Passengers wait to board a northbound Congress-Milwaukee "A" train of PCC 6000-series stock near the LaSalle-Clark mezzanine at the east end of Lake Transfer station (later renamed Clark/Lake) in late 1958. Note the transfer stamp machine on the right and the sign telling riders they can transfer to the Loop "L" upstairs at Clark/Lake. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the Graham Garfield Collection)
LaSalle Street and Lake Street, Loop
Blue Line: Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway
Established: February 25, 1951
124 W. Lake Street (subway station, Thompson Ctr/203 N. LaSalle entrance)
191 N. Wells Street (Wells/Lake entrance)
Original Line: Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway
Previous Names: Lake Transfer
Status: In Use
Lake Transfer (not to be confused with Lake Street Transfer on the Lake Street Line) was typical of all the Dearborn and State Street subway stations. Described at the time as of a "modern design" (really somewhere between art deco and art moderne), the mezzanine stations -- the main mezzanine entrance being at LaSalle-Clark/Lake, with an auxiliary mezzanine entrance at Wells/Lake -- had smooth concrete floors and ceilings and white glazed tile walls (sometimes referred to as "structural glass"). The fare control booths were of stone walls with a small ventilation grate near the bottom and glass windows on all four sides. Turnstiles were steel. The platforms had red no-slip concrete floors, curved concrete ceilings and I-beam steel columns. Fluorescent lights and illuminated station signs hanging from the ceilings finished the decoration. Still, when compared to the ornate subways of New York, London or Paris (built at least several decades before), these stations seem starkly utilitarian.
Though much of the structural work of the Dearborn subway was concurrent with that of State Street's, which opened in 1943, the Dearborn line's was held up until 1951 due to wartime materials shortages. Even then, it was only open at the north end, with cars forced to turn around at LaSalle/Congress until the south end's completion seven years later.
Lake Transfer has served for its entire life as a transfer point between the Loop "L" and the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway (hence its name, Lake Transfer) in various configurations. When Lake Transfer opened in 1951, free transfers were issued between the subway exit at Wells/Lake and the Loop at Randolph/Wells' original entrance over Couch Place, a 1/2 block away. This continued for seven years until the West-Northwest through-route was created with the Congress and Douglas lines in 1958. At that time, transfers between Lake Transfer and Randolph/Wells were discontinued. Transfers 'up' from the subway to the "L" were inaugurated between Lake Transfer and Clark/Lake (1/2 block east of Lake Transfer's LaSalle-Clark mezzanine), although 'down' transfers from the Loop to the subway were prohibited here (these were accomplished between State/Van Buren and Jackson-Van Buren/Dearborn). In 1969, a new through-routing once again brought a change to the transfer policy between the Loop and the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway. With the beginning of West-South Route (Lake-Dan Ryan) service, all transfers -- both 'up' and 'down' -- were changed to between Lake Transfer and Clark/Lake. The final change came two years later when the "L"-to-subway transfer booth at Lake Transfer was moved from the platform to the LaSalle-Clark mezzanine.
In May 1985, the new $173 million State of Illinois Center (SOIC) was completed and occupied. Only 17 stories tall (with two additional levels below grade) but monumentally designed by Helmut Jahn, the Center stands apart from surrounding office buildings because of its dome-shape and its multicolored glass exterior. With a low block design, the glass-enclosed steel structure's curving, sloping facade faces the corner of Randolph Street and Clark Street.
In 1986, the LaSalle-Clark mezzanine of Lake Transfer was closed for renovation and integration into the new SOIC. The mezzanine was already located mid-block between LaSalle and Clark (where the SOIC is) and at the same level as the first basement floor. During the duration of construction, the previously part-time entrance at Wells/Lake was made a full-time entrance. In 1989, the reconstruction was complete and the east entrance to Lake Transfer was reopened. The space previously occupied by the station mezzanine and fare controls at LaSalle-Clark were wiped out and completely remodeled, now all within the paid area. Likewise, the mezzanine-to-street stairs were completely removed. The fare controls were now located in two places: in the basement level of the SOIC (near the food court) and at street level in the SOIC, connected to the basement/mezzanine level by two elevators, two escalators, and stairs. At that time, the Wells/Lake entrance returned to entrance during the weekday PM rush hours only.
Further renovation came to Lake Transfer in 1991 when an additional entrance to the former LaSalle-Clark mezzanine was opened with the construction of the new 203 N. LaSalle Building (aka the Loop Transportation Building, completed in 1985), across Lake Street from the State of Illinois Center. Like in the SOIC, passengers could enter the 203 N. LaSalle Building mid-block on Lake Street, enter through street-level fare controls, travel down to the basement level by stairs or elevator, and access the subway mezzanine through a new subterranean passageway.
The SOIC entrance to Lake Transfer station became the second on the CTA to require exact fares on Sunday, September 8, 1991. (95th Street was the first, earlier on the year on July 21.) Ticket agents no longer accepted cash fares, instead requiring passengers to use automated turnstiles that accepted tokens, coins, transfers and magnetic cards. Agents still handled reduced fare riders and nonmagnetic transfers. At the time of the 1991 experiment, Lake Transfer handled 8,000 riders per weekday.
On March 23, 1992, the Clark/Lake elevated station's entrances over Clark Street were closed and new access opened from the newly-constructed elevated platforms to the State of Illinois Center and 203 N. LaSalle Building. With all access to both the Loop and subway stations through the same access points -- also allowing transfers without leaving a paid area -- the subway and elevated stations were combined into a single facility known as Clark/Lake, with the subway station thus dropping the Lake Transfer moniker.
Clark/Lake is one of the CTA's busiest Loop subway stations, as seen in this rush hour view looking west on the platform in Summer 2000. The station was called Lake Transfer when it opened in 1951 because it served as a transfer point between the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway and the Loop Elevated, although there was no direct connection at the time. (Photo by Graham Garfield)