Two two-car wooden trains pass each other at Gunderson in the early 1940s. The station house's architecture is typical of the Met's ground-level running, like at 50th Avenue and Laramie on the Douglas Park. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

Gunderson (500W/900S)
Gunderson Avenue and Harrison Street, Village of Oak Park

Service Notes:

Garfield Line

Quick Facts:

Address: TBD
Established: March 11, 1905
Original Line: Metropolitan West Side Elevated, Garfield Park branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: exact date uncertain
(circa 1926)
Status: Demolished


52nd Avenue (Laramie) served as the terminal for the Garfield Park branch until the line was extended to Desplaines Avenue on March 11, 1905. Previously, the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago interurban railroad had operated local service there (meaning that a station may have existed at Gunderson before 1905), but when the city altered their franchise agreement to allowing them to operate into the Wells terminal downtown via the Met's "L" tracks, they also allowed the Met to take over this burdensome local service, which was an unprofitable and unwanted chore for the AE&C.

In 1899, the Gunderson brothers, George and Seward, formed a business partnership building homes and selling real estate in Cicero Township. Their firm built several hundred homes from 1899-1925 in Chicago and Oak Park. Much of south Oak Park was open prairie until Seward Gunderson subdivided the land around the turn of the century and began building tracts of affordable homes that reflected the time in which they were built, featuring with large front porches, built-in cabinetry, fine woodwork, built-in glasswork, and third floors that are easily converted from attics to living space.

A station was established at Gunderson Avenue, one subdivision's main thoroughfare, by the Metropolitan Elevated when the Garfield Park branch was extended to Desplaines in 1905. Seward Gunderson had postcards of the station made, seen below, that were sent to prospective buyers to show them how to use the "L" to reach the development. The original station here was a wooden grade-level station with two side platforms. Only one side had a station house, however, and the other side had only a simple high-level platform. As most boarding traffic at the station was toward Chicago, the station house on the inbound platform. Unlike other typical ground-level station houses of the "L", however, the platform did not project from the back of the station house, requiring passengers to pass through it and its fare controls to gain access to the platform. Rather, it was positioned to the side of the platform, not unlike a main line or commuter rail depot. The small station house was a simple affair, with wood siding and a pyramidal roof with wide overhanging eaves. The outbound platform had a short one-car canopy with a hipped roof and center wooden columns with angled brackets. Passengers here might have been expected to buy a ticket from the agent on the inbound platform before proceeding to the outbound side, but more likely a conductor on the train took care of the fares from the modest number of people that boarded outbound here.

The station was initially served by shuttle trains that ran only between Desplaines and 52nd Avenue; there passengers had to transfer to a train to the city, but didn't have to pay a second fare. Through shuttles to the city began in 1906 during rush hours. Eventually, a local through train was added.

Circa 1910, thought was given to adding two more tracks between between Desplaines and 52nd Avenue, through Gunderson station, to allow separated local and express service. Although the necessary governmental approvals were received, no construction of undertaken. Instead, a simple bypass track was installed at Gunderson to allow trains to pass one another.

To further expedite service, a full center track was installed at Gunderson in 1926 to that "L" expresses and Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurbans could pass slower Garfield Park "L" locals without interrupting or slowing service. Around this time the station was rebuilt and it was probably the extra width required by widening the right-of-way from two to three tracks that necessitated the moving and reconstruction of the station building. The rebuilt Gunderson station still only had a station house on the inbound side, with just a platform on the other. This time, however, the design was more typical of other small wood frame ground-level Met station houses. The headhouse was positioned between the street and the boarding platform, requiring passage through the station house before reaching the platform. The exterior used clapboard siding and a peaked roof with eaves that extended out about a foot. The front features one set of double doors, while the sides are broken up by four double-hung sash windows. The rear opened out onto one of the dual platforms. The interior was most likely floor-to-ceiling tongue-in-groove paneling, wood floors and paneled ceilings with a small ticket booth near the entrance, benches along the walls, a boiler stove for heat and incandescent lights for illumination.

The station was closed in 1957 when Garfield Line trains were rerouted onto a new, temporary ground-level right-of-way north of the old one between Oak Park and Austin avenues as part of the construction of the new Congress Line. Closing in two phases in mid-September -- westbound first, followed by the eastbound side -- the station was replaced by a temporary stop at Ridgeland Avenue two blocks east. The station was demolished shortly after closing. When the permanent Congress Line right-of-way opened through Oak Park in 1960-61, a new Gunderson station was never constructed, nor was a permanent Ridgeland station built.

Seward Gunderson sent out postcards like this one to instruct potential home-buyers how to reach his new subdivision by way of the Garfield Park branch. The image depicts the original Gunderson station that was built to serve the development, For a larger view, click here. (Postcard from the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest Collection)