Grand Central Station, 201 W. Harrison St. (1890-1971)
Chicago was the undisputed hub of continental railroad activity by the early 1880s. In the latter part of that decade, a number of opulent railroad terminals were designed and constructed by competing railroads. Chicago had five major passenger railroad terminals in 1911, including Chicago & Northwestern station at Madison and Canal (built 1911), Illinois Central Station at 12th and Michigan (built 1893), Dearborn Station at Polk and Dearborn Streets (built 1885), and LaSalle Street Station at Van Buren and LaSalle (built 1903). But the most elegant among them was Chicago’s Grand Central Station at 201 W. Harrison Street.
Designed in 1890 by Solon S. Beman-- the architect of many of the buildings in the historic Pullman District and the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue-- Grand Central Station was an ill-fated masterpiece. The station featured an elegant 247-foot clock tower, graceful arched doorways, ornate gold-leaf interior Corinthian columns, marble floors and a superior location next to the Chicago River just two blocks south of the Loop. In its early days, the station featured a 100-room hotel, a high-end restaurant, an 11,000 pound bell that rang the hours from the clock tower, stained glass windows, and a marble fireplace in the waiting room.
Yet its beauty and elegance could never compensate for the bad luck and economic problems of its owners. The station's first owner, the Chicago and Northern Pacific Railroad went under in the Panic of 1893. In 1910 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bought the station, but the B&O was hampered by the circuitous route of its tracks into the city. And the B&O did not operate any commuter trains in the Chicago area.
The most successful railroad stations in Chicago were those that serviced cross-country and suburban commuter passengers. The B&O was connected primarily to the Central Atlantic states. The big money in the heyday of railroad travel was in cross country travel, primarily from New York through Chicago to San Francisco or Los Angeles. The B&O had the popular Capitol Limited route to Baltimore and Washington, but few other heavily traveled routes.
In the late 1960s, Grand Central Station was handling far fewer passengers than any other long distance passenger station in Chicago, and very few commuter passengers. By the time the station closed in 1969, it was serving an average of only 210 passengers per day. Although it was arguably the most beautiful railroad passenger station in Chicago, it was demolished in 1971. The Grand Central site has remained vacant ever since, with the exception of the River City apartment complex that was built on its railroad right-of-ways in the early 1980s. Two of the concrete train boarding platforms are still in existence on the site.
Photos Courtesy Library of Congress
Chicago's Passenger Railroad Stations of the 20th Century
Grand Central Station (Chicago) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Facebook -- B&O C&O Grand Central Station, Chicago Terminal, 1890-1971