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Gotham Underground: 1904

New York circa 1904. "City Hall subway station." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

New York circa 1904. "City Hall subway station." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Today’s Top 5

City Hall Before the Start of Service

I think the top photo was taken in early 1904, before the IRT line went into service, which occurred on October 27, 1904. The exquisite tilework for the station had been completed but the electric light fixtures had not yet been installed (although the wiring was in), the third power rail had not been installed yet and there was obviously more cosmetic work to be done, as suggested by the ladder and other work materials on the platform. The bottom photo is a beautiful shot.

Two good reasons for closing the station

Conventional rail car axles have no differential gearing to accommodate the longer distance the wheels on the outside of a curve have to travel compared to the shorter distance on the inside of the curve. Consequently travel on any curve involves a deal of skidding and steel-on-steel screeching. With brakes applied as the train came to a stop in the enclosed station, the effect must have made quite an impression.

There would have been wider gaps for passengers to mind as they crossed from the curved platform onto the floor of a straight car.

This is only my speculation on a couple of considerations that may have led the IRT to close the station. Their reasons may have differed altogether.

It is a beautiful daylight station.

Underground Economy

Oh, that color picture is gorgeous.

If they can't come up with the scratch for a museum, they could lease spots for upscale kiosks.

"The Darkness"

Jackie Estacado, protagonist of the video game "The Darkness" (a demon-possessed mafia hitman, I kid you not), has a major shootout in this tunnel. Very cool, but not as cool as the real thing.

Remarkably Beautiful

The station is just remarkably beautiful. The amount of artisanal inspiration, design and impeccable craftsmanship is extraordinary. It looks like a turn-of-the century University Library. I'd like to live in it!


Anonymous, I have a new desktop picture!

Seeing the station

It's not that hard to see the station without waiting for a Transit Museum tour. Trains on the 6 line use the loop through City Hall station to change directions. When downtown 6's stop at Brooklyn Bridge station, the last/first stop on the line, the conductors announce "last stop" but generally don't check to see if anyone's still onboard. If you ride in the last couple of cars you usually won't be bothered and can ride through the loop and see the station.

I did this several years ago and quite frankly was underwhelmed with City Hall station.

104 years later

The New York Transit Museum periodically conducts tours of the City Hall station, which hasn't been used for passenger service since 1945, but still survives at the end of the 6 line.

Here's a photo from the tour conducted in 2008:

City Hall IRT

This stop was last used in 1945. A history of it here. There were plans to reopen it as a museum but so far they have not materialized. Below, the abandoned station as it looks now. Click for more info.

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