The front entrances of Thorndale station, looking northwest on September 29, 2012, the first full day the station was open after renovation. The pilasters framing the doors and the ornamentation around the light fixtures convey the station's Prairie School influences. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Thorndale (5900N/1200W)
Thorndale Avenue and Broadway, Edgewater

Service Notes:

Red Line: Howard

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address: 1118 W. Thorndale Avenue
Established: February 14, 1915
Original Line: Northwestern Elevated Railroad
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station

Rebuilt: 1921, 2012
Status: In Use

History:

"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 Chicago City Council authorized the electrification of the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad's tracks from Graceland Avenue (Irving Park Road) to the city limits on July 1, 1907. Unlike Evanston (as per the 1907 franchise agreement from the city), the Chicago City Council did not require that the grade-level tracks be elevated, but they did prohibit the use of a third rail for safety's sake, necessitating the use of overhead trolley wire. "L" service north of Wilson to Central Avenue in Evanston began on May 16, 1908.

 

Track Elevation and a New Station

Thorndale station is seen looking west on Thorndale Avenue circa the 1940s. Although the details have changed -- the partitions, furniture, and stairway enclosures on the platform; the identification sign on the viaduct; the cars and street lights on the street -- the structure is the same today. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

In the mid-1910s, the Northwestern Elevated began to elevate the tracks north from Wilson to Howard, but work was slow due to the city's refusal to close intersecting streets and the narrow right-of-way. The elevation work involved complex staging and the temporary relocation of tracks to maintain service while building the new elevated embankment in the same right-of-way.

Unlike the other locations along the new "L" extension where there are currently stations, the St. Paul had not had a station at Thorndale Avenue. Other new stations added during the elevation project included Edgewater Beach [Berwyn] and Lawrence. During the elevation process, on February 14, 1915, the Thorndale station first opened. In early 1916, trains were moved onto a temporary trestle, allowing demolition of the original tracks and stations, but construction of a permanent embankment had to wait until the end of World War I due to a materials shortage. This seems to indicate that the Thorndale station at this time was temporary, as the embankment had not been completed.

As part of the track elevation, a new, permanent station was constructed. The entrance to the "L" station was located on the north side of Thorndale Avenue. The station had a design typical of the facilities built as part of the Wilson-Howard elevation project. Designed by architect Charles P. Rawson and engineered by C.F Loweth, the architectural design was a Prairie School-influenced vernacular form, with the Prairie influence seen most acutely in the ornamental cement pilasters on the front facade and in the details of the wooden doors, windows, and ticket agents' booths. The exterior was brick and cast concrete with a bedford stone base, wooden doors and large plate glass windows and transoms. Ornamental globed light fixtures decorated the pilaster capitals. The station house was centered within the solid-fill embankment, with retail spaces flanking it on both sides filling in the remaining width of the embankment.

The interior of Thorndale station is largely unchanged in this view looking north in 1971 -- the original glazed brick and plaster walls, flooring, and wooden ticket agent's booth are still original -- but the details have begun to change with the times, such as the fluorescent fixtures and the agent's booth painted white, to present a brighter, more "modern" appearance. For a larger view, click here. (CTA photo, from the Graham Garfield Collection)

The interior was rendered in plaster, wood, glazed brick, and brick with terrazzo floors. There were arches stretching across the interior between the support columns. In the center of the interior, passengers found a decorative wooden ticket agent's booth with ornamental woodwork and a metal grille over the ticket agent's window. The station also had public restrooms.

There were four tracks through Thorndale station, but the outer two tracks were for express trains and were not served by the station. A single island platform between the two center tracks served local trains. The platform had wood decking and a canopy with metal columns down the center line which split into gently-curving gull wing-shaped roof supports, supporting a wooden canopy roof. The stairs were sheltered by wooden enclosures with wooden bottoms and windows on top, divided into rows of square panes, with swinging doors at the front of each enclosure. Like most of the stations north of Lawrence, there was originally an auxiliary exit, located on the south side of the street, descending down in the middle of retail spaces built under the elevated. The auxiliary exit was closed and removed some time in the CTA era.

