The Old City Hall Subway Station

The Old City Hall Subway Station

 

Abandoned City Hall Subway Station, 2010 by James Maher. 

The Old City Hall Subway Station

(*I write these articles because I love the city and the incredible stories behind each grand structure.  You can help support my photography by purchasing an archival print of the City Hall Station for your home.  Photos with links below them are for sale.) 

The once grand City Hall subway station now sleeps quietly under City Hall Park.  Originally opened in 1904, this ornate station was the showpiece of the new New York City subway system, with arches and vaulted ceilings, elegant Guastavino and colored glass tiling, skylights, and brass chandeliers. The opening was a huge and novel event:

“The night took on a carnival atmosphere, like New Year’s Eve.  Many couples celebrated in style by putting on their best clothes, going out to dinner, and then taking their first subway ride together.  Some people spent the entire evening on the trains, going back and forth from 145th street to City Hall for hours.  Reveling in the sheer novelty of the underground, these riders wanted to soak up its unfamiliar sights and sensations for as long as possible.” (Clifton Hood, 722 Miles: The Building Of The Subways [via Forgotten New York.])

The Old City Hall Subway Station

The Old City Hall Subway Station

Old City Hall Subway Station Track, 2010 by James Maher. 

The Old City Hall Subway Station

Despite its beauty, the City Hall subway station was never very busy.  In the final year of its use, it only handled about 600 passengers a day, due to the much busier Brooklyn Bridge station which was close by.  The station finally closed for good on New Year’s Eve in 1945 when, to handle increased ridership, new longer trains were created with doors that were an unsafe distance from the extremely curved track of the station.

The Old City Hall Subway Station Detail

The station has laid dormant ever since.  It is eerily silent, rusty and water damaged, but none of this betrays its exquisiteness.  There has been a lot of talk about opening the station as part of the City’s Transit Museum, but it is within City Hall’s protected zone, and so worries about terrorism have kept it closed.  For now, you can view the station by staying on the 6 train as it loops around at its southernmost point, or you can sign up for occasional tours run by the New York Transit Museum.

The Old City Hall Subway Station Detail

The Old City Hall Subway Station Detail

The Old City Hall Subway Station Detail

The Old City Hall Subway Station Detail

 

5 thoughts on “The Old City Hall Subway Station”

  1. Norman Christie

    James, I have enjoyed your city scapes very much especially the quirky like City Hall subway.
    Good luck with your future endeavours.

  2. Your work is amazing I also love to take unusual shots…and at 72 totally enjoying this ..I have all my work in frames on my walls

  3. Pepper McGowan

    I just read about this station tonight. I haven’t lived in N.Y. since the mid to late 90s but I think that your eye on the city is exquisitely sensitive to the world of the different types of universes of stories that exist there which people might not find anywhere else but if you are not approaching it with the attitude of an artist or a student you start to get used to or tune it out. I never got used to or defined and was always curious. At age 20, I found a VERY lifelike baby doll at the Salvation Army and I would take her out on the subway at 2-4 a.m. so I could hide a camera there and I’d film the city of endless possibilities and compose a score the next morning. Your work reminds me of the way it is to be an eye on the same horizon for a few seconds. I have a trip planned for next week and your work is like a commercial for why souls have to create a new thing from what they see and how they feel. You’re a person who is not afraid to see. You’re a truth telling artist. I’m glad to be privy to the details.????????✏

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