The station house for Harlem is above and runs parallel to the Kennedy Expressway and has two entrances: one on Harlem Avenue and one on a bus bridge, seen here looking northeast on June 8, 2004, for intermodal passengers. The rectilinear design of the station house recalls the stations of the Kennedy Extension farther southeast, also designed by the firm of Skidmore Owings & Merrill. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Harlem (5600N/7200W)
Harlem Avenue and the Kennedy Expressway, Norwood Park

Service Notes:

Blue Line: O'Hare

Accessible Station

Park'n'Ride: 53 spaces

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address: 5550 N. Harlem Avenue
Established: February 27, 1983
Original Line: West-Northwest Route, O'Hare branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station

Rebuilt: n/a
Status: In Use

History:

Harlem station was built in 1982-83 as part of the CTA's O'Hare Extension of the West-Northwest Route. This glass and steel station was designed by Myron Goldsmith and the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. As a reaction to the Kennedy and Dan Ryan extensions of 1969-70, whose stations were all designed by Skidmore in an identical style, each of the four stations on the O'Hare Extension were given to different architectural firms to produce a variety of styles. Skidmore, perhaps predictably, designed this station to harmonize with the stations it had built immediately to the southeast on the same line 13 years earlier.

This station contains a station house and platform, a steel bus bridge spanning the expressway, parking and commuter drop-off areas. The station house is over the tracks and platform, stretching between the bus bridge and Harlem Avenue viaduct over the expressway, with entrances from each. There are bus berthing slips on the bus bridge over the expressway in front of the station entrance, as well as a five-lane bus bay on the south side of the expressway with a wide canopy covering the lanes. The same canopy extends north over a sidewalk to the bus bridge and station entrance, allowing passengers to transfer without stepping out from the canopy coverage. The station house is open and airy, with a steel frame and wide, tall glass curtain walls, and contains stainless steel fare controls.

The platform has a terrazzo floor and a canopy spanning both tracks with a steel roof and a glass convex arched glass skylight supported by heavy steel beams, which allows natural light to flood the platform during the day. All the symbol signs are missing from the outer columns and many of the station name signs are crooked due to deteriorating metal brackets.

Harlem station, 1984 seen through the glass wall of the station, across the outbound lanes of the Kennedy Expressway. There are also images on the other side, facing the station interior. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Amy Malick)

As with the other two O'Hare Extension stations that opened in 1983, the station included specially-designed artwork for the facility, an early example of an art component being included in a transit infrastructure project. Harlem contains a mural located inside the station house, across from the station fare controls. The painted, freestanding aluminum mural by internationally renowned artist Alex Katz depicts figures in a crowd and can be viewed from both sides. The painting celebrates Chicago's immense diversity and its reputation as a city of hardworking people. The expansive Harlem station is one of the largest and most complex pieces Katz has created.

During Autumn 2004 and Spring 2005, several "L" stations got new station name signs. As part of a multi-station program, twelve facilities in all on the Blue, Purple, Red, Orange, and Green lines received new, Green Line Graphic Standard station name signs, replacing older KDR-type signs that used an outdated graphic scheme that was inconsistent with the colored line names. The new signs not only replaced old ones in existing locations at these island platform stations, but were added at additional locations outside the tracks, facing to the platform, for ADA compliance. The new additional station name signs at Harlem are hung off the overhead beams outside the tracks, over the jersey barriers between the "L" right-of-way and the expressway shoulder. Over the platforms, new overhead brackets were installed to hold new signs there. Installation at all stations was complete by the end of November 2004. Fabrication and installation of the signs was performed by contractor Western Remac.

In September 2004, Dunkin' Donuts, the coffee and baked goods chain, broke ground on seven new concessions in CTA stations around the "L" system. One such new concession was located at Harlem station. "This is the first major concerted effort to open a significant number of Dunkin' Donuts stores in CTA stations," said Mike Lavigne, director of development for Dunkin' Donuts. All new Dunkin' Donuts CTA station stores were scheduled to be full-service. The new concession opened in 2005.

During the first week of August 2005, the CTA began construction of a new park'n'ride facility at Harlem. An additional 53 parking spaces were constructed, including three spaces designated for customers with disabilities, new signs, a parking pay station area, canopies to protect customers from the elements and improved landscaping. Construction began August 1, 2005 and lasted approximately two months, opening Tuesday morning, November 1, 2005. Chicago-based Old Veteran Construction, Inc. performed the construction work valued at $75,000. The Federal Transit Administration provided funding for the project. When the lot opened in 2005, Standard Parking Corporation managed the new parking facility under a five-year competitively bid agreement and parking at the new facility was $2.00 per day.

 

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.

Harlem is one of the stations planned to receive modest improvements under the program. The scope of these improvements includes repairs to damaged concrete on the station platform, replacement of existing deteriorated curtain walls in the station house and platform, replacement of existing deteriorated canopy skylights along the platform, and modest renewal of the station house and platform areas.1

The scope, design, and timeline for the station improvements under Your New Blue are still being finalized.

 

The Harlem island platform, looking west on June 8, 2004, has convex arched skylights providing natural light on the platform. The supports placed outside the tracks provide a column-free platform. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


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The entrance to the bus bay, park'n'ride, and kiss'n'ride drop-off area for Harlem station are off Higgins Avenue, seen here looking northeast in 1985, only two years after opening. The triangular identification pylon in front of the entrance is typical of the stations on the O'Hare Extension. (Photo by Hedrich-Blessing)

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Newly-delivered 2600-series car 2710, replete with its mint Spirit of Chicago paint scheme and matching destination sign, is at Harlem station on February 26, 1983, one day before the start of service on the River Road extension of the West-Northwest Route. (Photo by Jeff Obarek)

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There are bus berthing slips on the bus bridge over the expressway in front of the station entrance, as well as a five-lane bus bay on the south side of the expressway with a wide canopy covering the lanes, as seen looking south from the station house on June 8, 2004. The canopy extends from in front of the station over bus bridge sidewalk to the bus bay, allowing passengers to transfer without stepping out from the canopy coverage. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

 

Notes:

1. "Your New Blue." CTA website, accessed January 11, 2014.