47 W. Polk Street
In 1883, architect Cyrus L. W. Eidlitz was commissioned to design the Dearborn Station for the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad. By mid 1885, at a cost of approximately $500,000 the terminal opened. As a landmark to many visitors “welcoming” them to Chicago, the huge clock tower stood as a beacon to the people and trains below. By 1920, Chicago had become a national rail hub and the station served 25 different railway lines, 120 trains and about 20,000 passengers daily.
It was the oldest of six intercity train stations serving Chicago when, in1922, it was almost completely destroyed by fire. Originally, the tower portion of the building had pitched roofs but were removed after the fire destroyed much of the building. Several structural improvements were also made as the station was rebuilt. The exterior pink granite and red brick stand out in vast contrast to the many granite and limestone buildings being built in Chicago at that time.
As part of the government owned Amtrak consolidation, the Dearborn Station was closed on May 2, 1971. Within the next few years several of the other railroads that used the station for offices also vacated. Late in 1976 the trainshed was demolished and much of the track was removed. However, the “headhouse” (main entryway and clock tower) remained. The 80’s saw the property completely abandoned until it was finally revitalized into a multi-use development containing retail and office space. Today, the headhouse at Dearborn Station continues to memorialize the railroad era in Chicago and now symbolizes one of the most successful urban renewal projects in U.S. history. Dearborn Park has risen where there was once old rail yards and has been transformed into high-rise apartments, condominiums, single family homes, playgrounds and schools. It continues to be a focal point for the Printer’s Row District, which has seen an upsurge in new development and expansion over the last several years.
On the side….
The old Dearborn Station also housed a Fred Harvey’s Restaurant. These dining facilities were becoming quite the rage after the turn of the century. They were placed along the route of trains heading to and from Chicago and “The Wild West”. Harvey is credited with creating the first restaurant chain in the United States.
His famous waitresses (Harvey Girls) were known to bring a “higher standard” of service to the restaurant patrons through their dress, attractive looks, and overall professional conduct. In the 40’s there was a novel and an award-winning musical starring Judy Garland emulating the popular girls. Fred Harvey also created restaurants along the Illinois Tollway (Oasis) back in the 40’s and 50’s.