Illinois Central Depot
Life Span 1856-1871/1894
Architect: Otto Matz
Location: Michigan Avenue and South Water Street
Chicago Magazine, March, 1857
Illinois Central Railroad (or Union) Depot
Great Central Station Trainshed.
Leslie’s Illustrated News
August 30, 1856
Illustrated London News, August 22, 1863
THE CITY OF CHICAGO, UNITED STATES.
EXTRAORDINARY as has been the growth of many such cities of the United States as Philadelphia in the east and Cincinnati int he west, yet all are eclipsed by the rapidity with which the great city of Chicago, the capital of the State of Illinois, has risen up. Thirty years ago the site of this fine city was almost a wilderness—not more than half a dozen cottages occupied the flat prairie lands where now a magnificent city containing one hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants. Chicago is not composed of all kinds of buildings, good, bad, and indifferent, as many American cities are, but is beautifully built of brick and stone. The public buildings are very fine, the streets wide and well paved. In fact, the city has a noble and stately appearance as any city of its kind in the Old World. The shops and stores are of first class and the hotels on the largest scale, offering the best accommodation, particularly that called the Briggs House, combining, as it does, the comforts of the best English inns with those peculiar advantages that belong to the American hotel system.
The geographical position of Chicago is, perhaps, the very finest that exists on the American continent. “It is situated on the southwest angle of Lake Michigan, quite in the “far west” of the continent, more than a thousand miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Yet vessels which shipped their cargoes in the docks of Liverpool may often be seen discharging them beside her quays; and many a cargo of corn, beef, and pork shipped in this great prairie capital finds its way to British ports without ever being transhipped; for between Chicago and the Atlantic the water communication is complete for seagoing ships of considerable burden, by the Welland Canal, which passes them from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, missing the great Falls, and by the canals of the St. Lawrence, which avoid the rapids of that river. Chicago is also connected with New York by a grand system of canals; in fact, New York is the true port of the prairies country.
From Chicago in every direction branches a system of railways of the most complete kind. The Michigan Central enters the city on a viaduct, across part of of Lake Michigan. One of our Illustrations is taken from a point on this viaduct. This railway is 300 miles long, and extends to the city of Detroit, on the river which connects Lake Huron with Lake Erie. On the opposite side of this river is the British city of Windsor, the western terminus of a system of railways connected with New York and Boston, and all portions of the British territory in North America. From Chicago railways are increasing southward and westward through he States of Wisconsin, Iowas, and Minnesota; while southward and westward railway communication is perfect for thousands of miles into the farthest unbroken prairie lands beyond the Missouri to the most southern States of the Union and the mouths of the Mississippi and the Rio Grande.
It is impossible to contemplate the future of the North American States without seeing that the city of Chicago must occupy the most prominent position in it, standing as it does at the head of inland navigation, and at the head also of those great alluvial tracts of rich prairie lands, which even now are scarcely touched, lands where soil, climate, and all desirable things else invite men to settle upon them and progress. And it is not on the surface alone that these riches exist, for beneath it lie inexhaustible beds of coal, and limestone adapted for every purpose. Copper, lead, and other minerals abound in the north; and there is a mountain of iron in the south. The greatest nation the world has ever seen will be that which will one day inhabit the plains of Illinois; Chicago will be its capital, and New York its seaport.
Chicago, from the Michigan Central Railway.
From Chicago Illustrated
Great Central Depot
Artist: Louis Kurz
Publisher: Jevne & Almini
Location: Adams Street and Michigan Avenue
Published: January 1866
CENTRAL DEPOT—This view is taken from a point near the junction of Adams street and Michigan avenue. It presents the Great Central Passenger Depot, from which depart trains of the Illinois Central Railroad, the Michigan Central, and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railways. To the right of the depot are two mammoth elevators, named A and B, which are erected on the river. The light-house marks the northern point of the entrance to the harbor. Beyond, two miles out in the lake, is the Crib—the huge structure anchored there being the lake end of the tunnel through which the city is to draw is supply of water. Between the elevators and the railway building may be seen a portion of the shipping which line the harbor. From the station-house, southwardly, is the railroad track, running due south. This track is constructed on trestle-work, and is protected on the lake side by a heacy break-water, constructed of piles, filled with stone. Between the track and Michigan avenue is a large park, one mile in length, and which is almost two-thirds covered with water. In summer this charming body of water is used for aquatic pleasures, yachts and row-boats, and in winter for skating. When this park is planted and beautified, as it should be, it will be a charming resort. This view includes only a small portion of the north end of the park.
To the west of the depot may be seen the Adams House, which is located on the corner of Michigan avenue and Lake street.
This is one of the most familiar pictures in Chicago. There are but few strangers who do not visit Michigan avenue, from which is spread out the lake in all its grandeur. The depot building, which is the finest kind in the West, was designed by Otto Matz, Esq., an architect residing in Chicago.
James W. Sheahan, Esq.
Photographer: John Carbutt
Illinois Central Railroad Depot
Illinois Central Depot
Foot of Lake Street
Photograph by John Carbutt
Illinois Central Depot
Illinois Central Depot
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
It opened on June 21, 1856, cost $250,000 and for a time was the largest building in downtown Chicago. The train shed was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 but remained in operation. A subsequent fire in 1874 damaged the head house The station proved inadequate to handle growing traffic and was closed on April 17, 1893 in favor of Central Station. Millennium Station, formerly Randolph Street Terminal, sits on the location.