Posts Tagged ‘Chambers Street history’

Mystery mosaics at the Chambers Street station

July 18, 2011

The mosaics are so dark and grimy, you can barely see them from the platform.

But both the downtown and uptown tracks at the West Side Chambers Street station are lined with these images of a Federal-style building set amid tall trees.

Which poses a question: What building is it? Chambers Street doesn’t have anything like it today. A colonial-era city hall? A private mansion?

It’s actually one of the early incarnations of Columbia University. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, the school held classes around the corner from Chambers Street on Park Place.

Renamed Columbia in 1784, the college went uptown with the growing city. In 1857 it relocated to Madison Avenue and 49th Street—today’s Rockefeller Center—then picked up stakes for a final move to Morningside Heights in 1897.

Interestingly, turn of the century subway designers chose to commemorate the Ivy League school’s humble downtown beginnings.