The Palladian design of the Madison/Wabash station house -- similar to Quincy/Wells -- features Corinthian pilasters, window surrounds resembling the Baroque style and cartouches along the roofline. It is the last of the original Wabash elevated stations and, despite a somewhat rough appearance, is imminently restorable. This view looks east in August 2001. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Madison/Wabash (1N-S/45E)
Madison Street and Wabash Avenue, Loop

Service Notes:


Quick Facts:

Address: 2 N. Wabash Avenue
Established: November 8, 1896
Original Line: Union Elevated Railroad
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: n/a
Status: Demolished


The Union Elevated Railroad, backed by transit magnate Charles Tyson Yerkes, was incorporated on November 22, 1894 to construct a loop around the central business district, connecting the three elevated lines that until 1897 ended at individual terminals. Obtaining sufficient frontage signatures (required from business owners along the affected route) for the east leg of the Loop was particularly difficult, since nearly all the retailers opposed the presence of a hulking steel structure in front of their store. After a long campaign, Union Loop representatives eventually convinced property owners that the "L" would increase their property values, not hurt them. A franchise was finally granted on October 14, 1895.

Madison/Wabash's platforms are seen looking south on the Inner Loop platform in 1961. The station looks largely the same today, save for the replacement of the incandescent lights. The 4000-series Lake "A" train is traveling on what would today be the southbound track, but it coming toward the camera because until 1969 the look was a unidirectional railroad, with traffic on both tracks operating counterclockwise. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the IRM Collection, courtesy of Peter Vesic)

The structure between Adams and Lake was placed in service November 8, 1896, thus activating the Madison/Wabash station. At this point, the only section in service was the L formed by the Lake and Wabash legs, meaning that only the Lake Street Elevated was connected to the system. The Lake Street operated the first train here and had the tracks (and direct downtown access) to itself for the time being. Trains were operated bi-directionally using the right-hand track until the entire Loop was opened. The first Metropolitan "L" train used the station on October 11, 1897 and the South Side followed suit on October 18.

Madison is the last stop on the east leg of the Loop to retain its original station house. Adams/Wabash's station houses were removed in the mid-1960s and the station was seriously altered in 1988-89; Randolph/Wabash's Inner Loop house was removed and replaced in 1955-57 and the Outer Loop was demolished in the mid-1960s.

The Inner Loop station house is executed in painted sheet metal. The Palladian design is similar to Quincy/Wells, featuring Corinthian pilasters, window surrounds resembling the Baroque style and cartouches along the roofline. Madison/Wabash station employed the first direct entrance between an "L" station and an adjacent building, later a common element. In 1900, the Union Elevated constructed a covered passageway between the station and the Schlesinger & Mayer department store (now Carson Pirie Scott & Company). The construction of the direct entrance caused no small amount of controversy, as Mayor Carter H. Harrison argued that a direct entrance constituted a private use of a street, which the city council was not permitted to grant (though this contradicted the authorized presence of utilities, streetcars, pushcart vendors, and the elevated itself). Harrison ordered all work stopped. Lawyers for Schlesinger & Mayer obtained a restraining order against the city to allow work to be completed, but to belabor the point the Union Elevated announced that the actions of the city had violated the city's own ordinances, thus excusing the elevated from continuing to pay the city the compensation required under their franchise. Harrison upped the ante by threatening to repeal the franchise for the Van Buren leg of the Loop, so the president of the Union Elevated capitulated and paid the fees. But it would not be the last time the city and the Union Elevated would lock horns over what would seem to be a simple improvement for the benefit of the public. The covered passgeway and direct entrance have since been removed.

Madison/Wabash's mezzanine-level fare controls -- tried for the first time anywhere on the "L" here circa 1930 -- are seen here looking southeast on October 17, 2004. Obviously, the turnstiles and booth in use today are more recent. The low ceiling clearance gives the space a confined atmosphere. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

In the 1930s, the Chicago Rapid Transit moved the fare controls for Madison/Wabash out of the twin track-level station houses and onto a mezzanine level, connecting the platforms beneath the tracks, above the street. It was one of the CRT's early experiments with consolidating seperated fare controls, which brought both functional and labor economies by eliminating multiple fare controls in a single station. After this point, the station houses closed to public use. The interior is currently used as the CTA's Loop Transportation Office, but does retain much of its original interior detailing. The stairways directly into the station house are closed off, but the ones directly onto the platform remain in use.

