The Western station house, elevator tower, and island platform canopy are seen looking southeast on reopening day, June 4, 2004. The station features a new, modern station house in the same location of the previous one and wider accessible island platform, all executed in a postmodern design. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Western (2400W/2100S)
Western Avenue and 21st Street, Lower West Side

Service Notes:

Pink Line: Cermak (Douglas)

Accessible Station

Quick Facts:

Address: 2009 S. Western Avenue
Established: September 7, 1896
Original Line: Metropolitan West Side Elevated, Douglas Park branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station (1951-1958)

Station (1958-1995)

Rebuilt: c. 1935
(new station house facade), 2002-04
Status:
In Use

 

History:

The Douglas Park branch of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad (the 'Met') was originally planned to extend to 46th (Kenton) Avenue in its original stretch. The branch, however, actually opened in incremental stages. On April 28, 1896, the branch opened between Marshfield Avenue junction, where it left the Met main line, and 18th Street. Just over three months later, on August 7, 1896, service was extended to Western Avenue. Western remained the terminal of the branch for six years, until the next extension opened on March 10, 1902, though the station was not designed in any appreciable way to serve as a terminal. In fact, it was designed in the same configuration was most other "through" stations and simply functioned as a stub-end terminal.

The original station was typical of those on the original 1896 portion of the Douglas Park branch, a largely rectangular building with a bay extending approximately five feet in front of the building. The one-story headhouse, situated beneath the elevated structure, employed an unusual vernacular form with influences from the Craftsman and even Prairie School styles. The exterior walls were clad in dark red/brown bricks while a rusticated stone base lined the bottom of the wall at ground level while the corners had stone quoins. The Craftsman influences came through in the wide overhanging eaves with exposed rafters and the battered half-timbered treatment over the front entrance, while the Prairie School style can be seen in the low pitched roof, extended eaves (one of several qualities shared with the Craftsman) and tall, thin, banded windows on the side elevations.

The side platforms at Western were typical for Metropolitan "L" stations. Seen here on March 17, 1986, they had the standard hipped roofs with latticed supports and brackets rafters. The outbound platform (on the left) was twice and long as the inbound, probably extended after the station's initial construction. For a larger view, click here. (CTA photo, Graham Garfield Collection)

After passengers paid their fare and passed into the paid area, they began their trek up to the platforms. One central staircase led from the station house to a mezzanine level beneath the tracks. Part of this central staircase was enclosed, with swinging wood and glass doors at the top of the stairs. From this mezzanine landing, the stairs split to the inbound and outside platforms. Each one of these staircases also split at an intermediate level, allowing customers to enter and leave the platform from one of two locations, a helpful arrangement for passenger flow during heavy use rush hours. The stair railing structure was somewhat decorative, with curved and twisted strap metal balustrades, cast iron newel posts with small designs cast in them and carved wooden handgrips. A series of square cast iron plates with a square-in-square design of descending size were placed along the bottom of the railing near the stair treads.

The dual side platforms were each nearly identical to each other and to other Met station platforms. The flooring was treated timber planks, while the railings and balustrades were similar to those on the stairs. Added to the railing design here were larger cast iron square plates with a stylized diamond design cast into them. Each platform had a short canopy in the center of the platform, covering the stairs and a small waiting area. The canopy frame was steel, with latticed supports and bracketed rafters. The canopies had hipped roofs of corrugated metal. Strung beneath the canopy roof were incandescent lights for nighttime illumination. The platforms were additionally lit by gooseneck lamps that were integrated into the railing design, with certain posts extending above the railing -- above seven feet high, total -- and forming the fluted pole with a decorative capital onto which a gooseneck light fixture with a porcelain saucer-shaped shade with two or three incandescent light bulbs was attached.

