The long-hidden ships at the 59th Street station

For years, they were hidden behind scaffolding and plastic tarps along the uptown 1 platform at the Columbus Circle subway station.

But now that construction is finishing up, the original terra cotta plaques depicting one of Christopher Columbus’ ships are back in full, unobstructed view—hopefully for good.

They’re lovely to look at while waiting for the 1 train to limp into the station: The ship is the Santa Maria, billowing on the ocean with seagulls flying beside her sails.

Though the plaques were there when the station opened in October 1904, they’re actually replacements for a 1901 mosaic that’s recently been unearthed. That one didn’t cut it with August Belmont, who financed the IRT. So subway designers buried it behind a wall and came up with something that pleased him.

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