The Madison-Monroe mezzanine in the early 1980s. With the exception of the newer turnstiles seen in the lower left, the concession added next to the north agent's booth, and the entrance to the First National Bank in the background, the fare control area appears much as it did when the station opened in 1951. (Photo from the CTA Collection)


(30S/36W) Madison-Monroe

(114S/36W) Monroe-Adams

Monroe Street and Dearborn Street, Loop

Service Notes:

Blue Line: Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway

Owl Service

Quick Facts:


30 S. Dearborn Street (Madison-Monroe mezzanine)

114 S. Dearborn Street (Monroe-Adams mezzanine)

Established: February 25, 1951
Original Line: Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: n/a
Status: In Use



Monroe/Dearborn is typical of the downtown Dearborn and State Street subway stations, consisting of two mezzanine entrances feeding each end of the stop, which is a designated portion of a long "continuous" platform that stretches the length of the Loop. The Dearborn Subway's continuous platform, a bit shorter than its record-setting State Street cousin, is 2,500 feet long.

The Monroe-Adams mezzanine is seen looking northeast on April 19, 2004. The mezzanine is still largely as it was built, although the fare controls have been changed and a walled concession (behind the Pepsi machine) was created in the southeast corner of the mezzanine. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The architecture of the station was streamlined Art Moderne with some Art Deco elements, simple and austere compared to earlier subways in New York, London, Paris or other systems but very much in the style and fashion of the period in which it was designed. At street-level, the entrances were very simple, consisting of stairs down from the sidewalk surrounded by simple tubular railings with a smooth identification pylon at the back with Deco rings around the top. The fare controls were at a lower mezzanine level beneath Dearborn Street. The station mezzanines had broadly curving walls clad in off-white glazed ceramic tile, which served to both reinforce the Moderne, streamlined architectural style employed in the Initial System of Subways station as well as to direct passenger flow through subtle design cues.

The interior had smooth concrete floors and ceilings, red for the former and a neutral color for the latter. The fare control booths had an angled Deco design and were made of stone walls with a small ventilation grate near the bottom and glass windows on all four sides, allowing for maximum visibility of the mezzanine for the station agents. Turnstiles were steel, with some angled toward the entrances and a number of self-serve coin-operated models for efficient traffic circulation. Each mezzanine also had several amenities for the use of passengers, such as public phones, lockers, restrooms, and concessions.

The layout of each mezzanine was originally symmetrical across both axes, with two sets of stairs and escalators down from the mezzanine to the platform guarded by an agent's booth and a set of fare controls, one on the north half of the mezzanine and one on the south, and a set of stairs up to the street at each corner.

The island platform had red no-slip concrete floors, curved, barrel-vaulted concrete ceilings and a row of I-beam steel columns along each platform edge. Unlike some of the more ornate subways in other cities, the walls along side the tracks in the stations were left as unfinished concrete rather than tiled. To aid in station identification, each station had a color scheme that was used in the accents like tile borders, platform column color, and signage lettering and background. The colors blue, red, green, and brown were rotated in sequence beginning up at Division & Milwaukee. Monroe's accent color was red. A specially-designed Futura typeface was used throughout the subway on metal, tile, and backlit glass signs. Fluorescent lights and illuminated station signs hanging from the ceilings finished the decoration.

Though much of the structural work of the Dearborn subway was concurrent with that of State Street's (which was begun in 1938 and opened in 1943), construction on the Dearborn line was suspended in 1941 due to wartime materials shortages. Even after the war was over, it was another several years before work was resumed. Finally, the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway was completed and opened on February 25, 1951, eight years after the State Street tube was inaugurated. This is when Monroe station opened.

When the First National Bank Plaza (now called the Bank One Plaza) was created, a subway entrance was built into one the terraces. However, it's low clearance subtle signage, seen here looking south on August 9, 2002, make it hard to notice and less often used. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The service hours of the Monroe-Adams mezzanine entrance to the station was reclassified as a part-time entrance in 1965, several years ahead of the other station closures and service reductions that would be made in the 1970s. Beginning on August 29, Monroe-Adams was closed from 2200 to 0600 hours Monday-Saturday and all day Sundays. The Washington-Madison and Jackson-Van Buren mezzanine at the adjacent stations joined Monroe-Adams' part-time hours effective September 12, 1976.

In the late 1960s, the block bounded by Madison, Dearborn, Monroe, and Clark was cleared for the construction of the First National Bank Building and Plaza. Designed by C.F. Murphy Associates, the building was designed in a dramatic modern style, sweeping from a 200-foot wide base to 95 feet wide at the top and clad in granite panels between its wide windows. Typical of office towers built in this period, the development included open space on the unused portion of the block in the form of a multilevel plaza, with several staircases and a large fountain at the bottom. A colorful mosaic by Marc Chagall titled "Four Seasons" is located on the midlevel terrace of the plaza. Completed in 1969, the construction of the First National Bank Building and Plaza (since renamed the Bank One Building and Plaza) required the closure of the two stairs from the Madison-Monroe mezzanine to the west side of Dearborn Street so as not to interfere with the modern plaza. After completion, the west side of the mezzanine opened onto a lower-level concourse of the bank building, where passengers could either enter the basement of the bank through a set of revolving doors (and then up into the lobby by a pair of escalators) or follow a meandering set of corridors to a new stairway entrance in the plaza. The plaza entrance, which essentially took the place of the closed southwest stair, was clad in the same granite panels as the rest of the plaza, but also didn't rise above the height of the plaza planter walls, making it inconspicuous and rather hidden. The only sign that rises above the low-slung walls is a small, metal box with "Subway" in small lettering. The closed northwest stair was not replaced.

