Posts Tagged ‘NYC subway’

Old subway signage of a less complicated city

April 10, 2017

It’s always fun to come across vintage subway signs at stations across New York—and often they can tell us something about how people got around underground in a very different 20th century city.

Take a look at this entrance at the Fulton Street Station downtown. The contemporary signage is functional and color-coded.

But it’s so much lovelier the old-school way, when the sign above the stairs simply tells you this will take you “down town.”

At the Lorimer Street stop in Williamsburg you can switch to the “crosstown line,” a phrase I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use when they say they’re about to jump on the G train.

It makes Brooklyn sound like one big town (or city, as it once was, of course) rather than collection of very different neighborhoods it is today.

“Subway Entrance” above this stairwell attached to the Trinity Building on Lower Broadway is done up in wonderful serif style. No train names or letters; its simplicity tells you everything you need to know.

Here’s one modern touch to get a kick out of: the stairs first lead you to a Subway sandwich shop.

A bronze tablet celebrates a subway milestone

October 22, 2012

When the first stretch of the New York City subway opened in 1904—from the old City Hall Station to 145th Street and Broadway—the fanfare was incredible.

A ceremony was held downtown, Mayor George McClellan played motorman on the first trip, excited New Yorkers gathered outside newly built stations, and 25,000 riders per hour packed the trains.

But when the subway reached another milestone four years later—the IRT line was extended to Brooklyn—there was no celebration.

Instead, a bronze tablet was put up inside the Borough Hall Station commemorating the underground uniting of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

It’s still there, grimy and easy to miss, on a mezzanine-level wall before the staircases leading to the 4 and 5 platforms.

Digging the subway reveals a buried treasure

March 16, 2012

The men who dug the city’s sewers and subway tunnels in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came across some fascinating finds.

Among these are fossilized mastodon bones, the hull of a Dutch ship from 1613, and an ostrich egg–size gemstone dubbed the subway garnet.

Okay, so it’s not the Hope Diamond. But it’s about the same size (9 lbs), has 20 facets, and is quite a sparkly, striking crystal.

“In August 1885, a reddish-brown alamandite garnet weighing 9 pounds, 10 ounces was uncovered beneath West 35th Street, near Broadway,” explains a 1998 New York Times article.

“It is about seven inches in diameter—by all accounts the largest garnet found in Manhattan, and, said Joseph J. Peters, a geologist for the American Museum of Natural History, one of the largest ever found in the country.”

Its name may be a misnomer: research suggests it was dug up during a sewer excavation, used as a doorstop for the Department of Public Works, then given to a geologist who recognized its value (currently about $2000). The subway garnet belongs to the American Museum of Natural History.

[Subway photo: NYPL Digital Collection]