The mezzanine-level station of Harrison, looking east in the unpaid area on July 26, 2002. The original off-white structural glass tiles were replaced with off-the-shelf white tiles by the CTA , including over the stone cladding of the agent's booth. The black granite columns were also painted white, all to try and make the mezzanine brighter. The booth has since been replaced with a modern installation. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Andrew Stiffler)

Harrison (600S/0E-W)
Harrison Street and State Street, South Loop (Near South Side)

Service Notes:

Red Line: State Street Subway

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address:

608 S. State Street (Harrison Street main entrance)

1 W. Polk Street (Polk Street auxiliary entrance)
Established: October 17, 1943
Original Line: State Street Subway
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station (1949-1978)

Station (1978-1995)

Rebuilt: 2014
Status: In Use

History:

Like all of the station's on the State Street Subway (except North/Clybourn), Harrison has a subterranean, mezzanine-level station fare control area accessible from the street by stairways. In an informational book published in October 1943 by the Department of Subways and Superhighways entitled Chicago Subways, the State Street Subway stations are described as "outstanding examples of modern architectural treatment."

The closed Polk exit from Harrison station, looking south on July 6, 1971. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

Architecturally somewhere between Art Deco and Art Moderne, the mezzanine station had smooth concrete floors and ceilings and white glazed tile walls (sometimes referred to as "structural glass"). The fare control booths are of stone walls with a small ventilation grate near the bottom and glass windows on all four sides. Turnstiles were steel (now replaced with new TransitCard fare controls). The island platform has red no-slip concrete floors, curved concrete ceilings and I-beam steel columns. Fluorescent lights and illuminated station signs hanging from the ceilings (the latter now removed) finished the decoration.

Harrison originally had an auxiliary exit to Polk Street at the south end of the island platform for the convenience of passengers using the station to get to Dearborn Station -- one-time passenger terminal for several railroads including the Santa Fe, Erie Railroad, Monon Route, Grand Trunk Western Railroad, Chicago and Eastern Illinois, and Wabash Railroad -- one block west. The exit consisted of stairs up to a mezzanine level, where there were rotogates in a hallway (there was no ticket agent or entry access here), then two sets of stairs to the street. They were built so that one of the two exit-only rotogates could replaced with a coin-operated entrance high-barrier gate, but this was never done here or at any of the auxiliary subway exits. By the 1960s, the auxiliary exit became a safety risk due to its lack of staffing, blind corners, and the changing neighborhood above it. In early April 1968, a woman, Mrs. Anabelle Koons, who'd moved to Chicago the previous month from Iowa, was fatally stabbed as she walked up Polk auxiliary exit stair. A little over three months later, on June 27, 1968, the Polk exit to Harrison was closed; the Ohio exit from Grand/State closed the same day.

As part of a station adoption by Columbia College and Jones College Prep, students decorated the mezzanine and platform columns with colored shapes and poems cut in vinyl, such as this "L"-themed haiku in the mezzanine seen on September 20, 2008. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Today, the island platform has pretty good historic integrity and the mezzanine is intact structurally, but the finishes have been completely modified, leaving little of the original wall cladding left. Square white tiles were installed on the mezzanine wall surfaces circa 2000, replacing the original 1940s finishes. The stone agent booth were also clad with tiles. The entrances at street-level remained intact, with sign and advertising boxes encasing the original Art Deco entrance kiosk, until 2006. The closed Polk exit was hidden at platform level by a new storage room constructed at the south end of the platform at some undetermined time many years ago, while the street-level stairs were removed and paved over.

In 2006, the station name signs and column signs on the platform were replaced, with Green Line Graphic Standard signs replacing the KDR Standard graphics as part of a signage upgrade project on the Red Line. As part of this effort, the station also received granite compass roses inset into the sidewalk in front of the station entrances to assist customers leaving the station to navigate their way, and three-sided galvanized steel pylons in the mezzanine and on the platform to display maps and station timetables. Finally, the original 1943 street level entrance railings were replaced with new galvanized steel railings and Green Line Graphic Standard entrance signs.