 

Art Deco Additions and Station Modifications

As occurred with most "L" stations, several modifications were later made to the Western station facility. Perhaps the most important was to the front facade (west elevation). In the 1930s, Western Avenue, the longest street in Chicago and an important north-south thoroughfare, was widened for its entire length. The Metropolitan Elevated had four stations along Western on various branches and used an usual solution to the encroachment on their property. Instead of demolishing the station houses wholesale and erecting a new buildings further back on their property, the Met retained their station buildings, cropped off their fronts, removed several feet from the footprint of the structure, and added a new front facade at the new property line. Rather than try to design a new front to mesh with the style of the original building, the new fronts used a radically different, decidedly modern style.

In the mid-1930s, a new Art Deco facade was installed on Western station. One of four stations on the system to get such a treatment, the design was an unusually and uniquely strong application of this style on the "L", especially with the large terra cotta Deco lettering along the top. Seven the transoms and doors, seen here on July 7, 1960, had Deco gold-leaf lettering. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

Arthur U. Gerber, by then the staff architect for Chicago Rapid Transit Company and other Insull rail properties, designed a new facade, which was installed circa 1935. The new Art Deco/Moderne facade of tan and olive green glazed terra cotta and tile is a stark contrast to the brick Craftsman side elevations. The central portion of the street elevation contains two metal frame windows flanked on each side by a set of swinging wood and glass doors topped with transoms. This area is framed by a set of tan glazed piers with olive green "piping" and topped with band containing the words "L • RAPID TRANSIT • L" in green Art Deco lettering. The new facade was installed by William Grace and Company. The use of the Art Deco style for the facade was fashionable at the time, but made for a very unusual and unique combination with the original Craftsman sides and rear.

Although the addition of the modern facade was perhaps the most severe change to the station, several other modifications were performed as time went on. The interior has been largely changed since the station house was built, with the most severe rearrangement occurring when the Deco front was added and the building was cut back. At the same time as the front truncation, an addition was also put on the south side of the building to compensate for some of the lost square footage. The walls were plaster from the ceiling to a molding about seven feet up from the floor; below the molding, the walls were covered with metal sheeting, at least by the time of the station's later years. The original built-in wooden agent's booth was removed, replaced with a small, plain, square wooden booth with a metal screen. The interior floor was covered by a wall-to-wall treaded rubber matting in later decades. The central portion of the street elevation was later clad in tan glazed bricks rather than the original terra cotta, the result of an accident circa the late 1980s. Two modern sodium vapor lights were added at the roofline later to add additional lighting.

A view of one of Western's platform extensions, this one on the westbound platform looking west on November 19, 2000. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Teresa Heinrichs)

The platforms and stairs are largely intact, but have seen some modest alterations. Metal mesh panels were later added to some parts of the stairs to provide better protection of the stairway. The original canopies and railings remained on the old sections of the platforms, and the canopy on the outbound platform was later lengthened at its east end to a point where it was about twice as long as the inbound canopy. The platforms were extended as train lengths got longer and the original Met platform lights were replaced with the simpler tube pipe shepherd's crook lights there were standard elsewhere on the system.

The Western station was an unusual and unique structure on the Chicago rapid transit system. While there were once four such stations on the various Metropolitan Division branches, the Douglas branch station was the last to be removed or altered. The Humboldt Park branch was closed in 1952 by the CTA and subsequently dismantled. The Garfield Park branch was razed in 1953 to make way for the Congress (later Eisenhower) Expressway and new Congress Line rapid transit facility, which ran in the path of the old elevated line and included a new Western station. Until the summer of 2000, the Western station on the Milwaukee/O'Hare branch remained intact, but the CTA then began a capital improvement project to build a new station. The Art Moderne facade and the north elevation of the original 19th century building were salvaged but the rest was demolished, amounting to what preservationists often call a "facadectomy." By the early 21st century, this left the Western station on the Douglas branch the only intact example of this very unusual architectural treatment. The Western stations were also a rare example of the Art Moderne style on the "L". The State Street and Milwaukee-Dearborn Subways (begun in 1938 as a WPA project and completed in 1943 and 1951, respectively) also use an Art Moderne style in the station mezzanines, but it is a very streamlined, simple application of the style. Western is unusual for its more decorative take on the style and the use of Art Deco ornamentation.

