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CTA Bids Farewell To Crusty, Historic Madison/Wabash Station

By Margaret Paulson in News on Mar 18, 2015 4:40PM

On Monday morning, the city collectively bid a long-anticipated farewell to the Loop’s Madison/Wabash CTA station. Madison/Wabash first opened November 8, 1896 and served green, brown, purple, orange and pink line trains for decades. It has been known as many things: “that stop inexplicably close to two other stops,” “one of the city’s most depressing El stops” and “the stop with the super-cool but dangerous-feeling pedestrian bridge.”

But alas, all good(-ish) things must come to an end. The closing of the Madison/Wabash stop will make way for the construction of the new $75 million Washington/Wabash station— set to open in September 2016 and replace both the Madison/Wabash and Randolph/Wabash stops.

While some are happy to see the Madison/Wabash stop go— with its peeling paint, leaking, rusted roof and generally crusty exterior— others wax nostalgic about what the Madison/Wabash stop meant to them. Ed Moore, a Ravenswood resident and frequent user of the stop, told RedEye Chicago that the new station is necessary but “won't have one-tenth the old station's personality and none of its time-worn grace and dignity.”

And it’s hard to argue the station’s historical significance. In early 2014, Preservation Chicago added the stop’s station house to its list of the seven most threatened architectural sites in Chicago. The station house— that dilapidated white structure on the east side of the station that Preservation Chicago describes as “Palladian style, with “marvelous classical detailing, pilasters and ornamental stamped metal”— dates back to 1896 and is the only remaining original station house in Chicago. Looking at photos up-close, the details really are quite beautiful; still, it’s hard to argue that the whole thing isn't in dire disrepair.

According to a September 2013 press release from the mayor’s office, the new Washington/Wabash station, designed by exp (formerly Teng & Associates) will feature “a modern design with undulating waves that serve as a welcome contrast to the city grid.” The new station will also have important things like bike racks and an elevator, something Madison/Wabash lacked. Here’s more details from the press release:

"The undulating wave form of the canopies weaves through the historic Wabash Avenue corridor as a counterpoint to the city grid, and anticipates the soft forms of the park and the lake beyond. The faceted skeletal steel and glass structure is designed to create a dynamic play of light reminiscent of diamond facets and the historic Jeweler’s Row.”

You can check out conceptual, artist's renderings of what the station will look like over on the CTA's Flickr page. For a more detailed historical account, check out RedEye Chicago's timeline of Madison/Wabash through the years here.