In December 1920, it was reported that the Thorndale station, along with Argyle, Edgewater Beach, Bryn Mawr, Granville, and Jarvis, would be completed by late Spring 1921.1 By early 1922, the new four track mainline was completed, allowing full express service to the city limits.

 

Recent Developments

The island platform at Thorndale, looking south on September 4, 2001, from just north of the north stairs to the station house. The canopy supports and roof structure all date from the construction of the station in the early 1920s. The new gray Green Line Graphic Standard sign was added in the late 1990s, though in a modified fashion: the colored tabs on either side (which would be red here) are omitted because the existing brackets could not accommodate them. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Thorndale was one of five Chicago Transit Authority sites that were the first to provide access to vehicles belonging to I-GO, a car-sharing program. At their August 11, 2004 meeting, the Chicago Transit Board approved the agreement between the CTA , the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and its affiliate I-GO Car Sharing (I-GO) to promote the use of public transportation by providing additional options for public transit users. The agreement established a yearlong pilot program where members can access I-GO vehicles at locations adjacent to or near public transportation.

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, and new entrance signs installed 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 entrance to assist customers leaving the station to navigate their way, and three-sided galvanized steel pylons in the station house and on the platform to display maps and station timetables.

In 2008, the canopy at Thorndale was refurbished. The roof was removed and replaced with a new corrugated metal top. Wood panelling was installed under the metal cover, visible to passengers standing on the platform and looking up at the canopy, to maintain the historic aesthetic and design of the station canopy. The metal canopy supports were stripped and repainted. New lighting was also installed as part of the renovation. Around the same time, a white, perforated drop ceiling and new lighting were installed inside the station as well.

 

North Red Line Life-Extension Renovations

By the early 21st century, the stations, track, and elevated infrastructure on the north Red Line, between Wilson and Howard, were in severe need of rehabilitation, both to maintain a good state of repair as well as to modernize certain systems and amenities. The scale of the work and the funding necessary to undertake it were large enough that a broad study and planning effort were needed to properly scope the work and apply for sufficient funding. While this study was undertaken, and due to the presumed amount of time it would take to complete the study, secure funding, and complete design engineering, the CTA felt it was necessary to undertake modest-scale renovations in the meantime to extend the life of the existing infrastructure.

Construction crews work to remove the old wooden decking and joists on the Thorndale platform on August 18, 2012, the day after the station closed. The work will leave only the steel canopy structure and support stringers, which were refurbished, reinforced, and reused in the new station. After additional supports were installed, a new precast concrete deck was erected. For a larger view, click here. (CTA Photo)

On February 8, 2012, the Chicago Transit Board approved the awarding of a design/build contract to Kiewit Infrastructure Co. to rehabilitate seven rail stations on the North Main Line section of the Red Line: Jarvis, Morse, Granville, Thorndale, Berwyn, Argyle and Lawrence. The work would provide a life-extension for the seven stations until a long-term capital improvement plan is determined for this portion of the Red Line as part of the Red-Purple Modernization Project (see below). "These interim improvements are important because we cannot postpone repairs which need our immediate attention. The CTA wants to be good stewards of the infrastructure we have now, as we continue to plan for the future and pursue additional funding," said CTA President Forrest Claypool. "This contract will allow us to quickly address some much needed capital maintenance work, while also improving the quality and experience for our riders and neighbors."

Kiewit Infrastructure Co. was awarded the contract to through a competitive bid process. Design work began in Spring 2012. Per the terms of the contract, construction was to conclude in early 2013 (though most work was actually completed by the end of 2012) and was not to exceed $57.4 million for services, labor and materials.

Construction plans included temporary station closures for no more than six weeks. Adjacent stations were not closed simultaneously. To minimize impact to customers, service reroutes were scheduled for overnight and weekends only.

