The Cottage Grove station is seen looking south on July 17, 2006 at the fare control facility over the street. The station's boxy shape, angled sections, use of steel and glass, and vivid, contrasting colors give it an almost postmodern look. The choice of blue was probably make because at the time of its construction, Olympic Blue was the CTA's official color for signage and other public information elements. Note the Nova bus operating on the #4 Cottage Grove route dropping off passengers. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Cottage Grove (800E/6300S)
Cottage Grove Avenue and 63rd Street, Woodlawn

Service Notes:

Green Line: East 63rd branch

Accessible Station

Quick Facts:

Address: 800 E. 63rd Street
Established: April 23, 1893
Original Line: South Side Rapid Transit
Previous Names: Cottage Grove-East 63rd
(1996-c.2008, on system maps)

Skip-Stop Type:

Station

Rebuilt: 1989-91
Status: In Use

History:

This station was built in 1892-93 when the South Side Rapid Transit Company extended its line from 39th Street to Jackson Park to serve the World's Columbian Exposition. Cottage Grove was originally one of five stations on the Jackson Park branch; the others were Stony Island (aka Jackson Park), Dorchester, University and King Drive.

The original Cottage Grove station in the 1930s. The sign on the front of the station house reads: "Fast, Safe, Ride the 'L'." For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the Krambles-Peterson Archive)

The station had two platform-level station houses, one in each direction of travel. There was no connection between the two sides by mezzanine or platform, so each station house handled passengers only for one direction of travel. Cottage Grove's station houses were executed in sheet metal, with generally classical ornamentation, a bay window on the front elevations over the street, and hipped roofs. Since a number of stations on the South Side Rapid Transit constructed at the same time, such as Garfield Blvd, were designed by architect Myron H. Church, it seems possible that this structure was also of his design. The station houses had more elaborate treatment of the windows and bay in older architectural drawings, so its simple, restrained look later might indicate that it was later remodeled and simplified. The station house interiors were clad in pressed metal and wood trim, with wooden agent's booths and coal stoves for heat. Most of the Jackson Park branch stations over 63rd Street had "turtleback" arched platform canopies, but Cottage Grove seems to have differed (and its station houses differed) in having peaked roof canopies over its side platforms.

The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, held in neighboring Jackson Park, brought 20,000 new residents and entrepreneurs to Woodlawn, the neighborhood in which Cottage Grove station is centrally located, resulting in the construction of large apartments and tourist hotels. After the fair closed, Woodlawn remained a popular destination thanks to the Washington Park's amusement parks, racetrack, and beer gardens and the specialty shops along 63rd Street. By the 1920s, Woodlawn had become one of Chicago's premier retail and entertainment centers, due in large part to popular theaters like the Tivoli, dance halls and cabarets such as the Trianon Ballroom, close proximity to dense concentrations of affordable housing, and the community's convenient transportation connections. Cottage Grove station was at the center of this popular business and recreational district.

During the Depression, the community became distressed and the mass migrations from the southern United States during World War II for jobs in the defense industry reinforced a demographic transformation already underway in Woodlawn. After the war, 63rd Street's businesses began to close and in 1946 the Chicago Plan Commission designated Woodlawn eligible as a conservation area. By 1960 Woodlawn had deteriorating, crowded housing and few commercial attractions to support its population, which was by that time 89 percent African-American.

In 1970, Cottage Grove became one of a few stations that were designated as allowing inbound boarding only. (A similar arrangement was put in place at the same time at King Drive and University on the Jackson Park branch, and Isabella on the Evanston Line.) The agents booth and fare controls on the outbound side were abandoned and removed, respectively, and high-barrier rotogates were installed so that people could exit here, but not enter from the unpaid area. Relatively few people were boarding the "L" to travel eastbound from here and the few who needed to head that way could take the #63 63rd bus, so the elimination of agents here allowed for an economy for the CTA.

