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Chambers Street Subway Station plaque

Upon entering the Chambers Street subway station in TriBeCa you might not notice the above mosaic before you. Decades of travel cover the tracks, the floors, and the formerly vivid tiles. Under the layers of grime is a reproduction of King’s College, which later became Columbia University. A Columbia Magazine article by Untapped Cities editor Benjamin Waldman highlights this subway art find and the backstory to Columbia’s history.

With the same tiles also at the 116th Street station, Columbia University  is the only institution portrayed in more than one subway station. The mosaic of King’s College was designed by the architect Squire J. Vickers, successor to the team of Heins & LaFarge. It was installed in the Chambers Street station between 1918 and 1919. The once colorful tiles depict College Hall, home of King’s College, with two robed students in the foreground. King’s College closed during the Revolutionary War to become a hospital, after which it was reestablished as Columbia College. In 1857 Columbia College moved its campus to Midtown and in 1897 made a final move to its current location in Morningside Heights.

Read more about subway art in NYC here.

1 Comment

  1. Columbia acquired its Midtown campus because in the early 19th century it was losing its preeminence to Union College. New York State gave Union a land grant, and being in the burgeoning “Capital Region” (as it is termed now) made Union College the de facto prime seat of learning in the state. Columbia College complained that it had not received a similar state endowment, so in due course it did. But if you look through a gallery of notables from the 19th century, you’ll see they’re more likely to have attended Union than Columbia.

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