Chicago YIMBY: Lost Legends #7: Dearborn Station’s Pitched Roof

Dearborn Station, 1885, Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz, 47 W. Polk Street. Drawing credit: Marquis’ Hand-Book of Chicago
Dearborn Station, 1885, Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz, 47 W. Polk Street. Photo credit: Chicagology
Dearborn Station in 1922 fire, Dearborn Station, 1885, Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz, 47 W. Polk Street. Photo credit: Chicagology
Dearborn Station, 1885, Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz, 47 W. Polk Street. Photo credit: Google Maps
Dearborn Station, 1885, Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz, 47 W. Polk Street. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“Dearborn Station, also known as Polk Street Depot, is one of the remaining central stations in Chicago. Located at the foot of Printer’s Row, the passenger hub was once notably taller, featuring a distinctive steep pitched roof. In this seventh Lost Legends article, we will discuss the changes to the station during its 140-year history, which include the loss of its crowning structure, among other elements.

“History: Built in 1883 for what was estimated to be close to $500,000 ($16.3 million in 2023), Dearborn Station was the brainchild of Cyrus L. W. Eidlitz, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the son of famed architect Leopold Eidlitz. This Romanesque Revival edifice at Dearborn & Polk was one of the six key intercity train stations serving downtown Chicago. Some of the earlier serviced railroads included the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, and the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad.

“Architecture: Dearborn Station was a quite recognizable architectural achievement, wrapped in a pink granite and red pressed brick Romanesque Revival style. According to an article on the station’s website, the tower originally stood over 170 feet in height, and weighed 1,860 tons atop its 1,200 square-foot footprint.

“The twelve-story clock tower could be prominently seen when looking south along the Dearborn corridor, playing a vital functional role for civilians in the late 19th and early 2oth centuries. However, as Chicago’s skyline grew and watches and other devices became more ubiquitous, the clock became less functional and more decorative.

“Caught in the Blaze: In 1922, a fire at Dearborn Station would alter the course of its history. The cause of the fire remains unclear, with possible origins including crossed electric wires, an overheated steam pipe, or a discarded cigarette. The fire caused significant damage, affecting the top floor of the podium and the tower. During the reconstruction, the pitched roofs atop both the base and the tower were not retained, leaving what is today’s flat-roof structure.

“The 1920s and Beyond: At its peak in the 1920s, Dearborn Station was incredibly active, with 146 trains arriving daily, carrying 17,000 passengers. Among these trains were the Santa Fe’s Super Chief, El Capitan, and Chief. However, by the 1920s, the significance of passenger railway travel started to wane as more individuals began using streetcars or automobiles.

“Having been compounded by the fire, the decline continued until September 1967, when the Monon Railroad ended its service to Dearborn, upon which others followed. The station officially closed in 1971, though some commuter service remained until 1976, upon which the train shed section was demolished.” (Crawford, Chicago YIMBY, 5/23/23)

Read the full story with 3D Modeling at Chicago YIMBY

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

70 − 64 =

Captcha verification failed!
CAPTCHA user score failed. Please contact us!