Home Abandoned Stations Inside the Crown Jewel of the old subway system

Inside the Crown Jewel of the old subway system

by Benjamin Kabak

Three hundred feet south of the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall stop on the East Side IRT lies an abandoned subway station. Called “the world’s most beautiful former subway station” by Forgotten NY, this station is the City Hall stop that served as in the inaugural launching point for the city’s subway system in 1904.

The station is ornate with chandeliers and Guastavino arches embellished with green tiling and decorative skylights. The station is also impractical. It’s a one-way local-only stop 300 feet away from a big transfer point that features both local and express IRT service. It’s built around a very sharp curve that makes the gaps at Union Square seem small. The City recognized these shortcomings and shut the station on December 31, 1945.

For fifty years, there it lay empty and unused. Trains on the 6 line would crawl through the darkened loop as they turned from downtown trains into uptown trains, but passengers were urged to dismount at Brooklyn Bridge. In the late 1990s, as the subway’s centennial neared, the MTA wanted to open the old station as an outpost of the Transit Museum. The museum started giving tours, but in 1998, the Giuiliani Administration declared the station a security risk due to its proximity to City Hall.

As the centennial came in 2004, the Transit Museum received permission to reopen the station to tours, and a few months ago, the MTA started allowing customers to ride past it on the 6 train. Every few months, Transit Museum members can take the tour of the Crown Jewel of the subway system. It’s an incredible glimpse back in time, and as the station is unique among all of the rest of the city’s 100-year stations, it’s really something to see up close.

This weekend, I finally took the tour and brought my camera along with me. While the conditions are tough for photography — it’s very poorly lit inside the station — I tried to get as many pictures as I could. You can view the entire set on flickr. But let’s take a closer look at a few shots.

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14 comments

The Abandoned City Hall Station on SecondAvenueSagas | StationStops March 17, 2008 - 7:14 am

[…] Ben at SecondAveueSagas has a great story and Flickr photo set of the beautiful and abandoned City Hall subway station, with its curved archways and glass ceilings – must-see. […]

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Marc Shepherd March 17, 2008 - 10:42 am

Just a minor correction. The tile is Guastavino, not Gustavino.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guastavino_tile

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Roosevelt Island 360 (Eric) March 17, 2008 - 1:03 pm

As I can’t access YouTube from work this is the best I can do. I believe this is the link to one of three City Hall Station videos I have posted. It’s an amazing station.

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Carla March 19, 2008 - 9:38 am

Great tour. Thanks, Ben!

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The Trainjotting Interview: SecondAvenueSagas » trainjotting.com July 1, 2008 - 10:50 am

[…] of New Yorkers are unaware of all of the shuttered and abandoned stations in the subway system. The abandoned City Hall stop is a beautiful station with majestic Gustavino arches and chandeliers. It’s been dormant for […]

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Making use of abandoned subway stops :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog February 11, 2010 - 6:18 pm

[…] we need journey only 13 years in our own city’s history to unveil a similar proposal for the one-time Crown Jewel of the subway system. As Christopher Gray of The Times first reported in April 1997, the Transit […]

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Five Things I Learned About Transit Last Week | Dan Lewis June 21, 2010 - 10:58 am

[…] no, you can’t get out at City Hall.  There are tours of the station, and Ben Kabak of Second Ave. Sagas was lucky enough to attend one.  He gathered photos in the gallery […]

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At City Hall, an old idea to make use of an older station :: Second Ave. Sagas November 15, 2010 - 1:42 am

[…] trains could still pass through the arches, and in doing so, the MTA allowed the Transit Museum to lead tours for members interested in stepping foot in this abandoned […]

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The President’s Secret Train Station « Now I Know Archives October 6, 2011 - 11:42 pm

[…] Bonus fact: The Waldorf is not the only New York landmark with an unused, subterranean train platform.  City Hall, in downtown Manhattan, is home to an unused, frozen-in-time subway station. […]

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World’s Strangest | The President’s Secret New York City Train Station October 25, 2011 - 12:28 pm

[…] with an unused subterranean train platform. City Hall, in downtown Manhattan, is home to an unused, frozen-in-time subway station. There was also a whole hidden subway system in New York City, as well as ones in Chicago, […]

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The President’s Secret New York City Train Station - Cine Sopaipleto » Cine Sopaipleto October 25, 2011 - 12:52 pm

[…] with an unused subterranean train platform. City Hall, in downtown Manhattan, is home to an unused, frozen-in-time subway station. There was also a whole hidden subway system in New York City, as well as ones in Chicago, […]

Reply
The President’s Secret New York City Train Station - Sopaipleto » Sopaipleto October 25, 2011 - 2:30 pm

[…] with an unused subterranean train platform. City Hall, in downtown Manhattan, is home to an unused, frozen-in-time subway station. There was also a whole hidden subway system in New York City, as well as ones in Chicago, […]

Reply
New York City’s Hidden Subway Station | Designers on Display July 11, 2012 - 8:26 am

[…] 1 via Nag On The Lake, image 2 via Visual News, image 3 via gothamist, image 4 via 2nd Ave Sagas, image 5 via Chasing Ray, image 6 via Co.Designs, image 7 via Telstar Logistics, image 8 […]

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Travelettes » New York City’s Hidden Subway Station | bookTRAVELS December 31, 2013 - 2:57 am

[…] 1 via Nag On The Lake, image 2 via Visual News, image 3 via gothamist, image 4 via 2nd Ave Sagas, image 5 via Chasing Ray, image 6 via Co.Designs, image 7 via Telstar Logistics, image 8 […]

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