The old-school subway signs at Chambers Street

Walking through the Chambers Street IRT station on the West Side not long ago, I noticed these tile subway signs, pointing riders in the right direction to the 1, 2, and 3 trains.

The station itself opened in 1918, and the signs look a lot newer than that. It’s kind of nice that the old-school spelling of uptown and downtown remain—with both words broken into two, so the signs read “up town trains” and “down town trains.”

They’re charming touches that take you back in time to a different New York as you make your way to your train. Luckily, other examples of vintage subway signage can be found in and outside various stations through the city.

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10 Responses to “The old-school subway signs at Chambers Street”

  1. keenanpatrick424 Says:

    Agree with you about the spelling. The new spelling connotes the rushed world of today. Astute on your part to notice this subtlety.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I like your interpretation, very astute too!

  3. Carl Reddick Says:

    How can we send you NYC photos of old places you may not have yet found?

  4. Ty Says:

    In Henry James’ Washington Square he has his protagonist venture herself off to an oyster house in “the Seventh Avenue.”

  5. The old-school subway signs at Chambers Street — Ephemeral New York – Naked Cities Journal Says:

    […] via The old-school subway signs at Chambers Street — Ephemeral New York […]

  6. David H Lippman Says:

    Mosaics in New York’s subway lines under Heins and LaFarge and Squire Vickers were serious business. The concept went away with the extended platforms of the 1940s and new stations thereafter. You can see for yourself by riding the route of the original 28 stations…compare the original platforms with the extensions.

  7. Two 1930s tile signs point the way in a Bronx subway station | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] subway signage like this can still be found on some platforms. Here’s an example at Chambers Street on the West Side, and another at the Cortlandt Street R train stop telling riders where to go to […]

  8. Two early Bronx subway signs that still point the way “up town” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] you can still come across similar olds-school tiled signs in other early stations—like the Chambers Street IRT on the West Side, which features bright, clean “Up Town” and “Down Town” […]

  9. velovixen Says:

    Lots and lots of keen observation from Ephemeral’s author, and the commenters on this post!

    I, too, have noticed the differences in tiling. In a few West Side IRT stations, if you are in the first or last two cars of a train, you will see the doors open to “bathroom” tiles. But if you sit in the middle cars, you can see some real craft and even artistry.

    One real treat is riding the N/R/Q local trains from Canal Street to Times Square. The original tiled signs, some as intricate and lovely as those on the IRT, were covered by “bathroom” tiles during the 1970s. but have been restored. And, underneath those signs (I’m thinking in particular of 8th, 23rd and 28th Streets), there are murals that evoke something for which the neighborhood is known (e.g., hats of famous people at 23rd Street, which was once the city’s headware center and part of Ladies’ Mile).

    Some other really nice tiled signs can be found in the Bushwick, Morgan and Wilson Avenue stations of the L train. By the way, if you alight from any of those stations, you will see a veritable graffiti mural city. (I took some friends who were visiting from France on such a tour.)

    I, too, would like to know when “up town” and “down town” became one word. Keenanpatrick’s explanation makes sense. I am thinking now of “railroad,” which was originally two words. The Long Island Rail Road still uses that spelling.

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