Historic "L" Station Tour 2001 


Guide John Craib-Cox describes the architectural elements of the wooden canopy at Francisco. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The 3rd Annual Historic "L" Station Tour, presented by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, in cooperation with Chicago-L.org and the Chicago Design Consortium, occurred Sunday, November 4, 2001.

This was the third year the tour was conducted. The previous year's presenters -- Graham Garfield of Chicago-L.org; Kent Haag of the IHPA; John Craib-Cox of the Chicago Design Consortium; and Keith Letsche, an Assistant Attorney-General of Illinois -- all returned for the third year.

This year, the tour chartered a pair of 2400-series cars -- cars 2479-2480 -- to take the tour, the second year the tour has chartered private cars for the trip. (2200-series cars, which were used on last year's tour, are unavailable this year because the cars would have to be transferred from the Blue Line for the tour and the Paulina Connector is now closed on weekends for Douglas rehab work.) The tour was a success, with higher attendance than the previous year, a number of special events during the program, and praise from the tour's participants.

The third annual tour explored different lines from last year, focusing on historic stations on the Brown (Ravenswood) Line, Lake and South Side branches of the Green Line, Loop, and State Street Subway. A varying mix of stations were explored, providing examples of many different vintages, types, architectural styles, and community locations.

Each time the tour stopped at a station, a talk was given on the history of the station, its architecture, the history of the line, and other relevant information. Participants could listen to the talk or just take photos at each stop.

Tour participants get the chance to explore the only abandoned station in the Chicago subway system, Van Buren-Congress. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The tour began with a welcome and historical overview at the historic, restored Quincy station Outer Loop platform. Participants then boarded the charter train at 9:15am and proceeded one stop south to LaSalle/Van Buren to view this historic but unrestored architectural gem. Due to switching problems at Tower 18, the charter train was a bit off schedule, so the time at LaSalle was brief. After a few minutes, it was on to Armitage on the Brown Line, while additional commentary was given over the PA system en route. The group disembarked to view this excellent example of 1900-vintage Northwestern Elevated architecture, as well as the historic streetscape outside the station.

Next, the tour proceeded north on the North Side Main Line to Clark Junction, then onto the Ravenswood branch of the Brown Line to Francisco station. Ample time was given to view this unusual, grade-level station situated in a medium-density residential neighborhood while the charter train continued to Kimball to turn around and return to Francisco to pick up the tour participants and continue back toward downtown. The extra time allowed for the guides to provide history and architecture not only of the station and line, but also of the surrounding community, as well as time to field questions from the participants.

Leaving Francisco, the charter returned to the North Side Main Line, but switched onto the inside Red Line track to enter the State Street Subway. The next scheduled stop was North/Clybourn, but due to an operating snafu the station stop was bypassed. A resolution was devised on-the-fly and resulted in a special treat for the tour's participants: a tour of the CTA's only abandoned subway station. It was decided to stop at the Van Buren-Congress mezzanine of the Jackson/State station, closed since 1984. The train discharged the participants on the unused, closed-off south end of the Jackson station and allowed them up into the mezzanine after the gates were unlocked and sufficient illumination was confirmed. The "tourists" got an unusual treat, seeing a subway station that is not only has a number of historic elements, but also one that has been left derelict for almost two decades, providing an opportunity for a bit of urban archaeology of sorts.

Guide Graham Garfield describes the architecture and history of the closed Racine station. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Frank Hashimoto)

After wrapping up at Van Buren-Congress, the passengers reboarded the charter train and headed south onto the South Side Elevated portion of the Green Line by way of the 13th Street Incline, a connection between the subway and elevated closed to revenue traffic since 1993. The next station stop was Garfield, the oldest existing station on the "L" system. The Queen Anne-style station house has been closed to traffic since a new station opened across the street on July 16, 2001 and the old platforms were subsequently demolished, but the station still provides an interesting look at what the system's oldest stations looked like. The City of Chicago was in the process of landmarking the station at the time of the tour.

The flyer for the 3rd Annual Historic Station Tour. To see a PDF of it, click here.