On March 4, 1982, service on the Jackson Park branch was suspended south of 61st Street due to structural defects found in the Dorchester bridge over the Illinois Central Railroad. The Chicago Department of Transportation come up with a number of responses, which included cutting service to Dorchester on the west side of the IC tracks, abandoning the Jackson Park branch altogether and replacing the IC bridge and restoring service to the Stony Island terminal, the latter of which then-Mayor Jane Byrne supported. On December 12, 1982, service was restored as far as University station and the defective bridge was later demolished. As part of the reopening of the branch, Mayor Byrne announced a four-point program that included working closely with the Woodlawn community and The Woodlawn Organization (TWO) to promote economic development along East 63rd Street. The plan pledged $56 million for modernizing the branch and the three reopened stations and to build a new Jackson Park branch terminal at Dorchester, providing direct access to the Illinois Central commuter line and a new CTA bus terminal.

 

Station Reconstruction

The fare control area of the Cottage Grove station is seen looking southeast on July 18, 2006 from the northwest stairs from the street. The stainless steel agent's booth and fare controls, with its rounded corners and red stripes, is similar to in style to other stations designed in the 1980s. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

In 1989, station rehabilitation was initiated, resulting in its demolition and replacement with a new facility. Extra-wide stairs led from both sides of Cottage Grove, north of 63rd Street, to the platform-level fare control area, enclosed by a steel framed, modern station house with glass curtain walls. An elevator provides access for the mobility-limited. The agent's booths and fare controls were stainless steel, with rounded corners and openings, similar in style to those designed in the 1980s for several "L" stations such as O'Hare and others on the O'Hare Extension, as well as the Clark/Lake entrance in the 203 N. LaSalle building. A full-width canopy stretches across both side platforms, with an opening down the middle over the former location of a center track.

Cottage Grove continued to be an inbound-only boarding station and the new facility was built with this in mind. Fare controls are only provided on the inbound side. On the outbound platform, only high-barrier rotogates are provided to allow exiting; there is no way to access this platform from the unpaid area or street. Another elevator and two stairs provided egress to the street from the outbound platform.

On January 21, 1991, the station was reopened after a $4.9 million reconstruction. The project was managed by the Chicago Department of Public Works and then-CTA Chairman Clark Burrus said the "upgrading of the Cottage Grove station was done to meet the expected growing needs of the community. A new terminal is planned for the Jackson Park branch at Dorchester, 800 feet east of the present University station, now the terminal." The loss of this station and the ones at King Drive and University leave none of the Jackson Park branch's original 1893 stations in place.

 

Conversion to the Terminal

The new Cottage Grove station was open just three years before the Green Line -- the realignment of the Jackson Park and Englewood branches with the Lake branch, effective in 1993 -- closed for rehabilitation in 1994. The station reopened in 1996 when the Jackson Park branch was reactivated after a general renovation of the Green Line, although little was done to Cottage Grove since it had so recently been rebuilt. However, a different type of change was in store: the old University station had been torn down during the rehab project and the new Dorchester terminal was not yet finished. More importantly, there was now some doubt as to whether the extension to Dorchester would be completed at all, as some elements in Woodlawn were lobbying to remove the "L" structure from over 63rd Street. So when the Green Line reopened in 1996, it was only as far as this station, making Cottage Grove the temporary terminal. Owing to the uncertainty of where the branch would go, the terminal was termed "East 63rd" (which would remain accurate where ever the terminal station actually was), although all station signage was left reading "Cottage Grove". Circa 2009, signage on the system, such as rail system maps and directional signs, began to remove the "East 63rd" name from references to the station, although the branch itself is still referred to as the "East 63rd branch".

In late 1997, the decision was reached: the new elevated structure and partially-built Dorchester terminal were dismantled, making Cottage Grove the new permanent terminus of the East 63rd branch. The structure was cut back to the station, meaning no tail track was available east of the station for turning trains (this has to be done at a diamond crossover west of the platforms). A platform was built at the end of the elevated structure, across the former location of the tracks to connect the north and south platforms at their east ends. Although the north (former inbound) platform is primarily used for boarding and alighting trains, since this is where the fare controls are, this allows the former outbound platform on the south to also be used for boarding or alighting as needed. With no terminal offices, trainroom, or reporting location left at 61st Street (where they had been before the 1993 route realignment), a small trainroom was also added at the east end of the structure, on the walkway connecting the platforms, so that trainmen would have someplace to go between their trips.

