9. Alfred Beach’s Pneumatic Subway

Beach Pneumatic Subway InteriorImage from Library of Congress

Considering our obsession with New York City’s former pneumatic tube mail system, we would be remiss not to mention the first attempt at underground transit in the city by Alfred Beach. Bankrolled by Beach, the single track, single car line ran for only one block below Broadway from Warren Street to Murray Street from 1870 to 1873. It was a popular curiosity however, with 400,000 rides provided in the first year of operation. The station became part of the Rogers Peet Building and the entrance was sealed off. Rogers Peet Building burned down in 1898 but in 1912 while construction took place for the BMT Broadway subway line, remnants of the car and tunneling shield were found. They were given to Cornell University but the whereabouts are unknown today.

According to Matt Litwack, subway street artist and author of Beneath the Streets: The Hidden Relics of New York’s Subway Systemthere were rumors that the tunnel could still be accessed below Reade Street through a manhole in the street but a source we have close to the MTA tells us “The story on being able to enter into an old section of the Beach Pneumatic Tubes by way of a subway grating on Reade Street is lore and is simply not true.”