Growing up in New York City, I have never thought twice about any of the hundreds of subway stations scattered all over the five boroughs. All I really cared about was knowing where I needed to get on or off the train. Even that itself takes a lot of skill without having to consult handy dandy Google maps.
Several years ago, however, while skipping classes in high school one day to meet up with boys (surprise!), a friend of mine casually told me about an old train station that was no longer in use as we were sitting on the 6 train heading downtown.
Her aunt happened to be an MTA Subway conductor and let her in on the scoop: stay inside the 6 train on the last stop at the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station and take the ride around the loop going back uptown. We did just that and as the train slowly chugged along, we caught a glimpse of the abandoned City Hall subway station.
For someone who loves historical places and an explorer at heart, that memory lingered on for as long as I can remember. Last year, while casually scrolling through Instagram, I came upon a beautiful photo of the abandoned train station I once saw several years ago on the train.
I need to know how to actually set foot on that train station!
That is what led me to sign up for a year-long membership at the New York City Transit Museum. I’ve passed by that museum so many times, especially when I still lived in Brooklyn but have never gone in. However, the only way one can sign up for a tour is to become a member, so I willingly paid the membership fee and held my breathe for the specific email releasing 2016 tour dates.
In April, I was finally able to sign up for a summer tour, with many dates selling out within half an hour. The earliest tour date I was able to secure was in August, and so on a scorching Sunday right by City Hall, I joined a small group of mostly New Yorkers on a guided tour led by the NYC Transit Museum, finally setting foot on the old station.
With its tiled high ceilings, the old City Hall subway station is a magnificent sight to see, and while it hasn’t been used for more than 60 years, they have done a superb job at preserving its elegance.
“In 1904, New York City’s very first subway ride left from the City Hall station amidst great civic pride. Designed by renowned architects Heins & LaFarge, the station featured innovative vaulted tile ceilings by master artisan Rafael Guastavino. Its elegant chandeliers, leaded skylights, and graceful curves inspired awe among visitors.
Though its track is still active as a turnaround for the 6 line, trains no longer stop at Old City Hall station. New York Transit Museum members have the opportunity to explore this New York landmark through exclusive guided tours.”