Abandoned Subways of New York City

Everyone knows the magic that is, New York City. The limitless landscape of skyscrapers hugged by the Hudson and East Rivers. Plus the message of the Statue of Liberty, the bustle and glare of Times Square, and the lush oasis of Central Park. There are too many icons to name.

But what about the other hidden treasures that are so close to the millions of citizens and visitors, yet never seen. There’s a whole side of New York that lies hidden, just below the surface of the chaos, the magic, and the dreams.

The subway is a lifeblood of veins that pump life around the great city. Moving millions beneath its gridded surface, threading them far below the crowded sidewalks and yellow cab streets. Those who catch the trains never know how close they are to secretive pockets that have long been forgotten.

Stations that once bustled with commuters are now abandoned and shrouded in darkness. One such station is Worth Street, on the Lexington Avenue Line (formerly Manhattan Main Line). It was closed in 1962 when another one nearby was enlarged. Just like Worth Street there are others that remain on the grid, passed through each day in a flash by rattling metal tubes packed full of busy New Yorkers.

Worth Street Station – Photo source: By 3am.nightly – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Perhaps they are ignored like most scars from the past, or maybe condemned by their darkened hollows to remain undiscovered. It’s sad that in a world that is constantly moving forward, things of value are often forgotten by the passage of time.

If there was a jewel in the crown of abandoned stations, it would undoubtedly have to be City Hall Station. First opened on the Manhattan Main Line (now Lexington Avenue Line) on October 27, 1904, it was like no other. City Hall station was beautifully designed and built to a standard never before seen in New York.

City Hall entrance
City Hall entrance – Photo credit: http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/IRT_East_Side_Line

Brass chandeliers and coloured glass tilework added touches of glamour and class. Guastavino tile, along with skylights above the platform and mezzanine allowed natural light from above to enter and reflect its warmth across the platform. City Hall was a showpiece for the subway and it bustled with action for decades, but eventually, over time, progress took over.

City Hall
Photo Credit: John-Paul Palescandolo, Fred Guenther

Its wonderful curved platforms, which mirrored the beautiful arches that bridged wall and ceiling, became its enemy and sealed its fate. As trains got longer, the curved platform presented problems that no station could endure. Quite simply, the trains had become too long.

CIty Hall stairs
Photo credit: Unknown

The nearby station, Brooklyn Bridge, was better suited to the higher volumes and longer trains. So, on December 31, 1945, City Hall station was closed, and its wonderful beauty and elegant design were locked away from the eyes of the world.

Sadly, the station’s only purpose today is for trains to pass through as a turning loop. Passengers who know or have enough care for the past can remain on the train while it loops, and are rewarded with a short journey through this hidden treasure.

CIty Hall Loop
Photo credit: http://nycsubway.org.s3.amazonaws.com/images/i28000/img_28416.jpg

City Hall station is a silent testament to the great achievements of the past, but sadly it is an icon that has been almost forgotten. It sits quietly and patiently beneath New York’s City Hall, waiting to be rediscovered. Hoping for a new life, and to once again become a great landmark of New York City.

City Hall Building NYC
Photo credit: City Hall. Image by aurélien / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Square Tile.Subway Palliatopia.Quote1

One response to “Abandoned Subways of New York City”

  1. I didn’t know about the subway’s abandoned stations, although I think I suspected them from some places I’ve passed. London has loads, of course, if you know where to look. TfL gets income from several used in films and TV episodes, including Dr Who and James Bond. AFAIK, not Harry Potter, although the Ministry of Magic is designed on originally tiled stations (such as the Piccadilly platforms at South Kensington, the stop for the museums) and the concourse at Canary Wharf.
    I’ve always wondered whether Paris had a secret set of stations, but then, their sewage system is their biggest subterranean work of art 🙂


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