The Central Park station house and island platform canopy, looking southwest on January 30, 2004. The station features a large, spacious station house fronting on a plaza on the corner of Central Park and Ogden and wider accessible island platform, all executed in a postmodern design. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Central Park (3600W/2100S)
Central Park Avenue and Ogden Avenue, North Lawndale

Service Notes:

Pink Line: Cermak (Douglas)

Accessible Station

Quick Facts:

Address: 1915 S. Central Park Avenue
Established: December 9, 1951
Original Line: Douglas Line
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station (1951-1958)

Station (1958-1995)

Rebuilt: 1977, 2002-04
In Use


The second Central Park station used simple, utilitarian architecture and had few amenities for passengers. Even the waiting areas had been fenced off by the time of this March 1998 photo. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The Douglas Park branch of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad was originally planned to extend to 46th (Kenton) Avenue in its original stretch. However, it didn't reach this location until the 1902 extension to 40th Avenue (Crawford, later Pulaski); Kenton wasn't reached until 1907.

The station in this general location was originally called Clifton Park, named for the avenue one block east of Central Park. In the mid-1930s, Clifton Park changed to Drake Avenue and the station followed suit.

In 1951, Drake station (as well as Lawndale station to the west and Homan to the east) was replaced by a new station at Central Park Avenue and an island platform at track level. The new Central Park had a short wooden canopy at the west end of platform, painted in a two-tone green paint with yellow gutter trim, and designed in a somewhat temporary-looking fashion similar to canopies built about the same time at Cicero-Berwyn (north platform) and Desplaines. This was a wood canopy with the angled bracing. Due to the wide platform, the canopy was supported in pairs (as opposed to singly down the centerline), with the supports slightly inset from the edge of the canopy. The street-level entrance to this station was on the west side of the street under the elevated structure and seems, at least in later years, to have merely been a passageway between commercial buildings, poorly marked and nor particularly inviting for passengers.

Following a fire, the station was rebuilt with a very simple, utilitarian entrance in 1977. The design of the "station house" was somewhat unusual, in that it is not an enclosed building but rather three walls and a roof, with the front left open. Apparently, the intention was to have enclosed access to the stairs here, with the rest of the open space left for passengers waiting for trains or, far more likely, waiting for the #82 Kimball-Homan bus that passes out front. But even this space was no longer in use by the later years of this facility's life, having been closed off by tall chain link fencing leaving only the stairs to the platform accessible.

The island platform at Central Park, looking west on August 1, 2001. This view shows several of the 1977-built Central Park's unusual design features, including the very boxy canopy, the unusual squared-off fluorescent lights with integrated "Rush Hour Stop" signs, and the unusually small station signs. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The platform, where the fare controls were located, and its canopy also used the boxy, rectilinear, utilitarian architecture of the station house. The agent's booth was at the top of the stairs, more or less over the street, and two turnstiles were provided. The platform also had some unusual features, not the least of which were the lights. The fixtures beyond the canopy, whose square white steel poles supported long fluorescent lights, were not found anywhere else on the system. They were also unusual in that much of the platform's signage is integrated into the pole design. The "Rush Hour Stop" illuminated signs were actually part of the pole -- mounted around and through it -- rather than hung from it, as is more usual. The station name and symbol signage was also unusually small in scale here (and at Pulaski one stop west, as well). There was an auxiliary exit from the middle of the platform down to the east side of Central Park Avenue, allowing east transfers to the northbound #82 Kimball-Homan bus.

The station was an A stop when it opened in December 1951, when the CTA instituted A/B skip stop service on the Douglas branch, but became a B stop in 1958 (like every other station on the Douglas branch), in conjunction with the opening of the new Congress Line in the Eisenhower Expressway.


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.

As part of the renovation project, Central Park was replaced with an entirely new station facility. The new headhouse is a modern glass and steel facility on the southwest corner of Central Park and Ogden. 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 primary entrance of the station faces the corner of Central Park and Ogden on an angle with a small plaza in front, with side doors also located on both streets. The interior is quite expansive and open, featuring white ceramic glazed tile walls, a spacious waiting area in both the paid and unpaid area with seats for waiting bus riders, fare controls, fare vending machines, a customer assistant booth, and various auxiliary equipment rooms.

The old island platform is 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.

Closed for a couple months, crews had finally begun dismantling the station as seen on October 1, 2002, with light poles scattered on the platform. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

There is an auxiliary entrance and exit on the east side of Central Park 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 stairs from the auxiliary entrance ascend in the middle of the platform. The auxiliary entrance/exit allows passengers transferring to and from northbound #82 Kimball-Homan buses a more convenient option.

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 Central Park station for about another nine months. Crews began demolishing the station house at Central Park station during the week of June 9, 2002. This did not effect the operation of the station in any way, as the ground-level station house contained no equipment or fare controls. As of Friday, June 14 2002, crews had removed the front roof cornice and begun demolishing parts of the side walls. Early in the morning on Saturday, August 10, 2002, the Central Park station closed for reconstruction. Effective at 0400 hours, the station closed pending its demolition and replacement with new facilities.

While the work is in progress, a temporary Kedzie-Central Park station with entrances at Trumbull (3450 West) and Christiana (3350 West) served customers from both stations. The Kedzie-Central Park temporary station serving the former Kedzie and Central Park stations was placed in service at 0400 hours on Monday, August 12, 2002. Customers continued making bus connections with the #52 Kedzie Bus at 21st/Kedzie and the #82 Kimball-Homan at Ogden/Central Park, requiring a three block walk in either direction from the station entrances to get to the bus transfer points. During the weekend, after Central Park station was closed and locked, CTA forces removed the fare controls and AVMs in that station and relocated them to the Trumbull entrance to the temporary Kedzie-Central Park station.

Chicago Transit Authority President Frank Kruesi and other officials reopened the new Central Park station on January 29, 2004 as part of the $482.6 million renovation of the Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line. Central Park is the second new elevated station to open -- both within about two weeks of one another -- and the fourth of eight stations to reopen after renovation, marking the halfway point in activating the new replacement stations on the branch. The new Central Park station was officially activated for customer use at 1100 hours following a press event.

Coincident with the new station opening, the Trumbull entrance (3450 West) to the temporary Kedzie-Central Park station was converted to an emergency exit. The east entrance of the temporary station at Christiana (3350 West) remained open for Kedzie station customers until that station's rehabilitation was complete.

The Central Park 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. The Central Park station includes a Byzantine glass mosaic on an interior wall titled "Cannas & Corn" by artist Olivia Gude. 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.


Looking east on the Central Park station platform on January 30, 2004, a day after opening, an outbound train of 2600- and 2200-series cars (in view of the camera) prepares to depart for 54th Avenue. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Old Central Park (1951-2002) | New Central Park (2002-present)

centralpark02.jpg (101k)
The main entrance to Central Park station, looking west in 1999. Though nearly identical to the photo at the top, a set of pay phones has been added inside in front of the Transit Information Board. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

centralpark03.jpg (81k)
The platform-level fare controls and CA booth at Central Park, looking west in February 2001 (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark04.jpg (84k)
Central Park's island platform, looking east in 1999. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark07.jpg (156k)
Following a fire, the station was rebuilt with a very simple, utilitarian entrance in 1977. The 1977-built "station house", with its open, unenclosed space left for passengers waiting for the #82 Kimball-Homan bus that passes out front. This space is no longer in use, having been closed off by tall chain link fencing, leaving only the stairs to the platform accessible. The original blue porcelain maps, though terribly out-of-date, are still in the Transit Information Board in the late 1990s view. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

centralpark08.jpg (169k)
The auxiliary rotogate exit on the east side of Central Park Avenue, looking east in the late 1990s, allowing passengers transferring to the northbound #82 Kimball-Homan buses from the the "L" a more convenient option. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

