LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse (Chicago)

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LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse
Cable Driving Plant, Designed and Constructed by Poole & Hunt, Baltimore, MD. Drawing by P.F. Goist, circa 1882. The powerhouse has two horizontal single-cylinder engines. The lithograph shows a hypothetical prototype of a cable powerhouse, rather than any actual built structure.[1] Poole & Hunt, machinists and engineers, was a major cable industry designer and contractor and manufacturer of gearing, sheaves, shafting and wire rope drums. They did work for cable railways in Baltimore, Chicago, Hoboken, Kansas City, New York, and Philadelphia.[2]
A cable car wheel sheave, believed to be manufactured by Poole and Hunt of Baltimore, in Wheel Park in Otterbein, Baltimore.This was discovered under the streets during 1970s urban renewal. It would have been placed there in the 1890s.Such sheaving wheels could weigh between 15,000 and 30,000 pounds.
Charles Tyson Yerkes by Jan van Beers [3]
Lasalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse From No. Chicago Street RW Co., 1887 - Chicago Landmark Plaque

The LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse at 500 North LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois (northwest corner of LaSalle and Illinois Streets) is a rare surviving artifact of Chicago's cable car system, which at its peak in the 1890s was the largest in the country, in terms of riders and equipment. Three separate companies operated thousands of cable cars over 82 miles of track. The San Francisco cable system with 6 separate companies operating 105 cable miles was the largest in terms ot total trackage.[4] The three story powerhouse was built by the North Chicago Street Railroad Company in 1886-1887 for $35,000. “It was a striking presence in the River North area, which was a jumble of low-scale factories, warehouses and shipyards,” said a Commission on Chicago Landmarks Designation Report from 2000. The railroad company was organized by Charles Tyson Yerkes, the leading transit entrepreneur in Chicago during the late 19th century. At the height of his influence, Yerkes controlled eight separate street railway companies and 250 miles of track in the city.

Chicago historian Greg Borzo calls the LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse, "the crown jewel of Chicago’s cable car remnants." He also notes, "This powerhouse drove two cables: one that pulled cable cars through a tunnel under the Chicago River along LaSalle Street and around the downtown and another shorter cable that pulled cars along Illinois Street between Clark Street and Wells Street." [5] Those cables, in turn, pulled the thousands of cable cars that, at the peak of their operation, brought approximately 100,000 workers into downtown Chicago each day.

The LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse helped make possible the rapid development of the city's outlying North Side neighborhoods during one of the greatest boom periods in the history of Chicago.

Cable cars operated in Chicago until 1906.

The LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse was designated a Chicago Landmark on June 27, 2001.[6] Today it is a restaurant.[7] It used to be Michael Jordan's Restaurant until 2000.


  1. ^ Hilton, George W. (1971). The Cable Car in America. Berkeley, CA.: Howell NorthBooks. 
  2. ^ The Cable in Chicago: Speeding along the Streets Rapid Transit there for Miles (Nov 9, 1889). The Baltimore Sun, page 8. 
  3. ^ "Jan van Beers, painter". 
  4. ^ Borzo, Greg. "Forgotten Chicago- Cable Car Remnants". 
  5. ^ Borzo, Greg. "Forgotten Chicago- Cable Car Remnants". 
  6. ^ "Chicago Landmarks -LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse". 
  7. ^ "Gino’s East Wells Street New Location!". 

Coordinates: 41°53′27″N 87°37′58″W / 41.89083°N 87.63278°W / 41.89083; -87.63278