 

Douglas Renovation Project

By the time of new millennium, the station was aging and in need of renovation. Over the years, the condition of the Douglas branch deteriorated to a point that permanent "slow zones" were present throughout more than 47% of track and many of the stations were in poor condition. After a long battle to secure funding from both the state and federal governments, the CTA decided it was time to embark upon a complete rehabilitation of the entire branch. The Douglas Rehabilitation Project was the largest single capital improvement project the authority had embarked upon up to that time. The project was to restore the branch so that it would be 100 percent ADA compliant with eight of the branch's 11 stations (six elevated and two at-grade) completely rebuilt and to allow for faster travel times from one end of the line to the other.

The Western station, opened in 1896 and altered in the mid-1930s, stood as an impressive example of mixed architectural styles and terra cotta ornamentation in this August 1, 2001 view. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

As part of the renovation project, Western was replaced with an entirely new station facility. The new headhouse is a modern glass and steel facility on the east side of Western Avenue, where the original station house was formerly located. The building exterior features quarry tile at the base, a metal-frame storefront on the front and side facades with large picture windows, glass walls and a band of art glass along the top, and capped by a large metal cornice divided into boxes. The art glass on the front facade reproduces the Art Deco lettering that was on the dismantled 1930s addition. A small plaza is located to the south of the station, in front of the adjacent Western Substation that, in part, powers the branch's third rail. The interior features white ceramic glazed tile walls, a waiting area in the unpaid area with seats for waiting bus riders, fare controls, fare vending machines, a customer assistant booth, and various auxiliary equipment rooms.

The old side platforms are replaced with a new, wide island platform. The new canopies were designed as "showpiece" structures, with clear glazed roof sections that allow natural light on the platform alternating with triangular solid, three-dimensional metal wedges and clear triangular panels that led the canopies to be dubbed by some as the "flying triangles". "Honeycomb" paneling adorns the platform canopy fascia, as well as being around the various columns and poles at platform level. A new elevator provides ADA access, with the tall elevator tower cladded in white tiles with a blue band around the top and a steel "cta" on the north and south sides dominating the street elevation the facility. The platform amenities carry through the angled motif of the canopy, with benches, lights, windbreaks, and some signage angled off-axis from being parallel or perpendicular to the tracks. For customer comfort, the platform features benches, overhead heaters and enhanced lighting. In addition to the elevator, a wheelchair-accessible gate in the fare controls, TTY telephones, tactile edging and Braille signs offer accessibility for customers with disabilities. Audiovisual station signs and a public address system help customers navigate the station and receive travel information.

There is an auxiliary entrance and exit on the west side of Western Avenue, across from the main station house. This farecard-only entrance is enclosed inside a small station house whose exterior design resembles a miniaturized version of the primary headhouse. Inside are two high-barrier gates (HBGs), a transit information board, and a customer assistant call button. The auxiliary entrance is connected to the platform by way of a platform-level pedestrian walkway bridge, which spans the width of Western Avenue. The bridge -- with one side enclosed with a metal framed curtain wall with glass panels and the other with a decorative metal grille -- protects customers from inclement weather while providing convenient, direct connections to the southbound Western Avenue buses, the #49 and #X49.

The official groundbreaking for the Douglas Rehabilitation Project -- also known as "Renew the Blue" -- took place at Pulaski station on September 10, 2001, but actual construction work did not begin at Western station for over a year as crews worked on stations and structure farther west. Crews began dismantling the Art Deco facade of the Western station during the week of October 20, 2002. Interestingly, the facade was not demolished, but seemed to be very carefully removed piece by piece. The work was largely completed by the end of the week.

Early in the morning at the conclusion of weekday service on Saturday, November 30, 2002, the Western station closed for reconstruction. Effective at 0400 hours, the station closed pending its demolition and replacement with new facilities.

The Western-Hoyne temporary station, perhaps the most refined of all the temporary stations, is seen looking west on December 10, 2002. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

While the work is in progress, the temporary Western-Hoyne station with entrances at Leavitt (two blocks east of Western) and at Cullerton (a half block west of Hoyne) served customers from both stations. The Western-Hoyne temporary station was placed in service at 0400 hours on Monday, December 2, 2002. Customers continued making bus connections with the #49 Western and the #X49 Western Express buses at 21st/Western.

