Garfield: Last Station Standing of the First “L” Line

John Morris 3 comments

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Hidden in Washington Park on the South Side is a small Victorian building that is the oldest standing public transit structure in Chicago, and probably the the United States. It was built to connect downtown with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park.

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This station is one of the very few landmarks left in this neighborhood, but it’s one many residents are proud and have fond memories of:

Every time I walk by this place, memories come back. When I was a kid, me and my friends would hop the turnstiles and take the trains to escape the truancy officers trying to catch us for playing hooky. If we was caught [by the truancy officer], we never got in any trouble, they just took us home and maybe we got a whoopin’. […] Times were different then. We never hurt nobody, we was just kids having fun.

— Robert Jackson (above)

Located on the Green Line (oldest of all L lines), the station was given landmark status shortly before it closed in 2001. Shortly after, a modern facility was opened directly across from it on Garfield Boulevard. The old platforms and kiosks were removed, and it was given a fresh coat of green and white paint that matched the color scheme of its replacement.

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Bits of history and memories of the past lie on the ground around the station. Scattered about are paint flakes of white and green, but also artifacts of color palettes past: light blue, red, peach, and dark green, among others.

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The unique conical shape of the shelter was once common for L stations, but today this shuttered remnant is the last standing survivor of the style.

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Lost over the course of more than a century is the decorative detail that once existed here. The cornice near the roof is stamped copper, and the bricks were once multicolored in V and diamond patterns (barely visible in upper right of above image). The underside of the shelter was also illuminated.

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While there was once talk of making it an exit for the new station, or conversion into a library, nothing has materialized since closure. Now shuttered and without purpose, it sits quietly observing a busy intersection with trains still roaring by above–worlds apart from the era of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in which it was built.

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3 responses to “Garfield: Last Station Standing of the First “L” Line”

  1. MoreKnown says:

    This was an awesome post. Thanks for including pictures, too.

    This kind of history pervades the city and I love when we can find something with such an interesting story right here in the city.

    It’s similar to the Edgewater Beach Hotel. All that’s left is a large pink building, but it used to house one of the most impressive resorts in the nation (with its own sea-plane and everything)!

  2. JD says:

    Discovered your site through reddit, and I’ve been fascinated by it all morning. Keep up the great work!

  3. John John says:

    Thank you DJ! I hope you’ll check back often and become a regular reader.

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