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New York Underground: 1904

New York circa 1904. "14th Street subway station, construction." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

New York circa 1904. "14th Street subway station, construction." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Note the strawlike packing material in the crate. Way before they invented those damned styrofoam peanuts.

Captures a lot of sadness.

This photo captures the essence of New York, in that all began with dust, and will end in dust.

I spent far too many days on this platform, traveling to attend a dying relative. Very mixed memories.

Come upstairs,

the weather is fine!

The Light

You can see in this picture just how much light there was in the stations under their original design that included glass lens lighting vaults admitting natural light through the sidewalks above. Alas, in just a few years these vaults would be replaced by ventilation grates with the light blocked by rain pans and blowers, and the only light in these urban caverns would henceforth come from electric bulbs.

A familiar sight, even today...

I cant tell you how many times I've switched from the IRT Express from Times Square to the Local here to get down to Sheridan Square at Christopher Street in the West Village and vice versa.


According to Wikipedia, the IRT East Side is a very busy line, carrying 1.3 million passengers a day on its 4 tracks. This equates to about 500 million riders a year. Assuming some ramp-up since the line opened in 1904, we can still suppose 30 to 50 billion passengers have ridden these rails.

14th Street's Grueby Faience Tiles

Some of the station's custom Grueby Faience tile signage and mosaic wall decorations are just visible at the far left of the photo. Remnants of these decorations still remain on some of the much-altered platforms. A detailed construction and usage history of this station is available at

Amazingly sharp photo

especially when one considers that it is underground.

Side platforms

Part of the 14th Street IRT station was shut down within five or six years of its 1904 opening. It was originally built with six platforms to serve four tracks: two center island platforms to serve the express and local trains in each direction, and two side platform to serve local trains only. The island platforms are clearly visible in this photo, and one of the side platforms can be glimpsed at far left. In 1909 or 1910 (there's some doubt), extensions to the island platforms made the side platforms unnecessary and they were closed and walled off. Even today, however, it's possible to see the edge of the uptown side platform when there's no 6 train in the station to block the view.

Makes you wonder

How many people were transported over these tracks since 1904.

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