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Clearing The Crust
Passenger improvements to historic train station in Chicago.
Serge Lubomudrov / Flickr

The Wilson Red Line station on North Broadway in Uptown is not exactly the Chicago Transit Authority’s best. Margo O’Hara, a neighborhood resident who advocates for better transportation options in the neighborhood, says the empty storefronts surrounding the station make it uninviting. It was voted for the third year in a row to receive the Red Eye “Crust Station” award because of “graffiti, vacant storefronts, safety concerns, and lack of elevator.”

At least one of these things will change in an upcoming renovation project to improve accessibility and the environment for people who transfer to and from four bus routes. An elevator will be added, making it the only accessible CTA station of the three Red Line stations in Uptown.

The current Wilson station was originally built in 1923, although the earliest station at the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Broadway opened in 1900, according to, a website edited by Graham Garfield, a CTA employee and interurban railway historian. Arthur Gerber, who also designed other stations in the CTA system, including stops in Wilmette and Evanston, designed the Classical Revival station.

The Wilson Red Line stop today.
Jeff Zoline / Flickr

“The design contained what were becoming Gerber trademarks, including laurel-framed cartouches, globed lights, and an overall majestic scale. The main entrance was on the corner of Wilson and Broadway and was topped with an ornate terra cotta arched parapet and a fascia over the door that read ‘Uptown Station,’” according to the site. The parapet was removed by 1959, perhaps because of a renovation effort in 1958.

In addition to a new elevator, the CTA will make street modifications and rehabilitate the exterior. These include adding street-level bus and train tracker screens, improved signage directing customers between bus stops and the station, and lighting changes. The CTA received $6 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus Livability Program to rehabilitate the station. At press time, CTA had not selected an architect for this project. They also explained, via email, that state and federal law requires them to use to a “publicly advertised, qualifications-based process for contracting with architects and engineers for station design.”

Informed about the project, Uptown resident O’Hara exclaimed, “Thank goodness. Wilson could be such a community nexus. You have Truman there, now a Target, the Jewel, and maybe some local stores one day.”

Steven Vance