Of all the abandoned sites scattered throughout New York City, few have a reputation as great as the old City Hall Station. Decommissioned in 1945, the station once served as 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. While you can view the station by staying on a downtown-bound 6 Train past the last stop, physically visiting the space is a rare and special treat. The New York Transit Museum hosts tours there about 16 times a year, but they are only available to museum members, who must pay an additional $50 per ticket.
Fortunately, a stroke of good luck afforded us the opportunity to visit as participants of the tour. After learning a little bit about the history of the New York City subway, we headed down into the Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall/Chambers Street station, where we waited for a 6 train to take us past the last stop.
As we pulled into the old City Hall Station, the train came to a screeching halt. Due to the extreme curvature of the station and the longer length of modern trains, there’s a huge gap between the train and the platform; MTA employees had to swiftly lay down a wooden board to serve as a makeshift bridge that would allow us to cross over.
Thanks to architects George Lewis Heins, Christopher Grant LaFarge and Rafael Guastavino, the roughly 400-feet long station is filled with stained glass, Roman brick, tiled vaults, arches and brass chandeliers: it’s certainly a sight to behold, especially compared to the subway stations we’re used to seeing (and smelling) today. Fifteen tiled arches support the ceiling along with three panels of glass skylights, which were tarred over during World War II as a safety measure.
In addition, a mezzanine area above the platform features a vaulted ceiling crowed by a leaded glass skylight. It once showcased an ornamented oak ticket booth which no longer exists. Altogether, the station’s unique design reflects the values of the City Beautiful architectural movement, which focused around the belief that beautiful architecture could engender a better civic society. Stepping into it is like walking through a portal that teleports us all back to the early 20th century.
Next, check out 6 other abandoned subway stations in New York City and see photos from our last time inside the City Hall Station.