and westbound trains. Elevators to both platforms provide full accessibility to customers with disabilities, and full-length canopies offer protection from inclement weather. The station houses and portions of the canopies on both platforms are historically preserved components from the former station at Homan (3400 West) that have been restored and improved for reuse at the new facility.

The inbound (south) station house, looking southeast from the west end of the outbound platform. The station's Queen Anne styling is evident. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The station houses are designed in a Queen Anne style with a Victorian Gothic influence. Each is symmetrical (which is unusual for the Queen Anne style), with corrugated metal siding and decorative detail in the metal and wood trim around the windows and in panels below. The front of each station house has a rectangular bay window, with a decorative diamond pattern in panels under the windows. The windows themselves are 9/1 double-hung windows, with the upper section divided by mullions into nine panes of uneven size. A belt rail divided the exterior horizontally beneath the windows, with the metal exterior painted dark green below and light green above. The moldings other wood border pieces are painted white and diamonds in the window panels are rust red. The station houses have gabled roofs with two windowless gabled dormers each. Each roof is topped with a square cupola with a diamond pattern and a steeply hipped roof with a small gabled dormer in each of the four sides. The top of the cupola and the front point of the cupola dormers, roof dormers, and platform canopies are finished with decorative curlicue finials. The two side station houses are actually different sizes despite their identical architectural design: the north (outbound) station house is larger than the south (inbound) one, with three windows and panels in the bay to the south's two, plus slightly longer facade walls.

The interior of the inbound station house on June 30, 2001. The wood paneling and floors are reproductions, but much of the white metal hardware is original. The CA booth is on the left, in front of CTA VP of Rail Operations William Mooney. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The Lake Street Elevated stations also originally had elaborate railings on the platforms, replaced several times, and no longer left at the relocated Conservatory station. The new Conservatory does, however, feature very decorative new railings in green and white featuring a cloverleaf pattern. The platforms now have full-length canopies that are sympathetic, though not identical (something to be avoided when adding to historic structures so as not to try and "fool" the public), to the shorter originals. The sections near the station houses that use the 1893 materials include decorative brackets with a leafy pattern molded into the metal. The newer brackets are of a simpler, streamlined design that nevertheless are compatible. These design elements are others represent improvements over the CTA's efforts at the similarly designed and restored Ashland station farther east on the Green Line, perhaps simply representing the advantage of experience from the previous effort.

The station has two elevators for ADA access (one to each platform) and an overhead transfer bridge (for CAs only, similar to the one at Pulaski one stop west). There are two stairs to the station houses -- as opposed to the four in the original design at Homan -- with one for each side and both on the west side of Conservatory Drive/Central Park Drive. There are auxiliary stairs at the east end of the side platforms, one block east at Central Park Avenue (not to be confused with Central Park Drive, where the main entrance is), with entrance (with Transitcard only) and exit through high-barrier gates. Other improvements include a customer assistant kiosk in the inbound station (the outbound station house lacks one and only half of it is used for the public), and communication, public address, and HVAC systems. The platforms have tactile edging on both platforms, an ADA graphics package, and audiovisual signs to alert customers when trains are approaching. Inside the fare collection area of each station house are two Transit Card Vending Machines, two standard turnstiles, including one that accepts coins, and a wheelchair gate turnstile for customers with disabilities.

This tile mosaic running up the side of the stairs from the northwest corner of Central Park and Lake to the outbound station house are an example of the artwork contributed as part of the Adopt-A-Station program. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

The new station is precisely half way between the Kedzie and Pulaski stations. Construction of the Conservatory-Central Park Drive station was part of a competitively bid contract awarded to Walsh Construction Company of Chicago, and cost $7.1 million.

In September 2002, the Chicago Transit Authority has received the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) Innovation Award for the design and restoration work carried out at the Conservatory-Central Park Drive station. The award was presented at APTA's Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.

On October 22, 2002, the Chicago Transit Authority welcomed the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance as the newest participant in the Adopt-A-Station Program. CTA® President Frank Kruesi, Chicago Park District General Superintendent David Doig and representatives from the Chicago Park District, Conservatory, and community leaders were on hand for the celebration announcing the Alliance's adoption of Conservatory station.

The Conservatory Alliance contributed artwork to the station that depicts various recreational activities offered by Garfield Park and its Gold Dome field house, as well as images based on the plant collections in the Conservatory and Dale Chihulys Garden of Glass exhibit. The bases of the station elevators and some of the stations support columns are decorated with mosaics created by a group of teens from Chicago's West Side who worked under the direction of Carolyn Elaine from Chicago Public Art Group. BP America Inc., The National Endowment for the Arts, Gallery 37 and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs supported the project.

On Friday, November 3, 2006, representatives from the Garfield Park Conservatory installd two 8.5" x 11" plaques in the unpaid area of the station as part of their adoption of the station.


conservatory02.jpg (87k)
The elevator towers are nearly complete and the transfer bridge is underway in this view looking southeast on January 5, 2001. The elevators are at the extreme western end of the station. The platforms extend east from here and the intersection. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

conservatoryAuxExitS.jpg (79k)
Looking west at the auxiliary exit stairs to the eastbound platform on January 5, 2001. The structure for the platform canopy is also already in place. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

conservatory06.jpg (87k)
The CTA's Historic Train, cars 4271-4272, stops at Conservatory for the station's opening ceremony on June 30, 2001, looking southeast from the westbound platform. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

conservatory10.jpg (101k)
A view of the platforms and station, looking west from far east end of the inbound platform on June 30, 2001. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

conservatory11.jpg (95k)
The CTA's Historic Train pulls out of the outbound Conservatory station house carrying Mayor Daley, Chairman Jarrett, President Kruesi, and members of the public as part of the opening ceremonies. The view looks northwest on June 30, 2001. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Car 2527 is at the head of a westbound Green Line train pulling into the new Conservatory station the day it opened on June 30, 2001 as two Chicago Police Department office look on on the left. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

Pulling into the historic Conservatory station, car 2442 leads a Green Line making its way west on the Lake Line to the Loop, and ultimately to the Englewood branch on the South Side, looking southwest on June 30, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

Cars 2464-63 discharge and pick up passengers at the new Conservatory station on the Green Line on opening day, June 30, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

Brought out from storage for the special occasion of the opening of Conservatory station, CTA Historic Car 4272 is seen here at that reconstructed historic station on June 30, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)