The Victorian Ashland/Lake eastbound station house, looking north on Ashland Avenue on September 23, 2003. The station used to have matching stairs on both sides, but both east side stairs were removed as a result of road widening many years ago. Click here for a larger view. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Ashland (1600W/200N)
Ashland Avenue and Lake Street, Near West Side

Service Notes:

Green Line: Lake

Pink Line: Lake

Accessible Station

Quick Facts:

Address: 1601 W. Lake Street
Established: November 6, 1893
Original Line: Lake Street Elevated
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station (1951)

Station (1951-1993)

Rebuilt: 1996
(historic restoration/renovation)
Status: In Use


Ashland/Lake station is typical of those built in 1892-93 for the Lake Street Elevated Railroad, designed by its engineering staff and built by the Lloyd and Pennington Company.

End elevation for a typical Lake Street elevated station. Nearly all the stations on this line were originally identical; today only two survive. Click here for a larger view. (Drawing from the Graham Garfield Collection)

The station has twin station houses and side platforms for boarding inbound and outbound trains. The station houses are designed in a Queen Anne style with a Victorian Gothic influence. Each is symmetrical (which is unusual for the Queen Anne style), with corrugated metal siding and decorative detail in the metal and wood trim around the windows and in panels below. The front of each station house has a rectangular bay window, with a decorative diamond pattern in panels under the windows. A belt rail divides the exterior horizontally beneath the windows. The station houses have gabled roofs with two windowless gabled dormers each. Each roof is topped with a square cupola with a diamond pattern and a steeply hipped roof with a small gabled dormer in each of the four sides. The top of the cupola and the front point of the cupola dormers, roof dormers, and platform canopies are finished with decorative curlicue finials. These structures represent a unique attempt to apply the Queen Anne architectural style. They originally had chimneys, now gone on the two remaining stations.

There were originally four stairways from the street up to the station houses: two to each station house, and one on each side of Ashland Avenue. Some stairs have since been relocated or removed because of the widening of Ashland Avenue. The stairs led into the station houses, each of which had its own ticket agent and inside waiting room. The uneconomical labor requirements of the track-level station having separate agents for each direction of travel -- a problem shared by the original Loop Elevated stations as well -- was recognized by the railroad company by the early 20th century, but was not rectified until the CTA renovated the station in the 1990s, when the fare collection was consolidated onto one side with a bridge over the tracks to access the other platform.

The side platforms were covered by tin-covered peaked-roof canopies supported by a row of steel center posts. The posts had decorative elements cast into them, most notably in the top angle bracket that supported the canopy braces. The canopies originally covered the full length of the platforms, approximately four railcars long. As the platforms were extended to accommodate longer trains, the canopies only covered the original section of the platform nearest to the station houses. The Lake Street Elevated stations also originally had elaborate railings on the platforms, replaced several times, although Ashland still has some sections of original railing.


Closing, Reopening, and Modifications

In 1948, the CTA closed the station when A/B skip stop service was instituted due to its extremely close proximity to Lake Street Transfer to the west, but left the station intact. The station was reopened February 25, 1951 when the Milwaukee trains were rerouted through the Dearborn Street Subway and Lake Street Transfer was no longer needed. Loomis station, two blocks east of Ashland, which had been an "A" station, also closed, with Ashland taking over for both stations as an "A" stop. This, however, did not sit well with local politicians and after some pressure was applied, Loomis reopened on March 5, 1951, only nine days after it closed! Loomis again became an "A" station, with Ashland becoming a "B" station (thus creating the troublesome stooping pattern of two "B" stations in a row: Ashland and California to the west). This was clearly not a logical stopping pattern and, after an auxiliary entrance to Ashland was opened at Justine Street one block east of Ashland Avenue, Loomis was closed again April 4, 1954. Ashland again became an "A" station.

The view of the inbound Ashland station house looking southeast on June 7, 1973 shows how the drum barriers, rotogates, and high gates corralled passengers in the west half of the platform to facilitate on-train fare collection. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from Graham Garfield Collection)

Over succeeding decades, the original station structure was little changed. The late-1950s marked the beginning of a slow decline in the quality of both services and facilities on the Lake Street Line. Decreasing ridership on the route necessitated several economy moves over the following decades, though they did little to stem the line's sagging revenues. Starting on January 1, 1958, Ashland and several other Lake Street elevated stations were reduced to agent coverage during rush hours only.

Service levels increased on the Lake Street Line when it was paired with the new Dan Ryan Line in 1969, though it was only due to higher demands on the new end of the line. On November 13, 1972, drum barriers and rotogates were installed on both the east- and westbound platforms at Ashland to allow pay-on-train operation. These large metal barriers kept boarding passengers confined to a small section of the platform where the conductor could easily collect fares during pay-on-train hours. It also corralled people to the berthing area where two-car trains -- often the norm in later years -- stopped. Exit-only rotogates allowed alighting passengers on longer trains the ability to use the areas of the platform outside the barriers. On December 18, 1972, the West-South Route (the Lake-Dan Ryan Line) increased train lengths during rush hour to 8 cars and used 4-car trains midday. The drum barriers previously installed many Lake Street trains restricted boarding to the westernmost car (where the conductor was) to permit on-train fare collection on 4-car trains.

