Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Jewel in the Crown: City Hall Station

After half-heartedly wishing for five years (and finally shelling out for a membership to the New York Transit Museum last fall), This past weekend I got to go on the tour of the beautiful, but long since decommissioned City Hall Station.

Archway from the "platform" to the mezzanine area
City Hall station was the southern terminus of the original IRT subway. It was in service from the very first day of IRT service, October 27, 1904 and ceased passenger service after December 31. 1945. It was rendered obsolete for passenger service when the platforms at the Brooklyn Bridge station were lengthened to accommodate longer trains with center doors, which make for a pretty wide gap onto the platform. City Hall station is only a whole 200 feet from today's Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station and had some lousy ridership numbers, so they closed it. That doesn't mean that it sits there and festers though. Every downtown 6 train, which terminates at Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station continues through the loop to turn to make the uptown/Bronx-bound trip. If you have some time on your hands when you're in New York, ride the 6 train downtown to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall, more than likely you won't be kicked off the train (ignore Mr. Automated Voice man) so stay on ride the loop. When I did this, there was no tour going on, so the station wasn't lit and I literally had to press my face up to the less than sparkling clean window (ick...) to see anything. I seem to have lucked out when I rode the loop for hahas because my train didn't stop in the loop, but many do - so this is why I suggest doing it only if you have time on your hands...or you could become a member of the transit museum and pay to go on the tour - and you see a hell of a lot more ;)

Mezzanine skylight - and my favorite picture I took
Once upon a time there were plans to make the City Hall station an annex of the Transit Museum, but I believe those plans were scuttled post 9/11 out of concern for security, since obviously City Hall itself is right there above it. It's a shame they can't do that now, because I think the station would make a pretty cool annex - although I suppose the barriers they'd have to put up to barricade the museum from the trains using the loop would kind of detract from the atmosphere a bit.

For having been out of service for nearly 70 years, the station is still gorgeous. Skylights (which were tarred over in World War II to prevent German U-Boats from spying), chandeliers and 15 Guastavino arches...nothing you find in any of the other 468 stations in the New York City subway, that's for sure! The tile work is fantastic. The station was built to beautify the city, and I think it definitely fits the bill. I don't think a single one of my pictures do it justice - but do feel free to have a look! There is an embedded slideshow below. If you can't see it, the link to the set on Flickr is here. Below the slideshow is a video I took of one of the many 6 trains that went through the loop while we were on the tour. I had a great time on this tour, and if you're a member of the transit museum I strongly encourage you to get yourself a spot on this tour sometime. You'll love it.

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