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park_avenue_tunnel-manhattan-1899-nyc-untapped_citiesPhoto taken circa 1899 by someone unknown

Today the Park Avenue Tunnel, running between 33rd and 40th Streets is a passage for cars, but before it was a roadway for motor vehicles, it was a train and trolley tunnel. Constructed in 1834, it was originally built for the New York & Harlem Railroad (NY&H) as an open cut, which ran steam engines as well as horsecars. In the 1850s, the open cut was bridged creating a tunnel to boost public safety by removing the train from Manhattan’s surface. The Park Avenue Tunnel became of the city’s oldest, accommodating trolley trucks and two-way traffic.  (more…)

Secrets of Park Avenue-Park Avenue-Manhattan-Jarrett LyonsA view of Park Avenue. Image via Wikipedia

Park Avenue in Manhattan is one of the most well-known avenues in New York City, as it is home to iconic structures such as the Waldorf-Astoria, the Pan Am building, and Grand Central Station. However, many New Yorkers may not know that they can also find a hidden train track, the Seventh Regiment Armory which became a cultural institution, and a Founding Father’s pistol along Park Avenue as well. Here are ten secrets about Park Avenue to keep in mind the next time you find yourself in the area.

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New Yorker Hotel-Secret Tunnel-Basement-Subway-34th Street-NYCFormer entrance under the New Yorker Hotel that provided direct access to Penn Station

Roughly 200 feet beneath the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel lies a secret: an underground tunnel that connected the establishment to Penn Station. It’s mostly forgotten, used primarily as storage, but it once enabled guests to go directly from the subway and trains to an elevator and up into the hotel. A porter would greet you at the entrance and take you the rest of your way. Direct access was popular for the luxury buildings of this time – the Woolworth Building and the Knickerbocker Hotel are other examples.

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2-Central Park Trolley-Trolley Museum Connecticut-NYC-Untapped Cities

Earlier this month, we tracked down the incredible private subway car of August Belmont Jr., the financier for the first subway line in New York City at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Connecticut. Another find in this amazing museum, which has over 100 vintage trolley and subway cars, is the horse drawn trolley car, the Horsecar 76. It’s believed to be the oldest preserved streetcar in the world. This adorable trolley was tucked in the back of one of the museum’s brand new storage barns, built 17 feet above the 500 year flood plain.

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168_Street_Station-Subway-Tacks_Overhead-Washington_Heights-NYC

When you Google the 168th Street Station, one of the top results is “168th street station creepy” and there’s a good reason for that. The Washington Heights station, where the 1 train stops, has been pretty decrepit for years. It was built as a grand station of the IRT subway, the first line in the city, with a tiled tunnel arch and vintage lanterns, it was badly in need of renovation. The exciting news is that the renovation is well underway and you can finally see some of the grandeur peeking through now that the ceiling is done. The contrast between old and rehabilitated is pretty striking and riders can finally get a glimpse of how impressive this station might have looked brand new.

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August Belmont Subway Car-Shore Line Trolley Museum-East Haven-Connecticut Company-NYC

Buried in the annals of history, there is a somewhat forgotten piece of opulence related to the first subway line in New York City, the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT). We recently came across references to a private subway car, the Mineola, commissioned by August Belmont Jr., the President of the IRT and one of its main financiers, for his own private use.

Custom made by the Wason Manufacturing Company in Massachusetts, the Mineola was wood paneled on the inside with a kitchen galley, servants call system, toilet, electrical heating, a fancy desk for Belmont and a place for repose. Belmont used the Mineola to entertain guests and would go from the Hotel Belmont, designed by Warren & Wetmore as part of Grand Central’s Terminal City complex, on a private track to Grand Central and on to his racetrack at Belmont Park. An agreement with the Long Island Railroad for transfers at Atlantic Yards gave him access to anywhere along the Eastern seaboard.

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