Hunting ghosts of the West 91st Street subway

It closed in 1959, 55 years after it opened as part of the original West Side IRT line.

The subway platforms on Broadway at 86th and 96th Streets were extended, crosstown bus service had been established, and the local station at 91st Street Street was deemed unnecessary by transit officials.

Above ground, it appears to have vanished without a trace. On each corner of 91st and Broadway, no signs of it remain—no sidewalk irregularities or remnants of mysterious staircases.

But we do have old photos to show us what the little station looked like. Ninety-first street was barely a generation old when the subway opened, but it helped bring new residents and beautiful apartment houses—like the Apthorp and Astor Court at 90th Street—to the newly developed Upper West Side.

These new residents entered and exited the station through one of the original cast-iron and wire-glass kiosks that opened in 1904.

Their unique domes and slender design were modeled after subway kiosks in Budapest, a city whose circa-1896 subway system was almost as new as the first section of the New York City system.

Underground, however, the 91st Street station remains. If you look closely out the window of the 1, 2, or 3 train passes 91st Street, you can make out the abandoned station, with its ghostly platform and walls covered in graffiti.

I’m not aware of any tours of the station open to the public. But back in the late 1990s, the New York Transit Museum (based in a decommissioned ghost station of its own at Court Street in Brooklyn) did operate a tour of the 91st Street Station.

Writer Andre Acimen visited it and gave this report in a 1999 New York Times article:

“The conductor opened the front doors only, and to the baffled gaze of other passengers, we finally stepped out,” wrote Acimen.

“Wandering though this modern underworld, I tried to think of the great poets and the caves of Lascaux and ”Planet of the Apes,’ but all I could focus on as I negotiated my way through a thick mantle of soot was dirt, rats and a faint queasiness.”

“The platform was filled with trash: broken beams, old cardboard and a litter of foam cups. This wasn’t just the detritus of a subway station, but the leftovers of mole people,” stated Acimen.

[ has some incredible contemporary photos of the abandoned station, and Joseph Brennan’s Abandoned Stations site has excellent detailed info on 91st Street and other shuttered subway stops.]

[Second photo: MCNY, 1955; x2010.26.103; third photo: NY Transit Museum, 1957; fourth photo: MCNY, 1955, x2010.26.100; fifth photo: MCNY, 1955, x2010.26.99; sixth photo, Christopher Cook/Wikipedia]

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5 Responses to “Hunting ghosts of the West 91st Street subway”

  1. andyinsdca (@andyinsdca) Says:

    The New York Adventure Club might hit the 91st St station sometime, they’re always going about in abandoned stations (esp City Hall)

  2. Untapped Staff Reads: Bowery Mural Defaced, Ghosts of West 91st Street Subway, Brooklyn Pride Parade in Pictures | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] Hunting ghosts of the West 91st Street subway [EphemeralNewYork]: Above ground, it appears to have vanished without a trace. On each corner of 91st and Broadway, no signs of it remain—no sidewalk irregularities or remnants of mysterious staircases. […]

  3. Zoe Says:

    The graffiti may be from some friends of mine c.1980. I’m not naming names though… 🙂

  4. David Lippman Says:

    If you look hard enough, you can find a surface sign of the 91st Street Station on Broadway, closed in 1959 when the 96th Street was extended south — and that’s the ventilator grilles in the median on Broadway, that bring sunlight and some fresh air on the abandoned station, otherwise covered in nearly 60 years of dirt.

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I did see the ventilator grills in the median. But where’s the sign! I’d love to see it.

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