On Monday, the last original station house on the east side of the Loop will close when demolition begins on the Madison-Wabash stop. The station opened on November 8, 1896, one year before tracks were constructed above Van Buren and Wells Streets, which completed the iconic Chicago Loop. Set to be demolished to create the forthcoming Loop Superstation, the decades-old-stop contains layers of history, from original platform railings to the new train tracker displays. Let's take one last detailed look at Madison-Wabash during its final days.
The Madison-Wabash L stop originally had two seperate station houses for fare collection, and the platforms were bisected by a central divider, creating two distinct loading areas. The Loop tracks were built by a consortium of private companies who collected fares seperately and didn't include transfers; to switch lines, a rider would have to exit through the station house, pay again and enter the other part of the platform. When universal fares were implemented in 1930, fare collection was relocated from the platform level to the mezzanine, making the original station houses obsolete. The eastern house was removed, while the western house served as the CTA's Loop Transportation Office.
Directly to the north is the Randolph-Wabash station, which will also close in the coming days and be consolidated into the brand new Washington-Wabash superstation, fulfilling the CTA's goal of having just two stations on each side of the Loop. Boasting a design very similar to Madison-Wabsh, the stop still retains a station house on the inside of the Loop, and was extensively rebuilt in the mid-'50s. After the two older Wabash stations are removed, Quincy, which was renovated in 1988, will be the only one retaining its original character.
The Washington-Wabash replacement station concept actually dates back to 1981. Reducing stops on the East side of the Loop will expedite trains circling the Loop, though it will lose the benefit of having multiple entry points for large crowds coming back from events at Grant Park and the lakefront.
Although the Wabash stations have grown worn and tattered, and the new combined station will allow more sunlight at street level and open up space for viewing historic architecture, replacing the old stations will remove some character from the Jeweler's Row Landmark District. Creative adaptive reuse concepts could have integrated parts of the original stations with the new constuction, perhaps incorporating a restaurant with al fresco trackside dinning on an old platform. Madison-Wabash features a "fourth level" transfer bridge above the tracks which offeres excellent views down the Wabash Avenue canyon and its historic facades (thankfully a bridge like this still exists one station south at Adams-Wabash).
— Shawn Ursini