55th Street station was built as part of the South Side Rapid Transit’s extension to the Columbian Exposition in 1892. This station’s design, drawn up by architect Myron H. Church, is typical of those constructed on the South Side Rapid Transit’s “alley ‘L’” under the viaducts. The general contractor was Alfred Walcott and the engineering was probably done by R.I. Sloan, chief engineer for the Railroad Company.
The original Garfield station is the oldest station facility on the “L”, with the station house and platform dating from 1892 and the platform canopies from the turn of the century. Constructed of brick with stone sills and foundation, this station, in spite of painting the front of its polychrome brickwork, has survived without significant alterations. The round bay with its broad half-cone roof, the small arched window at the side (now bricked) and the flat terra-cotta cornice with brick frieze display many qualities of the Queen Anne style, with some examples of early Chicago School architecture. It is perhaps the oldest intact public transit station in the country, according to a report by the Chicago Commission on Landmarks. An era in “L” history passed into being on Monday, July 16, 2001, when the old Garfield station closed and the new station came into service. The historic Garfield station was permanently closed at 1600 hours, at which time the new modern station opened on the north side of Garfield Boulevard. The rebuilt Garfield station is located on the north side of Garfield Boulevard, across the parkway from the historic station facility. The station house has glass and metal facades on the front and sides of its main entry, flanked by tall elevator towers clad in white glazed brick with thin horizontal green bands. The side and rear elevations of the station house behind the elevator towers are blank walls faced in white glazed brick.
In 2013 the structure was filled in with cement, rolling metal doors have been installed over the front doors to secure the building. so now the front of the entrance only remains.
The Chicago Transit Authority leased the historic Garfield station to an affiliate of the University of Chicago in 2017. Renovated as part of the university’s Art Block initiative, the station is now a creative business accelerator and retail store branded as L1.