In January 2008, nearby Columbia College and Jones College Prep adopted the Harrison station through the CTA's Adopt-A-Station program. As part of the adoption, students decorated the mezzanine and platform columns with colored shapes and poems cut in vinyl. Columbia officials decided on the "Harrison Haiku" theme at the suggestion of the college's English department. The vision was executed with the help of high school students from Jones, who were invited to submit haiku on city and urban themes over the last year. One, located in the mezzanine, is even "L"-related: "Why do people get/off at Clark & Lake? It's not/as great as it seems." Blossoms and blooms -- or at least graphic designs of them -- greet commuters as they enter and exit the station. The haiku are featured prominently between the large red flowers and bright green and white tiles. A dedication for the adoption and artwork was held at Harrison on January 30, 2008, celebrating completing the first phase of the Harrison Haiku project -- the poems in the mezzanine. Columbia and the CTA plan to expand the haiku and designs beyond the mezzanine onto the platform in Spring 2009.

 

Escalator Renewal and Polk Entrance Reopening

Continuing to upgrade and replace some of the oldest escalators in the "L" system, the CTA embarked in 2003 on a project to replace several downtown subway escalators. Decisions on which escalators receive rehab or replacement were based on the age of the escalator, the condition of the escalator and the volume of customers passing through the station. The escalators pegged for replacement included seven on the Red Line at Monroe, Jackson and Harrison stations, and two on the Blue Line at Washington and Monroe stations. On June 4, 2003, the Chicago Transit Board approved a $642,569 design contract for the escalator replacement project. The total project cost was $28.8 million, with a construction cost of $17.7 million. The Regional Transportation Authority and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provided capital funding for the design contract, while construction used FTA funds.

The Polk auxiliary entrance mezzanine, in its final unstaffed HBGs-only configuration, is seen looking east on November 16, 2009. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The work to replace the escalator at Harrison began in late 2008. At the same time, additional improvement work was undertaken at the station, including the installation of a new Customer Assistant booth in the main entrance mezzanine. The CTA also renovated and reopened the Polk auxiliary entrance to increase convenience for CTA customers in the burgeoning South Loop neighborhood and to provide additional egress capacity while the Harrison escalator is out of service for replacement. The Polk exit from the platform was reopened, as was the small mezzanine-level landing. Only one of the two stairways to the street -- to the southwest corner of Polk and State -- was reopened. The stair to the east side of State, south of Polk, was left closed. A new subway entrance kiosk was built at street-level. Funding for the renovations is provided through federal capital funds.

The Polk mezzanine was rehabilitated with new fare controls, lighting and signage. The original off-white wall tiling in the mezzanine and platform stairway and light brown/coffee-colored tiles in the stairway to the street was retained and cleaned, and the original red-stained concrete floors were painted dark red. A curtain wall with an access door was built in the east end of the mezzanine to conceal the unused stairway to the east side of State Street. The plan was for the Polk mezzanine to ultimately be an unstaffed auxiliary entrance equipped with High-Barrier Gate (HBG) turnstiles for farecard-only entry, making Polk the auxiliary entry to Harrison that was originally planned to allow for but never executed until now. However, while the escalator at the Harrison end of the station was closed for replacement, Polk was made a staffed entrance with normal turnstiles as well. The HBGs were positioned in the east half of the mezzanine, leaving a space in the west half to accommodate the standard turnstiles during the period of staffed operation -- thus, both types of turnstiles could be used simultaneously. When only the HBGs are present, the space to the west of them is filled by floor-to-ceiling metal fencing.

The Polk auxiliary entrance's decorative entrance kiosk, seen looking east on May 2, 2009, is based on a design used by CDOT at several of the subway stations they have renovated. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The new entrance kiosk uses a design the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has used at other subway stations they've renovated downtown, such as Jackson/Dearborn. The fully-enclosed kiosk that was used at Polk was previously typically only been used by CDOT to enclose escalators, while stairways have used a more open design without a canopy covering the entire kiosk. The enclosed kiosk with a full canopy affords better protection from the elements in inclement weather. (CDOT would later use enclosed kiosks to cover all four stairways at the LaSalle Blue Line subway station.) The kiosks are designed in a neo-Art Nouveau style, with a cast metal structure and compound-curve canopy with a curved eave overhanging the front opening of the kiosk. The canopy and upper portions of the side and back walls are glass, while the bottom portions of the walls are metal panels cast with a decorative floral motif. Other decorative embellishments, as well as the overall shape of the kiosks, also evoke the organic character of the Art Nouveau style, albeit with a modern execution (most starkly embodied in the kiosks' all-black coloring).

