In the Loop, there are several “L” stations that haven’t been thoroughly modernized: the station at La Salle and Van Buren is one; this one at Randolph and Wabash is another.
The steel bones of the stations are the same as when they were built around 1900. The old wooden benches and the shape of the shed roofs are much the same, too. Some of the stations have old wooden swinging doors, their edges rounded under the paint by impatient hands pushing them for a century, chipped by the brush of parasols and satchels, wheelie bags and bikes.
I like these stations, with their peeling paint, the patina of age. The push is on to make Chicago more like other places, to get rid of its peculiarities, its antiquities; but what is a city but a peculiar mix of old and new things? It would be dreadful if everything worn or simply old were to be extirpated. Like a woman who has visited her plastic surgeon too many times. . . .
Many thousand people clamber daily up and down el stairs like these; how many thousand, Celia couldn’t begin to say. The stairs’ steel treads are noisy and unforgiving, sanded in winter to keep patrons from falling. Much life is lived in the shadow of the el, or right next to it, unflappably. Even scholars read right next to it, in this library.
The Brown Line trains are running again now that repairs to the Wells Street Bridge have been completed. It was quite a project! When I took the train north across the bridge yesterday evening, the river was still crowded with repair barges and equipment. A tour boat plied the waters, carrying its passengers toward an up-close view of the site.
Images have been ‘posterized.’
Click to enlarge.
The city is always building, leading to the complex vista that Celia, commuting, sees daily: the buildings, bridges, and balustrades rimming the River, offering a pleasing spectacle to the passing trains. Cars, trains, boats, and pedestrians pass distractedly through a landscape that’s the work of many decades and thousands upon thousands of laborers’ hands.
The repair barge in the river, for fixing the bridge, is fleeting evidence of all that goes in to making this the home that we know.
I happened to be driving along Wacker Drive this evening, and, for once, was truly happy to have to stop for a red light.
I seldom come this way in a car, and this was my one chance to take a picture of the repairs underway on the historic Wells Street Bridge. Not only did the Merchandise Mart look terrific, as always, but I managed to take a picture of the huge crane that has been used to hoist the massive prefabricated sections of the bridge in place.
The Wells Street Bridge was an engineering marvel when first built in the 1920s. It is a double-decker draw bridge that carries both car traffic and, on its upper level, the elevated train. Now most of the bridge is in need of repairs, so traffic has been cut off for a number of days, while old components are removed and the new ones put in place.
People grumble about the inconvenience.
The first phase of the work was completed Monday, as you can see from the el train that is crossing. The second phase, which will be to replace the south section of the bridge, will require another closing and is scheduled to take place some time next month.
That’s the latest,
It’s best not to be in a hurry when you’re bound for the Loop. Surprises await on its decrepit streets. The only thing missing this time was an emergency visit from a SWAT team or something. Next time I will record the soundtrack coming from the dump trucks, bulldozers, stopped traffic, and trains.