Posts Tagged ‘subway mosaics’

Beautiful sailing ships at the South Ferry station

September 29, 2014

If you’ve ever taken the 1 train to its last, lovely, looping stop at the South Ferry/Whitehall Street station, you’ve probably seen them—15 beautiful terra cotta plaques depicting a sailing ship on the water.


The officials in charge of building the first New York City subway line in 1904 did a lot of things right. Not only did they hire brilliant engineers and planners, but they brought in designers to create inspiring decorative features on platforms.

Ceramic plaques like these were installed in the earliest stations. Each plaque reflects something about the station’s neighborhood or history: a sloop for South Ferry, a beaver at Astor Place, a steamboat at Fulton Street.


South Ferry’s ships might be the most magnificent of all, and it’s one of just a few stations that has a monogram panel with the station’s initials.

A subway art mystery at Spring Street

March 19, 2012

Walk into the Spring Street subway entrance on the C and E line, and you’re greeted by this large, lively mosaic of a multi-track, two-story stop.

It’s titled New York Subway Station, by Edith Kramer.

Except the mosaic doesn’t depict the Spring Street station—it’s a view of Union Square.

Why it’s at Spring Street is a mystery, but in any case, it’s a colorful and enchanting piece of art, and it’s been at the entrance since 1994.

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.

The wall that divided the earliest New Yorkers

November 19, 2010

Here it is, the namesake wall of Wall Street, depicted on a colorful mosaic at the (where else?) Wall Street subway station.

Built in the 1640s at the northernmost boundary of the young settlement, the half-mile wall was the idea of Dutch colonists, who wanted to keep British settlers and Native Americans out of New Amsterdam.

It didn’t exactly work—the English took over in 1664. The wall came down just before the 18th century.