Historic "L" Station Tour
On November 13th, 1999, the first of a series of annual tours of
historic "L" stations was conducted with great success.
The tour, led by Graham Garfield (Site Administrator of Chicago-L.
org), Kent Haag (Chicago Programs Coordinator, Illinois Historic
Preservation Agency), John Craib-Cox (Landmarks Preservation Council
of Illinois), and Keith Letsche (an Assistant Attorney-General of
Illinois), started at the historic Monadnock Building in the Loop,
then proceeded to the "L" where CTA trains were used to reach many of
the CTA's oldest and rarest stations.
Tour participants listen to
a lecture at the Madison/Wabash station as a Green Line
train approaches. Tour leaders Keith Letsche (tan jacket)
and Kent Haag (back turned, navy jacket) stand on the right.
Not pictured: tour leaders John Craib-Cox and Graham
Garfield. For a larger view, click here.
(Photo by Graham
Participants paid a $10.00 admission price, which included a CTA
one-day unlimited ride fun pass. Using the pass, the tour hopped on
and off regular in-service revenue trains, traveling from station to
station on the historic elevated transit system. At each station,
talks and lectures were given on the history, operations,
architecture, and significance of the station to "L" and community
history, as well as on the history and architecture of the
The following stations were visited on the tour, in order:
Buren: Although not a historic station, Library (built in
1997) is architecturally interesting and provides excellent
aboveground views of several old Loop buildings. It was primarily
for some introductions and Chicago transit general history.
Built in 1896, Madison/Wabash is one of the Loop's last remaining
original stations and the last on the Wabash leg to retain its
State/Lake is the Loop's oldest "L" station. Built in 1895, it
retains much of its architectural character despite some
- Armitage: A station
typical of several along today's Ravenswood Line, this
1900-vintage station retains its original station house,
platforms, and canopies. At the mouth of the State Street Subway,
a switching tower was added to the SB platform in 1943. A
lunch/snack break was taken here.
- Rockwell: One of the
few stations where the "L" is at grade, Rockwell (built in 1906)
is a rare example of simple, clapboard station design and
construction. It retains the majority of its details on the
station and platform, not to mention all of its character.
Belmont: This station was
mostly a layover while switching from the Brown to the Red Line.
Although the station house (built: 1900) is identical to Armitage,
the dual island platforms and transfer bridge betray its
importance as a high-traffic station and transfer point on the
Tour leader John
Craib-Cox points out an architecturally interesting
building in the neighborhood next to the Armitage station
on the Brown Line. For a larger view, click
(Photo by Graham
- Wilson: The original
terminus of the Northwestern Elevated when it opened in 1900, the
current 1923 station once served not only the "L" but the North
Shore Line as well. Its ornate and extravagant Beaux Arts
architecture is both extraordinary for a transit facility as well
- Thorndale: The
Prairie School architecture of this 1921 facility is typical of
many of the Howard Line stations north of Lawrence. The station
house is intact, as well as the island platform and canopy.
- Quincy: Returning
to the Loop, Quincy (built in 1897) has been restored by the CTA
to a near-original appearance. Reproduction signage (in addition
to period-looking signage) and advertising posters adorn the
Buren: The last station on the tour, LaSalle/Van Buren (built:
1897) has nearly as many intact features as Quincy did before
restoration, making it a good candidate for preservation and
restoration. Both track-level station houses and platforms are
After the conclusion of the tour, participants were able to use
their one-day passes to ride home or one more station east to return
to Library, where the tour began. (Participants also had the option
of leaving the tour early from another station, if necessary.) In
all, approximately twenty people participated in the first tour, with
many asking for information on when the second
tour would be held!
To see the handout that was provided
for all tour participants, click here!
Tour participants view the magnificent Beaux Arts
architecture of the 1923-built Wilson
station on the Red Line.
(Photo by Graham Garfield)
Keith Letsche speaks to the tour group at the 1906
station on the Brown Line. (Photo by Graham