The graceful beauty of an original subway kiosk

There is sits beside City Hall Park, an original New York City subway entrance—one of several entrances and exits for the new IRT subway, which made its debut in 1904.

Modeled after subway kiosks in Budapest, these graceful structures (domed roof kiosks were entrances; those with peaked roofs were exits, see below at East 23rd Street) were built during the height of the City Beautiful movement that swept major urban areas at the turn of the 20th century.

The idea was that public buildings—schools, courts, and subway kiosks as well—should inspire and uplift city residents.

I’m not sure if any of the originals exist today. But some subways have replicas, like the one at Astor Place, with its colorful beavers on the platform.

[Photo: NYPL, 1903; postcard, MCNY 1905 X2011.34.2882]

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12 Responses to “The graceful beauty of an original subway kiosk”

  1. Zoé Says:

    Ephemeral strikes w/ new knowledge again! I had never heard that they were modeled after ones in Budapest. That makes sense – looking at them now. They have an Eastern European look about them.

    I always assumed the ones in existence – such as at Astor place – were originals not replacements.

  2. Steve Swirsky Says:

    One original that I know survived was at the Vr Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Haven’t seen it in years

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I’m not sure if they qualify as Art Nouveau, but that was the style popular in Europe at the time.

  4. Ricky Says:

    I’m confused. You could only enter through the domed kiosk, you couldn’t exit through it? You could only exit from the peaked kiosk, it wasn’t possible to enter through it?

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Apparently. This is from nycsubway.org: “The roof designs differed so as to designate them as exits or entrances. The entrance kiosk featured a domed roof with leaf-like shingles of cast iron, while the exit was topped by a four-sided peaked skylight of one-quarter inch wire glass.”
    https://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/Architectural_Designs_for_New_York%27s_First_Subway_(Framberger)

  6. Chip Says:

    Yes – there were dedicated platform entrance and exit staircases. “On each platform were four stairways, two for entrance and two for exit, divided by metal gates operated by an attendant who controlled passenger flow.” ibid.

    The style was more a pure form of Beaux-Arts than Art Nouveau.

  7. Ricky Says:

    Thanks!

  8. rossana delzio Says:

    Reblogged this on Intellicooking.

  9. David H Lippman Says:

    Note that the kiosks with round tops are entrances and the ones with pointy tops are exits.

    I found the kiosk at Astor Place after it had been delivered, and noted that the four hooks that held the wires that held the kiosk in place had been sawn off the kiosk. I promptly liberated them in the name of the Crown and took them home.

    Sometime later, I donated the four hooks to the New York Transit Museum, much to the curator’s puzzlement

    I met up with him again. He told me was using one as a paperweight on his desk. I showed him some information about the companies that made the kiosk and suggested he could send the other three to their top honchos, to thank them for their work in restoring this piece of history. He thought that was a good idea.

    After the kiosk was opened, I took my father to see it, as he used them all his life. He studied it judiciously, walked around, inspecting it, and tapped its sides. Finally he said, “Yes, this is what they looked like. But I never knew that Astor Place had a double-size kiosk.” He was very pleased.

  10. chas Says:

    I don’t get up there much, but doesn’t Columbus Circle have a similar entrance?

    • Lady Feliz Says:

      No, it doesn’t. Have not seen one at Columbus Circle or any other station (except the replica at the Astor Place station) and I’ve been here 50+ years.

    • David H Lippman Says:

      Aside from the elevator at Brooklyn Bridge and the one discussed at Astor Place, they’re all gone. The last survivors were at 50th Street and Broadway.

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