4. Second Avenue Station’s High Ceilings Are Evidence of an Uncompleted Subway Line

nostalgia train
Image courtesy the New York Transit Museum

The double-height ceilings of the Second Avenue subway station platforms go unnoticed by most commuters, but like many small details of the architecture of the stations, there is a history around this quirk. The extra space was created in anticipation of a subway line that never got built. The Second Avenue Subway line was originally proposed in 1919. It was planned to connect 125th Street down the East Side, ending at Second Avenue Station. But the start of the project was abruptly halted when the market collapsed in 1929, and the soaring costs of the expansion became unmanageable.

The Second Avenue Subway project has been restarted, but is slowly being completed in stages, and a train line running all the way down the East Side is still a long way away. The terminus for that line will be a completely new station, and the Second Avenue Station will remain as just a reminder of the plan that never was, the double-height ceiling a vestige of a different generation.