Two early Bronx subway signs that still point the way “up town”

The blue and white tiles are obscured by decades of grime, edged out of the way by brighter yet featureless subway signage at a Bronx IRT station.

I tried my best to brighten them up digitally and make them look as delightful as they probably did in 1919, when this station, at Hunts Point, opened. No camera filter did them justice. So try to overlook the filth and feel the magic of seeing “Up Town” spelled out as two separate words.

Unfortunately there were no corresponding “Down Town” signs in this station; they were probably damaged years ago, then carted away by the MTA.

But 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” directionals.

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16 Responses to “Two early Bronx subway signs that still point the way “up town””

  1. countrypaul Says:

    Please, MTA, clean up and maintain these wonderful artifacts of what makes New York unique and special.

  2. Carl Reddick Says:

    Bonus points if you’ve seen this one


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  3. nhu876 Says:

    The Depression-era tile work of the IND stations is beautiful in it’s own way, and looks even better under the modern fluorescent lighting of today.

    Some of the stations have signs directing you to long-gone connections or to never built lines.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I love coming across those. There’s one at the 14th Street/Eighth Avenue station that directs passersby to the Port Authority Building…I think that’s Google HQ in New York City now.

      • velovixen Says:

        Yes. I also think of the sign at 149th-Grand Concourse directing riders to NY Central trains.

        Ironic that there’s no more NY Central or Pennsylvania Railroad, but we still have Grand Central and Penn Stations—if the latter is only grim parody of the original.

    • velovixen Says:

      I agree. One particularly lovely example is the Liberty Avenue station of the A/C line. The walls are a soft beige. The tile band is cornflower blue with an aquamarine blue border. It has an almost-Greek quality to it. Better yet, the station is lit with those fluorescent lights that have a pinkish glow, giving the station a lavender-ish glow.

      At least, that’s how it looked the last time I was there, about four years ago. I hope it’s been kept up!

  4. VirginiaLB Says:

    It may help to think of it not as filth but as ‘patina’!

  5. countrypaul Says:

    Carl Riddick, your attached photo did not come through. Want to try again?

    Some years ago, maybe 10 or 15, I was on a Transit Museum tour of the Bronx, and at 149th Street station was a sign directing people to the elevated trains (I don’t remember if it was that general or said 3rd Avenue). It was on a well-used passageway, so it might still be there if anyone wants to chase it down.

    Also, if I remember correctly from five or more years ago, there were still some artifact train arriving/train departing lights at the Morris Park and Pelham Parkway stations of the New York, Westchester and Boston Railway, now the Dyre Avenue line. They weren’t working, but they were there then; I hope they still are!

  6. Says:

    If memory serves, a Brooklyn elevated subway station at Kings Highway had a mosaic sign + arrow pointing to “The City”

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I’ll have to find that one!

      • nhu876 Says:

        The stations on the McDonald Avenue ‘F’ line had backlit signs which flashed ‘To City’ or ‘From City’ with an accompanying buzzer sound. In the 1980s the signs were upgraded to a more accurate ‘To Manhattan’ and ‘To Coney Island’ with sort of a chime sound instead of the buzzer.

        The device was triggered when a train passed the signal as it was approaching the station, when it worked. Many cold mornings the only notice of our arriving ‘F’ train was the rumble of the train itself.

      • velovixen Says:

        I remember those: I grew up along that line: Avenue I, 18th Avenue and Ditmas Avenue.

  7. ForceTubeAvenue Says:

    Thanks for the photos; I really enjoy anachronistic ephemera like that in the subway system. I will send along some similar signs to Ephemeral, if she wishes to share them.

  8. velovixen Says:

    “Up town” and “Down town” remind me of the Long Island Rail Road: to my knowledge, the only train network that uses the two-word terminology.

    The West Side IRT stations were adorned with some really nice tiled signs. But when those stations were lengthened to accommodate longer trains, the walls along the platform extensions were clad in what looked like bathroom tiles. And, during the 1970s and 1980s, stations along the N, Q and R lines in Manhattan and Brooklyn, which also had nice mosaic signs, were bound in beige blandness. Fortunately, most of those bathroom tiles have been removed. And the mosaic signs have been cleaned and restored and, at the 8th, 23rd and 28th Street stations, complemented with new artwork.

    If you want to see some really nice old-school mosaics, take the L train to Montrose, Morgan, Wilson or Bushwick-Aberdeen. Bonus: You can see even more free public art by exiting at any of those stations: They’re in an industrial area of East Williamsburg-Bushwick that is a veritable city of graffiti mosaics.

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