Posts Tagged ‘New York City subway art’

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.

Saving the murals from the Hotel McAlpin

February 25, 2009

Quite a beauty on Broadway and 34th Street: When it opened in 1912, the Hotel McAlpin was the largest hotel in the world.

hotelmcalpinpostcard Besides its 1,500 rooms and a spot in then-fashionable Herald Square, the McAlpin had a basement restaurant called the Marine Grill—with multicolor terra cotta ornaments decorating columns and vaulted ceilings. 

The Marine Grill also featured some pretty amazing murals that told the story of New York City’s maritime history. Sadly, in 1990, when the restaurant space was taken over by a Gap franchise (and the hotel became a rental building and eventually a co-op), those murals were headed for the trash bin.

But preservation groups stepped in and saved them, installing them in the Broadway-Nassau station in 2000.

Next time you’re downtown on the A train, take a few minutes to check ’em out. Here’s one of the six salvaged murals.

marinegrillmural1The original iron entrance gate of the Marine Grill, also saved. Here, more photos and information on the murals.