A flagman protects workers on the platform from passing trains as crews dismantle the Damen station on the Lake Street Elevated in 1949. For a larger view, click here. (CTA photo, from CTA Transit News)
Damen Avenue and Lake Street, Near West Side
Lake Street Division
Established: November 6, 1893
Original Line: Lake Street Elevated Railroad
Previous Names: Robey Street
Skip-Stop Type: n/a
Robey Street station was typical of those built in 1892-93 for the Lake Street Elevated Railroad -- similar to stations at Ashland, Homan and Sacramento, among many others -- designed by its engineering staff and built by the Lloyd and Pennington Company.
The station had twin station houses and side platforms for boarding inbound and outbound trains. The station houses were designed in a Queen Anne style with a Victorian Gothic influence. The station houses had gabled roofs with two windowless gabled dormers each. Each roof was topped with a unique square cupola with a diamond pattern and a steeply hipped roof with a small gabled dormer in each of the four sides. These structures represent a unique attempt to apply the Queen Anne architectural style.
The station had side platforms, covered by tin-covered peaked-roof canopies supported by a row of steel center posts. The posts had decorative elements cast into them, most notably in the top angle bracket that supported the canopy braces. The Lake Street Elevated stations also originally had elaborate railings on the platforms with decorative scroll metalwork.
Robey station was renamed Damen by the early 1930s, when the street it served was renamed.
The station was closed in 1948 when the CTA revamped service on the Lake Street Line -- the first of a series of line-by-line service overhauls -- by closing 10 little-used stations and implementing A/B skip-stop service to speed up trains on the route. The station, along with Morgan, Racine, Oakley, Campbell, Sacramento, and Kostner, was demolished in early 1949. Prior to the start of wrecking work, all usable equipment, such as newer lumber, doors, and newer railings were removed for reuse elsewhere. Platform girders from the dismantled stations were reused to lengthen platforms at other "L" stations.
A New Damen Station Returns
A 2002 study by the Chicago Department of Transportation examined daily boarding at potential new "in-fill" stations -- stations that close the gap between existing stations, particularly where those gaps are longer than typical intervals between stops -- on the Lake Street and South Side main line Green Line branches, including Morgan on the Lake Street branch. Based on that study, the City built stations on the Green Line at Morgan in 2012 and Cermak-McCormick Place in 2015. Damen was one of the other sites on the Lake branch studied at the time, being projected to have the second highest number of boardings of the locations analyzed.
Mayor Emanuel announces plans for a new Damen station at the Ashland station on February 9, 2017. Behind Emanuel and to the left are CTA chairman Peterson and president Carter; to the immediate right is CDOT commissioner Scheinfeld. For a larger view, click here. (Photo courtesy of the CTA)
On February 9, 2017, Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Alderman Walter Burnett, CTA President Dorval R. Carter and city officials to announce plans for a new station on the Green Line at Damen. The new station will fill a 1.5-mile gap between existing Green Line stations at California and Ashland to better serve the growing business corridor and residential neighborhood on Chicago's Near West side.
The CTA will work in coordination with the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and community stakeholders to carry out the project. Design and engineering work for the station is expected to begin in the summer of 2017, and construction work is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2018. The project is expected to take two years to complete.
Funding for the project will be provided by the Kinzie Industrial Corridor Tax Increment Financing district. Ald. Burnett said he is also lobbying state and federal agencies to help offset the cost of the project.1
The Damen station will serve a Near West Side community that has seen notable residential and commercial growth in recent years. The new station will improve public transit options for businesses in the Kinzie Corridor and nearby residents, including tenants of the Chicago Housing Authority's Villages of Westhaven complex.
The station will also serve visitors to the United Center. Although it is not the new station's sole or primary purpose, officials had been eyeing better service to the United Center for some time. A new station closer to the United Center on the Pink Line at Madison had been suggested in the past by transit advocates, but officials said the area just north of the United Center had sparked residential and commercial growth in recent years, making Damen a better site so the station could serve multiple markets and functions. The TIF funding that is being used to finance the station's construction is also available at the Damen site, but a Madison station would be outside of the Kinzie Industrial Corridor TIF boundaries and other funding for a Madison station is not readily available.
1. Lulay, Stephanie. "New $50 Million Green Line Station Planned Near United Center". DNAinfo Chicago, February 9, 2017.