On Saturday, I took a tour with the Transit Museum to the old City Hall Station, decommissioned in 1945. This is a station unlike any other in New York, filled with stained glass, Roman brick, tiled vaults, arches and brass chandeliers. It was once the southern terminus of the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), which ran from City Hall to Grand Central, across 42nd street to Times Square and all the way north to 145th Street along Broadway. The design reflects the values of the City Beautiful architectural movement that believed beautiful architecture could engender a better civic society. The main consulting architects on the IRT stations were George Lewis Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge. The glass skylights were made by R. Guastavino & Co.
Remnants of the old IRT line in the Brooklyn Bridge station:
Gathering on the platform before the tour:
The train that will take us to the old station:
Our historian laying the bridge that will allow us to safely walk onto the old station platform:
The station is only 600 feet south of the current Brooklyn Bridge station that houses the 4, 5 and 6 lines. The old City Hall station is 400 feet long along a curve without any straight lines of sight. Fifteen tiled arches support the ceiling along with three panels of glass skylights. The skylights were tarred over during World War II as a safety measure and some are completely missing. A mezzanine area above the platform once showcased an ornamented oak ticket booth which no longer exists. The mezzanine also features a vaulted ceiling crowned by a leaded glass skylight. Rich tones of red brick, green and cream tiles contrast with the blue glass in the skylights, resulting in a stunning visual and architectural feat.
Skylights that have been lost:
An old photograph of the ticket booth:
The curvature of the platform could not accommodate the longer trains we see today without extensive renovations, so the station was decommissioned in 1945. The station was designated an interior landmark in 1979. You can see the station by becoming a member of the MTA Transit Museum. Or you can stay on the 6 train after the last stop at Brooklyn Bridge and if the old station is lighted, you can catch a glimpse of the platform. The train will then return to Brooklyn Bridge on the uptown track.
Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.