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State Street Subway -Living New Deal Project-

By Mona Thelemaque May 14, 2013

THE BEGINNING 1863: First passenger subway line in the world opened 1909: First formal plan for passenger subway in Chicago Prior to the 1909 plan, and perhaps influential to it, subways were built in a number of other large cities! Subways remained on the planning board for another 2 ½ decades!

Subways in the 1909 Plan of Chicago. Dashed blue lines are planned streetcar subways.

THE YEARS OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION • 1930: Chicago City Council enacted an ordinance which officially approved plans for rapid transit improvement • Traffic in the loop steadily increased over the years • 1930 Comprehensive Transit Plan is born

Due to continued business decline during the Great Depression, investments in major public improvement plans remain frozen until 1937!


• Substantial change in transit prospects by 1937

• 1937 Comprehensive Transit Plan developed by Harrington, Kelker and De Leuw • Loan for Chicago’s two subway lines is approved • Construction begins in 1939 when PWA funding of $18 million is made available


• Ickes disliked idea of east-west streetcar subways to complement State Street Subway • Ickes proposed second rapid transit subway to and from West side • Because streetcar subways could hold much more passengers, Mayor Kelly disapproved of Washington’s dictation • Ickes held pursue strings and ground was broken on the State Street tubes in 1938

In the loop sections of the two routes, the tubes are being mined by the shield method because of the high water content of the soil, and the weight of the loads on the surface. The shield is a huge device 20' long, 25' wide, weighing 225 tons, that is pushed through the soil by means of hydraulic power. As it moves, the clay squeezes out toward the rear through six ports, where it is mined by hand knives. This is a view of one of the two shields in Route 1.

View of the State Street crossover at Clybourn Avenue and Goeth Street. This structure was built in open cut, and connected with the double tubes that were mined in tunnel.

Workers in underground tunnel. View of workers going under compressed air in lock on a section of the State Street route in North Clybourn Avenue. All tunnel work is under compressed air, ranging from 10-15 pounds pressure per square inch

Men hand mining

Photo shows point where the subway comes out of the ground and joins the "L." This is a part of the portal at North Avenue and Clybourn Avenue, near the North terminal of the State Street route.

Here is shown the plant yard of the Healy Subway Construction Corp, one of the contractors engaged in building the Chicago Subway.


Piccadilly line in London (1933) • use of clean lines and tile


Sokolnicheskaya line of the Moscow Metro (1935)

• use of granite and marble

EXTENSION OF THE SUBWAY SYSTEM • 1939 Comprehensive Plan for Extension of the Subway System in the City of Chicago

• 50-mile two-track subway system for $267,000,000

Due to onset of WWII and financing problems , proposed routes were never built

Map showing the proposed pattern of citywide subways proposed in 1939.

Cross-Section Rendering of State St. Subway (1941) Postcards were issued in the 1940s to promote the new subways being opened under State and Dearborn Streets.


• The mezzanine featured amenities are not common to current station design

• Concession stand • Public toilets • Telephones • Lockers

CHICAGO’S FIRST UNDERGROUND RAILWAY • Was ready to be used on October 17, 1943 • Cost $34 million to complete • More cost effective solutions replaced plans to expand rapid transit expansion • Known as best examples for Art Moderne style subway architecture in the U.S.

Chicago’s subways are not regarded a landmark!

Map of Initial System of Subways as they existed in 1943, with the State Street Subway completed and the Dearborn Subway partially completed.


• Assumed operational control over “L” in 1947

• Demolished 7 entire lines and branches • Since the 1970s, the CTA has been renovating in a manner un-sympathetic to the original designs


• Nickname refers to the fact that main part of the system is elevated

• Consists of 9rapid transit lines • YTD ridership 34,856,691 of which 11,108,744 is contributed by the Red Line only • YTD ridership of Red Line State Street Subway is 2,552,965 (23%) • average weekday use of 53,601 • average Saturday use of 25,600 • average Sunday use of 17,801

The Great Depression _State Street Subway Project  

The Great Depression_State Street Subway Project