In 1982, Madison/Wabash was among a group of stations that became the first Part-Time service stations, closed nights, holidays, and all or part of the weekend. The reduction in service was an economy move to save on labor expendatures at a time when CTA's costs were spiraling out of control. It's status as a Part-Time station continued until Monday, June 5, 2000, when CTA President Frank Kruesi announced at a press conference that beginning Saturday, June 10th and Sunday, June 11th, six downtown area 'L' and subway stations and seven station entrances that were closed late at night or on weekends would be open at all hours that trains are in service. One of the stations that was a Part-Time Station -- closed Sundays and Holidays -- was Madison/Wabash. Starting at 0700 hours Sunday, June 11th, Madison/Wabash returned to full-time operation. Opening these stations and entrances is just one of the components of a $539,000 service improvement package that was passed by the Chicago Transit Board in May 2000.

The platforms sport some original railings and all of the original canopies, as well as the 1910s platform/canopy extensions, new-style symbol signs and KDR-style name signs. Madison/Wabash also still has its vintage pedestrian bridge.


Plans for Renovation and Consolidation

The Randolph/Wabash and Madison/Wabash stations have been targets for demolition and consolidation for some time. As early as November 1981, CTA planned to demolish them and construct a new facility at Washington/Wabash. A 1983 plan again reiterated this goal. The plan was regularly resurrected ever since.

Looking north on the Madison/Wabash Outer Loop platform in August 2001. The platforms feature original canopy ironwork. A Harlem-bound Green Line train is pulling away as a Midway-bound Orange Line train pulls in. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

More recently, a plan discussed by the CTA in 1998 had the new station placed between Randolph and Washington. In this $29 million version, the new station was to have entrances and/or transit card gates on Randolph, Wabash and Washington. On September 11, 1998, when the CTA announced that they planned to permanently close the State/Lake and Madison/Wabash elevated stations and replace the Randolph/Wabash facility with a "super station." Supposedly combining function, aesthetics and the need to replace "L" structures that date to the 1890s, the new station would have become the third-busiest station in the CTA's 142-station system and would've included a pedway connection to the Red Line subway one block away. The design of the new station, which is undergoing final review by officials from the city, the CTA and the Greater State Street Council, was described as a traditional, but modernized version of the Madison/Wabash station. As part of the construction work, the entire elevated structure was to be rebuilt from Lake to Washington Streets and the supports down the middle of Wabash would've been replaced by columns anchored along the curbs.

The consolidation plan languished for several years after, but did not disappear entirely. The designs from the late-1990s were apparently shelved, as the plan to consolidate three stations -- State/Lake, Randolph/Wabash and Madison/Wabash -- was revised in favor of only consolidating the latter two, leaving State/Lake to be replaced with a new station facility east of State Street. An intergovernmental agreement was approved at the April 3, 2003 CTA Board providing $1 million to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) for preliminary design and engineering work for the construction of a new station at Washington and Wabash. The CTA will work with CDOT to design the station.

Accessibility at the new Washington/Wabash station will be provided by both elevators and escalators. There will also be stairways to both platforms. The platforms will have bright lighting, a communications system with both digital and audio messaging, and windbreaks equipped with overhead heaters for customer comfort during inclement weather. The new facility, to be located between the existing facilities, will be large enough to accommodate customer traffic at both locations.

The planned construction of a new Washington/Wabash station mirrors work completed on the Wells side of the Loop in the mid-1990s. There, stations at Randolph and Madison were also demolished and replaced with an intermediate stop at Washington. This reduced the number of stations on the west leg of the Loop from three to two, the same number as on the north (Lake) and south (Van Buren) legs of the Loop Elevated (the latter achieving two stops after the opening of Library station in 1997). Replacing the Randolph and Madison stations on the Wabash side will put two stations uniformly on all four sides of the Loop. The new Washington/Wabash station, like its Wells Street cousin, will seemingly be not over Washington itself but between Washington and Madison, with the south portion of the station probably continuing over Madison Street. This is borne out by the staging of the project, in which the first phase will require closing and demolishing the Madison/Wabash station to allow new construction to begin. The Randolph/Wabash station is to remain open until the new station is completed. The placement of the new station is such that it would seem to allow the retention of the historic Madison/Wabash station house, which is within the boundaries of a proposed Jeweler's Row historic district. Preservation of the Madison station has not emerged as a part of CDOT's plans, but the designs are at an early stage and are still developing. The loss of the Madison/Wabash station would represent a significant loss to the history and architecture of the "L". Madison/Wabash is the last remaining example of the original 1896 Loop architecture from the Wabash Avenue side. Details about the project will be determined when the design is finalized.