The temporary station featured temporary wooden dual side platforms in the vicinity of Leavitt Street. These platforms fed from the dual fare control areas at Leavitt (2200W) and Cullerton, a half block west of Hoyne (2135W/2000S). This second entrance is unusual in being the only temporary station entrance not located under the tracks (like most of the temporary stations), but from the street running parallel and to the north of the right-of-way. The fare control areas consisted of concrete and asphalt floors, chainlink walls, and wooden agent's booths. The platforms had wood decking and railings, wooden canopies, and temporary signage largely relocated from the closed Western and Hoyne stations. During the weekend between the old stations' closures and the temporary station's opening, after Western station was closed and locked, CTA forces removed the fare controls and AVMs in that station and relocated them to the Leavitt entrance to the temporary station. The temporary station remained in use while the old station was demolished and new station built in its location over the following year and a half.

Left: By Monday, October 21, 2002, the top row of tiles and the first two feet or so of the glazed terra cotta had been removed from Western's Art Deco facade. The rest was removed by the end of the week. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Right: Within a week after the Western station closed, the platforms and canopies had been removed, and the following weekend crews dismantled the stairs to the platforms with blowtorches and cranes as seen on December 8, 2002. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Vern Hallas)

Crews moved in quickly to begin demolishing the old station. Over the weekend of December 7-8, 2002, demolition of the elevated platform, stairs, and station house began. The green Art Deco lettering along the top of the station facade was later removed before the rest of the station house was demolished. Once the old station was removed, Kiewit-Delgado, the Douglas project's primary construction contractor, could begin construction of the new elevated right-of-way, which bows out from the previous alignment to run around the new, wider island platform. Work on the new elevated right-of-way continued into early 2003.

Work was also underway at this point on the new island platform. By late winter, nearly all of the platform structure and platform decking was installed, including for the walkway over Western Avenue to the auxiliary entrance/exit on the west side of the street. By March 2003, work on the new station house at Western was underway, including excavation for the building's foundation. By late spring, steel for the new canopy began to be erected.

By June, the station foundation was in place and the stairway between the street-level and platform and surrounding walls were in place. The steel framework for the canopy was in place, as was the elevator tower. During mid-Summer, work was undertaken to install the canopy's roofing and work on the elevator tower continued and by August, the steel frame for the station house itself began to be erected. Installation of the canopy glazing and completion of the soffit was undertaken by September. Work on the canopy continued into Fall and by the end of 2003 efforts were underway to complete the concrete platforms.

From left to right, CTA Chairman Carole Brown, 25th ward Alderman Danny Solis, and CTA President Kruesi open the new Western station on June 4, 2004. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Bruce Moffat)

In early 2004, work at Western continued on various aspects throughout the facility. The station house continued to be finished out with additional storefront work and interior fixtures, and the installation of the fascia on the vertical faces of the platform canopy "triangles" and other nonstructural ornamental steel.

On June 4, 2004, the Chicago Transit Authority reopened Western station, the sixth of eight stations new, rebuilt stations in the rehabilitation of the Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line. Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown and CTA President Frank Kruesi were joined by 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis to announce the reopening of Western.

"The newly renovated 'L' station at Western is an excellent example of the work that the CTA is doing to bring its system to a state of good repair," said CTA President Frank Kruesi at the time. "These enhancements mean better service and will help us retain existing customers and attract new customers to the CTA."

Coincident with the new station opening, the Leavitt entrance (2200W) to the temporary Western-Hoyne station was closed and converted to an emergency exit . The station did not close entirely until July 22, when the new Damen station opened a half mile east. The temporary station was subsequently dismantled over the weekend of August 7-8, 2004.

