The new Southport station house, with its brick exterior, large windows, and metal copping, cornice, and panels, is seen looking southeast on March 30, 2008. The drip pans over the sidewalk protect customers from rain or snow falling through the open elevated structure. Note the flower beds in front of the station house. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Southport (1400W/3400N)
Southport Avenue and Roscoe Street, Lakeview

Service Notes:

Brown Line: Ravenswood

Accessible Station

Quick Facts:

Address: 3411 N. Southport Avenue
Established: May 18, 1907
Original Line: Northwestern Elevated Railroad, Ravenswood branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: 2007-08
Status: In Use


Southport opened with the initial construction of the Ravenswood branch of the Northwestern Elevated, which was placed into service May 18, 1907. The station was designed in 1905-06 by the Northwestern Elevated's Engineering Office and overseen by Chief Engineer C.M. Mock and Consulting Engineer Charles Weston. The station was built by the Angus Brothers construction company.

An exterior view of the Southport station on the Ravenswood (Brown) Line, looking east on September 10, 2000. The Southport station was well intact architecturally until its renovation and was typical of the 1906-07 Ravenswood branch elevated stations. Note the plain brickwork and simple brick ornamentation around the cornice and belt rail. (Photo by Ernie Baudler)

The station house measured approximately 25 feet by 25 feet -- a modest size and scale, relating to its role as a modest neighborhood station -- and, when viewed in plan layout, was shaped like a bow-tie. Passengers entered through the front doors and could exit through the building as well, but ancillary exits were also available along the sides of the building's exterior. The building narrowed in the middle to provide space for an exit-only rotogate on each side of the exterior, which passengers could exit through without entering the building. The inclusion of such egress was a result of experience with earlier stations, at which circulation could become congested when passengers tried to enter and exit through the same confined space simultaneously. In later years, the south rotogate was removed and that side passage closed. The north rotogate and side passage remained in use until the station was demolished and rebuilt.

The building's exterior was constructed of dark red brick and had a fairly simple design. The foundation was built of stone and concrete. The exterior walls were largely unadorned, except for simple ornamentation around the cornice, belt rail, and in the hood over the front entrance, all of which were executed in the same brick as the rest of the exterior. The doors originally had multi-pane windows.

The interior of the station was similarly modest. The interior walls were clad in glazed brick and had paving brick flooring. A large, bracketed, heavy wood beam ran across the width of the interior in the center, relating a Craftsman influence to the simple design. As built, there were two open areas on either side of the doors at the front for circulation and concessions. The interior then narrowed into the fare control array (due to the aforementioned rotogates along the exterior), which originally consisted of an agent's booth in the center flanked by turnstiles on one side and a heating stove on the other. The original ticket agent's booth was removed in the mid-1990s when the electronic farecard turnstiles were installed, replaced by a new booth on the west wall.

The Ravenswood branch elevated stations had a uniform canopy design, including those seen here looking west at Southport on May 13, 2002, with a curved roof and elaborate latticework. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

After exiting through the station house's rear doors, passengers walked down an enclosed passageway to access the stairs to the platforms. The passageway featured full-height grillework consisting of bars arranged in a geometric Craftsman pattern punctuated by ornamental cast iron rosettes and an arched galvanized iron roof. Originally, there was a full-height grille down the center of the passageway, meaning passengers had to exit through a specific rear door to access their desired platform, or they would have to reenter the station house to switch to the other side. Most of the center panels were later removed to allow access to either platform from the passageway. The decorative grillework was carried up the stairways to the platforms.

Southport featured dual side platforms, constructed of a wood deck on a steel frame. The platforms featured canopies in the center, covering the stairs from street-level. The canopies, which were typical of the 1907 Ravenswood branch stations, featured a gently arched roof with curved support columns and latticed framing. The platform railings consisted of cast iron posts supporting thin metal bars and ornamental sunflower rosettes in a geometric design alternating with flat panels, topped with an oak handrail. The canopy design would be reused first on the Chicago & Oak Park Elevated (also owned by Charles Yerkes) before becoming the standard for the "L" under the Chicago Elevated Railroads and Chicago Rapid Transit. The railing design was also reused elsewhere on the system, most notably at Clinton/Lake where it was duplicated almost exactly.

Southport became an "B" station under the skip-stop express system instituted on August 1, 1949. The station reverted to an all-stop when A/B service was discontinued in 1995.

Southport station retained much of its original material until it was renovated in 2007-08. In addition to the original station house and canopies, a great deal of the original platform railings were also intact. The platform extensions had simple, modern metal railings. The platform also utilized bus shelters as windbreaks in later years.

For decades, Southport served the working-class neighborhood it surrounded, but this area saw a renaissance beginning in the 1990s, with the small neighborhood shops and diners along Southport replaced with higher-end cafes and coffee shops and specialized upscale stores. Today, the station's usage has seen a marked increase with renewed interest in this area.


Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project

By 2004, ridership had exploded on the Brown Line -- an 79% increase since 1979 and a 27% increase since 1998 -- such that during peak periods many trains were at crush-loaded, resulting in commuters left standing on platforms unable to board the loaded trains, sometimes waiting as one or two trains passed before they were physically able to board. The problem in large part was that all Brown Line stations could only accommodate six-car trains (with the exception of Merchandise Mart, Chicago, Fullerton and Belmont, which could already hold eight-car trains), which, along with the limitations of the cab signal system, limited the line's capacity.

As a result, the CTA decided to plan for the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project, the largest capital improvement project undertaken by the CTA at the time (surpassing even the Douglas Renovation Project, which was the largest up to that point). The main objectives of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project are to expand the line's overall ridership capacity by lengthening station platforms to accommodate eight rather than six-car trains, rehabilitate rail infrastructure and stations, provide for station enhancements to meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and upgrade or replace traction power, signal and communication equipment. By far, the largest part of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project was the station renovations. Of the Brown Line's 19 stations, only one (Merchandise Mart) was not touched at all due to its modern construction (1988) and ability to berth eight-car trains.

On April 13, 2004, the CTA announced that it had officially received a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). However, in May 2004, CTA received construction bids for the project that substantially exceeded the budget. As such, the Chicago Transit Board voted on June 9, 2004 to reorganize the project into several discrete pieces to help attract more competitive construction bids. Station renovation work was modified and grouped into five separate packages according to location to help reduce the overall cost of station construction. Southport station was grouped with Diversey, Wellington, and Paulina -- all of which were designed by the same consultant, Teng -- in a bid package. Station designs were also revised to reduce costs. Most changes concentrated on non-customer areas such as reducing the size of janitor closets, employee restrooms, electrical rooms and communication rooms. Other areas that were studied for cost reduction were standardizing common station elements, the use of less expensive materials, canopy designs and coverage, and temporary station closures to provide contractors better access to the sites.

The Paulina/Southport/Wellington/Diversey contract was the fifth and last of the reorganized station packages to be bid out. At the December 12, 2006 board meeting, a $66.9 million contract for the renovation of these stations was awarded to FHP Tectonics Corporation.


Station Design

The contract included construction of a new, modern station house, extension of the platforms to accommodate 8-car trains, and installation of elevators for ADA accessibility. The new expanded station facility featured an increased number of turnstiles and farecard vending machines.

Artist's rendering of the design for the renovated Southport station. A new masonry station house with glass panels will replace the 1907 entrance. Brown Line-standard railings and lights are visible at platform level above. For a larger view, click here. (Image provided courtesy of the Chicago Transit Authority)

The new station house is located on the east side of Southport Avenue, the same side as the old station house. The station house is clad in glazed brick with metal coping along the top. The front of the station house features vertical bands of aluminum-framed windows topped aluminum wall panels on both sides of the central doors into the station house. The front elevation is anchored by cast concrete planters on both sides of the aluminum-framed storefront doors.

The station house has a long floorplan, elongated by the presence of two sets of steel elevated structure columns connected in the middle of the interior. The interior has a largely open plan with tan modular glazed brick wall finishes. The farecard vending machines are located just inside the station along the north wall, while the south wall features a direct entrance to an adjacent retail store. The fare controls are located at the first set of steel elevated columns, with the turnstiles between the columns and exit rotogates on the outer sides of the columns. The space between the columns creates a corridor through the paid area, in the middle of which the Customer Assistant booth is located. Artwork adorns the north and south walls of the paid area on either side of the Customer Assistant booth.

The stairs to each platform are located at the rear of the paid area, angled at 45-degrees to the station axis. The elevators to each platform are located adjacent to each set of stairs, also angled. At the first landing the stairways turn, ascending the rest of the way to the platform parallel to the tracks and station house axis. The stairways to the platforms are closed in a galvanized steel wire mesh grille system.

The dual elevator towers, which dominate the massing of most of the renovated Brown Line stations, are set far back from the street at Southport, diminishing their impact on the facility's appearance. The towers are clad in aluminum wall panels. The portal from each elevator tower to their respective platform is protected by a canopy projecting from the tower, supported by a set of suspension cables.

The dual platforms were renovated with new decking, railings, lighting, signage, and other fixtures. The existing original canopies were retained and refurbished, stripped of decades of paint, repainted dark brown, and topped with new corrugated metal arched roofs. The new railings are a standard design for the rebuilt Brown Line elevated stations, with thick tubular top and bottom horizontal members with rectangular panels with a grid pattern cut out. The railings and light poles, as well as the other new metalwork, are hot-dipped galvanized. The light poles are integrated into the railing posts. The platforms are finished with windbreaks integrated into the railing system with the glass panels protected by metal grilles matching the railings. New benches with sandboxes integrated into them dot the platform, posts with projecting horizontal arms for A/V signs (to be installed later) are suspended over the platforms, and Transit Information panels are to be posted at the tops of the stairs.

