In 1904 you could ride the subway for 5 cents! The first subway route travelled from City Hall to Grand Central Terminal through Times Square and up to 145th street. New Yorkers were excited about using in this new, underground transport system. The subway stations were clean and well-lit. The City Hall Subway Station was a collaboration between NYC architects Heins & LaFarge and Rafael Gustavino from Valencia. It was elaborate and grand… and still is.
Gustavino arching and pedestals supports the vaulted ceilings. Fascinating tiling work cover the ceiling, creating one continuous piece. Skylights allow natural light to filter into the station while brass chandeliers lit up the space at night during the station’s hey-day. Is beautifully designed and decorated with oak furnishings, white terra cotta and decorative plaques, along with curved entryways and tiled ceilings.
The Old City Hall Station, beneath the Municipal Building at the intersection of Centre street and Chambers street, was the first ever station from which a subway departed but today it is no longer in use. The station officially closed on the last day of 1945 with only about 600 passengers using the station each day.
The New York City Transit Museum opened the station up for public tours towards the end of the 1980’s. The tour takes about 90 minutes where you can soak up all the grandeur and nostalgia of the station.
The tours are extremely popular and usually get sold out on the day that tickets go on sale. Oh, and you must be a member of the New York City Transit Museum to be able to buy them.
Not a member of the New York City Transit Museum? Fear not! There is still a way to get a look at this ‘secret’ station. The downtown-bound 6 train turns around inside the Old City Hall Station before heading back uptown. Until the late 90’s automated messages asked all passengers to leave the train at the Brooklyn Bridge station from where the train would go to the Old City Hall Station to turn around, empty, to return to the Brooklyn Bridge station and uptown. Now the message no longer asks passengers to leave, but to stay in the car at all times. The view of the station is a quick on e as the train moves through at 40 miles per hour – but who wouldn’t want to see a secret station frozen in time since the 1940’s?
Sunny days will give you the best view of the station as natural light filters through the skylights. Or, better yet, time your visit to fall on a day when the New York Transit Museum runs one of its members-only tours – the chandeliers will be on and you can see the Old City Hall Station in all its glory.
The Old City Hall Station in New York is definitely one of those lesser known places around New York City that is a must-see. Whether you do it as part of a tour with the New York Transit Museum or catch a brief glance on the 6 train.