At 12 noon on February 9, 2009, the new auxiliary entrance at Polk Street opened, operated as an unstaffed entrance with entrance through two HBGs. The entrance closed again about three months later, on Monday, May 4, to allow crews install the regular turnstiles allow the Polk entrance to serve as the primary entrance for the next several months while the platform-to-mezzanine escalator at the Harrison end of the station was closed and rebuilt. A small plywood booth was also built in the Polk mezzanine against the south wall for the Customer Assistant. The Polk auxiliary entrance reopened on Monday, May 11, as the primary entrance. At that time, the Harrison Street entrance closed for five months, but remained available for emergency exiting.

The main entrance at Harrison Street reopened at 4am, Wednesday, September 9, 2009, following the replacement of the escalator. The original ticket agent's kiosk was also removed and replaced, primarily because the new escalator had a longer landing than the original one, which caused the kiosk to interfere with the passenger circulation path from the new escalator. The new stainless steel Customer assistant kiosk of the type used at the new Brown Line stations, featuring stainless steel lower panels and roof and glass panels around the sides for a high level of visibility, and was located northwest of where the original booth has been located.

The Polk Street entrance closed temporarily from 11pm, Wednesday, September 16 until 4pm, Friday, September 18, while the contractor, FH Paschen, removed the temporary wooden Customer Assistant booth and regular low turnstiles, leaving only the HBG turnstiles. On Friday afternoon, September 18, 2009, the Polk Street entrance returned to being an auxiliary farecard-only entrance and exit for the station.

 

Station Renovation

Reinforcing development and residential population increases over the last decade, the City announced $65 million worth of infrastructure projects on Near South Side in Autumn 2012. Among the projects are the renovation the Harrison Red Line subway station in 2014 at a cost of $10 million and rehabilitating the Orange Line elevated tracks between Clark and State, beginning in 2013, with a $25 million price tag, $11.5 million of it generated by a surrounding tax-increment-financing (TIF) district.1

CTA forces undertook significant cosmetic improvements at the station, such as repainting the platform walls and ceiling white and improved lighting by adding rows of fixtures along the tube walls, in 2013. The TIF-funded $10 million rehab in 2014 involved deeper structural work, including waterproofing, new flooring, stair and column repairs, repairing all three entrances.2

The $10 million Harrison Red Line station rehabilitation construction began on Monday, April 14, 2014, with the temporary closure of the station's Polk auxiliary entrance. Improvements include structural and cosmetic repairs that will upgrade the 70-year-old facility and its entrances. Work includes building two new street-level entrance canopies at the Harrison Street entrance; repairs to all three station stairways (two at the Harrison entrance, one at the Polk entrance); waterproofing to reduce pooling of water in mezzanine and platform areas; installation of new granite flooring in the mezzanines and on the platform; new wall tiling in the mezzanines; new lighting throughout the station; installation of new high-definition surveillance cameras; more new Train Tracker displays; new public address system; and updated system signage throughout the station and entrances. Upon completion of all project work, the Harrison station will be the first rail station fully-equipped with all new, brighter and more energy efficient LED lighting throughout. The rehabilitated station will also feature modern design elements reflective of the surrounding neighborhood.3 4

The renovate the mezzanines, each entrance was completely closed on a temporary basis to allow work to proceed more quickly and effectively, though not at the same time. The Polk Street entrance was the first to temporarily close, for 42 days beginning at 4am, Monday, April 14, 2014 while crews performed rehabilitation work in the mezzanine area of the auxiliary entrance and on the south end of the platform. It was scheduled to reopen at 4am, Monday, May 26,5 but was finished early and reopened at 6pm, Sunday, May 25.

Next, the Harrison entrance will close at 4am, Monday, June 16 for 42 days while crews perform rehabilitation work in the mezzanine area and on the north end of the platform. In addition, to allow crews to perform more comprehensive work throughout the station, or in central areas that cannot be cordoned off in a way that still allows passenger use of the station such as on or over the platform, the entire Harrison station will be temporarily closed over five weekends in May and June, from 11pm Friday to 4am Monday each weekend: May 2-5; May 9-12; May 16-19; May 30-June 2; and June 6-9,6 though on the last weekend work was finished early and the station reopened around 1:15am, Sunday, June 8.

The project is funded solely with tax increment financing (TIF) monies available through Mayor Emanuel's Chicago Neighborhoods Now program.