The Western station also had new original artwork installed as part of the Douglas branch renovation. Included through a unique partnership between the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs' Public Art Program and the CTA , the Public Art Program administered the selection, design, creation and installation of public art for the project. Western's art installation, which is outside the station and in front of the adjacent substation to the south, is of particular interest to historians because it incorporates the 1930s Art Deco facade that adorned the previous station. The facade was carefully dismantled before the station was demolished and put in storage while the facility was reconstructed. As part of the Douglas art program, it was reassembled on a purpose-built concrete wall in front of Western Substation. Inside the facade, where the doors and windows had been in the old station, a new Byzantine glass mosaic titled "Ice Cream Dream" by artist Hector Duarte was assembled. The facade and artwork were installed during November and December 2004. The CTA allocated $1 million for the Cermak Branch Art Project and retains ownership rights to all of the artwork created.

After conducting a West Side Corridor Study and holding public meetings during 2004 and 2005, the CTA began operation of a new service over the Cermak branch. Beginning Sunday, June 25, 2006, the new Pink Line began providing the primary rail service to the branch. Operating seven days a week during the same service hours as the Blue Line had operated, Pink Line trains operated on the Cermak branch from 54th/Cermak to Polk, then terminated around the Loop via the Paulina Connector and Lake branch of the Green Line. Service levels increased with the introduction of the Pink Line, with trains running more frequently including a 7.5-minute interval during weekday rush periods. To address community concerns, Blue Line service to the O'Hare branch from 54th/Cermak via the Dearborn Subway was maintained during morning and afternoon rush hours. The Pink Line and revised Blue Line services were instituted as an 180-day experiment, extended for additional 180-day experimental periods subsequently, while ridership and other effects were studied. As the experimental period continued, the CTA revised service on the Cermak branch to eliminate the rush period Blue Line trains, leaving the Pink Line to provide all service to 54th/Cermak. Although ridership had risen overall since the introduction of the Pink Line, Blue Line trains had consistently low ridership on a person-per-railcar-basis. The last day of Blue Line Cermak service was Friday, April 25, 2008.

 

The CTA's Douglas-standard "showpiece" canopy, seen looking east on reopening day, June 4, 2004, has clear glazed roof sections that allow natural light on the platform alternating with triangular solid, three-dimensional metal wedges and clear triangular panels that led the canopies to be dubbed by some as the "flying triangles". For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


Old Western (1896-2002) | Temporary Western-Hoyne (2002-2003) | New Western (2002-present)

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A dramatic, shadowed view of the front and and north elevations of Western's Art Deco station house on November 19, 2000. (Photo by Teresa Heinrichs)

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The dual side platforms at Western are seen here looking east on the outbound platform on August 1, 2001. The original canopies and much of the original railings were still in place until late 2002. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Participants in the 2nd Annual Historic Station Tour walk around outside the Western (Douglas) station, led by the tour guides, including Keith Letsche (left). (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The 2nd Annual Historic Station Tour group gathers outside the Western station on the Douglas branch to hear comments from the tour guides. (Photo by Linda Garfield)

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The two 2200-series charter units pose side-by-side at the Western station on the Douglas branch while some members of the 2nd Annual Historic Station Tour group walk around the station. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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One of the few sets of unrehabbed 2600s left on the system at the time, car 3187 brings up the rear of an 8-car Blue Line train heading for 54/Cermak as it leaves Western station on the Douglas branch on October 29, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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As the decorative tiles were removed, the common brick underneath was revealed, seen here on October 21, 2002. Workmen were as careful as possible not to damage any tiles in the removal process. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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After sections of stairway, like this one on December 8, 2002, were removed from the elevated structure, they were lowered to the street where they would be loaded onto flatbed trucks and taken away for scrapping. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Only a week after the station closed, Western's station house, canopies and platforms, along with most of its stairs, were gone. In this December 10, 2002 view, all that remains are the lower portion of the stairs, and they would not be long for this Earth. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

 


Temporary Western-Hoyne station

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The Cullerton entrance to the Western-Hoyne temporary station, seen on December 10, 2002, was the first to feature bilingual signs. Other entrances followed afterward. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