Auxiliary exits are provided on the west side of Southport Avenue. The auxiliary exit stairs are enclosed by the same decorative white-painted metal grilles as the stairs from the station house. The stairs from each platform descend into a common landing, then a central set of stairs leads down to street-level with egress provided by a pair of stainless steel exit rotogates.

Other improvements include new signage; new electrical, communications, and HVAC equipment; customer heaters on the platforms; security cameras; and a state-of-the-art announcement system.


Station Renovation Work

The decking having been stripped and the original platform stringers refurbished, new joists have been installed on September 16, 2007. Several sections of the original canopies have been temporarily removed. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Construction at the Southport and Paulina stations is expected to last approximately 13 months, with both stations subject to temporary closure for 12 months during construction. However, no two adjacent stations will be scheduled to close at the same time on weekdays so customers may go to the next closest station for service. During periods of temporary closure, customers are encouraged to use the most convenient existing CTA bus and rail service in the area.

On Monday, April 2, 2007, Southport temporarily closed for renovation. Southport will temporarily close for 12 months while construction crews work to rebuild the station. The adjacent stations -- Paulina and Belmont -- will remain open during the temporary closure of the Southport station so customers may continue to use them to access Brown Line service.

The Southport station is located in an area where existing CTA service is plentiful. In addition to nearby rail stations, there are five existing CTA bus routes that provide service near Southport station on weekdays and weekends, the #9 Ashland, #22 Clark, #77 Belmont, #152 Addison and the #X9 Ashland Express (weekday rush periods only).

During April and May 2007, crews worked to demolish the old station house, as well as the platform decking and railings. The wooden extensions at the ends of both platforms were also removed. The canopies began being refurbished, with canvas enclosures shrouding them as workers performed lead abatement.

By summer 2007, unneeded steel platform stringers were removed. Several bays on the eastern ends of the canopies on both platforms were also removed. New platform stringers were installed at the ends of the platforms to extend them to 8-car length, as well as in the middle of the platforms near the future site of the elevator towers. During September, the steel framework of the elevator towers was installed. During late summer and early autumn, the foundation for the new station house was installed. During this period, crews also worked to rehabilitate elevated structure's steel columns and renew the column foundations, especially those that would later be enveloped within the new station house.

The former location of Southport station, under reconstruction, is seen looking southeast on October 7, 2007. Note that the canopies have been striped down to the bare structure for refurbishment and the station house has been removed. The outbound elevator tower steel is visible behind the commercial building on the left. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

With the elevator tower structures installed, the sections of the platform canopy framework that were previously removed were reinstalled in front of the towers during October 2007. The canopy structures on both platforms were then detailed, primed, and painted. Platform joists were installed during autumn.

Following the completion of foundation work during autumn, structural steel for the new station house began to be erected in late autumn. Work on the station house structure, including the installation of utilities, systems, and basic cinderblock walls, continued through autumn and into early winter.

During November, installation of the new wooden platform decking began. Installation of the new decking would continue for several months, into January 2008. During November, crews also primed the refurbished platform canopy steel framework and painted it a dark brown hue. White metal cladding began to be installed on the framework of the elevator towers in late November, beginning with the inbound platform tower. Installation of the exterior elevator panels continued into January 2008.

Installation of galvanized steel railing and light poles on the platforms, and well as the railing panels, began in December. Work on the platform railings and light standards would continue for a couple months.

Buildout of the station house continued in the new year. Installation of cinderblock and masonry walls was performed in January 2008 and work began on the station house's roof during the same month. Installation of the elevator cabs and other system components also began in January and would continue throughout winter.

Work also continued on the platforms and platform canopies throughout January and February 2008. Light fixtures and speakers began to be installed on the light poles during this period. The stairs from the back of the station house to both island platforms were installed during January, while the auxiliary exit stairs from the platforms to the west side of Southport Avenue were installed during February.

Southport station reopened at 5am, Sunday, March 30, 2008. With the new elevators in operation on opening day, Southport became the 81st of the CTA's 144 station to become accessible, with other ADA-compliant features including an accessible turnstile, tactile platform edging, gap fillers, TTY telephones and Braille signs.

At the same time Southport reopened, the Paulina station closed for renovations for up to one year. Modest work continued at Southport station after the reopening, as the contractor completed various punchlist work.

On April 11, 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley, CTA Chairman Carole Brown, CTA President Ron Huberman and other CTA official,s and community today officially dedicated the renovated Southport Brown Line station.

