Historic Review
Since the first steam engine chugged through the wilderness, trains have piqued America’s imagination. What better symbol of the growth, adventure and technology that has been such an integral part of our culture than the Iron Horse?

Like the trains themselves, railway stations have symbolized the excitement of a growing nation. With the commotion of people in transit, train stations are alive with the activity of a country in motion. Before the skyscraper and even after, railroad station themselves were premier urban architectural monuments of private enterprise. The list of the great stations-Grand Central, Penn. Union, Dearborn,...etc-is a roll call of design excellence and civic pride.

Dearborn Station opened to critical acclaim in May 1885, one of three major railroad stations constructed in downtown Chicago during the 1880’s and 1890’s. It was a primary facility of the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad, providing service for the Chicago, Danville and Vincennes Railroad, the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railroad Company and the Grand Trunk Junction Railroad. By the turn of the century, twenty-five railroads, 122 trains and 17,000 passengers passed through the Station each day.

From its beginning, Dearborn Station was one of Chicago’s most prominent and prestigious buildings, representing the grandness of a prosperous city. Designed by Cyrus L.W. Eidlitz, the Station features masonry walls and terra cotta arches in the Richardsonian Romanesque style-a style especially popular for public buildings of the era because of its connotation of strength, solidity and power.

Dearborn Station served as a catalyst of rapid development in Chicago’s South Loop. And as Chicago became the focus of the national railway network, Dearborn Station evolved as the nexus of its intercity train system. Major improvements were made to the Station throughout its history to meet Chicago’s growing market for rail transport; the Facility was enhanced for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and the First World War.

The life of the Station was so important that following a sudden fire in 1922 that destroyed the roof, attic and upper story, a third floor was added during the reconstruction.

It requires little effort to imagine the days when Clark Gable or Judy Garland swept through the bustling marbled lobby of the Station with entourage in tow, or of business tycoons aboard sumptuous private cars. And although names like the Wabash Cannonball and the Superchief are only faded reminders of the grand day of the railroad, we can still reclaim some of its beauty and drama through a visit to this monument.


View a Historical Dateline of Dearborn Station

See Recent photos of Dearborn Station

See Historic photos of Dearborn Station

Contact Dearborn Station
Frank Sinatra traveling through Dearborn Station.