Improvement work at each location included renovations to the station facilities, the viaduct, and the tracks. The station houses received new windows, doors and exterior lighting; exterior tuck pointing; improved station layouts; new turnstiles; new interior finishes, including new wall tiling, floors, walls and ceilings; new signage and interior lighting; and site improvements including sidewalk repairs and new bike racks. The platform deck structure and foundation was replaced, the platform fixtures, furnishings and canopy improved, and a new customer communication system installed. Concrete repairs to the viaducts and to the track-level walls were made at each station, and a new waterproofing and drainage system was installed. In addition, the viaducts received painting/coating and new, brighter lighting under the viaducts. New track, ties, and ballast was laid through the station area.2

The interior of the renovated Thorndale station is seen looking west in the unpaid area on September 29, 2012. The rehabilitation gutted the interior and installed new terrazzo flooring, wall tiles, cement plaster walls and ceiling, lighting, and fixtures. The floor space was also expanded into adjacent former retail space -- the farecard vending machines are in what was formerly a separate storefront. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The exterior masonry, including the brick walls and concrete trim, was cleaned and the brickwork re-tuckpointed. The wooden door and window frames were removed and a new dark brown aluminum storefront installed. New globed lights were installed on the piers.

Inside, the station house was gutted down to the structural shell. The retail spaces that originally flanked the station house on both sides were demolished and the common walls removed so that the station interior could be expanded into the former rental spaces. The concession stand added inside the station house opposite the agent's booth at an earlier date was removed as well. The enlarged station interior allowed for a more open space and improved passenger circulation. Farecard vending machines and the new Customer Assistant kiosk were installed in the former west retail space. The floor space formerly occupied by the east rental space was divided up, with the area toward the front of the station included in the newly expanded passenger space. A new wall was constructed roughly where the former wall between the station and rental space was to create a new enclosure, with the space in the middle of the station house for a concessionaire and the space in the rear for storage.

The interior walls were clad in new white modular glazed brick similar to the original material, though with some difference -- while the walls were originally clad only to a height just over 6 feet from the floor with plaster walls and ornamental trim above, nearly all of the renovated station interior's walls were clad in glazed brick up to the new suspended plaster ceiling. In addition, the free-standing columns, which originally were also tiled up to a height of about 6 feet and topped with a bullnose trim course, had their tiling removed and were refinished with a smooth plaster-cement skim coat. The middle portions of the center set of arches were removed, with the curved arches modified to taper up to the ceiling; the arches on the ends of the colonnades remain intact. The original ornamental trim on the plaster walls was not replicated in the renovated station, except on the rear angled wall under the south stairs to the platform which retained the original design of glazed brick extended up to a height of 6 feet, topped with a rounded bullnose trim, and cement plaster coating the walls above. In addition, the decorative tan art marble piers with ornamental Prairie School capitals that flank the front doors inside the station were retained and refurbished, and the original cast iron newel posts at the bottom of the stair railings were kept. A new light gray terrazzo floor with dark gray edges along the walls was installed on top of a sand cushion, and a new plaster ceiling installed with recessed lighting. A new Customer Assistant kiosk was also installed, typical of those installed by the CTA at new Brown Line stations and other recent projects like the renovations at North/Clybourn and Cermak-Chinatown, with stainless steel lower walls and roof and glass panels on all side for maximum visibility.

The only portion of the renovated interior that maintained the original style of white tiled walls up to a six-foot height, topped with a bullnose trim, and ornamental trim in the cement-plaster walls above, were the walls on the sides and back of the south stairs up to the platform. The west side wall is seen looking south toward the turnstiles and front of the station on September 29, 2012. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The wooden platform deck was completely removed and new foundations and supports installed to supplement the original structure. A new precast concrete deck was installed, edged with blue tactile panels. The original 1921 platform canopy was retained, stripped, rehabilitated, and repainted. The canopy roof installed in 2008, including the wooden paneling on the passenger-facing underside to replicate the look of the original roofing, was retained. New fixtures including galvanized steel windbreaks and stairway enclosures, new benches, lighting, sandboxes, speakers, and signage were installed.

Installing elevators to make all the stations wheelchair-accessible is not part of the short-term project.3 Work was also planned for the roofs of adjacent station buildings, so that inside concession spaces can be leased and begin to generate revenue for the Authority.4

Thorndale temporarily closed for renovation at the end of the day August 17, 2012. The station reopened following renovation at 10pm, Friday, September 28, 2012.

Funding for the station rehabilitation project is from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) and is part of the $1 billion Red Line investment project. The $1 billion capital investment is a combination of state, local and federal funds, which will support other Red Line projects including track and station renewal along the Dan Ryan branch; the renovation of the Clark/Division and Wilson stations; and several other track, substation and station renewal projects along the North Side Main Line.

