Sunday, September 26, 2010

City Hall Ghost Station

It was B's birthday not too long ago. He's a difficult man to buy for, largely because despite his many interests and hobbies he isn't a big fan of acquiring "stuff." I often try to find activities for us to do together for his birthday. (One year I got him a large stack of back massage "coupons" that were good for a year, but boy did that almost destroy our marriage. A wife can only give so many back massages in a week before she starts to wish that her husband would just start a damn extramarital affair with a Swedish masseuse to take the pressure off.)

But I digress. This year, I think I came up with a pretty fantastic outing for the two of us, a tour of the abandoned City Hall subway station in Manhattan!

New York City is home to many "ghost stations." Many of the stations closed down when they lengthened the trains back in the day, making the spacing between some subway stops untenable. The City Hall station was closed for this and many other reasons (you can visit Wikipedia article if you're interested in the full history). This station is special in particular because it's quite grand. It was meant to be the "jewel in the crown" of the New York City subway (although I question the sanity of the person who referred to the hot, crowded, and often vomit-filled NYC subway system as a crown). The Transit Museum does tours every couple months, so I signed us up in honor of B's many years on this earth and last Saturday we went!

We arrived early, of course, because I'm insane, and ended up meandering through the parks around City Hall. Turned out to be an excellent place for squirrel watching, and there are even some black squirrels to be seen! More on that in another post, perhaps. I haven't spent much time in that part of town, but I am always surprised at how nice it is when I'm down there.

After killing some time, we descended into the Brooklyn Bridge subway station, where we were checked in by a Transit Museum employee and ushered onto a waiting 6 train. Here's the thing about this City Hall station, it's built as a loop, and while the station itself is abandoned, the loop is still used by the 6 train to turn around and head uptown again. Apparently this is the easiest way to access the station.

It is rather dark down in the station, so I had a lot of trouble getting a good picture of the whole thing. This one is probably the best.

You can see that unlike the rest of the New York City subway system, this station has some beautiful arches throughout. And those lights that didn't come out very well in the photo are actually chandeliers. Chandeliers! In a subway station! The insanity!

One of the most beautiful things about the station was the skylights. This oculus was on the mezzanine level, where one would have paid their fare back in the day.

And down on the actual platform they had three sets of arched skylights as well.

It was really cool. The station itself is really pretty small, and there isn't a whole lot to see down there, but we did manage to spend a good hour down there as a tour group. They had an historian around to talk to us about the history of the station, and he had some interesting things to say. It was definitely a great little foray into New York City transit history, and I think B was pretty happy about his little birthday activity.

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