Chicago’s 120-Year-Old El Station


When I read early this summer that Chicago had a 120-year-old El station, right in the Loop, I knew I had to make a visit. I finally made the trip this weekend and could not be more excited to have found the gem that is Quincy Station.

Quincy Station was one of three El stations in the Loop designed in the Neoclassical style by Alfred M. Hadley in 1896. It opened in 1897 and today is one of the best preserved original El stations. Exterior Neoclassical decorations, pressed metal interior walls, and varnished wood floors set Quincy Station apart from other El stations. It’s more than just looks: Quincy Station is a glimpse into Chicago’s history in an area where much is constantly changing.

Today, a ride on the El from Quincy Station to the newly-opened Washington-Wabash Station, takes you through 120 years in about 10 minutes. These eye-catching changes in our surroundings, whether historic or modern, are hard not to appreciate. It is not uncommon to see a passerby pull out their phone for a quick snapshot at the entrance of Quincy Station (I wasn’t the only one snapping pictures today!) or on the modern platform at Washington-Wabash. People stop, they point out things to their friends, and they notice.











Sources and Further Reading:

Read the CTA’s page on the Quincy Station for more about the station and renovation (a 2017 project to make Quincy Station accessible to customers with disabilities). Scroll all the way down for fun trivia and historic pictures!

Curbed Chicago has been doing a series on Quincy Station since the renovation was announced. Check out articles with updates from April, June, and September 2017.

Interested in decorative pressed metal walls and ceilings? Check out the NPS Preservation Brief.

Interested in the brand-new El station? Check out Blair Kamin’s piece, “First new Loop ‘L’ station in 20 years creates curvy gateway to Millennium Park.”






10 thoughts on “Chicago’s 120-Year-Old El Station

  1. You put a lot of work into this presentation. I have no doubt it will send a grand influx of tourists to the area.
    You should send a link to the Chicago Chamber of Commerce. Much enjoyed!


  2. I enjoyed the old plane on the Midway sign and the pointing fingers for directions. It’s probably possible to date the former pretty accurately, but what about the latter? And pressed metal walls … how long were they in common use? The wood is beautiful.


    1. Thanks 🙂 The signs are reproductions, actually; part of a 1980s renovation. But something similar would have been there! Pressed metal was popular especially for ceilings in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. It was advertised as fireproof–likely a draw for a city that had a huge fire just a few decades earlier!


  3. This post about Quincy Station shows why CTA should be taken to task for the demolition of Madison/Wabash Station. Madison/Wabash was second to Quincy as the most intact, original station in the Loop, with a similar original station house to Quincy. Replaced by the current 21st Century modernist, starchitect-style, neoliberal vision of what a city should be – sterile, placeless, patinaless, disposable.


    1. I wish I could have seen the Madison/Wabash station and I hope the CTA recognizes what a gem they have on their hands with the Quincy Station! Placeless is truly the worst thing for architecture. I’m not totally against new construction, but architects must take place into account when they design spaces. A sense of place is incredibly important, and with Quincy Station it should be an easy choice because it’s already there.


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