The hats on the 23rd Street subway platform

Ever take the N/R train and wonder why there are so many mosaic images of hats lining the platform walls?

It’s an art installation called Memories of Twenty-Third Street. Artist Keith Godard pays homage to the famous men and women who a century ago would have frequented the area around 23rd Street and Broadway, where the station is located.

“From the 1880s through the 1920s, 23rd Street was a major vaudeville, entertainment, and cultural district, and ‘Ladies Mile,’ the fashion and department store haven of the time, was located nearby,” states the MTA’s Arts for Transit website.

The hats are stand-ins for the celebs of the day, among them Lily Langtry, Sarah Bernhardt, Isadora Duncan, P.T. Barnum (that’s his top hat in the center photo).

Marie Curie and Winslow Homer are represented in the top pic, and the fancy hats of vaudeville actress Fay Templeton and suffragist Maud Nathan are in the third photo.

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4 Responses to “The hats on the 23rd Street subway platform”

  1. Michaela Says:

    Reblogged this on The Living Room and commented:
    This is from Ephemeral New York. Subway Art…love it !

  2. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    For weeks last summer and into the fall, I got off at this station to do some temp work on 25th Street. I used to love looking at all these hats. And, if I am not mistaken, the hats are positioned according to the height of its “occupant”. Col. “Tom Thumb’s” hat is only three feet or so from the ground.

  3. visualingual Says:

    Rocco is correct about the hat heights — they match the documented heights of these people. Sometimes you can catch a person waiting on the platform in the right spot at the right height, and it looks like they’re wearing a hat. It’s cute. Here are some more photos:

  4. Weekend Links | Blog | Oliver + S Says:

    […] New York subway station mosaics and public art. Do you have a favorite station? Mine might be the hat mosaics on the 23rd Street N/R […]

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