After Garfield, the tour continued south onto the Englewood branch of the Green Line and continued to the end of the line at Ashland/63. This 1969-vintage cantilevered Bauhaus-inspired station provided an interesting location for a second rest stop, allowing the train to change ends and the tour participants to take a restroom break. After a fifteen minute intermission, it was back onto the train to go one stop east to the tour's second abandoned station at Racine. This station has been closed since 1994, but is kept due to its status as a historic station per a memorandum of agreement between the CTA and the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency. As a result, employees at the Racine Shops next door use the platforms to board and alight trains. The 1907-built Greek Revival station house is also intact and the tour members proceeded downstairs to street level to view the station house and hear additional commentary on its history and architecture. Additional time was given to look around on the platforms before the tour left for it's final destination.

The charter train resumed its northbound journey on the Green Line, continuing through downtown and onto the Lake branch to the new, historic Conservatory station. New and historic? Yes! Built from the architectural components of historic Homan station, Conservatory opened in June 2001 with a restoration of its historic elements and the addition of modern amenities. After the tour group viewed this unusual station, the participants could either continue west on the Green Line or return to the Loop.

The tour-takers enjoyed the trip, which provided many unique looks at Chicago rapid transit history.

Chicago-L.org would like to extend special thanks to the Chicago Transit Authority, trip supervisor John Blum, Bruce Nelson, and all the participating employees who were very cooperative, helpful, and flexible, helping to make the tour the success that it was. Without the CTA's assistance, little of this would have been possible.


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The tour participants look at the historic Italianate facade of the Brown Line station at Armitage. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Guide John Craib-Cox of the Chicago Design Consortium discusses the architecture of the station and community in front of Armitage station. (Photo by Frank Hashimoto)

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The tour group is assembled in front of the small grade-level station at Francisco listening to guide Keith Letsche. Ample time at this station stop allowed each guide to speak about a different aspect of the station or community's history, as well as for the group to look around the facility. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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After viewing Francisco station, the tour boards the charter train of 2400-series cars -- which has just returned from Kimball to turn around -- to return downtown to the next stop. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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En route to the next station, guide Keith Letsche talks to some of the tour participants aboard the charter train. (Photo by Frank Hashimoto)

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The tour group explores the CTA's only abandoned subway station, the mezzanine at Van Buren-Congress in the State Street Subway. Although there was some debris piled along the south wall (at right), the mezzanine was largely clear of any garbage or rubble, providing a very interesting station to explore! (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Although there was a very small amount of standing water in a couple places (less then 1/4" in most places) and light was provided by protected bulbs strung throughout the station -- all to be expected in a station closed for 18 years -- the Van Buren-Congress mezzanine was largely in good shape. The station still had its original agent's booth (though the glass was broken), some turnstiles, and fare control gating. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The tour participants are gathered in from of the historic Garfield station -- the oldest on the system and possibly in the US -- which has been closed to passenger traffic for only four months. Although it was not an active station, the CTA had recently given it a new coat of paint (although in its original state, it shouldn't be painted at all). (Photo by Frank Hashimoto)

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Guide Graham Garfield speaks to some of the tour participants as the group walks back across Garfield Boulevard to the new Garfield station from the old one to board the charter train bound for the next tour stop. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Assembled in front of the Racine/63 station, tour guide Graham Garfield discusses station and system history to the group under the shadow of the Englewood elevated. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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The Classical Revival architecture of the Racine station provides a picturesque backdrop and interesting subject for tour guide Graham Garfield. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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Racine station provided a number of interesting subjects for the tour, including the abandoned Classical Revival station house at street level, the old steel latticed platform canopies, and the modern Racine Shops next door, all visible in this photo looking northwest from the east side of South Racine Avenue. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Keith Letsche says a few words as the tour members return to the platform from street level for a final look around before reboarding the train. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Charter train car 2479 has boarded its passengers and it ready to head to its next destination. The platforms at the closed Racine station, though looking a bit rough with peeling paint and little cleaning, are actually in fairly good shape. There is a small bit rust-jacking on some of the canopy columns, however. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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A view of the 1906-vintage platforms and canopies in situ at the abandoned Racine/63, looking west on the inbound platform with the charter train in the station. Racine Shops is on the left. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Guide Keith Letsche talks to one of the tour members en route to the next station while the rest of the group enjoys the ride through the Loop aboard car 2480. (Photo by Graham Garfield)