 

The island platform at Harrison looking north on September 20, 2008. With the exception of new lights and signs and a white paint job, the platform is still substantially as-built in 1943. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


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One of the two Polk auxiliary exit stairs, looking north at the stairs on the east side of State Street on July 6, 1971. The exit had been closed for three years at this point; the stairs would later be removed and paved over. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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View of the same location as above on Friday, August 2, 2002, at the former location of the Polk street auxiliary exit. The stairway has been sealed and there is little evidence of its existence. Note that the mission is still on State Street, with the same religious advertisement on the wall on the left side of the street. (Photo by Andrew Stiffler)

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One of two street-level entrances to the mezzanine station at Harrison -- this one on the southeast corner of Harrison & State -- looking south on July 26, 2002. Besides the railings being painted red and the addition of the sign and advertisement box on the Art Deco kiosk, the entrance is well intact historically, largely as-built in 1943. (Photo by Andrew Stiffler)

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A northbound Red Line train of rehabbed 2600s enters Harrison on its way to Howard, looking south on July 26, 2002. (Photo by Andrew Stiffler)

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The island platform at Harrison looking south on July 26, 2002. With the exception of some new lights and signs and a white paint job, the platform is still substantially as-built in 1943. (Photo by Andrew Stiffler)

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The Polk exit long closed, a storage room and other utility areas were built over the entrance and covering about 50 feet at the south end of the platform. This view looks south at the storage area at the south end of the platform on July 26, 2002. (Photo by Andrew Stiffler)

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The entrance to the stairs and escalator from the platform to the mezzanine is one of the most historically-intact aspects of Harrison station, as seen here looking north on September 30, 2002. The stairs, railings, and escalator housing are all original, as are the illuminated sign boxes over the doorway. Even the glass sign plates are original. The tile on the exterior of the enclosure, wrapping around behind the stairs, is also still original, including the inlaid "Harrison" station name. Perhaps the only modification is the clock/advertising panel , installed by CTA's advertising contractor. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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A KDR-type symbol sign from Harrison station, with its green background denoting its status as a "B" station. (Sign from the Andrew Stiffler Collection)

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In 2006, the two street-level entrances had their original 1943 railings replaced with new galvanized steel railings and a new backlit entrance sign. The railings were installed on the original granite base s in March 2006, followed by the backlit sign boxes in August. The west stair is seen looking southeast on September 3, 2006. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The subway entrance kiosk to the Polk auxiliary entrance is seen looking south from across the street on May 2, 2009. The kiosk is designed in a neo-Art Nouveau style, with a cast metal structure and compound-curve canopy with a curved eave overhanging the front opening of the kiosk. The canopy and upper portions of the side and back walls are glass, while the bottom portions of the walls are metal panels cast with a decorative floral motif. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The Polk auxiliary entrance mezzanine is seen in its temporary staffed/full entrance configuration, looking east in the unpaid area on May 12, 2009. With the permanent HBG turnstiles and the temporary regular low turnstiles, farecard vending machines, and plywood CA booth, the small mezzanine was a very cramped place for the four months that it served as the station's only entrance. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The south wall of the Polk mezzanine is seen looking south on April 30, 2011. Note the original inlaid tile sign, pointing passengers to Dearborn Station, a railroad terminal that was located two blocks west. No trains serve Dearborn Station anymore, but the station building still exists, now adaptively-reused as a commercial space with restaurants, retail stores, and offices. (Photo by Andrew Stiffler)

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The southeast corner of the Polk mezzanine is seen looking southeast on April 30, 2011. The wall of larger cream-colored square tiles was built to conceal the former stairway to the east side of State Street. Note the inlaid tile directional sign pointing to that exit which is half covered by the curtain wall.(Photo by Andrew Stiffler)

 

 

Notes:

1. Spielman, Fran. "Mayor highlights $65 million in projects on Near South Side". Chicago Sun-Times. 2012 October 1.
2. "Mayor Emanuel Breaks Ground for Cermak Avenue Green Line Station." CTA press release, August 29, 2013.
3. "CTA Begins Work on Harrison Station, Orange Line Track Projects on Near South Side," CTA Press Release, April 10, 2014.
4. "Harrison Station Rehabilitation," CTA web site: http://www.transitchicago.com/harrisonrehab. Accessed April 12, 2014
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.