The Dempster station house, looking west on Sherman Place on December 17, 2002. Several elements such as the brickwork, quoins, and symmetry give the station house a Georgian Revival influence. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Dempster (1300N/800W)
Dempster Street and Sherman Place, City of Evanston

Service Notes:

Purple Line: Evanston

Quick Facts:

Address: 1316 Sherman Place
Established: May 16, 1908
Original Line: Northwestern Elevated Railroad, Evanston branch
Previous Names: none
Skip-Stop Type: All Stop
Rebuilt: 1909
Status: In Use


"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 Evanston City Council authorized the electrification of the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad's tracks in their city in March 1907, but also required that the grade-level tracks be elevated between Howard Avenue at the south city limits and University Place at the north end of downtown by the end of 1910. "L" service north of Wilson to Central Avenue in Evanston began on May 16, 1908.

The St. Paul had a station at Dempster Street and Sherman Place. The station, of a style typical of railroad depots, was located on the east side of the tracks north of Dempster Street. 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 Dempster was a simple ground-level station and modest platform. 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.


Track Elevation and a New Station

The ground-level wood-frame station's use was short-lived, as work on the project to elevate the tracks through south Evanston, per the Northwestern Elevated's franchise from the City of Evanston, began soon after service started. Construction of an embankment to grade-separate the tracks began in during the last week of October 1908. The Chicago & North Western Railway, which ran parallel and adjacent to the "L" through south Evanston, elevated their tracks at the same time. The elevation project was largely completed by the end of 1910.

An experimental KDR-type Dempster sign from 1977. Note the address coordinates that are different from the KDR signs later installed (1300N 800W) and the arrow (later used only at stations with more than one exit; early in the use of KDR-style signs, it was also used when a station had only one).

The station built as part of the 1908-1910 track elevation project is the facility in use today. Dempster station has a ground level station house constructed of dark brick. Several elements, such as the style of the brickwork, quoins on the corners, hipped roof, formal five bay symmetry, 6/1 double-hung multipaned windows, and multipaned transoms over the doors, suggest a Georgian Revival style influence on the structure's design. The station house had only modest amenities. The building was designed to have a main fare collection area in the middle, with corridors along the north and south ends of the building accessible through separate exterior doors which could allow passengers to bypass the interior fare controls during "pay-on-train" periods when no ticket agent was on duty. The interior walls of the station house are clad in glazed white tile and the station has an ornamental wooden ticket agent's booth, still in use today. The rear of the station house opens onto a small open area which leads to a concrete tunnel beneath the tracks, through the embankment. Stairs to the each of the side platforms are on either side of the embankment.

The original side platforms, a steel structure and canopy with wood decking, remain. The original metal railings near the center the platforms (the original sections) also remain, supplemented by simpler wooden railings on the platform extensions. Newer sodium vapor "shoe box" lights and fluorescent lights beneath the canopies illuminate the platforms. Two bus stop shelters provide further protection from the elements, substituting for windbreaks.

The Dempster station was proposed for closing in 1991 as part of a long list of possible service cuts -- including the closure of 23 "L" stations -- presented by the then-cash strapped CTA to save money. The entire service reduction package, which then-CTA Chairman Clark Burrus called, "drastic... devastating and draconian," would have saved the CTA $20 million in operating costs. Ultimately, only some of the cuts were enacted and the Dempster station was allowed to remain open in exchange for reduced agent hours.

As part of the CTA's 2004-2008 Capital Improvement Plan, funding was provided for the design of extensive renovations at Main. The station would have been accessible when reconstruction was complete. Funding was anticipated in the 2004-08 CIP for the reconstruction of Main in 2006-07, but this plan was not pursued.

During late Spring 2008, Dempster received new station signage. The older KDR-type station name signs were replaced with new Green Line Graphic Standard versions. The station name signs, station symbol signs, and "board here" signs on the platforms were all replaced with new porcelain signs incorporating the line's color mounted on new frames and mountings. The sign over the station's front entrance was also replaced with a new sign displaying the station's name and route, per the current standard.


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:

Both the Modernization and Modernization with Station Consolidation options include the addition of an auxiliary entrance to the Dempster station at Greenwood Street, one block north of Dempster Street.

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 dual side platforms at Dempster, looking north on the northbound platform on December 17, 2002. The canopy design was typical for the Evanston stations built in the 1909-10 elevation project. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Heading southbound on an Evanston Shuttle, car 1029 stops at Dempster circa the early 1950s. Car 1029 has been on the former Northwestern Elevated lines since the beginning: it was in the company's first order of cars in 1898. (Photo from the Jeff Obarek Collection)

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Car 4414 leads a four-car Evanston train at Dempster on August 18, 1970. (Photo by Joe Testagrose)

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The three-car IRM PCC charter train is trailed by car 22, looking south at the 1910s Dempster platforms on May 6, 2001. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Looking south at Dempster, a work-capable 2400-series car in service on the Purple Line Shuttle pulls up along the three-car IRM PCC charter train on May 6, 2001. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

A four-car Evanston Shuttle train, with car 2568 at the front, heads for Howard Street, stopping at Dempster on its way, on March 3, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

On an IRM fan trip, 6000-series car 6655 sits along side 2400-series car 2424 on the Purple Line Shuttle at Dempster on May 6, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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The tour group assembles in front of Dempster station as the guides discuss the design of the station and the neighborhood on the 4th Annual Historic "L" Station Tour on October 20, 2002. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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The group is assembled across the street from the Dempster station on the Purple Line during the 4th Annual Historic "L" Station Tour on October 20, 2002 to hear about the station's design. This location provides not only an excellent place from which to view the station, but also a vantage point for the surrounding buildings, which share a common scale and massing. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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Guide John Craib-Cox visually demonstrates concepts of sizes, scale, and massing to the group in front of the Dempster station during the 4th Annual Historic "L" Station Tour on October 20, 2002. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

A six-car Evanston Shuttle train, led by car 2836, pulls into Dempster station on its way to Howard, looking north on November 17, 2002. (Photo by Mike Farrell)