By the end of 1895, the only section of the Union Loop without a
franchise was its southern leg. Levi Z. Leiter, owner of much Loop
property along Van Buren, strenuously objected to this alignment.
Uninterested in compromise, Charles Tyson Yerkes created a new
company, the Union Consolidated Elevated Railroad with its purpose not
only to build the gap between Wabash and Wells, but also the
connection to the Metropolitan West Side Elevated. Unable to sway the
opinion of Leiter and his associates, Yerkes announced that he'd build
the Van Buren leg from Wabash to Halsted Street, a distance of one
mile. The western half of this included mostly warehouses and industry
who were at best excited and at least indifferent to the presence of
the elevated. Their consent signatures coupled with those already
obtained east of Market Street were all Yerkes needed to proceed. Of
course, Yerkes never intended to actually build the structure west of
Market. Construction east of Wells began in late 1896.
Like all other legs of the Loop, the Van Buren stations had a uniform design, unique to their section. Although hardly high-style architecture, its rectangular form, gable roof with small dormers, smooth Tucson posts, fluted pilasters, large double-hung windows, and unique ornamentation in the pediment lend it to the Colonial Revival style. This architectural style can not be found anywhere else on the "L" and is unusual for its execution in sheet metal and tin. This station and the Loop as a whole was activated October 3, 1897, first served by the Lake Street Elevated. The Metropolitan followed in October 11, with the South Side trailing on October 18.
The station was originally called Pacific Street station, for its namesake street, whose named changed in the early years of the 20th century.
LaSalle/Van Buren has a history of importance. An ad published by the Metropolitan West Side Elevated urging citizens to take the Met's trains to the south side White City amusement park (despite the fact that Met trains went no where near 63rd and South Park) instructed passengers to change trains at LaSalle/Van Buren for the south side. What they failed to tell them was that they had to pay a second fare when transferring. An advertisement of the New York Central Railroad urged customers to use the LaSalle/Van Buren "L" station to reach their terminal at the nearby LaSalle Street railroad station. The station is also a block away from Chicago's financial district and is next to the Board of Trade.
By 1942, as part of an ongoing platform lengthening effort, the platforms of all three Van Buren stations had been extended to the point of being continuous from State to LaSalle. Trains still made separate stops along it, though. Today, it is an independent station again.
The station has suffered very few, if any, serious alterations. Still intact are the original station houses complete with woodwork and pressed tin ceilings, the station amenities like utility closets and fare collection booths and the platform canopies. If restored like Quincy/Wells, this station could indeed be one of the "L"'s crowning jewels.
At a press conference on Monday, June 5, 2000, CTA® President Frank Kruesi announced that beginning Saturday, June 10th and Sunday, June 11th, six downtown area 'L' and subway stations and seven station entrances that were currently closed late at night or on weekends would be open at all hours that trains are in service. One of the stations that was a Part-Time Station -- closed Sundays and Holidays -- was LaSalle/Van Buren. Starting at 0700 hours Sunday, June 11th, LaSalle/Van Buren returned to full-time operation. Opening these stations and entrances is just one of the components of a $539,000 service improvement package that was passed by the Chicago Transit Board in May 2000.
LaSalle/Van Buren is the last of the original Van Buren stations left. Dearborn/Van Buren was closed in 1949 and State/Van Buren was closed in 1973, both demolished in the 1970s