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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.

Untapped Paris covers a similar type of tour in the Paris Metro, where vintage subway cars are run for one day.

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.

18 Comments

  1. Olga says:

    Please have someone go into the closed subway tunnels especially the one on 65th Queens I believe its Roosevelt. A very old spanish lady from my country said the missing 14 year old Autistic boy Avonte is hiding in the tunnel and wont come out because he is afraid. This she saw in a vision. Believe me 95% of the itime she is correct with her visions. Please have someone look. We as citizens are not allowed to enter these tunnels. We need to try at least. It doesnt hurt anyone to look and time is running out for this poor boy. Please help his family

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  10. Jeff DeWitt says:

    Great pictures, thanks!

    I’ve heard of that place but this is the first time I’ve seen pictures of it. What an amazing place, it’s a shame it’s not being used for something so the public can see and appreciate it.

    • michelle young says:

      I agree, although you can take tours if you are members of the Transit Museum, I think it could be much more–even a museum itself potentially.

  11. Old Skool says:

    Michelle, Great eye, girl. I have seen plenty of pix of this station and yours are the best ever. That D40 must have been working overtime. Looks all hand held so I am guessing you used a higher ISO to compensate.
    I really need to get inside this station. I live in Florida now and have to plan my trips out just so.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you! It means a lot to get that feedback about my photography. I do tax the D40 quite a bit :) I probably used an 800 ISO in this case. 1600 gets grainy. I didn’t bring a tripod and ended up just trying to keep a still hand with the 18-105mm lens. My fixed lens at the time (35mm) wasn’t quite wide enough for architecture.

  12. Quora says:

    What two NYC subway stations are closest to each other?…

    Beverley and Cortelyou are the closest stations in revenue service, but I believe Brooklyn Bridge and Old City Hall are the closest extant stations, although the latter is not in revenue service. The only mention of distance I can find indicates it is …

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