The lovely ceramic tablets on subway platforms

Building the New York City subway was a massive undertaking. Tunnels had to be dug, tracks put down, and electric lines, water mains, and other underground infrastructure dodged.

And then, stations had to be designed. A young pair of architects, George Heins and Christopher LaFarge, were given the job.

Their lovely work still survives. Heins & LaFarge created the arches and vaulted ceilings of early stations like City Hall as well as ornamental touches like garlands and wreaths lining platforms.

They built street kiosks, some of which are still in use today (like at West 72nd Street). And they’re responsible for designing these terra cotta and ceramic name tablets.

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10 Responses to “The lovely ceramic tablets on subway platforms”

  1. Bookpod Says:

    You’re able to look up (at cornices and gargoyles) and look below the ground to the subway too. Nice post.

    • wildnewyork Says:

      Thank you. It’s remarkable to me how much art and design are in subway stations. Much of it has been ripped out in favor of industrial-looking tiles and cement, unfortunately…

  2. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Many times I’ve stared and admired them while waiting for a subway. What history of NYC went on above them?

  3. Amy Says:

    Years ago I tried to interest New York magazine in a piece on the ceramic plaques. They were more interested in sensation than beauty, so it was a bad fit.

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    It’s NY mag’s loss. There’s a lot of beauty on subway platforms. We take it for granted.

  5. Alyson Reed Says:

    Just recently, the beautiful tile work at the old South Ferry station was abandoned in favor of a stark modernist look at the new station. No one seems to know if the old medallions are still there waiting to be salvaged.

  6. foundrymark Says:

    “Subway Style” has many more wonderful photos of these tile works.
    I particularly like the eagles on 34th St. Station.

    Grab a used copy for under $6!

  7. Upstate Ellen Says:

    Love the old tiles in subway stations!

  8. The slow fade of Brooklyn’s Times Plaza district | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] called the Times Plaza Control House after it opened in 1908. (Today, it’s the restored Heins & LaFarge kiosk with “Atlantic Avenue” on the […]

  9. New York’s most beautiful subway light fixture | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the original IRT line in Manhattan have some lovely decorative touches, like floral motifs and ceramic tablets indicating the station […]

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