They’re mini history lessons depicting some hallmark of the area from when the station was built, say a noteworthy building, like City Hall.
But the Canal Street 1 train platform, with mosaics of a chapel and spire, poses a mystery.
It did at one time—and it was a beauty. The lovely St. John’s Chapel was built in 1807 (predating the street grid!) as a parish of Trinity Church, and it became the centerpiece of a luxurious residential enclave called St. John’s Park.
Well-to-do families built Georgian row houses around a small genteel park, and the neighborhood remained fashionable through the 1840s (below, in a 1905 painting by Edward Lamson Henry).
St. John’s Park began losing its appeal in the 1850s, when wealthy New Yorkers chose to relocate uptown. Then a railway terminal replaced the park in 1868, turning the enclave into one of factories and tenements.
Lovely St. John’s Chapel, with its sandstone portico and columns and 200-foot oak spire and clock dominating the skyline for over 100 years, was torn down in 1918.
All that remains today is the subway mosaic, a small patch of green at the Holland Tunnel entrance—and a forgotten lane in Tribeca bearing the St. John’s name.
Tags: Canal Street subway, defunct neighborhoods of Manhattan, Edward Lamson Henry painter, New York churches, New York in the 19th Century, St. John's Chapel torn down, St. John's Lane NYC, St. John's Park, Tribeca history, Varick Street history