Historic "L" Station Tour 2002 


The 4th Annual Historic "L" Station Tour, presented by Chicago-L.org, occurred Sunday, October 20, 2002.

This was the fourth year the tour was conducted. Graham Garfield of Chicago-L.org and architectural historian John Craib-Cox, guides from the previous years' tours, returned for the fourth year to lead the tour, provide lectures, and answer participants' questions.

The tour group assembles in front of Dempster station as the guides discuss the design of the station and the neighborhood. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

This year, the tour chartered a pair of 3200-series cars -- cars 3201-3202 -- to take the tour, the third year the tour has chartered private cars for the trip. The cars were an unusual set, in that they wore an advertising wrap from the Illinois Department of Health as part of an antismoking campaign. In the two-car set, one car is a pinkish salmon color (representing a healthy lung) and the other is a light gray (contrasting as a smoker's lung). 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 fourth annual tour explored different lines from last year, focusing primarily on historic stations on the stations of the city's North Side. These included stops on the Loop, Brown Line (Ravenswood), Red Line (Howard/North Side Main Line), and Purple Line (Evanston). Stops on the Yellow Line (Skokie Swift) and in the State Street Subway portion of the Red Line, included in early stages of planning, had to be nixed due to issues concerning time allotment and equipment usage. Still, a varying mix of stations were explored, providing examples of many different vintages, types, architectural styles, and community locations.

Tour guide Graham Garfield gives commentary and additional points of interest over the train's PA system en route to the next stop on the station tour. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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. Additional commentary and historical notes -- both about the transit system and neighborhoods it travels through -- were given over the PA system en route to each station.

The tour began with a welcome and historical overview at the historic, restored Quincy station Outer Loop platform. Participants then boarded the charter train and proceeded around the Outer Loop to Tower 18 and then northbound on the Brown Line. The first stop was Diversey station on the Brown Line. The group disembarked to view this excellent example of 1900-vintage Northwestern Elevated Italianate architecture, as well as the historic streetscape outside the station. Some of the elements discussed included the design and materials used in the station in comparison to those of surrounding buildings on the street, some of the interesting design features of the station's interior and exterior, and the history of the railroad at that location.

Tour guide John Craib-Cox visually demonstrates concepts of scale and massing while discussing Linden station, as tour members and fellow guide Graham Garfield look on. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

Next, the group reboarded the train and headed north to Jarvis. The train headed north on Track 4 to Clark Junction, then switched over to the Red Line on Track 3. The charter train attempted to catch up with its Red Line leader as much as possible so as to provide the maximum interval between Red Line trains to view the station, Still, given the Red Line's provision of 8 minute service midday on Sundays, there was not much time to view this station. Once the group arrived at Jarvis, participants disembarked the train and headed downstairs to view the front of the station. Discussion here included the architectural design of the station and the materials used, the placement of the station inside the solid-fill embankment of the elevated, and the generation of a small commuter-oriented commercial district around the station in an otherwise residential neighborhood. Due to the short interval between trains, the group then had to hustle up to the platform and board the train so as not to block the platform, but on the way up tour members viewed the old agent's booth, terrazzo floors, and original moldings.

The next station on the tour was Dempster on the Purple Line. Here, passengers went downstairs and outside to view the small Georgian Revival station house from the vantage point of Sherman Place in front of the station. Again, the station was viewed in context with the surrounding commercial district and in addition to calling attention to the architectural design and materials, the compatible scale and massing of the station as compared to the rest of the surrounding buildings was pointed out. With 10 minute service on the Purple Line, there ought to have been plenty of time to view the small station and hear plenty of commentary. Unfortunately, the spacing of the road trains was not correct and the charter's in-service follower caught up with it sooner than it should have. The stop cut short by several minutes, the group hustled back up stairs to head to the end of the Purple Line.

After the guides concluded their remarks, there was plenty of time for tour members to take photos, ask additional questions, or just observe the Prairie School architecture of Linden station. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

The Purple Line's terminal at Linden was the next stop on the tour. The provision of two pocket tracks in the terminal -- and the scheduling of trains on the weekend such that only one was needed to berth trains -- allowed the train to sit in the station without blocking traffic, providing a longer stopover on the tour. This stop also allowed for an interesting comparison of the new and old, of the original and the replacement. Tour-takers first alighted the train and walked into the current Linden station, a modern building of brick, steel and glass built in 1994. Some of the design concepts behind the new station's form were discussed, as well as why the new station was deemed to be needed. Also pointed out here was the former right-of-way of the North Shore Line, which ran immediately to the east of the current station. Following this, the group left the current station and waked a half block west to the corner of Linden and 4th, where the historic station lies. Here, the history of the line's entrance into Wilmette was retold and the development of the station was described. The station's Craftsman origins and later Prairie School form were discussed, including the typical elements of the styles present in the station and how the station compared with the other "L" and transit designs by its architect, Arthur Gerber. Also discussed was the station's subsequent renovation and reuse as a bank and how this type of adaptive reuse can be applied to saving historic buildings and keeping them viable. With some extra time allotted for this stop, tour takers were given an opportunity to walk to one of the nearby stores and buy something to eat or drink before boarding the train for the last leg of the tour.

