The Old City Hall Station

Old City Hall Station Sign

City Hall Sign by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at karenjohnsonphotography.wordpress.com/.

I had the pleasure of touring the Old City Hall Station in lower Manhattan a few weeks ago.  It was definitely a place I had on my bucket list of places to photograph.   The Old City Hall Station on the MTA Lexington Avenue Line in New York City was opened in 1904.  It was designed by Rafael Guastavino the creator of Guastavino Tile, a “Tile Arch System” that was used in many of the Beaux Arts buildings in New York City.  The architects were Heins & LaFarge who were the architects for the beautiful and famous Cathederal of St. John the Divine in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights.  The Old City Hall Station had brass chandeliers, stained glass ceilings and skylights which made it the most elegant subway station in the city.

The Old City Hall Station was closed to the public in 1945. One of the main reasons it was closed was the fact that the station was built on a tight curve and when the newer subway cars were designed with center opening doors the distance between the doors and the platform increased and was no longer safe for passengers.  If you have ever ridden on Lexington Avenue trains and departed at the 14th Street Station, the platforms are also on a curve but not as sharp as the one at the City Hall Station.  The 14th Street Station was able to incorporate movable platforms that roll forward toward the subway cars once the train has stopped.

The following are pictures of the beautiful blue stained glass skylight in what used to be the main ticket area of the station.

Main Ticket Area

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Main Entrance by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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If you have ever been to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, the “Guastavino” tiled arches at the City Hall Station are exactly like the ones inside the Oyster Bar and the famous “Whispering Gallery” at the Oyster Bar’s front entrance.

Ceiling of Old City Hall Station

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Ceiling of Old City Hall Station by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at karenjohnsonphotography.wordpress.com/.

This is a stairway that would have led from the main ticket area to the street.  It is, of course, no longer accessible from the street.

Stairway Up to Street

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Stairway Up to Street by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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These are the steps leading down to the platform. The 6 train is speeding past us.  The screech of the subway wheels is deafening!

Stairway to Platform

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Stairway to Platform by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at karenjohnsonphotography.wordpress.com/.

This is a view looking down the platform towards the entrance where the downtown 6 train would come in.  The ceiling is just spectacular.

View of Down Town Tracks

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View of Down Town Tracks by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at karenjohnsonphotography.wordpress.com/.

Two close ups of the ceiling over the platform.  The iron work is beautiful and reminds me of a spiderweb.

Detail of Platform Ceiling

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Detail of Platform Ceiling by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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The stained glass in the ceiling is really beautiful.

Detail of Stained Glass Ceiling

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Detail of Stained Glass Ceiling by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at karenjohnsonphotography.wordpress.com/.

6 Train pulling into the station.

6 Train Approaching

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6 Train Approaching by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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You can really see the gap between the train and the platform here.

Pulling into the Station

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Pulling into the Station by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at karenjohnsonphotography.wordpress.com/.

The 6 Downtown Local

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The 6 Downtown Local by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Once the downtown 6 train passes the City Hall station it loops around and becomes the uptown 6 train.

Starting the Loop Around to the Uptown Side

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Heading Uptown by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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The tunnel into the loop. I love the lights in the tunnel.

The Tunnel

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The Tunnel by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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I wanted to capture the plaques on the wall opposite the platform and the curve and arches of this beautiful station.

Looking Down the Tracks

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Looking Down the Tracks by Karen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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If you would like to see the Old City Hall Station, the only way you can book a reservation is to become a member of the Metropolitan Transit Museum.  Keep in mind that the MTA does not allow the use of  tripods, but for some reason does not state this in the tour information.

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Old City Hall Station

  1. how fascinating! I have never been there and didn’t even know about the station. I know that the Whispering Gallery in Grand Central also used the Gustavino tile too. Thank you for sharing this beautiful work. Stunning! I am intrigued about this station now! Happy new Year Karen.

  2. Oh yes, I agree completely with Marina (who kindly referred me to your site) these are indeed quite stunning, and I’m so thankful to have discovered them seeing that I have such an overwhelming fascination with train stations – especially with underground one’s, and even better, abandoned one’s. Wonderful work Karen, and thanks for sharing.

    Happy new year!

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