14.7.11

Aesthetic Thursday: City Hall Station

City Hall Station, IRT Lexington Avenue Line
(Image credit: John-Paul Palescandolo, Fred Guenther)
Take the Local 6 Train
If you take the local 6 train in Manhattan to its southern terminus at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station, don't get off the train even though it's the last stop. Stay on the train. More than likely you will be the only one in the car. The train will start up again and venture forward through the tunnel. What you may not know is that the local tracks at this station form a loop. 

The Remains of the First New York City Subway Station
Along the route are the remains of the former City Hall Station. It was the inaugural station of the city's first underground transportation system. As the train loops around, you will be able to see it — and if you are lucky the train may stop, or slow down enough, to get a good glimpse of the station's architecture. The station was built in 1904 and served the New York City subway system's IRT line until 1945 — when it was shuttered to make way for new trains that could not fit the older station's tight curve. The station had become redundant and has laid dormant for seventy-five years. 

Imagining a Turn-of-the-Century Gem Come to Life
Unlike other abandoned stations in the system, the City Hall station has remained protected from graffiti vandalism. Seeing the station while riding the loop is not as good as seeing it on foot, inside the station, with the lights turned on, but for a moment imagine the once touted travertine-tiled ceiling are aglow with the gas-lit chandeliers that once filled the space with illumination. When the New York City subway first opened back in 1905, it originally went from City Hall to what is now Grand Central station, but it turned west along what is now the 42nd Street shuttle, and at Times Square the line ran north, where it eventually meandered to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. I imagine I am one of those original straphangers, paying the five-cent fare, wearing a black coat, a top hat, white collared shirt — the same get-up one notices if you happen to like looking at men's attire from the turn-of-the-century.

What's your favorite subway station? What makes it your favorite?

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