To foster a sense of ownership and identity within each station and the surrounding community, the CTA partnered with the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs to install public art at all 18 stations included in the Brown Line Capacity Expansion project. For Southport, Chicago-based artist Elizabeth Fraiberg created two ceramic tile murals that are located inside the stationhouse and depict layered, abstract photographs of the surrounding neighborhood.

At the dedication ceremony, Daley, Brown, and Huberman also previewed a new digital advertising and communications initiative that was planned to enable the CTA to provide next train arrival information and notify customers of service changes and was also expected to provide the CTA with more than $100 million in revenue. The day before the dedication, the Chicago Transit Board authorized a 10-year contract with Titan Outdoor to allow them to sell digital advertising on the large digital screens.

The Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project Full Funding Grant Agreement with the federal government requires that the CTA complete the entire project by the end of 2009.


Southport station's renovated dual side platforms, with their Brown Line-standard galvanized steel railings, masonry and metal-clad elevator towers, and refurbished 1907-vintage canopies, are seen looking east on March 30, 2008. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Old Southport (1907-2007) | New Southport (2007-present)

Old Southport station (1907-2007)

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A view of the interior of the Southport station, with a deal of the area over the back doorway. The "To City" and "From City" signs are original and alert passengers to approaching trains by lighting up and sounding a bell. The backlit plate on the left is original (or at least much older) while the sign on the right is newer: note the difference in lettering typefaces. Note also the glazed brick walls and tongue-in-groove paneled ceiling. (Photo by Ernie Baudler)

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Southport, along with several other Ravenswood branch stations, have several old, original blue and white enamel signs still in place. This "Watch Your Step" sign is at knee level at the top of the stairway at platform level. (Photo by Ernie Baudler)

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Cars 6129-6130, leading this train, were built with experimental equipment, with a "high performance mode." In 1960, they received a distinctive maroon and gray paint scheme. They're stopped at Southport on September 6, 1962. (Photo by Roy G. Benedict)

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The elevated stations on the Ravenswood branch have a sunflower cast into the decorative platform and stair railings, like the one seen here at Southport on May 13, 2002. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Decked out in its Bicentennial spender as "Anthony Wayne", 6015-6016 stops at Southport station on a Ravenswood All-Stop run on July 7, 1975. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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CTA 6023 picks up the rear of a 2-car Ravenswood All-Stop at Southport on October 2, 1972. (Photo by Steve Zabel, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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A northbound Brown Line train of 3200-series cars heading for Kimball, led by car 3437, stops at Southport on September 10, 2000. (Photo by Ernie Baudler)

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A six-car Ravenswood All-Stop is trailed by car 2434, stopping at Southport sometime probably in the late 1970s. Note the old-style A/B symbol sign on one of the "shepherd's crook" platform lights; this at least dates the scene to before the implementation of the KDR color-coded signage. (Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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Car 3326 beings up the rear of a Loop-bound Brown Line train departing Southport station on July 1, 2006. Work to rebuild the station began about a year later. (Photo by Dennis Herbuth)

New Southport station

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The Southport platforms are seen looking east on May 23, 2007. The decking has been removed, allowing the steel stringers to be refurbished. Some sections of steel platform supports have also been removed for replacement. Flagmen in the distance protect the contractors from passing trains. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The canopies at Southport have been completely stripped and the platform decking and railings removed in this May 27, 2007 view looking north, with only the original platform steel remaining. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The platforms and canopies at Southport have been completely stripped down in this June 24, 2007 view looking east, leaving only the original platform steel after the various platform extensions of past decades have been removed. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The original steel elevated structure columns and columns bases at Southport are being refurbished and new steel installed to extend the length of the inbound platforms in this October 7, 2007 view looking west. Steel has been set for the top landing for the new auxiliary exit stair from the inbound platform to the west side of Southport Avenue. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Work is underway on the foundation for the new station house in this October 7, 2007 view looking east. The existing columns, cross-braces, and bases have been refurbished and will be enclosed within the new station house when it is built. New foundations for the headhouse are being excavated, with some rebar already instal. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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One contractor works on the new platform decking on the northbound platform at Southport, protected by a flagman on the tracks, while another contractor works from the safety of a cherry picker to install the metal panels on the exterior of the southbound elevator in this November 26, 2007 view looking west. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The entire canopy structure, including the latticework on the back, has been refurbished, reassembled and repainted dark brown. Meanwhile, work on the elevator towers is proceeding, with the white metal cladding nearly complete on the southbound tower, seen looking west at Southport on December 30, 2007. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Renovation of the Southport station platforms is progressing in this view looking west on December 30, 2007, with the installation of the galvanized steel railings and light poles and wood platform decking proceeding along the entire length of both platforms. (Photo by Graham Garfield)