Old subway signage of a less complicated city

It’s always fun to come across vintage subway signs at stations across New York—and often they can tell us something about how people got around underground in a very different 20th century city.

Take a look at this entrance at the Fulton Street Station downtown. The contemporary signage is functional and color-coded.

But it’s so much lovelier the old-school way, when the sign above the stairs simply tells you this will take you “down town.”

At the Lorimer Street stop in Williamsburg you can switch to the “crosstown line,” a phrase I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use when they say they’re about to jump on the G train.

It makes Brooklyn sound like one big town (or city, as it once was, of course) rather than collection of very different neighborhoods it is today.

“Subway Entrance” above this stairwell attached to the Trinity Building on Lower Broadway is done up in wonderful serif style. No train names or letters; its simplicity tells you everything you need to know.

Here’s one modern touch to get a kick out of: the stairs first lead you to a Subway sandwich shop.

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2 Responses to “Old subway signage of a less complicated city”

  1. Raylene Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these details about New York City. I love learning about the history as well as the city itself. I’ve not yet been to NYC, and I know it will be overwhelming whenever I do visit. Thanks for making it possible to visit before I actually get there!

  2. A West Side Art Nouveau–like subway sign | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] don’t have to be a typeface nerd to appreciate loveliness the letters and numerals affixed to plaques and signs in the city’s earliest subway […]

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