Posts Tagged ‘Subway signage’

5 wildly different sign styles outside New York’s subway entrances

June 20, 2022

The New York City subway system has 472 stations, according to the MTA. Some of these stations made up the original IRT line that debuted in October 1904; others opened in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, and beyond (looking at you, Second Avenue Q train).

190th Street/Fort Tryon Park

The nice thing about a subway system constructed in different decades is that there’s no one uniform subway sign above ground outside station entrances. The wide range of sign styles reflects the era the station opened and/or the feel of the surrounding neighborhood. Each has a different magic.

Fifth Avenue/59th Street

At the 190th Street IND station at Fort Tryon Park is this subway sign (top photo), with what looks like hand-cut lettering. The station opened in 1911, and I don’t know when the sign appeared. But it’s certainly a vintage beauty in an exceedingly beautiful section of Upper Manhattan.

Lexington Avenue/51st Street

These twin lantern-like subway signs outside Central Park give off a more old-timey vibe. You can find them at the Fifth Avenue and 59th Street N/R station. When illuminated at night, they’re enchanting.

Downtown Brooklyn

The Jazz Age comes alive thanks to this subway signage at the 6 train station on Lexington Avenue and 51st Street (third image). The chrome and lettering seem very Art Deco—as does the building beside it, the former RCA Building/General Electric Building, built between 1929-1931.

The subway signs lit up in green in Downtown Brooklyn look like they’re giving off radiation! It’s all part of the sleek, unusual design that feels very 1930s or 1940s to me.

The last photo features a more elegant, business-like sign design, perhaps from Lower Manhattan or Downtown Brooklyn again. It’s the only one that doesn’t appear to be a lamp, though it’s possible it might light up when the skies darken. Sharp-eyed ENY readers identified the location at One Hanson Place, the address of the circa-1929 former Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower.

Old-school subway signage on the IRT

December 15, 2010

I don’t know exactly when “uptown” and “downtown” each went from being spelled with two words to one, but I’m glad the MTA didn’t replace these subway mosaics whenever that happened.

There’s just something so charming about having the signs spelled the old-timey way, seen here at the 86th Street and Lexington Avenue station.

The spelling change must have occurred between 1918, when the 86th Street IRT opened, and 1940, when the Sixth Avenue and 14th Street IND subway station made its debut.

Because this mosaic, at 14th Street, spells uptown the modern way.

Old-school subway signage

December 9, 2009

The MTA should bring back some of these vintage posts and signs—they’re such a cool throwback to old New York. These lantern-like beacons guard the Fifth Avenue and 59th Street station:

Vintage signage on the New York Life building, on Park Avenue South—important enough to have its own subway entrance. Interborough Rapid Transit is today’s 4, 5, and 6 line.

I hope the MTA does not replace or tidy up this weathered, slightly rusted subway post, in Inwood: