Union Elevated Railroad, Union Loop, Wells, Van Buren, Lake Streets & Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Cook County, IL
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Significance: Significant in the history of American industrial archaeology, the Union Elevated Railroad is also important for its association with financier and traction magnate, Charles T. Yerkes and for its role in defining and shaping Chicago's downtown. According to Theodore Anton Sande, author of Industrial Archeology: A New Look at the American Heritage, to "the industrial archeologist, the Chicago Loop provides an ideal case study" (1976, 113). Having made its first run in 1897, the Union Elevated Railroad is one of only a few extant examples of transit systems that have remained in continuous operation for nearly a century. A "massive web of riveted steel girders and shining tracks," the Loop Elevated was designed by John Alexander Low Waddell, a Canadian-born engineer who played an important role in the history of American bridge design. Chicago's earliest elevated line, the South Side Rapid Transit, began operating in 1892, in time to provide rapid transportation to huge crowds of visitors who came to the city for the World's Columbian Exposition. ... Historically, the Loop Elevated "defined the most prestigious locations for office buildings inside the steel girdle" (City of Chicago Sept. 1981, 3). An earlier system of surface streetcar lines encircled the city's central area, however, the prominent visual presence of the elevated helped Chicago's downtown earn its well-known popular nickname, the Loop. Today, the elevated tracking structure is still associated with the definition of the Loop for many Chicagoans.
Survey number: HAER IL-1
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: NR