The landmarked Classical Revival, Beaux Arts Main Street Train Station was built in 1911.
Construction of the original train station began during the civil war and was completed in 1864 to take advantage of the railroad line and Downers Grove as a farming distribution center. The original train station was located at the northwest corner of current-day Main Street and Burlington Avenue. It was the precipitating factor leading to the development of the downtown with Samuel Curtiss establishing the subdivision in what is now the business district. Transit oriented development and the associated rail service resulted in new businesses and large single family homes.
Due to the number of livestock being shipped and the desire to become more pedestrian friendly, a new passenger station was constructed in 1911. The new train station is the current Main Street structure. The old station then served as a freight receiver and was subsequently razed for parking in 1948.
A significant historical event that impacted the train station as well as the community was the 1947 Zephyr train crash. The crash was caused by the collision between a 14 ton International Harvester tractor that had fallen onto the tracks and the Twin City Zephyr traveling at 70 miles per hour. The community immediately came together to respond to this emergency crisis. The restoration efforts of the train station included using many of the original bricks with the loss of some decorative trim at the top.
The train station represents the Classical Revival architectural style inspired by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago where renewed interest in classical forms was encouraged. This type also appropriated characteristics from the Greek Revival style. Although the roof is hipped at the side pavilions and flat at the main building, the main door is centered between pilasters with symmetrical windows. Terra cotta banding is present at multiple elevations and is used to frame the brick sections of the building. The roof is tiled at the pavilions with membrane used on the main building. It should be noted that the windows and doors are modern and possess no historical value.
The train station is the third busiest Metra Station outside of Union Station and is a gateway to Chicago and suburban communities. Train watchers and enthusiasts are commonly seen. Furthermore, its identity goes beyond just being a physical place for commuters to catch a train. It is also the central hub of activity where the community gathers for live music, farmer’s markets, holiday tree lighting, parades and other events. With an adjacent fountain seating bordered by landscape islands, it serves as a common meeting point, frame of reference of the downtown, and focus of pedestrian movement. Lastly, the train station features prominently in print as well as social media and has come to visually represent Downers Grove.
For more information, see the Village of Downers Grove Landmarking Resolution for this property.