The tour group is assembled in front of South Blvd. station to view the ornate facade as the guides share information about the facility. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

From Linden, the tour returned southbound toward the Loop, with two intermediate stops on the way. The first was as South Blvd., the last station on the Evanston (Purple) Line before Howard terminal. The charter train was able to sufficiently catch up with the in-service leader to give the tour group the maximum interval (about 10 minutes) to look over the station. The facility dates from 1931 and at street level is executed as an ornamental Beaux-Arts terra cotta station house. The interior of the station house also still has its original terrazzo floors, wood moldings, and decorative agent's booth. The tour group was first led downstairs, where some of the features of the interior were discussed and pointed out. Then, the group assembled on the sidewalk in front to discuss the impressive exterior. Guide Garfield discussed the station's history and background, as well as introduced some discussion of the architecture. Then, Guide Craib-Cox took over and expanded on the architecture and materials, discussing the origin and history of the Beaux-Arts, Doric, and Classical Revival elements found in the exterior, as well as the materials used in its execution, such as tile, brick, stone, and terra cotta. There was ample time to allow tour members to look around the interior and exterior for a few minutes before the charter's follower caught up and the train needed to proceed out of the station.

Tour guide Graham Garfield discusses the history and architecture of Wilson station, one of the jewels of the Chicago "L" system, in front of the converted, original main entrance. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

The final stop on the tour was Wilson station. Wilson is a station with a long and complex history, with a lot of architecture and detail to view. Luckily, the tour was in a good position at this station to have no time restriction due to in-service trains whatsoever. Wilson, which today serves the Red Line, once also served the Evanston Express on the outside tracks. Although this service no longer calls at Wilson, the platforms remain and with no express service on the weekend, one of these platforms provided the tour the ideal place to berth and remain as long as desired. The train pulled into the dormant but intact Track 1 express platform and the tour disembarked, making its way down the enclosed ramp to the station mezzanine. From there, the group proceeded downstairs to the street, outside, and down the block to the corner of Wilson and Broadway. Here, in front of the original entrance to Wilson station (now occupied by a Popeye's Chicken), the station's story was begun. Besides outlining the phases of its life, from a terminal to the additional of a lower, auxiliary station, and on to later years of North Shore Line interurban service and other events, the station's significant architecture was discussed. Wilson proved to be an excellent follow-up to South Blvd., as the two stations share the same architectural style (and architect, Arthur Gerber), but with Wilson providing a far more expansive and impressive example. Although the exterior has been slightly modified, largely in the loss of a terra cotta hood over the former main entrance, it still retains much of its fabric and grandeur. Especially important is the station's context, not only in the general scale and feel of the surrounding neighborhood but especially in its matching partner, the larger McJunkin office building across the street, designed to harmonize with one another. From there, the tour returned inside the station and proceeded onto the main Red Line platform. From the north end, the rest of the station's story was recounted. This location also provided a good vantage point from which to view the entire station complex, providing a good overview of its layout and development. As this was the last stop, questions were answered by both guides before giving tour members another few minutes to observe the station on their own. After an approximately 20 minute stop, the group boarded the train and resumed the trip back to the Loop, returning to where the tour started, at Quincy.

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, Rail Operations management personnel Linda Lee and John Blum for helping to schedule the charter, Rail supervisor Cory Fowler for helping the trip to go smoothly on the railroad, 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 stone and brick Prairie School features of Jarvis station provide the guides with ample discussion material on the second stop of the station tour. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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The group is assembled across the street from the Dempster station on the Purple Line to hear about the station's design. This location provides not only an excellent place from which to view the station, but also a vantage point for the surrounding buildings, which share a common scale and massing. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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Guide John Craib-Cox visually demonstrates concepts of sizes, scale, and massing to the group in front of the Dempster station. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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Before proceeding to the historic station at Linden, the guides discuss the form and design of the current, modern brick, steel and glass station building, providing a source of comparison and contrast for the historic structure. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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The tour group is in front of the historic Prairie School Linden station, which is adjacent to the current facility and which now houses a bank. The location not only is excellent to view the historic station but also the surrounding corner of 4th and Linden avenues, which has many other historic, ornate buildings. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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Information about Linden station's design, architecture, modifications over the years, and subsequent adaptive reuse and historic restoration is provided to the group by the tour's guides, Graham Garfield (right, in blue CTA® jacket) and John Craib-Cox (left, with red scarf). (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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Guide John Craib-Cox provides historical and architectural information about passing buildings and elements over the PA system as the train proceeds to its next tour stop. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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The fluted Doric pillar of Beaux-Arts South Blvd. station provides the backdrop of Guide John Craib-Cox's discussion of the station's architectural design and building materials as tour members attentively listen. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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The north end of the wide Red Line platform at Wilson provides an excellent vantage point from which to view the station complex and discuss its history and development. It also provides a view of the historic peaked canopy (in background) and some of the last incandescent gooseneck light fixtures on the system located at the outer ends of this station. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

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At the conclusion of the tour, the charter train returned to historic Quincy station, where the tour had started over four hours before. There, participants disembarked the train, but were free to remain to view the station or ask additional questions of guide Graham Garfield. (Photo by Tony Coppoletta)

2002flyer.pdf (116k)
The flyer for the 4th Annual Historic Station Tour.

handout02.pdf (1.2MB)
The 6-page handout that was provided to tour participants, with background on the lines and stations covered on the tour.