The Prairie School/bungalow style Main station is seen looking northeast on June 12, 1930. Unlike the other ground-level stations on the Niles Center branch, Main's headhouse was at street level with stairs behind up to the platform. Main was one of the few Niles Center stations with some population density near it, as evidenced by the apartment buildings visible in the background. Still, there was insufficient population to justify rapid transit service. For a larger view, click here. (Photo courtesy of M.D. McCarter, Collection of JJ Sedelmaier Productions)

Main (4900W/8400N)
Main Street and Skokie Blvd., Village of Skokie

Service Notes:

North Side Division, Skokie branch

Quick Facts:

Address: TBD
Established: March 28, 1925
Original Line: North Side Division, Niles Center branch
Previous Names: n/a
Skip-Stop Type: n/a
Rebuilt: n/a
Status: Demolished



Main Street station was built as part of the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad's Skokie Valley Route, a high-speed bypass for the interurban around the more congested North Shore suburbs. The North Shore Line never used this stop, however -- though built as part of the Skokie Valley Route project, it was intended as a local stop for "L" trains. The Chicago Rapid Transit Company (CRT), owner and operator of the "L" at the time, had trackage rights on the line and operated local service to intermediate stations between Howard and Dempster, including Main. Both the North Shore Line and CRT were owned by utilities magnate Samuel Insull.

Arthur U. Gerber, staff architect for Sam Insull, designed the facility. Nearly identical to the other local ground-level stations on the Niles Center branch between Oakton and Crawford (inclusive), Main was also similar to the still-extant Dempster station at the end of the line, only smaller and set between the tracks with a single high-level island platform projecting from the rear of the station house.

The Main station's architecture was an interesting mix of styles. While the building could be classified as Prairie School based on its intricate eaves and bracket work, low-pitched roof, multi-paned casement windows and strong horizontal lines, closer examination of the structure indicates that elements such as its textured exterior brickwork and elaborately bracketed eaves with exposed rafters more closely classify the building as belonging to the bungalow vernacular style, a building type popular at the time with residential development at the time but rarely seen in rail stations.

The exterior was executed in dark textured brick with a foundation, belt course (through the windows) and plain slip windowsills of light cast stone. The station had a low-pitched hipped roof with an overhanging eave on all sides and projecting from the front, creating a porch supported by a pair of massive tapered cement posts. The windows along the side elevations had a typically Prairie School design, with a long band of ten tall, narrow, vertical casement windows flanked on the ends by smaller square nine-paned windows. The rear of the station differed from the other Niles Center stations: whereas the others had a boarding platform that continued out from the back door and a station house roof that extended over the platform as a canopy, Main's platform and canopy were separate structures from the station house. This is because the other stations south of Main were designed with the station houses elevated to platform level with a short set of stairs in front of the station house. Main's station house, however, was situated at ground level, with a short set of stairs beyond the back door that brought passengers up to the island platform. The platform had a flat canopy supported by wooden rafters held up by two rows of tapered cement columns. Exposed rafters and wooden brackets under the eaves filled out the exterior decoration and a signature Gerber touch included globe lamps under the eaves and platform canopy.

The interior was small, simple and open, but still quite attractive. It included a floor, brick walls with cast stone sills, and wooden moldings. The modest interior functioned as a waiting room.

The Niles Center branch and Main station opened for service on March 28, 1925.

The abandoned Main station is seen looking northwest on March 26, 1964, almost 39 years to the day after it opened. It had been closed for a day shy of 16 years at this time, and would be demolished soon after the photo was taken. For a larger view, click here. (CTA photo, Graham Garfield Collection)

The station's history over the next couple decades was fairly unremarkable. Within just a few years of the opening of the Skokie Valley Route and the CRT's Niles Center local service the Depression hit. New construction in the suburb virtually halted. Although some apartments were built northeast of the station, much of the land around the Main station was vacant -- though it had been subdivided with roads and sidewalks laid out and utilities installed, there were few buyers and little construction. By the time the Chicago Transit Authority took over in 1947, the Niles Center branch's prospects for high (or even respectable) ridership levels were still dim. The hoped-for development of Niles Center was squelched by the Depression just a few years after the line opened, and remained unfeasible through World War II. After assuming operation of the "L" system, the CTA studied each rapid transit line and monitored each station. Then, bit by bit, they closed the stations and lines that were most uneconomical and had the lowest ridership to concentrate on the stronger routes. The Niles Center branch fell victim to this systematic pruning when on March 27, 1948, service between Howard and Dempster was replaced by the #97 Skokie bus route. This date was chosen in large part because it so happened that the North Shore Line's employees went on strike on this date -- one of several NSL strikes of the 1940s -- meaning that the Skokie Valley Route was not staffed, preventing the Niles Center branch from operating. Service had to be suspended on the branch due to the North Shore Line strike anyway, so it was a convenient opportunity served to drop a service that was marginal at best.

The North Shore Line continued to operate on the Skokie Valley Route but did not provide service to Main station, which remained shuttered and abandoned. The Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad ceased operation in the early morning hours of January 21, 1963.

In 1963, following North Shore Line abandonment, the CTA began work to convert the Skokie Valley Line as far north as Dempster to a new rapid transit line. The Transit Authority planned to resume "L" service over the line, though rather than a local branch service it was envisioned as a nonstop shuttle between Dempster and Howard. The "Skokie Swift", as it was dubbed, opened to the public on Monday, April 20, 1964. However , when the Skokie Swift was inaugurated in 1964, no station was established on this site, despite the fact that the area had developed with residential construction, like much of Skokie, thanks to postwar baby boomers. The station torn down in 1964, due to the building's close proximity to Main Street representing a visual obstruction of autos and pedestrians for the motormen of Skokie Swift trains, which flew through the crossing at high speed on their nonstop run.