SUN-TIMES EDITORIAL: Reopen long-shuttered Green Line L station in Englewood

Racine Green Line Station, 1907, Earl Nielson, 6314-16 S. Racine Avenue in Englewood on January 28, 2021. Photo credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago
Racine Green Line Station, 1907, Earl Nielson, 6314-16 S. Racine Avenue in Englewood on January 28, 2021. Photo credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago

“Englewood residents and community organizers have been pushing for years to get the 63rd Street and Racine Avenue Green Line station reopened — and it’s easy to see why.

“The station was once a convenient midway point between the line’s Ashland Avenue and Halsted Street stops, which are a mile apart. But the Racine station was shuttered in 1994 as part of the massive Green Line rebuild.

“But now, residents and organizers are circulating a petition aimed at gathering enough signatures to make the station’s reopening a non-binding referendum question on the Feb. 28 municipal elections ballot.

“The effort isn’t getting any support from the CTA, though. The agency cites declining ridership at the station 30 years ago and a $100 million price tag to reopen and modernize the stop.

“But public transit investment is either an important factor in rebuilding disinvested communities — that’s part of the justification for the planned $3.6 billion Red Line extension — or it isn’t. The CTA can’t have it both ways.

“Rather than just dismiss reopening the stop, the CTA should instead work with the city’s Planning Department to figure out a redevelopment plan for Racine Avenue that factors in the reopened station.

“The Racine stop opened in 1907, with its Greek Revival entrance — which is still there — leading to elevated tracks.

“Under the current grassroots effort to reopen the stop, called ‘Green Light the Green Line,’ the renewed station would again fulfill the role it played in better days as a neighborhood hub.

Fraise, 62, who grew up two blocks from the stop, said the station, during its heyday, had a concession stand that sold snacks, comic books and other items. She said the station was part of an economic ecosystem nearby that included grocers, a record store and other shops.

“‘While it was open, it actually contributed to the economy,” Fraise said. “It kind of held the neighborhood up.'” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 11/29/22)

“The Englewood branch of the South Side Rapid Transit began construction in 1903. It opened in segments, beginning November 3, 1905 with a shuttle from the main line at 58th Street to State Street. By December 10 it was extended to Wentworth and Princeton (actually 61st Street) on January 11, 1906. The next segment to Harvard Street opened November 3 (the victim of a 226-day iron workers’ strike). Parnell and Halsted to the opened just in time for last minute Christmas shopping on December 24. On February 25, 1907, the branch was extended to Center Street (now Racine Avenue), opening the station there. The rest of the line was opened to its terminal at Loomis Blvd on July 13, 1907.

“The facility at Racine consists of a grade-level station house on the west side of the street, with stairs from the rear of the building leading to dual side boarding platforms at the elevated track level. The station was constructed in 1905-06, designed by architect Earl Nielson, engineered by Charles Weston of the South Side Elevated Railroad Company staff and built by the American Bridge Company of New York.

“The 40′ by 40′ station house is constructed of brick with copper and wood trim, stone sills and limestone column bases executed in the Greek Revival style. The most prominent feature of the front elevation is the triangular pediment above the front windows and doorway, which along with the articulated cornice, triglyphs and pilasters made the building resemble a Doric temple. The front elevation has a center doorway for entry flanked by windows on each side. The building is flanked on each end by a side hallway, which leads from the front elevation to the rear, bypassing the interior fare control area. These could be used for auxiliary exiting or entry during pay-on-train periods. At the end of the station’s service life, they were used for exiting only, regulated by high-barrier rotogates.

“The interior was built with wooden floors and plaster walls and ceiling. Window and door frames are wooden. A vestibule was located at the front doorway. The rear doorways leading to the platforms are located in the northwest corner of the interior, while a restroom and porter’s closet are located in the southwest corner. An ornate wooden ticket agent’s booth was located in the middle of the north half of the interior.

“From the back of the station house, a stairway leads up to a mezzanine level, then splits into two stairways to each of the station’s dual side platforms. The platforms are typical of those on the Englewood branch, with wood decking on a steel structure. The canopies are supported from the back of the platform, with steel arched supports and latticework along the back and a hipped corrugated metal roof. The original pipe railings were later replaced with simple angle iron. The original shepherd’s crook light fixtures with incandescent bulbs were also later replaced with box-shaped sodium vapor lights.” (Chicago-L.org)

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