Abandoned City Hall Subway Station, 2010 by James Maher.
The Old City Hall Subway Station
(*I write these articles because I love the city and the incredible stories behind each grand structure. You can help support my photography by purchasing an archival print of the City Hall Station for your home. Photos with links below them are for sale.)
The once grand City Hall subway station now sleeps quietly under City Hall Park. Originally opened in 1904, this ornate station was the showpiece of the new New York City subway system, with arches and vaulted ceilings, elegant Guastavino and colored glass tiling, skylights, and brass chandeliers. The opening was a huge and novel event:
“The night took on a carnival atmosphere, like New Year’s Eve. Many couples celebrated in style by putting on their best clothes, going out to dinner, and then taking their first subway ride together. Some people spent the entire evening on the trains, going back and forth from 145th street to City Hall for hours. Reveling in the sheer novelty of the underground, these riders wanted to soak up its unfamiliar sights and sensations for as long as possible.” (Clifton Hood, 722 Miles: The Building Of The Subways [via Forgotten New York.])
Old City Hall Subway Station Track, 2010 by James Maher.
Despite its beauty, the City Hall subway station was never very busy. In the final year of its use, it only handled about 600 passengers a day, due to the much busier Brooklyn Bridge station which was close by. The station finally closed for good on New Year’s Eve in 1945 when, to handle increased ridership, new longer trains were created with doors that were an unsafe distance from the extremely curved track of the station.
The station has laid dormant ever since. It is eerily silent, rusty and water damaged, but none of this betrays its exquisiteness. There has been a lot of talk about opening the station as part of the City’s Transit Museum, but it is within City Hall’s protected zone, and so worries about terrorism have kept it closed. For now, you can view the station by staying on the 6 train as it loops around at its southernmost point, or you can sign up for occasional tours run by the New York Transit Museum.