It’s a shame that the mosaics lining the walls of the 125th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station are so caked in grime. They depict a version of Harlem very different from its gritty urban image.
There’s a white church steeple, a house or two set among green hills, and a tidy little bridge stretching over a gentle river.
The steeple and houses seem to reflect Harlem’s past as a mostly rural village from the 17th century until the late 19th century. But what bridge are we looking at?
This New York times article calls it a steel-girder bridge.
And while it might depict one of the steel bridges that crossed the Harlem River at the time (or still cross it), I wonder if the image in the mosaic is actually based on the above illustration of the Harlem Bridge in the 1860s.
Subway mosaics like this one decorate many of the original IRT stations in Manhattan. The 125th Street station opened in 1918—just about when nostalgia for Harlem’s small-town past might be in vogue.
[Bridge illustration:New York Public Library Digital Gallery]