The King Drive station is seen looking south on March 7, 2007 at the fare control facility over the street. The station's boxy shape, use of steel and glass, and vivid, contrasting colors give it an almost postmodern look. The choice of blue was probably make because at the time of its construction, Olympic Blue was the CTA's official color for signage and other public information elements, although the station is now on the Green Line. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

King Drive (6300S/400E)
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and 63rd Street, Woodlawn

Service Notes:

Green Line: East 63rd

Accessible Station

Quick Facts:

Address: 400 E. 63rd Street
Established: April 23, 1893
Original Line: South Side Rapid Transit
Previous Names: South Park Avenue

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: 1991-93
Status: In Use


South Park station -- the original name of King Drive station -- was built in 1892-93 when the South Side Rapid Transit Company extended its line from 39th Street to Jackson Park to serve the World's Columbian Exposition. South Park was originally one of five stations on the Jackson Park branch; the others were Stony Island (aka Jackson Park), Dorchester, University and Cottage Grove.

The historic, Colonial Revival-influenced South Park station, looking south circa 1985. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Olga Stefanos)

The station had two platform-level station houses, one in each direction of travel. There was no connection between the two sides by mezzanine or platform, so each station house handled passengers only for one direction of travel.

The lineage of the station houses is somewhat uncertain. The interesting pitch of the inbound station house's roof line as it existed by 1930 suggests that the station was at some point remodeled or reworked. (By this time, there was no outbound station house; it is uncertain if there ever was one.) The original station house(s) may have looked like Cottage Grove, which was probably designed by Myron H. Church in 1892, and the roof's shape certainly suggests this was possible. The design and ornamental details on South Park station, as seen on the right, were identical to those on the University station a mile east, which would appear to establish a common architect. Some have conjectured they were designed by William Gibb, who also designed the original stations on the Northwestern Elevated main line. The designs at South Park and at University are very similar to Gibbs' work at Kinzie on the Northwestern, which he designed in 1899. This station (and University) features decorated pilasters, large double-hung windows, bay windows and unique ornamentation in the pediment, giving the structure a Colonial Revival feel.

The station house interiors were clad in pressed metal and wood trim, with wooden agent's booths and coal stoves for heat. Like most of the Jackson Park branch stations over 63rd Street, South Park had "turtleback" arched platform canopies.

The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, held in neighboring Jackson Park, brought 20,000 new residents and entrepreneurs to Woodlawn, the neighborhood in which South Park station was centrally located, resulting in the construction of large apartments and tourist hotels. Two decades later a long-time "L" trainman recalled that, "for a long time after the World's Fair the stations at South Park and University avenues were closed, as there was no traffic at those points."1 Both stations subsequently reopened as the neighborhoods around them developed and became more populated. The area around South Park station in particular remained a popular destination thanks to the Washington Park's amusement parks, racetrack, and beer gardens and the specialty shops along 63rd Street. By the 1920s, Woodlawn had become one of Chicago's premier retail and entertainment centers.

During the Depression, the community became distressed and the mass migrations from the southern United States during World War II for jobs in the defense industry reinforced a demographic transformation already underway in Woodlawn. After the war, 63rd Street's businesses began to close and in 1946 the Chicago Plan Commission designated Woodlawn eligible as a conservation area. By 1960 Woodlawn had deteriorating, crowded housing and few commercial attractions to support its population, which was by that time 89 percent African-American.

In 1968, South Park Boulevard was renamed for slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The station the station followed suit effective July 31, 1968.

In 1970, King Drive became one of a few that were designated as allowing inbound boarding only. (A similar arrangement was put in place at the same time at Cottage Grove and University on the Jackson Park branch and Isabella on the Evanston Line.) The agents booth and fare controls on the outbound side were abandoned and removed, respectively, and high-barrier rotogates were installed so that people could exit here, but not enter from the unpaid area. Relatively few people were boarding the "L" to travel eastbound from here and the few who needed to head that way could take the #63 63rd bus, so the elimination of agents here allowed for an economy for the CTA .

