Chicago Landmarks

LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse

LaSalle and Illinois Streets elevation     Address: 500 N. LaSalle St.
Year Built: 1886 - 1887
Architect: North Chicago Street Railroad Company
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: June 27, 2001

Photo of Charles Tyson Yerkes The LaSalle Street Cable Car Powerhouse is a rare surviving artifact of Chicago's cable car system, which at its peak in the 1890s was the largest in the country, operating thousands of cable cars over 82 miles of track. The powerhouse was built by the North Chicago Street Railroad Company 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.

The powerhouse was constructed to house engines that moved two miles of cable through channels laid in streets on the Near North Side and in the Loop business district. 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.