Earlier this morning, the New-York Historical Society posted the above photo to its Facebook profile. The still itself is from a day in November in 1903, but the society published it today because today is the 111th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the IRT.
On March 24, 1900, work began on the city’s ambitious effort to build the subway. Construction was to last for two years, but in the grand tradition of public works projects, the IRT did not open for service until 1904.
“The completion of this undertaking,” Mayor Robert Van Wyck said at the time, “will be second only in importance to that of the Erie Canal…This made our city the commercial and financial metropolis of the world, with a population of three and a half millions of people, for whose accommodation and comfort this rapid transit underground road is necessary. The contrast exhibited between the two periods is striking and instructive. De Witt Clinton saluted in 1825 a city of one hundred and sixty thousand souls. We speak to a population of three and a half millions. Then the slow stage coach was the only means of passenger transportation, now it is superseded by steam and electricity.”
Last year on this date, I fondly commemorated the groundbreaking. Today, the subway infrastructure still makes New York City possible. Where will we be in another 111 years?