Although the platforms were both rebuilt in 1991 to accommodate 8-car trains per CTA standards (long enough to berth the train, plus extra room at each end for a safety margin), when the East 63rd branch was cut back to Cottage Grove in 1996 it was cut back too far into the platform area to allow an 8-car train to berth. Rather than the bumping post being placed beyond the east end of the platforms, it was placed just west of the ends of the platforms, within the platform area (which allowed a walkway to the built across the end of the tracks connecting the two platforms at their east ends to permit free passage between the two). When further accounting for the distance back from the bumping post that the fixed track trip (to engage the brakes of any train that did not stop before reaching the end of the track and bumping post) and wayside signals had to be placed to ensure braking distance in an emergency, there was no longer sufficient room on the remainder of the platform to allow an 8-car train to fully berth with all doors on the platform, let alone the additional stretch of platform that was typically provided for a safety margin in berthing. As a result, service on the East 63rd branch was restricted to 6-car trains ever since the Green Line reopened post-rehab in 1996. Although this did not technically prevent trains scheduled to travel between Harlem and Ashland/63rd from being 8-cars long, it made such an arrangement problematic because, should a delay or other operational situation require scheduled trips to be switched between the terminals, it might result in an 8-car train being sent to a terminal that could not accommodate it (or, to prevent this, severely limit the options of supervisory or management personnel in trying to restore service or deal with such disruptions).

In August 2015, work began to extend the north pocket platform (former northbound platform) approximately 36 feet in order to allow 8-car trains to fully berth in the station on Track 2 (north pocket track). The work, which began on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 and lasted about two weeks, actually bridged the west end of the north platform with another existing platform to the west, on which a relay house and tower for the interlocking sat. However, the section of platform with the relay house is not part of the extended passenger platform; the new end railing is at the west end of the platform extension, and passengers are prohibited from the area with the signal house.

Because the north platform was extended before the south platform was, 8-car trains are restricted to only berthing on the north platform, restricting the flexibility of operations at the Cottage Grove terminal.

 

The Cottage Grove station is seen looking west from the east end of the former inbound (north) platform on July 17, 2006. Originally designed as a through-station, a walkway now connects the two platforms just to the left out of frame. The four-car train of 2400s is there to serve as an extra set of equipment for the terminal, in case of a train arriving back late or to replace defective equipment. The yellow stands on the catwalk assist switchmen in cutting cars of train consists. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


cottagegrove-tivoli.jpg (124k)
Looking north on Cottage Grove in 1924. Located in the western part of Woodlawn, this was one of the major business centers of the South Side. The Tivoli, with over 4000 seats, was one of the largest early movie palaces. (Photo from the Krambles-Peterson Archive)

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The Cottage Grove elevated station, a classical sheet metal and wood structure, seen in 1985. By this time, the station had undergone several changes, including removal of some ornamental details and the covering of some of the exterior windows. (Photo by Olga Stefanos)

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The Cottage Grove inbound station house, looking south in 1999. Very similar to the new King Drive station, these two are the only "L" stations to use this particular modern design. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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The platforms at Cottage Grove, looking east in Summer 2000. The full-width canopy is open down the center, where there are no trains or platforms to cover. Designed as a through station with dual platforms (though outbound boarding was never intended here), it has now become the terminal of the branch. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The fare control area at Cottage Grove station, looking northwest on December 14, 2002 from the paid area. Even though the station has two side platforms with no common mezzanine, it only has fare controls on the north platform. It was originally designed as a mid-line station with inbound-only boarding permitted, so no fare controls were needed on the south platforms. Today, with the station functioning as a terminal, the one fare array serves both platform. The elf, a CTA employee, is there for the annual Holiday Train, which was on layover at the station. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The CTA's Holiday Train visits the Green Line on December 16, 2000, looking east on the outbound platform at Cottage Grove. The Holiday Train consists of a CTA flat car decorated with a Santa sleigh, elf workshop, and copious amounts of lights, between sets of decorated rehabbed 2600-series cars. (Photo by Graham Garfield)