Vintage subway signs that point the way to Queens

The richly colored tiles, the old-school lettering, the slender arrow that tells you exactly which way to go if you’re seriously confused—these features make coming across vintage subway signs such a treat.

But some vintage signs point the way with a little more detail. Case in point: the mosaic signs inside Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Avenue station on the G train, which opened in 1933.

The G train is the former IND crosstown line traveling through Brooklyn and Queens. If you’re headed deeper into Brooklyn, the sign is simple: It points the way to Brooklyn.

For Queens, however, it gives direction not to Queens itself but to Long Island City and Jamaica. Calling out these two locations on different ends of Queens County harkens back to a time when Queens was less a united borough like Brooklyn and Manhattan and more a collection of towns, each with its own identity.

It’s a small but charming experience to see these directionals and thank the subway gods that the MTA hasn’t done away with them in favor of the standardized black and white signs adorning most stations across the city.

Tags: , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “Vintage subway signs that point the way to Queens”

  1. Greg Says:

    Love those signs. Too bad the G doesn’t still go to Jamaica!

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I know, it was something of a mystery to me why they were pointing the way to a part of Queens the train no longer goes to.

  2. Toni Rorapaugh Says:

    Taking down those signs would destroy the walls along with the ambience. Glad it’s all still there.

  3. velovixen Says:

    I have often passed through the Greenpoint Avenue station and have therefore seen those signs. There are other stations in which one directional says “Manhattan” or “Brooklyn” while the sign for the opposite direction gives the name of a Queens neighborhood.

    Even today, those of us who live in Queens are more likely to tell people which part of the borough is our home. For example, when people ask where I live, I usually (depending on where I am) say “Astoria;” very rarely do I say I live in Queens. It’s not that I’m ashamed of being from the city’s largest borough (and the world’s most diverse county; I have just somehow fallen into an old custom.

    Interestingly, when I was growing up in Brooklyn, that is how we identified our place of residence–not by “Bensonhurst” or wherever. After my family moved away, we returned for visits to “Brooklyn,” not to the neighborhoods where our relatives and friends still lived. And when I lived in Manhattan, I told people I lived in New York unless they asked for more specifics–for example, if they were from the city or knew it well.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I really think that says something about Queens, the borough with the largest land mass spread out from the East River to Jamaica Bay. Brooklyn had its distinct neighborhoods, but in the late 19th century it was a united city with its own sport teams, museums, and institutions before consolidation in 1898. Queens had far fewer people, and much of it was still open and rural, with villages and towns still somewhat cut off from each other. The village and town names stuck, even today, more than 120 years later.

  4. Peter Says:

    I find it amusing how the signs at Canal Street A/C/E say “Holland Tunnel.” As if subway riders are going to walk through the tunnel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: