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CTA celebrates 75th anniversary of city’s first subway line

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The State Street Subway, now part of the Red Line, opened in 1943


In 1943, the first underground transit line opened in Chicago: the 4.9-mile State Street Subway. Decades later it’s adapted into the Red Line, but the stations along the route still retain a lot of historical charm.

When it opened the State Street Subway had features that were uncommon in other systems such as ventilation, signals, drainage and escalators, according to the CTA. The subway line was meant to be a counterpart to the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway which didn’t end up opening until 1951. The two lines provided crosstown transportation system on both elevated and underground tracks.

To celebrate the subway’s 75th anniversary, the CTA had planned to roll out is rolling out the two 4000-series train cars that it maintains in it’s Heritage Fleet. However, the chance to ride the vintage cars was cancelled by the agency due to “unforeseen circumstances.”


Historic photos from the city’s archive detailing the State Street Subway will be displayed for several weeks in the nine stations that were originally part of the underground line. Each station from North/Clybourn to Roosevelt will have a gallery of 20 images placed throughout the mezzanine levels.

The stations part of the State Street Subway line were designed in the Art Moderne style, which was popular in the 1930s and evolved out of Art Deco. Some characteristics of the architectural style include simplified shapes, long horizontal lines, off-white or beige colors and chrome hardware.

The State Street Subway stations’ designs included bright fluorescent lighting, grey glazed tiles in entry areas, off-white terracotta at platform levels with station names and colorful wayfinding cues embedded into the tile work at some locations. While a few of the stations have had modern upgrades and art installations original features still remain.