Posts Tagged ‘Vintage subway signs’

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.

Neglected subway signage from another New York

February 23, 2015

OldsubwaysignagechamberscloseupIt’s been decades since the MTA introduced the spiffy white-on-black subway station signs on platforms that clearly spell out the name of each station.

But they didn’t get rid of all the scruffy signage from decades past. Some 1970s-era examples can be found in some of the grungier corners of subterranean New York City.

Exhibit A: these long-neglected old-school signs at the Chambers Street 1, 2, and 3 train station.

Oldsubwaysignagechamberstreet

I guess someone made a half-hearted attempt to cover up the old “Chmb’rs” sign, then gave up after coating half of it in the blue paint used for the rest of the wall.

Oldsubwaysignstorplace

At Astor Place, it looks like someone souvenir-hunting tore off the newer Astor Place or Cooper Union signs, revealing this unglamorous one-word sign below.

A scolding old-school subway sign at 34th Street

December 14, 2013

How many generations of rushed subway riders have been greeted by this scolding vintage wood sign, at the entrance to the Herald Square station on Sixth Avenue and 34th Street?

Sixthavenuesubwaysignold

It’s been forgotten by the MTA apparently; they’ve long since replaced most subway signs with uniform black signs.

Makes you think you’re back in grade school, no?

Outdated subway signs that still point the way

April 17, 2013

There are regular subway signs, and then there are the ones that give clear directions—in these cases, using names no longer widely used.

The Port Authority Building, the Art Deco structure built in 1932 that stretches from 14th to 15th Streets on Eighth Avenue, must have been important; it scored its own sign in the station at that corner.

Portauthoritysubwaysign

Google bought it in 2010, and it now serves as their famous New York City headquarters. I wonder what old-school Port Authority employees would think of the trick doors in the library and Lego play area.

Here’s a peek inside, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.

I’d never heard of the B and D trains referred to as “concourse trains.”

Concoursetrainsignarrow

But they made up a branch of the IND called the Concourse Line, opened in 1933 and running from 145th Street (where the photo was located) and 205th Street in the Bronx, under the Grand Concourse.

Pennstationsubwaysignage

Penn Railroad sounds quaint, but it’s easy enough to decipher. I wonder how many tourists and new New Yorkers know what BMT and H&M mean—and no, it certainly has nothing to do with the store!

A faded subway sign under the Chrysler Building

February 25, 2013

The Chrysler Building is one of those iconic city structures with its own subway entrance—like the New York Life building on 23rd Street and the KMart (formerly Wanamaker’s) at Astor Place.

Chryslerbuildingsubwaysign

Which means that once you get off the 4, 5, or 6 train at Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, you can follow a passageway that takes you through a basement arcade containing a handful of stores, to a staircase for the lobby.

There’s still a barber shop in that sub-lobby arcade, and a locksmith, and the Lexler Deli (a wonderful hybrid name!). But I’m sorry to say that the efficiently titled Chrysler Beauty Salon is no longer.

It was probably replaced by the Duane Reade down there. . . .

A vintage subway sign hangs on in the Village

January 4, 2013

It’s been more than a year since this old-school sign was uncovered after the removal of a newsstand in front of a subway entrance at Sixth Avenue and West Fourth Street (Gothamist scored the details in September 2011.)

Eighthavenuesubwaysign

Amazingly, the MTA hasn’t yet covered the slightly tattered but very charming sign. Could it be here to stay—a ghost from New York’s transit past reminding riders that the A, C, and E used to be part of the Independent Subway System, opened in 1932?

The IND ran as a separate network from the privately owned IRT and BMT lines for eight years, until all three lines merged into one enormous city-run system in 1940.

Ghostly subway signage at Chambers Street

August 23, 2012

Time stands still at the Chambers Street J and Z station.

This deteriorated stop on the BMT, under the Manhattan Municipal Building, is like a subterranean ghost town. Its platforms are mostly empty, and paint peels while water drips from the ceiling.

But there’s one upside to the terrible neglect: No one has bothered to paint over the old-school IRT Lexington Avenue signs on several beams.

Most of the signs—1960s or 1970s maybe?—are much more faded than this one. They once pointed the way to the busier, tidier Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall 6 train station connected via a passageway.

Old-school Manhattan subway signage

April 5, 2012

Beneath the Manhattan Municipal Building’s soaring vaulted ceiling is this original sign for the stairs to the BMT (aka, the J and Z) Chambers Street station.

A wonderful vintage lantern-like sign still lights the way at the entrance to the Fulton Street IRT station downtown.

Not all old-timey subway signs are charming. This 1970s-style sign announces the entrance to the Hunter College-68th Street IRT station.

Could this is where the Subway sandwich got the inspiration for their logo? The arrow looks awfully similar.

Vintage subway signage at a Sixth Avenue station

February 16, 2012

The Sixth Avenue and 14th Street station opened in 1940—a busy, grimy, not particularly inspiring or attractive stop connecting the F and M to the L, 1, 2, and 3 trains.

But it does have terrific old-school mosaic signs that make you feel like you’re back in midcentury Manhattan.

Like this one, directing you toward the Independent Subway—today’s Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue lines.

Transferring to the BMT Lines—the initials stood for Brooklyn Manhattan Transit, the company that once oversaw the L (plus the J, M, N, Q, and R trains)—is easy with this helpful arrow.

Even better is this mosaic telling travelers how to get to the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, aka today’s PATH, which shares an entrance to the station. When was the last time you heard the PATH referred to as the H&M?

Is this the oldest sign in a city subway station?

April 27, 2011

This torn, faded anti-littering poster is still adhered to a beam between the F and G tracks at the Seventh Avenue station in Park Slope.

“Litter Is a Hazard Here” it reads, an arrow pointing to the tracks. Apparently, riders decades ago were just as likely to toss trash on the tracks as riders are today.

The sign is part of a series of “Subway Sun” messages first launched by the IRT in the teens, according to this Princeton University Library blog, which also provides a little backstory and images of other Subway Sun posters.

So how old is the Park Slope sign? I’m guessing it dates to the 1940s, and it just might be older than these vintage signs found in another Brooklyn F station that warn riders not to spit or lean over toward the tracks.