Over the years, the station houses slowly deteriorated. By the mid-1980s, the inbound station house was closed to the public, with fare collection handled by a small wooden agent's booth installed on the platform. At that time, the outbound station house was still open when staffed, although there were very few hours of agent coverage. At all other times, the station house was locked and an exit rotogate was set to "freewheel", allowing entry to the "Pay on Train" portion of the platform demarcated by the drum barriers.


Green Line Renovation Project

On February 21, 1993 the Lake Street Line was divorced from the Dan Ryan Line and re-paired with the Englewood-Jackson Park Line, forming the CTA's new Green Line.

Ashland station is seen after renovation, on September 23, 2003. Looking east from the inbound platform under the original 1892 canopies, the original railings are seen at left and the modern ones on the right. The station houses, elevators, and overhead transfer bridge are visible in the background. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

On January 9, 1994, the Green Line closed for a two-year rehabilitation. All stations on the line, including Ashland, closed. Unlike other stations on the Lake branch, such as Kedzie and California, which were replaced with new, modern facilities, Ashland's original station had been designated "historic" and was instead restored.

The exterior structure was restored and painted in hues of light and dark green, brick red and cream in the painted lady style typical to Victorian homes (though not necessarily authentic to the station). The interior of the outbound station was closed to the public and is now used for office space and electrical equipment, but the inbound station house has been restored close to its 1892 appearance with floor to ceiling tongue-in-groove paneling and wood moldings, with a wood floor and peaked ceiling. The inbound station house was reopened to the public and now houses the station's fare controls, with the original ticket agent booth put back into service to house the station's Customer Assistant. Solving the quandary the Lake Street Elevated faced with the need to staff each direction's station house, all passengers enter the station through the inbound side, then those wishing to travel outbound cross over by way of a new overhead transfer bridge on the platforms east of the station houses.

Elevators from the street to the station house and to both platforms provide full accessibility to customers with disabilities. The station now has full-length canopies incorporating the original canopies and extensions to the east down to the Justine auxiliary entrances. The original portions retained their original center posts and ornamental brackets. Meanwhile, the new canopy extensions are similar in shape and massing to the shorter originals, though not identical, which creates a pleasing, sympathetic addition without copying the originals and creating a false sense of history. What original railings were left are in place and restored, with modern railings installed on the rest of the platform. Other improvements included communication, public address, and HVAC systems, tactile edging on both platforms, new signage, and audiovisual signs to alert customers when trains are approaching.

The Green Line reopened on May 12, 1996, although Ashland station was far from finished. When the line reopened, Ashland station lacked elevators, only the basic framework of its platform extensions were in place, and even most of the exterior cladding of the station houses had not yet been reattached. Work at Ashland station continued for about another year after.

Today, the Ashland station, one of the "L"'s oldest and most unique, has been restored and updated, combining the glory of classic "L" architecture with the practicality of up-to-date station amenities.

A similar restoration was undertaken in 2000-01 on its twin to the west, Homan, now relocated and renamed Conservatory-Central Park Drive.


Recent Developments

Four of the art panels installed at Ashland as part of Chicago Artist's Month, seen on October 10, 2014. For a larger view, click here. (CTA photo)

During October 2014, 20 colorful paintings were installed along the platforms at Ashland station as part of Chicago Artists Month 2014, a five-week celebration that included over 300 events highlighting the creative pulse and impulse of the city. Chicago Artists Month (CAM), in its 19th year, was presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and offered a platform for Chicago-based artists and performers working in all media to promote and showcase their work, initiate collaborations and engage new audiences.

The installation at Ashland station included 20 temporary installations affixed to the railings along both platforms. The art installation by local artist Nick Fury was called "Victorian Graffics". Inspired by images and experiences of the CTA, the paintings illustrated the juxtaposition of the vintage and the modern. To emphasize the visual contrasts between old and new, the artist depicted the historic Victorian station and its architectural features using an ultra-modern graphic style and innovative materials of correction tape and spray enamel. Chicago artist Nick Fury (b. Dominic Morris), who is a train and transit enthusiast, stated, "sparks emitted from the third rail is one of the most beautiful things in Chicago."

CAM was presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in collaboration with the Chicago Park District and numerous community partners. The art panels were installed on October 2, 2014 and displayed for one month before being removed.


Car 2251 brings up the rear of a Lake-Dan Ryan All-Stop train stopping at Ashland on October 5, 1972. The classic Queen Anne station house still stands today. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Steve Zabel, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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An outbound Lake-Dan Ryan train on its way to Harlem is lead by a 2200 as it stops at Ashland on the Lake branch on March 19, 1973. The Victorian Queen Anne-influenced metal-clad station house and original platform canopies and railings are present here, and still in use today. The new Sears Tower is visible in the skyline next to the station house cupola; the skyscraper's construction was finished two months later. (Photo from the Scott Greig Collection)

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The Ashland station house, looking north in 1985. Except for the paint scheme and some basic maintenance, the station looks nearly identical today. (Photo by Olga Stefanos)

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The westbound Green Line train approaches Ashland in mid-1996, before the platform extensions were finished. (Photo from Chicago's "L"/Subway System: Take a Ride on the Wild Side from All-the-6000s-You-Missed Productions)

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A view of Ashland's "steeple", through the space between two 2200-series cars -- there for a Historic Station Tour charter -- on November 19, 2000. (Photo by Teresa Heinrichs)

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Looking west at Ashland from the back of an inbound train as it pulls away in 1993. This how Ashland station looked just before being rehabbed in the 1994-96 Green Line renovation. The two-tone gray and butterscotch paint scheme, sodium vapor lights, and minimalist platform extensions are typical of the pre-rehab Lake Street Line. Note that the passenger control drum barriers around the station houses were still in place up to the station's closure for renovation. (Photo by John Smatlak)

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The post-1996 renovated Ashland station, seen looking northeast at the inbound station house on September 23, 2003, has a complex of stairs and accessways. Replacing the long-removed matching stairway directly into the headhouse on the far side of Ashland Avenue (removed due to street widening), a new east stair was built and connected to the station house via a platform-level walkway. Visible in the background on the paid side are the two elevator towers east of the station house that allow ADA-compliant access between the inbound and outbound platforms. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The outbound station house, looking northwest from the inbound platform on July 24, 2003, was closed to the public when the station was renovated in the Green Line rehab. It now houses CTA functions. The restored station house is painted in a scheme that, while not historically authentic, evokes the "painted lady" style typical from the period when the station's Queen Anne architecture was popular for residences. The green hues evokes its location on the Green Line. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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This view looks west from the east end of the inbound platform at Ashland on July 24, 2003. This section of the platform is new, built in the 1994-96 Green Line rehab to the station could berth 8-car trains. The extensions of the canopies were designed to mimic the general shape and design of the historic canopies further down the platform to create a flowing, pleasing overall appearance, but are not replications (which would have created a false sense of history, something to be avoided in historic preservation). (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Included in the station renovation were new auxiliary entrances at Justine Avenue, one block east of the main entrance at Ashland. These farecard-only entrances consists of two covered stairways, each leading to the far east end of one of the platforms, and a platform-level landing where the unattended high-barrier gate (HBG) is located. The entrance to the inbound platform is seen here looking west on June 19, 2003. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The Ashland outbound station house is seen looking northwest on October 17, 2004 as a Harlem-bound Green Line train of 2400-series cars pulls out. The two-car train is typical of moderate-traffic Sunday consists on the line. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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When Pink Line trains were routed over the Lake Street branch beginning June 25, 2006, station entrance signs were changed in time for the opening to reflect Ashland station's new services. Conforming to CTA's new practice of listing the station's name in a colored bar the the top and the routes serving the station in the white bar on the bottom, the sign is somewhat inaccurate, with the green bar and pink patch suggesting the Pink Line has less then normal service hours. The sign was since replaced with one that fits the standard, denoting equal service on the two lines -- a black header with green and pink stripes on the right. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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A 4-car Pink Line train of 5000-series railcars, led by car 5055, is on its way back to 54th/Cermak, completing its first post-testing in-service passenger trip on November 8, 2011. The train is stopped at historic Ashland station on what turned out to be a rainy, dreary day for the cars' official revenue service debut. Note the Customer Assistant with the yellow "gap filler" ramp next to the train, about to assist a customer in a wheelchair off the train. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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One of the art installations displayed at Ashland station during October 2014, as part of Chicago Artists Month 2014, depicts the interior of the historic station house. Seen on October 10, 2014, the panel is part of a collection called "Victorian Graffics", emphasizing the visual contrasts between old and new by depicting the Victorian the station and its architectural features using an ultra-modern graphic style and innovative materials of correction tape and spray enamel. (CTA photo)

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One of 20 panels displayed as part of the "Victorian Graffics" installation, this piece, seen displayed on the back railing at Ashland station on October 10, 2014, was inspired by images and experiences of the CTA, the paintings illustrated the juxtaposition of the vintage and the modern. (CTA photo)

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The Holiday Train glides into Ashland station while making weekday trips on the Green Line on an overcast December 1, 2015. (Photo by Bruce Moffat)