For more information about the proposed station consolidation, see the Washington/Wabash page.

In March 2014, Preservation Chicago, an architectural preservation group that releases an annual list of Chicago's seven most endangered buildings, included the Madison/Wabash station on its 2014 list, noting that it is the last original "L" station house on the east leg of the Loop. Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said his historic advocacy group would like to work with CDOT and the CTA to save items from the stations for display in local museums or integration into other stations. In March 2015, CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey said the city and the CTA are reviewing items that could be salvaged including railings, benches and signs. "We're trying to come to some good compromise and resolution on trying to save components of these stations," Miller said.1

The Madison/Wabash station closed at approximately 1:45am, Monday, March 16, 2015, for the construction of the new Washington/Wabash station, with demolition to begin soon after.


The historic Madison/Wabash station, looking north on the Inner Loop platform in August 2001. The canopies are all original, as is the track-level station house visible on the left. The overhead bridge was added in the 1910s, but is historic nonetheless. Madison is one of the few remaining examples of early Loop design. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The Madison/Wabash platforms, looking southeast on June 8, 1999. An East 63rd Branch Green Line train has pulled out and is heading toward Adams. The green plastic panels in the center left cover an area previously occupied by the outer station house. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The Madison/Wabash station, looking north from Adams/Wabash. A Green Line train has left Madison and is heading toward 63rd Street. (Photo by John F. Kuczaj)

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Madison/Wabash symbol sign from the inner (west) platform. The strip under "Evanston" on the bottom used to list the Loop Shuttle service, discontinued in 1977. (Sign from the collection of Graham Garfield)

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Columbia Pictures did extensive shooting on location in Chicago for the Spiderman movie sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man. Madison/Wabash station was fixed up to stand in as the fictional "Broadway" station on the R Line el (also fictional) for Spiderman 2. This view looks northwest at the Inner Loop platform on November 16, 2002. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The Madison/Wabash Inner Loop signage was changed for the filming of Shall We Dance?, as seen on September 6, 2003, to transform the station into Sedgwick. Ironically, they used the Current Graphic Standard format (modified and poorly-imitated) for the faux-signs, but Sedgwick actually as KDR-style station name signs. Also, notice how while the name of the station was changed, the directional coordinates for Madison/Wabash, not Sedgwick were used. (Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz)

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In addition to the station name signs, the symbols signs were modified to cover up the Madison name. However, rather than transform them into Sedgwick signs, the colored bars representing the lines serving the platform (none of which actually serve Sedgwick) were left and the name was covered with an arrow whose intended meaning is not altogether clear... (Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz)

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A four-car midday northbound (somewhat dusty looking) Lake-Dan Ryan "B" train is trailed by car 2246 as it pulls into Madison/Wabash on April 11, 1977. Note the yellow sticker over the motorman's window on the #1 end of the car: the 2200s used to have stickers that said "Air Conditioned" at a time when most of the fleet was still without A/C. (Photo by Ed McKernen, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

Car 2454 leads a four-car train bound for the East 63rd branch of the Green Line at Madison/Wabash on March 3, 2001. (Photo by Mike Farrell)

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2400-series car 2431 is at the rear of a northbound Green Line train stopped at Madison/Wabash on December 28, 2001. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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By the Spring of 2006, as the CTA continues to change its railcar fleet to all silver/gray exterior, relatively few 2400-series cars remained with red, white, and blue end caps and belt rails. On April 12, 2006, cars 2551-52, seen passing Madison/Wabash northbound, were chosen specifically for a charter run for railfan David Harrison because they still retained this increasingly-rare livery. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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A 4-car Pink Line training train is lead by Budd car 2219, simulating a stop at Madison/Wabash on June 7, 2006. Note that the proper destination signs have been installed and the marker lights programmed. The markers chosen for the Pink Line -- white-red -- not only combine ti make pink but were the Douglas Park branch's original marker lights under the Metropolitan Elevated from when the line began service in 1896 until it was through-routed as part of the West-Northwest Route in 1958, making them a return to the line's heritage. (Photo by Graham Garfield)




1. Swartz, Tracy. "Madison/Wabash 'L' station to close March 16". Red Eye. March 2, 2015.