The fare control area of the King Drive station is seen looking southeast on March 7, 2007. The stainless steel agent's booth and fare controls, with its rounded corners and red stripes, is similar to in style to other stations designed in the 1980s. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

On March 4, 1982, service on the Jackson Park branch was suspended south of 61st Street due to structural defects found in the Dorchester bridge over the Illinois Central Railroad. The Chicago Department of Transportation come up with a number of responses, which included cutting service to Dorchester on the west side of the IC tracks, abandoning the Jackson Park branch altogether, and replacing the IC bridge and restoring service to the Stony Island terminal, the latter of which Mayor Byrne supported. On December 12, 1982, service was restored as far as University station and the defective bridge was later demolished. As part of the reopening of the branch, then-Mayor Jane Byrne announced a four-point program that included working closely with the Woodlawn community and The Woodlawn Organization (TWO) to promote economic development along East 63rd Street. The plan pledged $56 million for modernizing the branch and the three reopened stations and to build a new Jackson Park branch terminal at Dorchester, providing direct access to the Illinois Central commuter line and a CTA bus terminal.

The Jackson Park rehabilitation project was initiated in 1989 when Cottage Grove station was closed for reconstruction, reopening in 1991. On December 1, 1991, King Drive closed and was demolished. The #3 King Drive bus was rerouted to serve Garfield station during construction. The station was reconstructed, replaced with a new steel, glass and tile facility. Extra-wide stairs led from both side of King Drive, north of 63rd Street, to the platform-level fare control area, enclosed by a steel framed, modern station house with glass curtain walls. An elevator provides access for the mobility-limited. The agent's booths and fare controls were stainless steel, with rounded corners and openings, similar in style to those designed in the 1980s for several "L" stations such as O'Hare and the Clark/Lake entrance in the 203 N. LaSalle Building. A full-width canopy stretches across both side platforms, with an opening down the middle over the former location of a center track. King Drive continued to be an "inbound only boarding" station and the new facility was built with this in mind. Fare controls are only provided on the inbound side. On the outbound platform, only high-barrier rotogates are provided to allow exiting; there is not way to access this platform from the unpaid area. Another elevator and two stairs provided egress to the street from the outbound platform.

The station was reopened on October 31, 1993, the same day the Orange Line began service. The construction was performed by the Chicago Department of Public Works. The loss of this station and the ones at Cottage Grove and University leave none of the Jackson Park branch's original 1893 stations in place.

The new King Drive station was open less than one year before the Green Line -- the realignment of the Jackson Park and Englewood branches with the Lake branch, effective in 1993 -- closed for rehabilitation in January 1994. The station reopened in May 1996 when the Jackson Park branch was reactivated after a general renovation of the Green Line, although little was done to King Drive since it had so recently been rebuilt.

The King Drive station is seen looking east from the inbound platform on March 7, 2007 as an outbound East 63rd Green Line train departs the station. The outbound platform, on the right, is exit only, with egress through the rotogates visible on the platform. There are no turnstiles on that side. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

kingdrive02.jpg (83k)
South Park station is seen looking west from the center track on the Jackson Park branch in Spring 1964. Visible in the distance are the station's old South Side Rapid Transit "turtleback" canopies and the old inbound station house on the right. Note the absence of a station house on the left, although the station house still allows outbound boarding at this point. The train in the distance is stored on the center track. (CTA Photo)

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The stairway from the west side of King Drive to the station house is seen looking south on March 7, 2007. Note the bollards on the left to stop any errant cars from hitting the stairs. King Drive and Cottage Grove, which features a similar but larger design, both feature these unusual arched station entrance signs, shaped unlike any others on the system. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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King Drive was rebuilt as an ADA-accessible station, including egress from the outbound platform. But if the station allows inbound boarding only, and there are no turnstiles or station personnel on the outbound side, how do you provide elevator egress and still restrict entrance to the outbound side? Special wheelchair-accessible exit rotogates! Installed on here and at Cottage Grove, these unique rotogates -- King Drive's seen here looking east on March 7, 2007 -- are large enough for a wheelchair to fit through but still restrict entering access to the outbound platform's elevator. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The King Drive platforms are seen looking west on September 18, 2009. The platforms and canopy are typical of such structures built for the "L" in the 1980s and '90s, constructed of white-painted steel with a simple and functional design and aesthetic. The canopy roofing extends to the centerline of each track but leaves the center open, both for natural light and to reduce maintenance. (Photo by Graham Garfield)
ROW@Calumet-63rd01.jpg (268k)
King Drive station is seen looking east where the East 63rd branch turns from its north-south alignment along Calumet to running over 63rd Street, wrapping around 61st Yard. This view looks from the ramp down to Lower 63rd Yard on March 28, 2010. (Photo by Dennis Herbuth)





1. "Reminiscences of an "L" Trainman." The Elevated News. 1920 February, p. 10.