Posts Tagged ‘New York City subway history’

A peek at the long-shuttered City Hall station

January 19, 2011

Shut down and decommissioned in 1945, the glorious City Hall subway station—the first station to open in 1904—is occasionally accessible to the public via MTA tours.

An Ephemeral reader descended beneath City Hall last month and took some lovely shots of the elegant subwaytechture: gorgeous tiles, arches, curves, and skylights.

The ghostly platform and tubes of today look pretty much the same as they did in this vintage postcard.

Well, except for the hulking token booth–looking structure in the corner….

The lovely ceramic tablets on subway platforms

October 4, 2010

Building the New York City subway was a massive undertaking. Tunnels had to be dug, tracks put down, and electric lines, water mains, and other underground infrastructure dodged.

And then, stations had to be designed. A young pair of architects, George Heins and Christopher LaFarge, were given the job.

Their lovely work still survives. Heins & LaFarge created the arches and vaulted ceilings of early stations like City Hall as well as ornamental touches like garlands and wreaths lining platforms.

They built street kiosks, some of which are still in use today (like at West 72nd Street). And they’re responsible for designing these terra cotta and ceramic name tablets.

The Wall Street station’s wooden token booth

August 2, 2010

Before MetroCards debuted in 1997, and tokens hit the scene in 1953, subway riders paid the fare the old-fashioned way.

That meant purchasing a ticket at a manned wooden booth, then handing the paper ticket to an employee at a ticket chopper box.

The Wall Street station still has an original wooden booth (below) and ticket chopper (right), beautifully restored.

The cost of a ride in 1904, when the ticket system (and the subway itself) started: five cents.

Turnstiles that accepted coins were installed in the 1920s, to save money and prevent theft.

In 1953, token-taking turnstiles arrived on platforms. And not long behind, as crime worsened, came the bullet-proof glass, fortress-like token booth we know today.

Griping about the subway: a New York tradition

June 25, 2010

The first subway line opened to riders on October 27, 1904. And almost since that day, New Yorkers have been grumbling, justified or not, about crappy service.

“Trains will run at the company’s convenience” states the fine print in this New York Herald cartoon from 1905.

It wasn’t just lateness that annoyed residents a century ago. Other grievances are the same ones we have today, like jam-packed trains and filthy stations. 

“All the trains are dirt-filled and full of nameless odors,” bellyached one passenger in a letter to the New York Times in 1915.

Even dim lighting was open to complaints. “The lighting of subway trains was now so poor as to be dangerous to the sight of passengers who might attempt to read their newspapers,” states a 1909 Times article.