In addition to the renovation of the station, a "bike hub" was built across from the station on the south side of Thorndale Avenue underneath the elevated structure, in the space formerly occupied by retail spaces and the auxiliary exit from the platform (long since removed). The Thorndale Bike Hub, which was developed in cooperation between Alderman Harry Osterman, CTA, and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), includes well-designed racks for a capacity of 60 bikes and a new bike fix-it station for cyclists to utilize. CDOT will install a safe crosswalk under the viaduct and there will be new, bright lighting throughout the space. The bike hub is planned to be completed a few months after the station reopened.5 Although independent of the station renovation project, the installation of the bike facility was timed to coincide with the station improvement work.

 

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:

The Modernization with Station Consolidation option includes the consolidation of Thorndale station with the Granville and Bryn Mawr stations by closing the existing Thorndale station and adding entrances to Granville and Bryn Mawr -- at Glenlake Avenue for Granville station, approximately one block north of Thorndale station and one block south of Granville station.; and at Hollywood Avenue, approximately two blocks south of Thorndale station and one block north of Bryn Mawr station.

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 Thorndale island platform, looking north on September 29, 2012, following renovation. The gullwing canopy is original to the 1921 station, but the recent rehabilitation replaced the wood platform deck with precast concrete, refurbished the canopy structure, and provided new platform signage and furniture. The wood beadboard under the canopy, installed in 2008 to provide a similar appearance to the canopy's original roofing, was retained in the renovation. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


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The interior of Thorndale station is seen here looking southeast from inside the paid area in 1971. The station's 1921-vintage ticket agent's booth is still in use -- note the fare registers mounted on the sides of the booth -- although it has now been painted white. The original terrazzo floors and glazed brick and plaster walls, including decorative molding above the wainscoting, are also still present, although the cement-plaster surfaces have begun to age, with many areas of visible patching. (CTA photo, from the Graham Garfield Collection)

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The exterior of the entrance to Thorndale station is seen looking west on May 6, 1986. The station's 1921facade is still intact in this view, including the original doors and windows. The only changes to the station are the painting of the cement piers and the removal of the original light fixtures. (CTA photo)

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The interior of the Thorndale station is seen looking northeast in the unpaid area on May 6, 1986. The station still retains most of its original features here, including the terrazzo floors, glazed brick and cement-plaster walls, and decorative ticket agent's booth, now painted a dark color. However, the plaster has continued to deteriorate, and some of the patching has now resulted in the removal of sections of decorative moldings such as over part of the center arch. The station now sports modern, stainless steel GFI turnstiles. (CTA photo)

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A close-up of the entrance to Thorndale station, looking northeast in 1999. Note the 1950s-era CTA logo over the door in the transom. The exterior masonry, doors, and blue porcelain door signs are all original to the 1920s station. (CTA Photo)

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The island platform at Thorndale, looking north from the south end on September 4, 2001. The lights were replaced in the late 20th century and the metal latticed bracing between the light poles was specially installed in the late 1990s when the new, gray Green Line Graphic Standard name sign was installed. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The Thorndale platform is seen looking north on September 4, 2001 toward the south stairs down to the station house. The two stairways between the station house and platform were originally enclosed in wood-framed vestibules with windows and swinging doors for weather protection. Although modified through a series of repairs over the decades, they still conveyed the general design of the originals until their removal in a platform renovation in 2008, when they were replaced with galvanized steel enclosures with perforated metal mesh over the windows and no doors. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The front entrances of Thorndale station, looking west on September 4, 2001. The pilasters framing the doors and the ornamentation around the original light fixtures convey the station's Prairie School influences. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The interior of Thorndale station on September 4, 2001. The agent booth, with its intricate wooden moldings and decorations, is original, one of only a few left in the North Side embankment stations. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Several original elements are still in place inside the Thorndale station in this September 4, 2001 view looking east in the unpaid area, including the agent's booth, glazed brick wainscotting, decorative moldings in the plaster walls, and the terrazzo floors. However, time has begun to take its toll, with some deterioration evident in the flooring and plaster ornamentation. The east retail space flanking the station is occupied and accessible through the door ahead. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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After Thorndale closed for renovation at the end of the day on August 17, 2012, crews very quickly set about demolishing the station interior and platform fittings to allow renovation to begin. In this view inside the station on August 18, the turnstiles have been removed and demolition of the metal drop ceiling and glazed brick walls has begun. The original ticket agent's booth was removed and donated to the Illinois Railway Museum. (CTA photo)

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Renovation work at Thorndale is well underway in this September 15, 2012 view looking northeast from the street. The exterior masonry is in the process of being restored and the new aluminum storefront framing is being installed. Inside, the new glazed tile wall cladding has been installed and is covered by plastic sheeting to protect it while other work continues. A new cement-plaster skim coat has been applied to the arch columns, which would eventually be painted rather than having the original glazed brick replaced. (CTA photo)

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The interior of Thorndale station is nearing completion in this view inside looking northeast on September 22, 2012. The wall tiling, doors and windows, ceiling and recessed lights, and Customer Assistant booth are all in place. Boards protect the new terrazzo floor while finishing work continues. The station opened a week later. (CTA photo)

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This September 29, 2012 view looks north into the Thorndale station house from the front entrance way. The space seen in this view encompasses the area of the original station house, but additional interior space is now offered (out of view) to the right and to the left, which the new Customer Assistant booth partially occupies. The middle sections of the center arches were removed in the renovation, as were their columns' tiling, with the surface of the arches and columns refinished in smooth cement-plaster. The rehabilitated interior also features a new plaster ceiling with recessed lights, new tiling on the side walls, new terrazzo floors, and new signage. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The renovated interior of the Thorndale station house is seen looking east in the unpaid area on September 29, 2012. This view looks into the expanded footprint of the station interior, which was formerly a separate retail space but whose common wall was removed so the station could expand into that area. The area on the right was added to the open floor space, while the area on the left was partitioned into a new concession space. The interior features new terrazzo floors, tile and plaster walls, plaster ceilings, security cameras, and new signage and other fixtures. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The south stairs up to the platform at Thorndale station are seen looking west on September 29, 2012; the north stairs are just in view on the far lower right. The original 1921 cast iron knell posts were retained in the rehabilitated station. This area was originally more "outdoor" in character as the station was originally built, with doors in the passageways flanking the stairs leading to the station house, enclosing the building, and with the walls in their area left bare concrete. In the rehabilitated station, most walls here are given more refined finishes, with terrazzo floors and tiled walls (though the rear walls, on the right, are still concrete) -- although the doors were removed, technically making this area open to the outdoors up at the platform level, this area is now more integrated into the station house interior. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The renovated Thorndale station platform is seen looking north from the far south end on September 29, 2012. The refurbished platform includes new precast concrete decking with tactile edging tiles, new free-standing light standards and luminaires outside of the canopy, and new signage. The large angled concrete bases where the light poles and canopy columns meet the new platform result from work to shore up the platform structure and create new support footings. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The renovated Thorndale station platform, seen looking south on September 29, 2012, retained the original 1921 gullwing canopy structure, rehabilitating and repainting the steel structure and retaining the new lights and canopy roofing installed in 2008. Due to the stations designation as being eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the roof includes wood paneling on the underside, facing passengers, to replicate the look of the original station canopy (which was wood covered with tar and a built-up membrane). The renovated platform also includes new precast concrete decking, new sandboxes, new windbreaks, and new signage, including directional line diagrams like the one seen on the windbreak. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Notes:

1. "3 NEW STATIONS ON NORTH SIDE "L" READY JAN. 1." Chicago Daily Tribune, 1920 Dec. 1, pg. 21.
2. Red North Station Interim Improvements webpage. Chicago Transit Authority, retrieved 25 March 2012.

3. Hilkevitch, Jon. "$57.4 million facelift program OK'd for 7 North Side stops on CTA's Red Line." Chicago Tribune. 8 February 2012.
4. Roberts, Bob. "Major Renovations Coming To Multiple Red Line Stations." CBS Chicago. 9 February 2012.
5. "New Thorndale Station and Bike Hub." News from the 48th Ward: Focus on Thorndale. 48thward.org. Accessed 11 October 2012.