The West Loop is home to a wide array of architectural styles, and they aren’t only evident in buildings. The two CTA elevated stations separated by one mile on West Lake Street also span 120 years of design and history.
Most commuters I passed walking up the stairs to the Ashland Green Line Station probably gave little thought to what was going on in the world in 1883 when the structure was built. For the record, Grover Cleveland was president, the University of Chicago had just opened and Thomas Edison constructed the first overhead-wired lighting system.
That makes the Ashland Station one of the oldest standing stations on the L.
“The Ashland station was designed in the Queen Anne style,” Lambrini Lukidis of the CTA tells me. “The style was popular in the late 1800’s and was reminiscent of the English country house and cottage architecture.”
Above the station house you can still clearly see the ornate peaked-roof canopies.
Lukidis notes that the CTA has preserved the historic features of several elevated stations, including Ashland, so what you see inside and outside the station is pretty much what Chicagoans would have seen as they hustled up to the platforms to catch train pulled by steam locomotives.
The visual difference between Ashland and its neighboring station to the east at Morgan Street couldn’t be more striking.
The latter is adorned largely in stainless steel and glass. The result, on a sunny day, is a series of reflections that give the station a sleek modern look. I wondered if architect Carol Ross Barney considered the design of the Ashland Station when coming up with the concept for Morgan.
According to Lukidis, the Morgan Street Station’s design was primarily influenced by the surrounding neighborhood, including warehouses, industrial spaces and converted lofts.
“That’s why the Morgan station uses modern materials such as perforated stainless steel, translucent polycarbonate, and exposed structural steel framing,” she said.
“The CTA recognizes and honors the strong neighborhoods that make up Chicago by factoring into station designs the residents, businesses, architecture and culture of the area,” Lukidis said. “In many instances, as the Morgan station demonstrates, those factors will influence the design of a station. When older CTA stations are in need of rehabilitation, we recognize many stations serve as landmarks or points of interest, so the agency works to preserve the architecture and style.”