Mayor Byrne announced the Subway Renovation Program on Friday, May 7, 1982,which would have included the continuous platforms on State between Lake and Congress and on Dearborn between Randolph and Van Buren, the 14 mezzanines along these platforms, and the four pedestrian passageways connecting the State and Dearborn Subways. In addition, mezzanines and platforms would have been renovated at Chicago, Grand, Harrison, and Roosevelt on State and the Lake Transfer and LaSalle/Congress stations on Dearborn. Work at all of the facilities was scheduled for completion in 1987 but work at Monroe/State and most others never come to pass.

At a press conference on Monday, June 5, 2000, CTA President Frank Kruesi announced that beginning Saturday, June 10th and Sunday, June 11th, six downtown area 'L' and subway stations and seven station entrances that were currently closed late at night or on weekends would be open at all hours that trains are in service. One of the seven secondary station entrances was was a Part-Time Entrance -- closed nights and weekends -- was the Monroe-Adams entrance to Monroe station. Starting at 0600 hours Saturday, June 10th, Monroe-Adams entrance returned to 24-hour 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.

In 2005, the southwest stairway to the Madison-Monroe mezzanine was rebuilt as part of a renovation and rearrangement of Bank One Plaza. The stairway was moved from within the plaza to the sidewalk along Dearborn, approximately back to its original location. The new stairway is faced with granite and has gold-colored fittings and trim, matching the design of the plaza and building. The signage on the entrance uses white letters on a gold metallic background, which somewhat reduced legibility. There is also some unique iconography used. As part of the renovation, Bank One (now owned by JPMorgan Chase as of 2004) also rehabbed the west wall and the nearby flooring in the Madison-Monroe mezzanine nearest their new stairs (but nothing else in the mezzanine) and built a new connection from the northwest corner of the mezzanine to the basement level of the adjacent bank building.

Continuing to upgrade and replace some of the oldest escalators in the "L" system, the CTA embarked in 2003 on a project to replace several downtown subway escalators. Decisions on which escalators receive rehab or replacement were based on the age of the escalator, the condition of the escalator and the volume of customers passing through the station. The escalators pegged for replacement included seven on the Red Line at Monroe, Jackson and Harrison stations, and two on the Blue Line at Washington and the platform-to-mezzanine escalator at Madison-Monroe. On June 4, 2003, the Chicago Transit Board approved a $642,569 design contract for the escalator replacement project. Chicago-based Globetrotters Engineering Corporation was selected to provide architectural and engineering services for the project following a competitive bidding process. Construction work took place in 2008-10; the Madison-Monroe platform-to-mezzanine escalator was returned to service on June 21, 2010. The total project cost was $28.8 million, with a construction cost of $17.7 million. The Regional Transportation Authority and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provided capital funding for the design contract, while construction used FTA funds.

At Madison-Monroe, the original ticket agent's kiosk was also removed and replaced, primarily because the new escalator had a longer landing than the original one, which caused the kiosk to interfere with the passenger circulation path from the new escalator. The new stainless steel Customer Assistant kiosk, located slightly north of and rotated 90 degrees compared to the old one to provide sufficient circulation room, is of the type used at the new Brown Line stations and other station renovations in the years following that project, featuring stainless steel lower panels and roof and glass panels around the sides for a high level of visibility, and was located northwest of where the original booth has been located. The new CA kiosk was placed in service in late November 2008. During the construction, a temporary CA booth was used.

In January 2014, CTA removed the high steel fencing that enclosed the southwest quadrant of the Monroe-Adams mezzanine, which blocked off the area formerly occupied by the south ticket agent's booth and the southwest circulation path between the unpaid area and the south stair and escalator to the platform (long since out of service and closed; the southeast quadrant of the mezzanine has been occupied by a built-out concession space for many years). Removal of the fencing allowed the farecard vending machines to be pushed back into this space, providing additional queuing space and removing them from conflicting with circulation between the west stairs from the street and the turnstiles, located on the east side of the Customer Assistant (former north ticket agent) booth. Other vending machines could similarly be moved into this newly-opened area. The farecard vending machines were relocated into the reopened area in the south half of the mezzanine on Friday, January 17. The machines were placed along the west wall of the concession space, facing west. A new stainless steel wall was installed over the closed south stair to the platform.

On September 9, 2020, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot introduced a proposal introduced to the City Council to use up to $9.1 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for two downtown CTA infrastructure improvements, one of which were improvements to the Monroe station subway tunnel between Arcade and Marble places. Financed entirely with $2.1 million in TIF funds, the work would include the replacement of street-level vent grates, updating the emergency lighting system, and the addition of new LED tunnel lighting. Work on the project is expected to be completed in 2022.

The Monroe stop in the Dearborn Subway is seen looking south on June 13, 2001. Except for the addition of new signage, tactile edging, fluorescent lights, and A/V readouts, plus a whitewash over the red columns and bare concrete walls of its as-built design, the platform has changed little in 50 years. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

madison-monroe03.jpg (230k)
The new southwest stairway to the Madison-Monroe mezzanine is seen looking north on October 6, 2005. The stairs were relocated from within the adjacent plaza and rebuilt in 2005. The new stairway is faced with granite and has gold-colored fittings and trim, matching the design of the plaza and building. The signage on the entrance uses white letters on a gold metallic background, which somewhat reduced legibility. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

monroe-dearborn02.jpg (160k)
The blue light projecting upward into the tunnel vault, seen in this mid-November 2005 view looking north on the Monroe platform, denotes the location of a Customer Assistant call button (visible on the column on the right). The blue light is becoming a standard element on the CTA system to signify the location of call or assistance buttons. Similar light films were installed over call buttons on the trains in 2004. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)