centralpark09.jpg (164k)
Central Park is having its ground-level station house demolished in this June 14, 2002 view, although the structure does not currently house any station functions or equipment, so its removal for the Douglas branch renovations will not affect operations. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark10.jpg (170k)
As crews demolished the Central Park station, a homemade sign was posted on the front fence to reassure passengers that it was still open for business. Its need was short-lived, however, as this view looks west on the station's last full day of service on August 9, 2002. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark11.jpg (148k)
The old Central Park station is closed in this view looking west on August 31, 2002. A sign has been installed instructing motorman not to stop at the station, whose signs have largely been stripped off but is otherwise still intact. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

New Central Park station

centralpark06.jpg (144k)
The new Central Park station's plaza, modern station house, and wider, accessible platform with postmodern canopy are evident in this artist's conception looking south on the corner of Central Park and Ogden. (Drawing provided courtesy of the Chicago Transit Authority)

centralpark13.jpg (125k)
The precast decking of the new Central Park island platform has been completed, looking east on February 6, 2003. The openings are for stairways. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark16.jpg (193k)
Looking southwest in front of the station house on June 24, 2003, the structural steel and basic storefront elements are already in place, through some elements like the cornice have yet to be installed. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark17.jpg (186k)
The platform and canopy are largely in place by the time of this August 19, 2003 view looking east at Central Park. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark18.jpg (121k)
By the end of the year, the station was largely complete, including finishes on the station house; roofing, glazing and paneling on the canopy; and signage throughout the station, seen looking southwest on December 8, 2003. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark19.jpg (159k)
The station house is largely complete, including lighting and signage, looking southwest on December 8, 2003 such that the doors have been chained and a chainlink fence put around the building until final preparations for opening are undertaken. Even the plaza in front of the station has been installed. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark20.jpg (186k)
Looking east from in front of the station on December 8, 2003, the auxiliary entrance and exit on the east side of Central Park Avenue is visible under the structure. Note the break in the largely-complete canopies above: The truncation is to save money on construction, and the small canopy at the far end covers the motorman and exiting passengers from a long 8-car train. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark22.jpg (152k)
The new Central Park station, looking southwest on January 30, 2004, provides a more modern, spacious facility than its predecessor and replaced abandoned buildings on the corner of Central Park and Ogden with a landscaped public plaza. During warmer months, a planter in front of the main entrance will have landscaping. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark23.jpg (143k)
The interior of Central Park station, seen looking west in the unpaid area on January 30, 2004, has a large, open, spacious interior, probably far more space than is required for the station's current usage level. Note the rotogates for additional egress capacity and the art glass along the top of the large picture windows. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark24.jpg (187k)
The exterior design of the auxiliary entrance and exit on the east side of Central Park Avenue, across from the main station house, resembles a miniaturized version of the primary headhouse. The farecard-only entrance, seen looking east on January 30, 2004, provides a more convenient option for transferring to and from northbound #82 Kimball-Homan buses. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

centralpark26.jpg (172k)
Looking east on the Central Park platform on January 30, 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. To supplement the off-axis station name signs on the platform, signs are also posted on the outside of the tracks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

CentralPark-douglas_art01.jpg (154k)
Cannas & Corn is seen on the south walls of Central Park's paid area. This mosaic commemorates the ephemeral public art form of the community garden. North Lawndale has an active tradition of dedicated people who transform abandoned urban spaces into neighborhood amenities. They describe their work as "blight into sight." (Photo courtesy of CTA Arts in Transit Program)

CentralPark-douglas_art02.jpg (155k)
A young community member is seen making tiles for the Cannas & Corn mosaic at a workshop. The mosaic was fabricated in a community mosaic workshop to "plant the seeds" of mosaic making skills in the community so that locally made public art can become part of the garden making process. (Photo courtesy of CTA Arts in Transit Program)