New Western station

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The design for the new Douglas stations, including Western (pictured here), have a decidedly modern design, with a simple box-shaped glass and steel building beneath the elevated structure and an angular postmodern canopy, as seen in this artist's rendering. (Drawing provided courtesy of the Chicago Transit Authority)

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On February 6, 2003, the new Western island platform is well underway, looking east at the completed precast deck. The narrow section in the foreground is the walkway to the auxiliary entrance/exit on the west side of Western Avenue. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Foundation excavation work for the new Western station house -- in the same location as the original station house -- is underway in this view looking southeast on March 18, 2003. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Looking southeast on June 24, 2003, only Western's canopy and elevator framework at platform level and the elevator and stairway enclosures in the future station house had been constructed. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Looking southeast on December 8, 2003, the station house is now largely built out and the canopy is nearing completion. Also visible in this view is the enclosed walkway over Western Avenue at track level to allow easy access for passengers transferring to and from southbound Western Avenue buses. The cement wall to the right of the station house, in front of the substation, will have the Art Deco facade from the former station mounted on it as an art installation. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The station house exterior, typical of the new Douglas stations, features large storefront-type windows in an aluminum framework, a heavy cornice around the top, and brackets for benches along the front. The pink band along the top of the windows is a protective covering over decorative art glass. Seen on December 8, 2003, one of the protective coverings has been removed to reveal the pattern beneath: the Art Deco lettering from the historic station this station replaces. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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To allow convenient access for transferring bus passengers to the station without having to cross extra-wide Western Avenue, a small station house with high-barrier gates is being constructed access from the main entrance, seen looking west on December 8, 2003. Its design mimics the main headhouse's. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Looking east from the inbound track, the Western platform's decking is installed and the canopy is substantially in place, including its metal roofing and glazing, on December 8, 2003. The fascia is being installed on the vertical faces of the canopy structure. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The auxiliary entrance on the west side of Western (at right) is connected to the platform by way of a platform-level pedestrian walkway bridge that spans the width of Western Avenue. This bridge, seen here looking south on June 4, 2004, creates a dominant profile over the boulevard which is otherwise lined with one- and two-story commercial and light industrial buildings. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The interior of Western station, seen looking north in the unpaid area on reopening day, June 4, 2004, has a spacious interior. The walls are clad in white ceramic glazed tile walls, the waiting area on the unpaid side has seats of recycled plastic against the windows for waiting bus riders, and it is finished off with stainless steel fare controls, fare vending machines, and customer assistant booth. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Looking west on the Western platform on reopening day, June 4, 2004, one of the station's the triangular canopies is up ahead. Freestanding light posts are covered in the same "honeycomb" paneling that adorns the fascia of the canopy wedges. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The bridge from the platform across Western Avenue to the auxiliary entrance/exit, seen looking west on June 4, 2004, has with one side enclosed with a metal framed curtain wall with decorative art glass panels along the top and the other with a decorative metal grille (out of frame on the left) to protect customers from inclement weather. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The exterior design of the auxiliary entrance and exit on the west side of Western Avenue, across from the main station house, resembles a miniaturized version of the primary headhouse. The farecard-only entrance, seen looking west on June 4, 2004, provides a more convenient option for transferring to and from southbound #49 Western and #X49 Western Express buses. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Half a year after the new Western station opened, a piece of specially-designed artwork was added to the facility. Installed on a blank wall in front of Western Substation, immediately to the south of the station house, the installation incorporates the 1930s Art Deco facade that adorned the previous station. Inside the facade, where the doors and windows had been in the old station, a new Byzantine glass mosaic titled Ice Cream Dream by artist Hector Duarte was assembled. Seen here on January 21, 2005, the facade and artwork were installed during November and December 2004. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The mosaic Ice Cream Dream is seen mounted within the 1935 Art Deco terra facade of the former Western station, both mounted on a purpose-built wall in front of Western Substation, next to the new Western station. (Photo courtesy of CTA Arts in Transit Program)

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Artist Hector Duarte is seen in his studio working on a mixed media version of Ice Cream Dream, which he used as a basis for creating the glass and ceramic pieces for the mosaic. (Photo courtesy of CTA Arts in Transit Program)